The price of any obsolete currency is almost always determined by how many copies are in circulation - on other words how rare the notes are and how easy they are to buy.
When it comes to an individual note though, you have to take into account its condition. If in very poor condition, if will fetch a price many times lower than if it is totally pristine (called "uncirculated" or "UNC" for short). Note that there are many notes from the 1920s in perfect condition, so don't think that a well worn note is in great quality - it simply isn't.
Unfortunately the very definition of market value itself can be perverted in a way. For example, I believe some dealers specialising in Notgeld in English speaking countries simply buy their notes from better-priced dealers and sell them 50% to 200% higher. (Sometimes even 300% in the case of one Australian dealer.) If you were to look at their price lists, you would assume that their inflated prices are the current market prices, whereas I always regard market price as the cheapest price you can expect to be able to find the item regularly on sale for.
Also if the Saechsische Bank's 1 Million Mark note sells in UNC (ie pristine) condition in Germany for US$2 and in the US for anything around US$7, then the market value in this case depends on which country you're selling it in.
You must first know the exact condition of a note in order to value it. This is something that collectors and dealers alike find very difficult and is especially difficult for the novice. But some the basic terms I've used with the valuing below are defined as follows:
As a wildly inaccurate general rule, this higher the value on the note, the more the note is worth. So the prices for Billionen Mark notes are on average much higher than prices for Millionen Mark notes - but not always.
Unfortunately there is no set rule to apply. Even though Reichsbank Billionen Mark notes fetch values into the hundreds and even thousand of dollars, the Billionen Mark notes printed by the German railways can be bought in pristine condition for anything as low as US$8.
Condition is very important: well-handled notes are often worth less than US$1.
Albert Pick's "Standard Catalog of World Paper Money" Volumes I and II are probably the best (and possibly only) guide to prices available in English. Here are some examples:
Condition/US$ Retail Issuing authority Face-value Date VG VF UNC ------------------------------------------------------------------------- Badische Bank 500 Mark 01.08.1922 1.00 2.50 7.50 Bayerische Notenbank 10 Millionen Mark 01.09.1923 .75 2.50 5.00 Saechsische Bank 1 BILLION Mark 15.11.1923 30.00 65.00 125.00 Wuerttembergische Bank 10,000 Mark 20.02.1923 .50 1.50 3.00 Reichsbahn (Berlin) 1 Million Mark 12.08.1923 .20 .50 1.00 Reichsbahn (Berlin) 20 BILLIONEN Mark 05.11.1923 2.00 4.00 7.50 Reichsbahn (Koeln) 10 Millionen Mark 02.09.1923 1.00 3.00 7.00
(And do note that these values are from the late 1990s and have probably changed a bit since then!)
The best suggestion I have is to check the price-list link at the top of this page if your note isn't listed here. Otherwise you can browse the Pick catalogues in either your town library or your local coin & currency dealer.
People keep asking me about the same notes - so here's a list of the most common ones, which won't make anyone an instant millionaire. (The values here are just my guesses at a fair market value.) Note that you can only expect half this if you sell to a dealer!
Condition/US$ Retail Issuing authority Face-value Date VG VF UNC -------------------------------------------------------------------- Reichsbank Berlin 1000 Mark 21.04.1910 1.00 2.50 7.50 Reichsbank Berlin 100 Mark 1.11.1920 0.30 0.90 6.00 Reichsbank Berlin 10,000 Mark 19.01.1922 0.30 0.90 6.00 Reichsbank Berlin 1,000 Mark 15.09.1922 0.20 0.50 2.00 Reichsbank Berlin 50,000 Mark 19.11.1922 1.00 2.50 8.50 Reichsbank Berlin 100,000 Mark 1.02.1923 3.00 5.50 12.50 Reichsbank Berlin 20,000 Mark 20.02.1923 0.40 1.30 2.50-9.50 Reichsbank Berlin 1,000,000 Mark 9.08.1923 0.30 0.90 4.00 Reichsbank Berlin 2,000,000 Mark 9.08.1923 0.40 1.00 3.00 Reichsbank Berlin 5 Million Mark 20.08.1923 0.50 1.20 5.50 Reichsbank Berlin 10 Million Mark 22.08.1923 0.20 0.80 3.00 Reichsbank Berlin 100 Million Mark 22.08.1923 0.25 0.90 4.00 Reichsbank Berlin 20 Million Mark 1.09.1923 0.40 1.00 4.00 Reichsbank Berlin 50 Million Mark 1.09.1923 0.50 1.00 4.00 Reichsbank Berlin 500 Million Mark 1.09.1923 0.50 1.00 5.00Why are most Notgeld notes so cheap? Well the problem is that these ones were printed in the millions and there are so many still around that they will take a long time to get scarce. So if you have some of these and they look fairly well handled with wrinkles etc on them, then you'd be best to hang on to them for interest's sake as they are not really worth anything.
The small colourful serienscheine are in general worth about US$1 each if in pristine condition, though mail order dealers often sell them for US$1.50. There are exceptions which will fetch higher prices but unless you have the Lindman or Keller catalogues (in German) then you'll never know. If a note looks like it has been well handled, its value will almost certainly be under 10c.
Serienscheine are outside my sphere of interest, so this is really as much as I can offer.
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This page was last modified in March 2002
This page was last modified in March 2002