Deutsche Mark

Deutsche Mark
Deutsche Mark
German mark (English)
Deutsche Mark (German)
5 DM to 1000 DM Banknotes 1 pf to 5 DM Coins
5 DM to 1000 DM Banknotes 1 pf to 5 DM Coins
ISO 4217 code DEM
Official user(s)
Unofficial user(s) Bosnia and Herzegovina Bosnia and Herzegovina (1992–1998)
Montenegro Montenegro (1999–2002)
United Nations Kosovo (1999–2002)
Inflation 2.2%, November 2000
Since 13 March 1979
Fixed rate since 31 December 1998
Replaced by €, non cash 1 January 1999
Replaced by €, cash 1 January 2002/28 February 2002
= 1.95583 DM
Pegged by Bosnia and Herzegovina convertible mark, Bulgarian lev at par
1/100 Pfennig
Symbol DM
Pfennig pf
Plural Mark
Pfennig Pfennig
Freq. used 1 pf, 2 pf, 5 pf, 10 pf, 50 pf, DM 1, DM 2, DM 5, DM 10
Freq. used DM 5, DM 10, DM 20, DM 50, DM 100, DM 200
Rarely used DM 500, DM 1000
Central bank Deutsche Bundesbank
This infobox shows the latest status before this currency was rendered obsolete.

The Deutsche Mark (German pronunciation: [ˈdɔʏtʃə ˈmaʁk], German mark, abbreviated "DM") was the official currency of West Germany (1948–1990) and Germany (1990–2002) until the adoption of the euro in 2002. It is commonly called the "Deutschmark" in English but not in German. Germans often say "Mark" or "D-Mark". It was first issued under Allied occupation in 1948 replacing the Reichsmark, and served as the Federal Republic of Germany's official currency from its founding the following year until 1999, when the mark was replaced by the euro; its coins and banknotes remained in circulation, defined in terms of euros, until the introduction of euro notes and coins in early 2002. The Deutsche Mark ceased to be legal tender immediately upon the introduction of the euro—in contrast to the other Eurozone nations, where the euro and legacy currency circulated side by side for up to two months. Mark coins and banknotes continued to be accepted as valid forms of payment in Germany until 28 February 2002.

The Deutsche Bundesbank has guaranteed that all German mark in cash form may be changed into euros indefinitely, and one may do so at any branch of the Bundesbank in Germany. Banknotes can even be sent to the bank by mail.[1]

On 31 December 1998, the European Central Bank (ECB) fixed the irrevocable exchange rate, effective 1 January 1999, for German mark to euros as DM 1.95583 = €1.[2]

One Deutsche Mark was divided into 100 pfennigs.


Before 1871

A mark had been the currency of Germany since its original unification in 1871. Before that time, the different German states issued a variety of different currencies, though most were linked to the Vereinsthaler, a silver coin containing 16 2/3 grams of pure silver. Although the mark was based on gold rather than silver, a fixed exchange rate between the Vereinsthaler and the mark of 3 marks = 1 Vereinsthaler was used for the conversion.


The first mark, known as the Goldmark, was introduced in 1873. With the outbreak of World War I, the mark was taken off the gold standard. The currency thus became known as the Papiermark, especially as high inflation, then hyperinflation occurred and the currency became exclusively made up of paper money. The Papiermark was replaced by the Rentenmark (RM) since 1923, November 15, and the Reichsmark (RM) in 1924.

Early military occupation 1945–1947

During the first 2 years of occupation the occupying powers France, United Kingdom, United States, and the Soviet Union, were not able to successfully negotiate a possible currency reform in Germany. Due to the strains between the Allies each zone was governed independently as regards monetary matters. The US occupation policy was governed by the directive JCS 1067 (in effect until July 1947), which forbade the US military governor "to take any steps to strengthen German financial structure".[3] As a consequence a separate monetary reform in the U.S. zone was not possible.[3] Each of the Allies printed its own occupation currency.

