East German mark

East German mark
East German mark
Mark der DDR (German)
1 mark coin 10 mark banknote
1 mark coin 10 mark banknote
ISO 4217 code DDM
User(s) East Germany German Democratic Republic
Pegged with Deutsche Mark = (1 DM - 1 M)[1]
1/100 Pfennig
Symbol M
Pfennig pf
Plural Mark
Pfennig Pfennig
Freq. used 1 pf, 5 pf, 10 pf, 20 pf, 50 pf, 1 M, 2 M, 5 M
Rarely used 10 M, 20 M
Banknotes 5 M, 10 M, 20 M, 50 M, 100 M
Central bank Staatsbank der DDR
This infobox shows the latest status before this currency was rendered obsolete.
10 Mark coin featuring military hardware (NVA)

The East German mark (German: Mark der DDR) commonly called the eastern mark (Ostmark in West Germany and after the reunification), in East Germany only Mark, was the currency of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany). Its ISO 4217 currency code was DDM. The currency was known officially as the Deutsche Mark from 1948 to 1964, Mark der Deutschen Notenbank from 1964 to 1967, and from 1968 to 1990 as the Mark der DDR (Mark of the GDR); it was referred to colloquially as simply the Mark. It was divided into 100 Pfennig (Pf).



East German currencies
Name Abbr. Introduced Retired
Deutsche Mark DM 31 October 1951 31 July 1964
Mark der Deutschen Notenbank MDN 1 August 1964 31 December 1967
Mark der DDR M 1 January 1968 30 June 1990

Currency reform


On 18 June 1948 a currency reform was announced for the western zones. Subsequently on 20 June 1948, the Reichsmark and the Rentenmark were abolished in the western occupation zones and replaced with the Deutsche Mark issued by the Bank deutscher Länder (later the Deutsche Bundesbank). Because the Reichsmark was still legal tender in the Soviet occupation zone, the currency flooded into the east from the west, where it was worthless. This caused sudden inflation, which caused privately held cash in the Soviet zone to become worthless overnight. As an emergency measure, many thousands employees in the district offices started to affix adhesive coupons to those Reichsmark and Rentenmark banknotes for which the owners could prove their origin, up to a limit of 70 Reichsmark per person. Only such banknotes could be exchanged when the Deutsche Notenbank (the East German counterpart of the Bundesbank) issued the new Deutsche Mark with the subsequent currency reform.

Although the Soviets expressed on 19 June 1948 their surprise about the western currency reform, the German Economic Commission, per consultation with the Soviet Military Administration had already made preparations for this case. The adhesive coupons had already been printed and, with logistic assistance by the Soviets, distributed among the district offices. First affixings of the coupons started immediately, already on 19 June 1948. On 23 June 1948, the official starting day of the action, a considerable store of primed banknotes was already available. This enabled to reduce waiting times and to accelerate the process by exchanging these notes for unprimed banknotes.".[1]

On 24 July 1948, a completely new series of banknotes were issued. It maintained the official name Deutsche Mark von der Deutschen Notenbank until 1964, but it was known, especially in the west, as the Ostmark, or East Mark.


10 Mark DDR, 1986

From 1964 to 1967, the East German mark was officially designated as the Mark der Deutschen Notenbank (MDN). With the constitutional amendments of 1968 and 1974, the leadership of East Germany moved away from the original goal of a unified Germany, using the phrase "... of the GDR" where earlier they would simply have said "German ...". In this way the name of the currency was changed from MDN to Mark der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik (Mark der DDR) (M), or "Mark of the GDR", and the name of the state bank from Deutsche Notenbank to Staatsbank der DDR. Coins minted prior to the renaming, with the legend Deutsche Mark (i.e., in 1 and 2 DM denominations), continued to circulate for several years, but they were gradually replaced by the early 1980s by coins with the legend Mark.

International exchange

The East German mark was officially valued by the East German government at parity with the (West German) Deutsche Mark, but it was never freely convertible. As such, it was practically worthless outside East Germany. The few East Germans able to visit the West often found themselves having to rely on their West German relatives as a result.

