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1923 50 Million Mark - this quantity would have been worth approximately $12 million (US-1923) 9 years earlier, but only $1US when printed. Worthless a few weeks later.

Mark (from a merging of three Teutonic/Germanic languages words, Latinized in 9th century post-classical Latin as marca, marcha, marha, marcus)[1] was a measure of weight (see mark (mass)) mainly for gold and silver, commonly used throughout western Europe and often equivalent to 8 ounces. Considerable variations, however, occurred throughout the Middle Ages (see du Cange, Gloss. med. et infim. Lat., s.v. Marca for a full list).


England and Scotland

In England the "mark" never appeared as a coin, but as a money of account only, and apparently came into use in the 10th century through the Danes. According to 19th century sources, it first equalled 100 pence, but after the Norman Conquest equalled 160 pence = 2/3 of the Pound Sterling, or 13 shillings and 4 pence.[2] In Scotland, the Merk Scots comprised a silver coin of this value, issued first in 1570 and afterwards in 1663.


In northern Germany (especially Hamburg) and Scandinavia, the Mark was a unit of account and coin worth 16 schilling or skilling.

In order to overcome debasements the Bank of Hamburg (German: Hamburger Bank) was founded in 1619, after the example of the Bank of Amsterdam. The former established like the latter a stable money of account. Its name was Mark Banco, which was issued by way of sale against bullion and by way of credit against collateral. No money proper (coins or banknotes) was paid out, but accounts opened showing a credit balance. The account holders could dispose of their credit balances by way of remittances to other accounts and by way of drawing bills of exchange against them. The bills circulated and were accepted in lieu of a payment, transferring them by indorsement, and redeemed, when due, by remittance. The currency turned out to be very stable.

In 1873 Germany adopted the Mark (colloquially also Goldmark) as its currency following unification in 1871. The name copied that of the Mark Banco. At the beginning the Mark used the circulating money proper (coins and banknotes) of different denominations of the predecessor currencies, such as Thaler, Kreuzer, Guilder etc., at different parities (similar to the introduction of the euro, using from 1999 to 2001 the coins and banknotes of its predecessor currencies as its money proper). Coins denominated in Mark were first issued in 1873, gradually replacing the old coins. The Mark Banco was converted into the new Mark at par and the Bank of Hamburg was incorporated as the Hamburg subsidiary into the newly founded Reichsbank (est. 1876), issuing banknotes denominated in Mark.

In 1914 the Reichsbank was suspended to demand first-class collateral (good bills of exchange, covered bonds like Pfandbriefe) when issuing money by way of credit to its borrowers. Thus the Mark became a light money, colloquially referred to as paper mark, in order to finance the warfare. In 1918 the pre-war sound money policy was not re-established, thus loose money policy continued worsening the inflation into a hyperinflation in 1923 (see inflation in the Weimar Republic). A new Mark was introduced, called the Rentenmark (worth 1,000,000,000,000 Papiermark), issued by the new Rentenbank by way of credit to borrowers collateralising their debt with first-class claims to real estate. In 1924 the Reichsbank stopped issuing its Mark by way of unrestricted credit against worthless financial bills and pegged its new currency, the Reichsmark, to the stable Rentenmark. The Reichsbank rationed its lending to the effect that the Reichsmark remained at par with the stable Rentenmark. Both currencies, abbreviated RM, continued to exist.

The Rentenmark was originally to be withdrawn by the 1934, but the Nazi government decided to continue to use the Rentenmark, which enjoyed a considerable trust for its stability. Nevertheless, the Nazis subjected both currencies to a deliberate overissue to finance state expenditures for infrastructure investments, blown up government employment and increased state consumption (e.g. armament). By 1935 arbitrary authoratitive price, wage and rent stops had to repress the inflation. Enormous extra taxes, charged on real estate owners (RM 1 bn. in 1936) and - on the occasion of the anti-Semitic November Pogrom - charged on Jewish Germans (RM 1 bn. in 1938), could not help it for long. Waging war on Poland - and subsequently more nations - allowed to rectify general price controls and rationing as a neccessity of the war. Thus the inflation was hidden and materialised in ever-growing aggregate savings of the population, which could not spend its earnings except for the moderate rations at fictitiously low prices. Also at black marketing, punished with dictatorial rigour, the inflation was clearly realised. Initial war successes allowed to rob the subjected countries stabilising - much into the year of 1944 - the rations handed out to the German population. Thus the impacts of Nazi inflation were partly passed on the populations in occupied countries. By the end of the war the oversupply of banknotes and coins (RM 3.9 bn. in 1933, 60 bn. in 1945) became obvious, now openly showing up in inflated black market prices.

In 1944 the Allies printed occupation marks (also named military mark). The Allies decreed that military marks were to be accepted at par with Rentenmark and Reichsmark. Banknotes amounting to 15 up to 18 bn. military mark were circulated by way of spending (for purchases of the occupational forces in Germany, as soldiers' wages). In June 1948 military marks were demonetised by the Western and Eastern currency reform in Germany.

In June 1947 the French occupational force introduced in the Saar Protectorate the Saar Mark, which was at par with Rentenmark and Reichsmark. In November 1947 it was replaced by the Saar franc.

On June 21, 1948 the Deutsche Mark (German Mark) was introduced by the Bank deutscher Länder in the western zones of occupation in Germany, the Deutsche Emissions- and Girobank (German bank of issue and giro centre) of the Soviet zone followed suit on June 23, 1948, issuing its own Deutsche Mark (colloquially referred to as the East German Mark or Ostmark), later officially called "Mark der Deutschen Notenbank" (1964-1967) and then "Mark der DDR" (1968-1990).

Modern usage

"Mark" can refer to the following currencies:

See also



  1. ^ OED, DRAFT REVISION June 2002
  2. ^ 1863 1849 1845.

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