Currency reform of June 1948

The Deutsche Mark was introduced on Sunday, June 20, 1948 by Ludwig Erhard. The old Reichsmark and Rentenmark were exchanged for the new currency at a rate of DM 1 = RM 1 for the essential currency such as wages, payment of rents etc., and DM 1 = RM 10 for the remainder in private non-bank credit balance, with half frozen. Large amounts were exchanged for RM 10 to 65 pfennigs. In addition, each person received a per capita allowance of DM 60 in two parts, the first being DM 40 and the second DM 20.[4]

A few weeks later Erhard, acting against orders, issued an edict abolishing many economic controls which had been originally implemented by the Nazis, and which the Allies had not removed. He did this, as he often confessed, on Sunday because the offices of the American, British, and French occupation authorities were closed that day. He was sure that if he had done it when they were open, they would have countermanded the order.[5]

The introduction of the new currency was intended to protect western Germany from a second wave of hyperinflation and to stop the rampant barter and black market trade (where American cigarettes acted as currency). Although the new currency was initially only distributed in the three western occupation zones outside Berlin, the move angered the Soviet authorities, who regarded it as a threat. The Soviets promptly cut off all road, rail and canal links between the three western zones and West Berlin, starting the Berlin Blockade. In response, the U.S. and Britain launched an airlift of food and coal and distributed the new currency in West Berlin as well.

Economics of 1948 currency reform

Since the 1930s, prices and wages had been controlled, but money had been plentiful. That meant that people had accumulated large paper assets, and that official prices and wages did not reflect reality, as the black market dominated the economy and more than half of all transactions were taking place unofficially. The reform replaced the old money with the new Deutsche Mark at the rate of one new per ten old. This wiped out 90% of government and private debt, as well as private savings. Prices were decontrolled, and labor unions agreed to accept a 15% wage increase, despite the 25% rise in prices. The result was the prices of German export products held steady, while profits and earnings from exports soared, and were poured back into the economy. The currency reforms were simultaneous with the $1.4 billion in Marshall Plan money coming in from the United States, which primarily was used for investment. In addition, the Marshall plan forced German companies, as well as those in all of Western Europe, to modernize their business practices, and take account of the wider market. Marshall plan funding overcame bottlenecks in the surging economy caused by remaining controls (which were removed in 1949), and opened up a greatly expanded market for German exports. Overnight, consumer goods appeared in the stores, because they could be sold for realistic prices, emphasizing to Germans that their economy had turned a corner.[6][7]

Currency reform in the Soviet occupation zone

In the Soviet occupation zone of Germany (later the German Democratic Republic), the East German mark (also named "Deutsche Mark" from 1948–1964 and colloquially referred to as the Ostmark) was introduced a few days afterwards in the form of Reichsmark and Rentenmark notes with adhesive stamps to stop the flooding in of Reichsmark and Rentenmark notes from the West. In July 1948, a completely new series of East German mark banknotes were issued.

Bank deutscher Länder and the Deutsche Bundesbank

Later in 1948, the Bank deutscher Länder assumed responsibility, followed in 1957 by the Deutsche Bundesbank. The Deutsche Mark earned a reputation as a strong store of value at times when other national currencies succumbed to periods of inflation. It became a source of national pride and an anchor for the country's economic prosperity, particularly during the years of the Wirtschaftswunder in the 1950s. In the 1990s, opinion polls showed a majority of Germans opposed to the adoption of the euro; polls today show a significant number would prefer to return to the mark.

Currency Union with the Saarland

The population in the Saar Protectorate rejected in a referendum the proposal to turn it into a "European territory". Despite French pre-referendum claims that a "no" vote would mean that the Saar would remain a French protectorate it in fact resulted in the incorporation of the Saar into the Federal Republic of Germany on January 1, 1957. The new German member state of the Saarland maintained its currency, the Saar franc, which was in a currency union at par with the French franc. On July 9, 1959 the Deutsche Mark replaced the Saar franc at a ratio of 100 Francs = DM 0.8507.

The German mark's role in German reunification

The Deutsche Mark played an important role in the reunification of Germany. It was introduced as the official currency of East Germany in July 1990, replacing the East German Mark (Mark der DDR), in preparation for unification on 3 October 1990. East German marks were exchanged for German marks at a rate of 1:1 for the first 4000 Marks and 2:1 for larger amounts. Before reunification, each citizen of East Germany coming to West Germany was given Begrüßungsgeld, greeting money, a per capita allowance of DM 100 in cash. The government of Germany, and the Bundesbank were in major disagreement over the exchange rate between the East German Mark and the German mark.

