The initial combatants in World War I consisted of the Central Powers: Germany, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire; and the Allies: Montenegro, Serbia, Russia, France, Japan, Belgium and Great Britain.

The money of the combatants reflected the political organization of the issuing nations. Austro-Hungary, Germany, Great Britain and Russia all featured images of their respective royalty along with royal titles and symbols, while France displayed the democratic language and symbols of the Third French Republic. Money of the time was based on the gold standard and used coins and paper money with the value based on gold and silver.

Within a year, most combatants had suspended bullion payments and issued increasing amounts of paper currency backed only on faith or government bond issues. Shortages of food and staple goods created inflation and resulted in the issuance of emergency currency — most notably German and Austrian notgeld.

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