When cataloguing our German stamps, I realised that stamps issued in 1921 had low values in marks, (up to 50 mark surcharges), but in 1922 I found stamps up to 100 000 mark surcharges and in 1923, this figure went right up to 10 “Milliarden” surcharges. Then just as suddenly the values went down and the Stanley Gibbons catalogue refers to the values as gold marks. For this reason I decided to do a bit of research as to what actually had happened in the Weimar Republic (Germany was called Weimar Republic from 1918 until 1933).
By 1923, inflation in the Weimar Republic was getting totally out of hand. The value of the mark was decreasing and prices were going overboard. It was impossible to print new stamps as costs were skyrocketing at an unbelievable rate, therefore it was decided to put surcharges on existing stamps. I came across the following table for Letter Postage Rates for 1923 which gives us an idea of how fast this inflation was going:
Letter Postage Rates for 1923
For Domestic / Foreign Letters, Less than 20 Grams
1923-JAN-15 — 20 Marks / 150 Marks
1923-MAR-01 — 40 Marks / 300 Marks
1923-JUL-01 — 120 Marks / 800 Marks
1923-AUG-01 — 400 Marks / 3,000 Marks
1923-AUG-24 — 8,000 Marks / 60,000 Marks
1923-SEP-01 — 30,000 Marks / 200,000 Marks
1923-SEP-20 — 100,000 Marks / 750,000 Marks
1923-OCT-01 — 800,000 Marks / 6,000,000 Marks
1923-OCT-10 — 2,000,000 Marks / 15,000,000 Marks
1923-OCT-20 — 4,000,000 Marks / 30,000,000 Marks
1923-NOV-01 — 40,000,000 Marks / 200,000,000 Marks
1923-NOV-05 — 500,000,000 Marks / 4,000,000,000 Marks
1923-NOV-12 — 5,000,000,000 Marks / 40,000,000,000 Marks
1923-NOV-20 — 10,000,000,000 Marks / 80,000,000,000 Marks
1923-NOV-26 — 40,000,000,000 Marks / 320,000,000,000 Marks
1923-DEC-12 — 50,000,000,000 Marks / 300,000,000,000 Marks
Suddenly at the end of 1923, the hyperinflation disappeared. A new currency was introduced, called the Rentenmark and miraculously the German economy began to recover. At the beginning of 1924, one Rentenmark (also called Reichsmark) was equal to one billion papermarks. The old currency was totally valueless and the old marks were recycled or thrown away.
A new series of stamps with values in Pfennig (once again) was issued. This whole series exists imperforate and many of these stamps are very valuable today. Many of these stamps are today scarce and valuable. How valuable is difficult to fathom! While cataloguing stamps of ours from the series of 1923, I saw that Stanley Gibbons gave a value of £1100 to No. 300 – the 800t on 500m stamp. Ours are No. 298 and 301 – value 10p. But that is what stamp collecting is about, the excitement of sorting, cataloguing and one day – finding that elusive stamp!
The sad thing about the story behind these stamps is how this hyperinflation affected the man in the street. People lost their homes, everything they had worked for, many starved to death, because their money could not even pay for basic foods!