France and the United Kingdom were opposed to German reunification, and attempted to influence the Soviet Union to stop it.[8] However, in late 1989 France extracted German commitment to the Monetary Union in return for support for German reunification.[9]

Stability of the German mark

The German mark had a reputation as one of the world's most stable currencies; this was based on the monetary policy of the Bundesbank. The policy was "hard" in relation to the policies of certain other central banks in Europe. The "hard" and "soft" was in respect to the aims of inflation and political interference. This policy was the foundation of the European Central Bank's present policy towards the euro. The German mark's stability was greatly apparent in 1993, when speculation on the French franc and other European currencies caused a change in the European Exchange Rate Mechanism. However, it should be remembered that "hard" is relative only if it is compared other currencies, as in its 53 year history, the purchasing power of the German mark was reduced by over 70%.


The first German mark coins were issued by the Bank deutscher Länder in 1948 and 1949. From 1950, the inscription Bundesrepublik Deutschland (Federal Republic of Germany) appeared on the coins.

Denomination Dates issued Composition Obverse[10] Reverse
1 pfennig 1 pfennig 1948–2001 1948–1949: Bronzeplated steel
1950–2001: Copperplated steel
Denomination between rye stalks Oak sprig
2 pfennig 2 pfennigs 1950–2001 1950–1968: Bronze
1968–2001: Bronzeplated steel
Denomination between rye stalks Oak sprig
5 pfennig 5 pfennigs 1949–2001 Brassplated steel Denomination between rye stalks Oak sprig
10 pfennig 10 pfennigs 1949–2001 Brassplated steel Denomination between rye stalks Oak sprig
50 pfennig 50 pfennigs 1949–2001 Cupro-nickel Denomination Woman planting an oak seedling[11]
1 Deutsche Mark DM 1 1950–2001 Cupro-nickel Denomination between oak leaves German eagle
2 Deutsche Mark (Adenauer) DM 2 1951, 1957–2001 Cupro-nickel 1951: Denomination between rye stalks and grapes[12]
1957–1971: Max Planck
1969–1987: Konrad Adenauer
1970–1987: Theodor Heuss
1979–2001: Kurt Schumacher
1988–2001: Ludwig Erhard
1990–1994: Franz Josef Strauß
1994–2001: Willy Brandt
German eagle
5 Deutsche Mark DM 5 1951–2001 1951–1974: Silver
1975–2001: Cupro-nickel
Denomination German eagle
10 Deutsche Mark DM 10 1987–2001 1987–2001: Silver Varies German eagle,
different designs[13]

The masses and dimensions of the coins can be found in an FAQ of the Bundesbank.[14]

Unlike other countries (such as Australia) there was no attempt (or proposal suggested) for the withdrawal of the one and two pfennig coins. Both coins were still in circulation in 2001 and supermarkets in particular still marked prices to the pfennig. This penchant for accuracy continues with the Euro (whilst Finland or the Netherlands for example, price to the nearest 5 cents) with the cent still encountered in Germany.

There were a considerable number of commemorative silver DM 5 and DM 10 coins, which actually had the status of legal tender but were rarely seen outside of collectors' circles.

Obverse view of the 2001 special gold issue of the DM 1 coin

On 27 December 2000, the German government enacted a law authorizing the Bundesbank to issue, in 2001, a special .999 pure gold 1 Deutsche Mark coin commemorating the end of the German mark. The coin had the exact design and dimensions of the circulating cupro-nickel DM 1 coin, with the exception of the inscription on the reverse, which read "Deutsche Bundesbank" (instead of "Bundesrepublik Deutschland"), as the Bundesbank was the issuing authority in this case. A total of one million gold German mark coins were minted (200,000 at each of the five mints) and were sold beginning in mid-2001 through German coin dealers on behalf of the Bundesbank. The issue price varied by dealer but averaged approximately 165 United States dollars.

