Currency Culture: For the Love of Money—A Look at the Deutsche Mark

Mirror, mirror on the wall, what’s the fairest currency of them all? The Brothers Grimm in “Snow White” posed that question about the queen’s beauty, but in the financial world, Germany’s Deutsche mark had been one of the strongest and handsomest monetary units in the land.

As the euro zone crisis continues, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy have issued an ultimatum to the 27 European Union governments, saying they need greater control of their national budgets by Dec. 9. If countries don’t participate, the 17-member euro zone will progress with plans for amendments to fiscal treaties aimed at creating a tighter and more integrated union. While Germany spearheads reforms, Standard & Poor’s warned that credit ratings for European nations, including Europe’s economic powerhouse of Germany, could drastically fall if agreements to the financial crisis aren’t reached.

A history dating back to 1871, the Deutsche mark’s official user is Germany, with unofficial users Bosnia, Montenegro and Kosovo. This is our fifth post in our series about “currency culture,” where we examine the history of different world currencies and how they play a role in popular culture (see our previous posts about Britain’s pound sterling, Italy’s lira, Switzerland’s franc and Greece’s drachma). With an introduction as melodic as Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, here are some interesting facts about the mark:

  • Commonly called the “Deutschmark” in English; called the “Mark” or “D-Mark” in German
  • Introduced June 20, 1948, by Ludwig Erhard, late chancellor of Germany, and replaced the Reichsmark
  • Symboled as “DM”
  • Banknotes of DM 5, DM 10, DM 20, DM 50, DM 100, DM 200; coins of 1 pf, 2 pf, 5 pf, 10 pf, 50 pf, DM 1, DM 2, DM 5, DM 10
  • Deutsche Bundesbank, the central bank of Germany, is referred to as “Buba” (from Budesbank)
  • Banknotes observe notable Germans such as fablers Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm, writer and novelist Bettina von Arnim, scientist Paul Ehrlich, naturalist Maria Sibylla Merian and mathematician Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss
  • Construction costs of Neuschwanstein Castle—the inspiration for Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle—during the lifetime of King Ludwig II totaled 6.2 billion deutsche marks
  • Signal Iduna Park, considered to be the “Opera House of German Football,” has an estimated price tag of 35 million deutsche marks
  • Deutsche Bank is a leading global investment bank in Germany, Europe, North America and Asia and title sponsors the professional golf tournament Deutsche Bank Championship held Labor Day weekend in Norton, Mass.
  • Taxi fare from Berlin Schoenefeld International Airport to the city of Berlin costs about 60 to 70 deutsche marks
  • Costs zero deutsche marks to enter Oktoberfest, the most famous event in Germany and the world’s largest fair (the beer, however, is not free)

Like a Mercedes-Benz, we hope these facts “mark” some new luxurious currency knowledge as your drive to master the financial markets continue.


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