East German mark
The East German mark commonly called the eastern mark (Ostmark in West Germany and after the reunification
German reunification
German reunification was the process in 1990 in which the German Democratic Republic joined the Federal Republic of Germany , and when Berlin reunited into a single city, as provided by its then Grundgesetz constitution Article 23. The start of this process is commonly referred by Germans as die...

), in East Germany only Mark, was the currency
In economics, currency refers to a generally accepted medium of exchange. These are usually the coins and banknotes of a particular government, which comprise the physical aspects of a nation's money supply...

 of the German Democratic Republic
German Democratic Republic
The German Democratic Republic , informally called East Germany by West Germany and other countries, was a socialist state established in 1949 in the Soviet zone of occupied Germany, including East Berlin of the Allied-occupied capital city...

 (East Germany). Its ISO 4217 currency code
ISO 4217
ISO 4217 is a standard published by the International Standards Organization, which delineates currency designators, country codes , and references to minor units in three tables:* Table A.1 – Current currency & funds code list...

 was DDM. The currency was known officially as the Deutsche Mark from 1948 to 1964, Mark der Deutschen Notenbank from 1964 to 1967, and from 1968 to 1990 as the Mark der DDR (Mark of the GDR); it was referred to colloquially as simply the Mark. It was divided into 100 Pfennig (Pf).


On 18 June 1948 a currency reform was announced for the western zones. Subsequently
on 20 June 1948, the Reichsmark
German reichsmark
The Reichsmark was the currency in Germany from 1924 until June 20, 1948. The Reichsmark was subdivided into 100 Reichspfennig.-History:...

 and the Rentenmark
German rentenmark
The Rentenmark was a currency issued on 15 November 1923 to stop the hyperinflation of 1922 and 1923 in Germany. It was subdivided into 100 Rentenpfennig.-History:...

 were abolished in the western occupation zones and replaced with the Deutsche Mark issued by the Bank deutscher Länder
Bank deutscher Länder
The Bank deutscher Länder , abbreviation BdL, was the forerunner of the Deutsche Bundesbank. It was founded on 1 March 1948....

(later the Deutsche Bundesbank). Because the Reichsmark was still legal tender in the Soviet occupation zone, the currency flooded into the east from the west, where it was worthless. This caused sudden inflation
In economics, inflation is a rise in the general level of prices of goods and services in an economy over a period of time.When the general price level rises, each unit of currency buys fewer goods and services. Consequently, inflation also reflects an erosion in the purchasing power of money – a...

, which caused privately held cash in the Soviet zone to become worthless overnight. As an emergency measure, many thousands employees in the district offices started to affix adhesive coupons to those Reichsmark and Rentenmark banknotes for which the owners could prove their origin, up to a limit of 70 Reichsmark per person. Only such banknotes could be exchanged when the Deutsche Notenbank (the East German counterpart of the Bundesbank) issued the new Deutsche Mark with the subsequent currency reform.

Although the Soviets expressed on 19 June 1948 their surprise about the western currency reform, the German Economic Commission
German Economic Commission
The German Economic Commission was the top administrative body in the Soviet Occupation Zone of Germany prior to the creation of the German Democratic Republic ....

, per consultation with the Soviet Military Administration
Soviet Military Administration in Germany
The Soviet Military Administration in Germany was the Soviet military government, headquartered in Berlin-Karlshorst, that directly ruled the Soviet occupation zone of Germany from the German surrender in May 1945 until after the establishment of the German Democratic Republic in October...

 had already made preparations for this case. The adhesive coupons had already been printed and, with logistic assistance by the Soviets, distributed among the district offices. First affixings of the coupons started immediately, already on 19 June 1948. On 23 June 1948, the official starting day of the action, a considerable store of primed banknotes was already available. This enabled to reduce waiting times and to accelerate the process by exchanging these notes for unprimed banknotes.".

On 24 July 1948, a completely new series of banknotes were issued. It maintained the official name Deutsche Mark von der Deutschen Notenbank until 1964, but it was known, especially in the west, as the Ostmark, or East Mark.