German coins bear a mint mark, indicating where the coin was minted. D indicates Munich, F Stuttgart, G Karlsruhe and J Hamburg. Coins minted during the Second World War include the mint marks A (Berlin) and B (Vienna). The mint mark A was also used for German mark coins minted in Berlin beginning in 1990 following the reunification of Germany. These mint marks have been continued on the German euro coins.

Between July 1, 1990 (Currency union with East Germany) and July 1, 1991 East German coins of denominations up to 50 pfennigs continued to circulate as Deutsche Mark coins at their face value, owing to a temporary shortage of small coins. These coins were legal tender only in the territory of the former East Germany.

Colloquial expression

In colloquial German the 10 pfennig coin was sometimes called a groschen (cf. groat). Likewise, sechser (sixer) could refer to a coin of 5 pfennigs. Both colloquialisms refer to several pre-1871 currencies of the previously independent Länder (notably Prussia), where a groschen was subdivided into 12 pfennigs, hence half a Groschen into 6. After 1871, 12 pfennigs of old currency would be converted into 10 pfennig of the mark, hence 10 pfennig coins inherited the "groschen" name and 5 pfennig coins inherited the "sechser" name. Both usages are only regional and may not be understood in areas where a groschen coin did not exist before 1871. In particular, the usage of "sechser" is less widespread. In northern Germany the 5-Mark coin used to be also called "Heiermann" (etymology is unclear).


There were four series of German mark banknotes:

  • The first was issued in 1948 by the Allied military. There were denominations of ½, 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 marks, with two designs of 20 and 50 marks notes.
  • The second series was introduced in 1948 by the Bank deutscher Länder, an institution of the western occupation government. The designs were similar to the US Dollar and French franc, as the job of designing and printing the different denominations was shared between the Bank of France and the American Bank Note Company. There were denominations of 5 and 10 pfennigs, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 marks.
  • The third series was introduced in 1960 by the Bundesbank, depicting neutral symbols, paintings by the German painter Albrecht Dürer, and buildings. There were 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1000 mark denominations.
  • The fourth was introduced in 1990 by the Bundesbank to counter advances in forgery technology. The notes depicted German artists and scientists together with symbols and tools of their trade. This series added a 200 mark denomination, to decrease the use of 100 mark banknotes, which made up 54% of all circulating banknotes, and to fill the gap between the DM 100 and DM 500 denomination.

The notes with a value greater than 200 marks was rarely seen.

Banknotes of the fourth series (1990–2002)

A 10 Deutsche Mark banknote from Germany 1999 showing Carl Friedrich Gauß

The design of German banknotes remained unchanged during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. During this period, forgery technology made significant advances so, in the late 1980s, the Bundesbank decided to issue a new series of Deutsche Mark banknotes. The colours for each denomination remained unchanged from the previous series but the designs underwent significant changes and a DM 200 denomination was introduced. Famous national artists and scientists were chosen to be portrayed on the new banknotes. Male and female artists were chosen in equal numbers. The buildings in the background of the notes' obverses had a close relationship to the person displayed (e.g., place of birth, place of death, place of work), as well as the second background picture (Lyra and the musician Schumann). The reverses of the notes refer to the work of the person on the obverse.

The new security features were: a windowed security-thread (with the notes' denominations in microprinting), watermark, micro-printing, intaglio-printing (viewing-angle dependent visibility as well as a Braille representation of the notes denomination), colour-shifting ink (on the DM 500 and 1000 denominations), a see-through register and ultraviolet-visible security features.

First to be issued were the DM 100 and 200 denominations on 1 October 1990 (although the banknote shows "Frankfurt am Main, 2. Januar 1989"). The next denomination was DM 10 on 16 April 1991, followed by DM 50 in autumn the same year. Next was the DM 20 note on 20 March 1992 (printed on 2 August 1991). The reason for this gradual introduction was, that public should become familiar with one single denomination, before introducing a new one. The change was finished with the introduction of the 5, 500, and 1000 mark denominations on 27 October 1992. The last three denominations were rarely seen in circulation and were introduced in one step. With the advance of forgery technology, the Bundesbank decided to introduce additional security features on the most important denominations (50, 100, and 200 marks) as of 1996. These were a hologram foil in the center of the note's obverse, a matted printing on the note's right obverse, showing its denomination (like on the reverse of the new €5, €10, and €20 banknotes), and the EURion constellation on the note's reverse. Furthermore, the colors were changed a bit to pastel to hamper counterfeiting.

