Germany has used the work “Mark” to define its currency since it was unified as a country in 1871, however, it was not labeled as the “Deutsche Mark” until 1948 when the allies defeated Germany in World War II.
Interestingly, it was called the “Goldmark” from 1873-World War I and was taken off of the gold standard until World War I to be replaced with a paper version of the currency dubbed the “Papiermark”. This of course, quickly led to hyperinflation, and was replaced by the Rentenmark in 1923 and then the Reichmark in 1924.
After the allied occupation failed to resolve the currency issues in Germany, the Deutsche Mark was introduced in 1948 and exchanges of 1-to-1 were offered for old Reichsmark and Rentenmarks for essential currency (wages, rents, etc), and 1-to-10 for the remainder in non-bank credit balance, with half of the assets frozen with personal limits set to 40 and 20 DM respectively.
The reform replaced the old money with the new Deutsch 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 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 100 DM 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.
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 is 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 to other currencies. In its 53 year history the purchasing power of the German mark was reduced by over 70 percent.
On 27 December 2000, the German government enacted a law authorizing the Bundesbank to issue, in 2001, a special .999 pure gold 1 DM coin commemorating the end of the German mark. The coin had the exact design and dimensions of the circulating cupro-nickel 1 DM 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 in U.S. 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.