Beginning in 1964, the East German government instituted a Zwangsumtausch (forced exchange) (or Mindestumtausch — minimum exchange), whereby most visitors from non-socialist foreign countries were required to exchange a set amount of Deutsche Mark (or other hard currencies) for East German marks at the ratio of one Deutsche Mark to one East German mark for every day of their stay. Starting on 13 October 1980, Western visitors to the GDR (except from Finland[citation needed]) were required to exchange a minimum of 25 Deutsche Mark for East German marks per day. Some exceptions were authorized: for example, tourists who booked hotel stays in the GDR that were paid in hard currency were exempted from the minimum exchange requirements. (Of course, such accommodation charges almost always exceeded the 25 mark daily exchange threshold.) At other times, West Berliners, retirees, children, and youth were granted either exemptions or were authorized reduced minimum exchange amounts. Members of the Western Allied military forces stationed in West Berlin were also exempt from these rules when visiting East Berlin, in part because the Western Allies did not recognize the authority of the GDR to regulate the activities of their military personnel in East Berlin; only the Soviet Union was considered competent to do so.

20 Mark coin featuring Karl Marx, 1983

On the black market, the exchange rate was about 5 to 10 M to one DM. In the mid-1980s, one could easily visit foreign currency exchange offices in West Berlin and purchase East German banknotes (in 50 and 100 mark denominations) at the rate of 5 (East) = 1 (West). However, the GDR forbade the import or export of East German currency (as well as the currencies of other socialist countries) into or out of the GDR, and penalties for violation ranged from confiscation of smuggled currency to imprisonment. The East German mark could not be spent in Intershops to acquire Western consumer goods; only hard currencies or Forum checks were accepted. As a result, the main purchasers of black market East German banknotes were allied military personnel entering East Berlin, as they were exempt from East German customs inspection.

Adoption of the West German deutsche Mark

Upon adoption of the deutsche Mark in East Germany on 1 July 1990, the East German mark was converted at par for wages, prices and basic savings (up to a limit of 4000 Mark per person, except a smaller number for children and a larger number for pensioners. Larger amounts of savings, company debts and housing loans were converted at a 2:1 rate whilst so-called "speculative money", acquired shortly before unification, was converted at a rate of 3:1. This inflated exchange rate was intended as a massive subsidy for eastern Germany by the government of the Federal Republic of Germany, and remains controversial among economists, with some arguing that the exchange of currency was the most practical way of quickly unifying the German economy, and others arguing that the exchange increased the disruption of German unification beyond what they otherwise would be by, among other things, making eastern German industries uncompetitive.

Destruction of East German notes and coins

Unloading sacks of coins from the Staatsbank for melting down, 1990

With the Monetary, Economic and Social Union of Germany on 1 July 1990 (in preparation for German reunification on 3 October 1990) the Deutsche Mark became the currency of East Germany. Around 4500 tonnes of now-obsolete East German coins were melted down at the Rackwitz metal works in 1990. Most of the paper money was placed into storage in 1990/91, but destroyed in 2002 following a theft. Many examples of notes and coins, however, remain in private hands.

Almost all the paper money of the GDR (about 100 billion Mark, or 620 million banknotes with a volume of 4,500 m3 (160,000 cu ft, about 300 boxcars)), including all the currency collected at the time of the monetary union and the never-used 200 and 500 Mark banknotes, was placed into storage in 1990 and 1991 in two 300 m (1000 ft) long sandstone caverns in the Thekenberge near Halberstadt. In total, 3,000 tons of banknotes, passbooks, and checks were stored there, having been brought by military convoy from the Staatsbank der DDR in Berlin. The currency became the property of the Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW) in 1994 through its merger with the Staatsbank Berlin (the post-reunification name for the Staatsbank der DDR). The 13 km (8.1 mi) tunnel system had been built by prisoners of war at the end of World War II, and used by the National People's Army under the code name "Malachit", or camp complex KL-12 NVA-Nr.16/630. It was the bunker with the largest floor space, and was used for the safeguarding of devices and munitions that would be needed for war. The money was protected from theft by two metre thick concrete walls and heavy steel doors. For cost reasons, the money was left to rot under the natural humidity, but it was further covered with gravel.

In July 2001, it was discovered that two Halberstadt residents had gained entry to the tunnel system through an unsecured opening and made off with numerous banknotes. The two, aged 24 and 26 were convicted of the crime and sentenced to four months in prison and three years of probation. Furthermore, they had to pay 120 € to a non-profit organisation. The appearance among collectors of uncirculated 200 and 500 Mark notes, and of the never-issued military currency, is attributed to this theft. Because of the theft and the slowness of the rotting, the KfW then decided to burn the old currency. Between April and June 2002, 298 containers of the currency remains were burned in an incinerator (6 containers per day) along with household refuse. The last container was burned on 25 June 2002.


