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The Goldmark (officially just Mark) is the name used for the currency of the German Empiremarker from 1873 to 1914.


Before unification, the different German states issued a variety of different currencies, though most were linked to the Vereinsthaler, a silver coin containing 16⅔ 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 Mark = 1 Vereinsthaler was used for the conversion. Southern Germany had used the Gulden as the standard unit of account, which was worth of a Vereinsthaler and, hence, became worth 1.71 (1 ) Mark in the new currency. Bremenmarker had used a gold based Thaler which was converted directly to the Mark at a rate of 1 gold Thaler = 3.32 (3 ) Mark. Hamburg had used its own Mark prior to 1873. This was replaced by the Goldmark at a rate of 1 Hamburg Mark = 1.2 Goldmark.

From January 1, 1876 onwards, the Mark became the only legal tender. The name Goldmark was created later to distinguish it from the Papiermark (paper mark) which suffered a massive loss of value through hyperinflation following World War I (see inflation in the Weimar Republic). The Goldmark was on a gold standard with 2790 Mark equal to 1 kilogram of pure gold (1 Mark = 358mg).


Goldmark coins (½, 1, 5 and 20 Mark)
Goldmark coins (½, 1, 5 and 20 Mark)
Coins of denominations between 1 Pfennig and 1 Mark were issued in standard designs for the whole Empire, whilst those above 1 Mark were issued by the individual states, using a standard design for the reverses (the Reichsadler, the eagle insignia of the German Empire) with a design specific to the state on the obverse, generally a portrait of the monarch, with the free cities of Bremenmarker, Hamburgmarker and Lübeckmarker each using its municipal coat of arms. Many of the smaller states issued coins in very small numbers and these are thus extremely rare and valuable. The principality of Lippe was the only state not to issue any gold coins in this period.

Base metal coins

  • 1 Pfennig (Copper: 1873-1916, aluminium: 1916-1918)
  • 2 Pfennig (Copper: 1873-1916)
  • 5 Pfennig (Cupro-nickel: 1873-1915, iron: 1915-1922)
  • 10 Pfennig (Cupro-nickel: 1873-1916, iron and zinc: 1915-1922)
  • 20 Pfennig (Cupro-nickel, 1887-1892)
  • 25 Pfennig (Nickel, 1909-1912)
  • 50 Pfennig (Aluminium, 1919-1922)

Silver coins

Silver coins were minted in .900 fineness to a standard of 5 grams silver per Mark. Production of 2 and 5 Mark coins ceased in 1915 while 1 Mark coins continued to be issued until 1916. A few 3 Mark coins was minted until 1918, and ½ Mark coins continued to be issued in silver until 1919.
  • 20 Pfennig, 1.1111 g (1 g silver), only until 1878
  • ½ Mark or 50 Pfennig, 2.7778 g (2.5 g silver)
  • 1 Mark, 5.5555 g (5 g silver)
  • 2 Mark, 11.1111 g (10 g silver)
  • 3 Mark, 16.6667 g (15 g silver), from 1908 onwards
  • 5 Mark, 27.7778 g (25 g silver)
The 3 Mark coin was introduced as a replacement for the Vereinsthaler coins of the previous currency, whose silver content was slightly more than that of the 3 Mark coin.

The 5 Mark coin, however, was significantly closer in value to older Thalers (and other such crown-sized coins).

Gold coins

Gold coins were minted in .900 fineness to a standard of 2790 Mark = 1 kilogram of gold. Gold coin production ceased in 1915.
  • 5 Mark, 1.9912 g (1.7921 g gold)
  • 10 Mark, 3.9825 g (3.5842 g gold)
  • 20 Mark, 7.965 g (7.1685 g gold)


100 Mark
Banknotes were issued by the Imperial Treasury (known as "Reichskassenschein") and the Reichsbank, as well as by the banks of some of the states. Imperial Treasury notes were issued in denominations of 5, 10, 20 and 50 Mark, whilst Reichsbank notes were produced in denominations of 20, 50, 100 and 1000 Mark. The notes issued after 1914 are referred to as Papiermark.



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