1989 Series [2]
Image Value € equiv. Dimensions Main Colour Description Date of
Obverse Reverse Obverse Reverse Watermark first printing issue withdrawal lapse
5 Deutsche Mark, Obverse 5 Deutsche Mark, Reverse DM 5 2.56 122 × 62 mm Yellowish-green Bettina von Arnim, Wiepersdorf estate and buildings of historic Berlin, Horn (symbolizing Des Knaben Wunderhorn) Brandenburg Gate, Script from Bettina von Arnim's correspondence with Goethe ("Briefwechsel mit einem Kinde") As portrait 1 August 1991 27 October 1992 31 December 2001 Indefinite
10 Deutsche Mark, Obverse 10 Deutsche Mark, Reverse DM 10 5.11 130 × 65 mm Blue-violet Carl Friedrich Gauss, Gaussian distribution, historic buildings of Göttingen Sextant, a small map showing the triangulation of the Kingdom of Hanover performed by Gauss 2 January 1989 16 April 1991
20 Deutsche Mark, Obverse 20 Deutsche Mark, Reverse DM 20 10.23 138 × 68 mm Bluish-green Annette von Droste-Hülshoff, buildings of the city of Meersburg A quill pen and a beech-tree, referring to her work Die Judenbuche (the Jews' Beech) 1 August 1991 20 March 1992
50 DM Serie4 Vorderseite.jpg 50 DM Serie4 Rueckseite.jpg DM 50 25.56 146 × 71 mm Yellowish-brown Balthasar Neumann, buildings of Old Würzburg, an architect's ruler Partial view of the stairway in the Würzburg Residence, the ground plan of a famous chapel, Kreuzkapelle, in Kitzingen 2 January 1989 30 September 1991[citation needed]
100 DM Serie4 Vorderseite.jpg 100 DM Serie4 Rueckseite.jpg DM 100 51.13 154 × 74 mm Dark blue Clara Schumann from a lithograph by Andreas Staub, buildings of historic Leipzig and a lyre Grand piano, Background: the pre-war building of the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt am Main 1 October 1990[citation needed]
200 DM Serie4 Vorderseite.jpg 200 DM Serie4 Rueckseite.jpg DM 200 102.26 162 × 77 mm Orange Paul Ehrlich, buildings of historic Frankfurt, the formula of Arsphenamine Microscope, the Rod of Asclepius surrounded by simplified cell structures
500 Deutsche Mark, Obverse 500 Deutsche Mark, Reverse DM 500 255.65 170 × 80 mm Red-violet Anna Maria Sibylla Merian, an insect, buildings of ancient Nuremberg Dandelion, inchworm, butterfly 1 August 1991 27 October 1992
1000 Deutsche Mark, Obverse 1000 Deutsche Mark, Reverse DM 1000 511.29 178 × 83 mm Dark-brown Wilhelm and Jakob Grimm, buildings of historic Kassel The 'German dictionary' (Deutsches Wörterbuch), the Royal library in Berlin
Hologram variant
50 DM 1996.jpg 50 DM 1996 b.jpg DM 50 25.56 As previous 2 January 1996 2 February 1998 31 December 2001 Indefinite
100 DM 1996.jpg 100 DM 1996 b.jpg DM 100 51.13 1 August 1997
200 DM 1996.jpg 200 DM 1996 b.jpg DM 200 102.26
These images are to scale at 0.7 pixels per millimetre. For table standards, see the banknote specification table.

Spelling and pronunciation

The German name of the currency is Deutsche Mark (fem., German pronunciation: [ˈdɔʏtʃə ˈmaʁk]); its plural form in standard German is the same as the singular. In German, the adjective "deutsche" (adjective for "German" in feminine singular nominative form) is capitalized because it is part of a proper name, while the noun "Mark", like all German nouns, is always capitalized. The English loanword "Deutschmark" had a slightly different spelling (possibly due to the frequency of silent e in English) and a plural form in -s. In Germany, the currency's name was often abbreviated as D-Mark (fem., [ˈdeːmaʁk]) or simply Mark (fem.) with the latter term also often used in English. Like Deutsche Mark, D-Mark and Mark have no plural form, the singular being used to refer to any amount of money (e.g. eine (one) Mark and dreißig (thirty) Mark). Sometimes, a plural form of Mark, Märker [ˈmɛʁkɐ] was used as either as diminutive form or to refer to a (physically present or small) number of D-Mark coins or bills (e.g. Gib mir mal ein paar Märker (Just give me a few Mark (-bills or -coins)) and Die lieben Märker wieder (The lovely money again (with an ironic undertone)).