The first issue of coins in 1948 consisted of aluminium 1, 5 and 10 Pfennig denominations, with aluminium-bronze 50 Pfennig coins added in 1950. Aluminium 1 Mark, 2 Mark and 50 Pfennig pieces were released for circulation in 1956, 1957 and 1958, respectively. In 1969, brass 20 Pfennig coins were introduced, with nickel-bronze (later cupro-nickel) 5 Mark coins issued from 1968. For a period of several months following the July 1990 adoption of the Deutsche Mark, small-value GDR coinage (up to 50 Pfennig) continued to circulate in the former GDR as legal tender, because the Bundesbank could not deliver enough small coins to adequately replace the former GDR coinage in a timely fashion.

Official coins of the German Democratic Republic during the 1970s and 1980s
Front Back Material Weight Size
1 Pfennig
1 Pfennig DDR Wertseite.JPG
1 Pfennig DDR Bildseite.JPG
aluminium 0.75 gram

(0.026 ounce)

17 millimeter

(0.669 inch)

5 Pfennig
5 Pfennig DDR Wertseite.JPG
5 Pfennig DDR Bildseite.JPG
aluminium 1.10 gram

(0.039 ounce)

19 millimeter

(0.748 inch)

10 Pfennig
10 Pfennig DDR Wertseite.JPG
10 Pfennig DDR Bildseite.JPG
aluminium 1.50 gram

(0.053 ounce)

21 millimeter

(0.827 inch)

20 Pfennig
20 Pfennig DDR Wertseite.JPG
20 Pfennig DDR Bildseite.JPG
brass 5.4 gram

(0.19 ounce)

22.2 millimeter

(0.874 inch)

50 Pfennig
50 Pfennig DDR Wertseite.JPG
50 Pfennig DDR Bildseite.JPG
aluminium 2.0 gram

(0.071 ounce)

23 millimeter

(0.906 inch)

1 Mark
1 Mark DDR Wertseite.JPG
1 Mark DDR Bildseite.JPG
aluminium 2.5 gram

(0.088 ounce)

25 millimeter

(0.984 inch)

2 Mark
2 Mark DDR Wertseite.JPG
2 Mark DDR Bildseite.JPG
aluminium 3.0 gram

(0.106 ounce)

27 millimeter

(1.603 inch)

Commemorative coins

Commemorative Coins of the German Democratic Republic
Front Back Material Weight Size
5 Mark
Commemorative Coin to the 20th Anniversary of the GDR
20 Jahre DDR Wertseite.JPG
20 Jahre DDR Bildseite.JPG
nickel bronze 9.7 gram

(0.342 ounce)

29 millimeter

(1.142 inch)

There were 123 commemorative coins all together, which had a nominal value of 5, 10 or 20 Mark. The coins were released because of various anniversaries or special events. Silver, Copper/Nickel/Zinc (German Silver/Nickel silver) or other alloys were used for the coins. A complete list of all released commemorative coins can be found in the "Liste der Gedenkmünzen der DDR".[2] Some of the commemorative coins were produced in very large volumes, especially the one that is shown above. The high volume caused those coins to enter circulation, because they were of little to no value for collectors.


