My birthday (and that of my older brother Tim) was earlier this week. I have been collecting paper money for over thirty years and despite having encountered thousands of different notes, I have only found one series of notes dated on our birthday, January 22. They are German 10 and 20 reichsmark notes with an original issue date of January 22, 1929. We will look at the 10 RM note.
There are two dates on the notes. August 30, 1924 is the date of the law that authorized the Reichsbank to issue notes. January 22, 1929 is the date the notes were first issued. The notes continued to be issued until the German Currency Reform of 1948.
The face of the note bears the portrait of Albrecht Daniel Thaer, a German physician and agriculturalist. He attended medical school at the University of Gottingen and returned to his native Celle in Hanover to carry on his profession. There his gardening hobby turned into a passion. He was one of the first in the western world to apply scientific principals to agriculture. He received an appointment to the court of Frederick William III of Prussia. He founded the first German agricultural academy in 1804.
The central figure on the back of the note is a medallion featuring a figure representing agriculture. A legend on the bottom of the back warns that counterfeiting is punishable by not less than two years in prison.
The note was printed by the Reichsdruckerei, the German state printer. It has fairly intricate anti-counterfeiting features for its time. A watermark portrait of Thaer appears in the white space at left. There is an embossed seal next to the counter in the lower, left corner. There is a complex series of undrerprints in differing tones of green and red.
A red serial number that includes a block letter appears in two places on the face and back. There is also a series letter in the lower center of the face.
World War II produced three varieties of the note. The first change was made in 1941 when the cross-iris underprint (Kreuz-Iris Druck) was removed from the face. The change is subtle and is not readily discernible. Thankfully, the printing records survived the war and this variety can be identified by series and block letter. This variety exists on the following series and block letters:
|SERIES LETTER||BLOCK LETTER|
|E||A, B, C, D, E, F (serial number greater than 36970001 on all blocks)|
|E||G, H, J, K , L, M|
|K||G, H, J, K, L, M|
The second change was made in January 1945. War-time requirements necessitated making the printing process simpler. The watermark was changed to a tulip. The embossed seal and series letter were removed from the face. One of the face underprints was changed to consist of the word ZEHN (ten) instead of the numerals 10. The serial number was removed from the back and only printed on face.
The final version of the note was printed during the last days of the war. Under an emergency order, the Reichsbank branches were authorized to locally print money if unable to get adequate supplies of the usual materials used. The Reichsbank offices in Graz, Linz and Salzburg (all now in Austria) printed emergency 10, 50 and 100 RM notes.
The emergency notes were photo-mechanical copies of genuine 1945 type notes. They do not have unique serial numbers instead they all bear the copied serial number of the original note that was imaged. The paper is not banknote paper but the paper that was used to print food ration cards and has a heart-shaped watermark. The counterfeiting legend that appears on the lower back of the note is repeated on the face on the white portion where the watermark previously had been.
When the Allied Military Government became aware of the emergency notes they believed them to be counterfeit. A brief investigation was conducted by AMG personnel prompted by two German sisters. The sisters were members of an anti-aircraft battery who were paid in the emergency notes. When the legitimacy of the notes was verified by bank officials in Linz, AMG prohibited them to circulate further and demanded their recall.
One final version of the 10 RM note exists from WWII. On February 19, 1942, the Greater Winnipeg Victory Loan Committee organized “If Day”, a mock invasion of the city by the German army. A copied 10 RM note was used to print “Occupation Reichsmarks” which was distributed as a propaganda piece.