From 1964 to 1967, the East German mark was officially designated as the Mark der Deutschen Notenbank (MDN). With the constitutional amendments of 1968 and 1974, the leadership of East Germany moved away from the original goal of a unified Germany, using the phrase "... of the GDR" where earlier they would simply have said "German ...". In this way the name of the currency was changed from MDN to Mark der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik (Mark der DDR) (M), or "Mark of the GDR", and the name of the state bank from Deutsche Notenbank to Staatsbank der DDR
right|thumb|250px|Headquarters of the East German Central BankThe State Bank of the GDR was the central bank of East Germany. It was established on 1 January 1968 from the Deutsche Notenbank and took over the majority of the same tasks.The State Bank of the G.D.R...

. Coins minted prior to the renaming, with the legend Deutsche Mark (i.e., in 1 and 2 DM denominations), continued to circulate for several years, but they were gradually replaced by the early 1980s by coins with the legend Mark.

International exchange

The East German mark was officially valued by the East German government at parity with the (West German) Deutsche Mark, but it was never freely convertible. As such, it was practically worthless outside East Germany. The few East Germans able to visit the West often found themselves having to rely on their West German relatives as a result.

Beginning in 1964, the East German government instituted a Zwangsumtausch (forced exchange) (or Mindestumtausch — minimum exchange), whereby most visitors from non-socialist foreign countries were required to exchange a set amount of Deutsche Mark (or other hard currencies
Hard currency
Hard currency , in economics, refers to a globally traded currency that is expected to serve as a reliable and stable store of value...

) for East German marks at the ratio of one Deutsche Mark to one East German mark for every day of their stay. Starting on 13 October 1980, Western visitors to the GDR (except from Finland) were required to exchange a minimum of 25 Deutsche Mark for East German marks per day. Some exceptions were authorized: for example, tourists who booked hotel stays in the GDR that were paid in hard currency were exempted from the minimum exchange requirements. (Of course, such accommodation charges almost always exceeded the 25 mark daily exchange threshold.) At other times, West Berliners, retirees, children, and youth were granted either exemptions or were authorized reduced minimum exchange amounts. Members of the Western Allied
Western Allies
The Western Allies were a political and geographic grouping among the Allied Powers of the Second World War. It generally includes the United Kingdom and British Commonwealth, the United States, France and various other European and Latin American countries, but excludes China, the Soviet Union,...

 military forces stationed in West Berlin
West Berlin
West Berlin was a political exclave that existed between 1949 and 1990. It comprised the western regions of Berlin, which were bordered by East Berlin and parts of East Germany. West Berlin consisted of the American, British, and French occupation sectors, which had been established in 1945...

 were also exempt from these rules when visiting East Berlin
East Berlin
East Berlin was the name given to the eastern part of Berlin between 1949 and 1990. It consisted of the Soviet sector of Berlin that was established in 1945. The American, British and French sectors became West Berlin, a part strongly associated with West Germany but a free city...

, in part because the Western Allies did not recognize the authority of the GDR to regulate the activities of their military personnel in East Berlin; only the Soviet Union was considered competent to do so.

On the black market, the exchange rate was about 5 to 10 M to one DM. In the mid-1980s, one could easily visit foreign currency exchange offices in West Berlin and purchase East German banknotes (in 50 and 100 mark denominations) at the rate of 5 (East) = 1 (West). However, the GDR forbade the import or export of East German currency (as well as the currencies of other socialist countries) into or out of the GDR, and penalties for violation ranged from confiscation of smuggled currency to imprisonment. The East German mark could not be spent in Intershop
Intershop was a chain of government-run retail stores in the German Democratic Republic in which only hard currencies could be used to purchase high-quality goods. The East German mark was not accepted as payment...

s to acquire Western consumer goods; only hard currencies or Forum check
Forum check
Forum checks were a form of hard currency in East Germany. By law all East Germans had to convert immediately any Deutsche Marks they possessed into Forum checks at the state bank since 1979. A Forum check mark was worth 1 Deutsche Mark...

s were accepted. As a result, the main purchasers of black market East German banknotes were allied military personnel entering East Berlin, as they were exempt from East German customs inspection.