The subdivision unit is spelled Pfennig (masc.; [ˈpfɛnɪç]), which unlike Mark does have a commonly used plural form: Pfennige ([ˈpfɛnɪɡə]), but the singular could also be used instead with no difference in meaning. (e.g.: ein (one) Pfennig, dreißig (thirty) Pfennige or dreißig (thirty) Pfennig). The official form is singular.

As a reserve currency

Before the switch to the euro, the mark was considered a major international reserve currency, second only to the United States dollar.

See also


  1. ^ "Free Exchange DM-Euro". Bundesbank. Retrieved 2009-07-29. 
  2. ^ "Determination of the euro conversion rates". European Central Bank. 1999-01-01. Retrieved 2008-02-20. 
  3. ^ a b Nicholas Balabkins, "Germany Under Direct Controls: Economic Aspects of Industrial Disarmament 1945 - 1948", Rutgers University Press, 1964 p. 145
  4. ^ Accessed 2006-12-31
  5. ^ Tyler Cowen, "The Marshall Plan: myths and realities" in U.S. Aid to the Developing World, A Free Market Agenda, Heritage Foundation, p.65
  6. ^ Frank B. Tipton, History of Modern Germany (2003) pp 511-13
  7. ^ Heinz Sauermann, "The Consequences of the Currency Reform in Western Germany," Review of Politics Vol. 12, No. 2 (Apr., 1950), pp. 175-196 [1]
  8. ^ "Thatcher told Gorbachev Britain did not want German reunification". Michael Binyon (London: Times). September 11, 2009. Retrieved 2009-11-08. 
  9. ^ Ben Knight (2009-11-08). "Germany's neighbors try to redeem their 1989 negativity". Deutsche Welle.,,4861759,00.html. Retrieved 2009-11-09. 
  10. ^ "Coins of the Federal Republic of Germany". Coin and banknote collection. Retrieved 2 May 2010. 
  11. ^ The sculptor Richard Martin Werner designed the woman relief after his wife Gerda Johanna Werner (German).
  12. ^ Withdrawn on 1 July 1958 over confusion with the similarly desiged 1 DM
  13. ^ "Deutsche 10 DM Silber Gedenkmünzen" (in German). Retrieved 30 April 2010. 
  14. ^ "Deutsche Mark coins". Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ). 2007. Retrieved 30 April 2010. 

External links

Preceded by:
Reichsmark, Rentenmark
Reason: intended to protect West Germany from the second wave of hyperinflation and stop the rampant barter and black market trade
Ratio: 1 DM = 1 RM (either) below 600 RM, 1 DM = 10 RM above 600 RM and each person received 40 DM
Currency of West Germany (incl. West Berlin)
21 (24 W-Berlin) June 1948 – 1990
Note: except of the state of the Saarland (1957–1959)
Currency of Germany
1 July 1990 – 31 December 2001
Note: euro existed as money of account since 1 January 1999, with DM coins and banknotes being the German appearance of the euro
Succeeded by:
Reason: deployment of euro cash
Ratio: 1 euro = 1.95583 Deutsche Mark
Preceded by:
French franc and Saar Franc
Reason: currency union (9 July 1959), after the Saarland had joined West Germany (1 January 1957)
Ratio: 100 Francs = 0.8507 Deutsche Mark
Preceded by:
Mark of the GDR
Reason: currency union (1 July 1990) preparing the German reunification (3 October 1990)
Ratio: at par up to 4000 Mark, 2 East German Mark = 1 DM above 4000 Mark
Preceded by:
Yugoslav new dinar
Reason: political and economic reasons
Currency of Kosovo, Montenegro
1999 – 31 December 2001

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