Heading Image Details
Reissue of pre-1948 banknotes
Old Rentenmark and Reichsmark notes then in circulation in the Soviet occupation zone had adhesive stamps affixed in June 1948 to extend their validity while new banknotes were being printed (see Currency reform above). These notes were issued in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 Deutsche Mark. Colloquially, these reissued banknotes were referred to as Klebemark ("sticker marks") or Kuponmark ("coupon marks").
Series 1948 DM banknotes
The reissued Reichsmark and Rentenmark banknotes with adhesive stamps were replaced by newly-designed banknotes on 24 July 1948, in denominations of 50 Deutsche Pfennig, 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, and 1000 Deutsche Mark von der Deutschen Notenbank (DM).
Series 1955 DM banknotes
A second issue of 1955 contained the denominations 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 Deutsche Mark von der Deutschen Notenbank.
Series 1964 MDN banknotes
In 1964, the government issued a new series of banknotes in denominations 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 Mark der Deutschen Notenbank (MDN). Upon their issuance, the Series 1948 and 1955 banknotes were withdrawn from circulation.
Series 1971/1975 M banknotes
The final series of East German banknotes carried dates of 1971 or 1975 and were issued in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 Mark der DDR (M). Upon their issuance, the Series 1964 MDN banknotes were gradually withdrawn from circulation. The 5 MDN banknote was the last to be withdrawn, in 1981.
5-mark notes, Series 1975
5 Mark note, 1975 (front)
On the violet 5-Mark note is a picture of Thomas Müntzer, an early Reformation-era German pastor who was a rebel leader during the German Peasants' War. The reverse shows several harvesting machines, which was meant to highlight the importance of agriculture in the "Workers and Farmers State" (Arbeiter- und Bauernstaat) that the GDR proclaimed itself to be.
10-mark notes, Series 1971
10 Mark note, 1971 (front)
On the orange 10-Mark note is a picture of Clara Zetkin, an early German Communist and women's rights advocate. The reverse shows a female engineer sitting at a control console inside the Rheinsberg Nuclear Power Plant, which has been put into operation in 1966.
20-mark notes, Series 1975
20 Mark note, 1975 (front)
On the green 20-Mark note is a picture of the author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. The reverse shows several young children exiting a school, meant to emphasize the importance of education in the GDR.
50-mark notes, Series 1971
50 Mark note, 1971 (front)
On the red 50-Mark note is a picture of Friedrich Engels, the co-founder of Marxist theory. The reverse shows an industrial complex like those in the PCK Raffinerie in Schwedt. The confusion of pipes and smokestacks in the chemical plants and power stations highlighted the importance of industry in the GDR.
100-mark notes, Series 1975
100 Mark note, 1975 (front)
The highest valued and best known of the notes distributed by the Staatsbank der DDR was the 100-Mark denomination. The blue note shows Karl Marx on the front, and the back displays the Palast der Republik as seen from the Unter den Linden boulevard in East Berlin. In the background, the Berlin TV tower, the red city hall (Rathaus), and the Zeughaus (Arsenal) can be seen. The combination of science, politics, business, and people was intended to honor the socialist system and to show the GDR as a progressive and modern country.
200- and 500-mark notes, Series 1985
200 Mark note, 1985 (front)
200 Mark note, 1985 (back)
500 Mark note, 1985 (front)
500 Mark note, 1985 (back)
The Staatsbank der DDR (State Bank of the GDR) had planned to issue 200- and 500-Mark notes. The notes were, in fact, printed in 1971 and in 1984 as a preparation, but were never circulated. A few examples are held by collectors.

These notes differed from the lower-denomination notes in that they did not have a personality on the obverse. The 200-Mark note had on its front a family with two children in front of a modern GDR high-rise apartment building. The back pictured a schoolyard with eight children and a teacher. The watermark was a dove of peace.

On the 500-Mark note, the front showed the coat-of-arms of the GDR (hammer and a pair of compasses in a wreath), while the back showed the State Council (Staatsrat) building of the GDR in Berlin.

East German military currency

In 1955, East Germany printed special military banknotes, which were never circulated. They were similar to the series of 1948 banknotes, in denominations from 5 to 100 Mark, along with a handstamp for state coats of arms or "Sample Note". Preparations were made to introduce them in 1980, but they were never carried out. They were intended to be used in international missions of the National People's Army (NVA).[citation needed].

See also


  1. ^ (German) "Währungsreformen im Juni 1948". Landesamt für Kultur und Denkmalpflege/Landesarchiv/Archivalie 10/2008. http://www.kulturwerte-mv.de/cms2/LAKD_prod/LAKD/content/de/_Archiv_Pressespiegel/Landesarchiv/Jahr2008/Archivalie_des_Monats_Oktober/index.jsp. 
  2. ^ Liste der Gedenkmünzen der DDR (List of Commemorative Coins of East Germany) at the German language Wikipedia

Further reading

Jonathan R. Zatlin, The Currency of Socialism — Money and Political Culture in East Germany. Cambridge University Press 2007 ISBN 0-521-86956-0

External links

Preceded by:
Reichsmark, Rentenmark
Reason: reaction to the change over in Trizone (later West Germany)
Ratio: 1 Mark = 7 (either) RM on the first 70 RM for private individuals, otherwise 1 Mark = 10 RM
Currency of East Germany
24 June?, 1948 – 1990
Succeeded by:
Deutsche Mark
Reason: German reunification
Ratio: at par up to 4000 Mark, 2 East German Mark = 1 DM above 4000 Mark

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