user_30405's Blog

25 Feb 2023

German Occupational Coinage of World War One

Young Numismatists Exchange | user_30405

Although insignificant, the military coinage of Germany during World War I is an interesting niche of period numismatics. When Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, was assassinated in June, 1914, by a radical Serbian nationalist, the delicate peace that had survived in Europe for nearly a century since Napoleon was broken. Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, Russia came to their ally Serbia’s aid. Germany, led by Fredrick Wilhelm II, in turn backed the Austro-Hungarian army and invaded France by going through Belgium, a neutral country, drawing France and Great Britain into the war. On the western front between German-occupied land and France, things moved very slowly and both sides turned to trench warfare. Under these circumstances the German military issued occupational coinage under the direction of Helmuth von Moltke. This raises the question; what is military occupational coinage?

Occupational coinage are coins that an occupying army issues for use in a specific military region. The coins are generally struck in base metals as a substitute for coins normally made of precious metals. Historically, coins of high intrinsic value have been hoarded during times of war, causing a shortage of currency and this driving up prices for the occupying army. Occupational coinage solves this problem by giving the army a currency that they can spend at a profit; its legal tender status is enforced by the army. This makes occupational coinage always temporary as the army will never permanently occupy a country. These coins are normally struck with simple designs. A few examples of occupational coinage before World War I are Greece under Alexander the Great, Rome under the Caesars, and France under Napoleon. While the occupational coinage of World War I attracts a fraction of the interest of the coinage of World War II, it is interesting to look at the predecessors of a highly collectable niche of numismatics.

The occupational coinage of Germany during World War I was simple but successful. The German military decided to issue occupational coinage in the one, two, and three kopek denominations, using the Russian denominations. The coins were used in Belgium, Estonia, France, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Northwest Russia.The obverse has the legend “gebiet des oberbefehlshabers OST ” with the mintmark below. The legend translates to: “Region of the Commander-in-Chief – East,” between four small oak branches. The reverse depicts an Iron Cross with the denomination (1-3 kopeks) and date (1916) inscribed. Normally these coins were struck in an iron composition with a beaded border and a plain edge, at the Berlin or Hamburg Mint. While the German-issued occupational coinage of World War I seems ordinary, it effectively helped the German Army to fight a war of attrition for over three years.

Even though it served a mundane task, the German war coinage helped the German Army in many ways. Although the coins were issued for all of Northern and Western Europe, they were primarily used in Belgium and western France. Although Germany had fully conquered Belgium by spring 1915, the guerilla warfare that Belgian nationalists employed destroyed most of the Belgian economy, causing financial panic, the hoarding of precious metals, and a sluggish economy. The occupational coinage that Germany issued helped stabilize the occupied Belgian and French lands, cause less resistance, make the supply chain much more stable, and allow the German Army to fight for much longer.


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Level 6

A great subject to write about. Thanks for your nice blog."Never give "


Level 7

Could you give us a bibliography please. I majored in history in college. . Im always interested in books on history. Wikipedia is not reliable when it comes to a topic like this.


Level 4

Thanks for the suggestion! I forgot to add the bibliography, I used the Krause Standard Catalogs and World War One, by H.P. Willmott, I hope this helps!!!

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