Adoption of the West German deutsche Mark

Upon adoption of the deutsche Mark in East Germany on 1 July 1990, the East German mark was converted at par for wages, prices and basic savings (up to a limit of 4000 Mark per person, except a smaller number for children and a larger number for pensioners. Larger amounts of savings, company debts and housing loans were converted at a 2:1 rate whilst so-called "speculative money", acquired shortly before unification, was converted at a rate of 3:1. This inflated exchange rate was intended as a massive subsidy for eastern Germany by the government of the Federal Republic of Germany, and remains controversial among economists, with some arguing that the exchange of currency was the most practical way of quickly unifying the German economy, and others arguing that the exchange increased the disruption of German unification
German reunification
German reunification was the process in 1990 in which the German Democratic Republic joined the Federal Republic of Germany , and when Berlin reunited into a single city, as provided by its then Grundgesetz constitution Article 23. The start of this process is commonly referred by Germans as die...

 beyond what they otherwise would be by, among other things, making eastern German industries uncompetitive.

Destruction of East German notes and coins

With the Monetary, Economic and Social Union of Germany on 1 July 1990 (in preparation for German reunification
German reunification
German reunification was the process in 1990 in which the German Democratic Republic joined the Federal Republic of Germany , and when Berlin reunited into a single city, as provided by its then Grundgesetz constitution Article 23. The start of this process is commonly referred by Germans as die...

 on 3 October 1990) the Deutsche Mark became the currency of East Germany. Around 4500 tonnes of now-obsolete East German coins were melted down at the Rackwitz metal works in 1990. Most of the paper money was placed into storage in 1990/91, but destroyed in 2002 following a theft. Many examples of notes and coins, however, remain in private hands.

Almost all the paper money of the GDR (about 100 billion Mark, or 620 million banknotes with a volume of 4,500 m3 (160,000 cu ft, about 300 boxcars)), including all the currency collected at the time of the monetary union and the never-used 200 and 500 Mark banknotes, was placed into storage in 1990 and 1991 in two 300 m (1000 ft) long sandstone caverns in the Thekenberge near Halberstadt
Halberstadt is a town in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt and the capital of the district of Harz. It is located on the German Half-Timbered House Road and the Magdeburg–Thale railway....

. In total, 3,000 tons of banknotes, passbooks, and checks were stored there, having been brought by military convoy from the Staatsbank der DDR in Berlin. The currency became the property of the Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau
KFW may refer to:*Keith Fullerton Whitman , an American musician*KfW or Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau, a German public-sector financial institution...

(KfW) in 1994 through its merger with the Staatsbank Berlin (the post-reunification name for the Staatsbank der DDR). The 13 km (8.1 mi) tunnel system had been built by prisoners of war at the end of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, and used by the National People's Army
National People's Army
The National People’s Army were the armed forces of the German Democratic Republic .The NVA was established in 1956 and disestablished in 1990. There were frequent reports of East German advisors with Communist African countries during the Cold War...

 under the code name "Malachit", or camp complex KL-12 NVA-Nr.16/630. It was the bunker with the largest floor space, and was used for the safeguarding of devices and munitions that would be needed for war. The money was protected from theft by two metre thick concrete walls and heavy steel doors. For cost reasons, the money was left to rot under the natural humidity, but it was further covered with gravel.

In July 2001, it was discovered that two Halberstadt residents had gained entry to the tunnel system through an unsecured opening and made off with numerous banknotes. The two, aged 24 and 26 were convicted of the crime and sentenced to four months in prison and three years of probation. Furthermore, they had to pay 120 € to a non-profit organisation. The appearance among collectors of uncirculated 200 and 500 Mark notes, and of the never-issued military currency, is attributed to this theft. Because of the theft and the slowness of the rotting, the KfW then decided to burn the old currency. Between April and June 2002, 298 containers of the currency remains were burned in an incinerator (6 containers per day) along with household refuse. The last container was burned on 25 June 2002.


The first issue of coins in 1948 consisted of aluminium 1, 5 and 10 Pfennig denominations, with aluminium-bronze 50 Pfennig coins added in 1950. Aluminium 1 Mark, 2 Mark and 50 Pfennig pieces were released for circulation in 1956, 1957 and 1958, respectively. In 1969, brass 20 Pfennig coins were introduced, with nickel-bronze (later cupro-nickel) 5 Mark coins issued from 1968. For a period of several months following the July 1990 adoption of the Deutsche Mark, small-value GDR coinage (up to 50 Pfennig) continued to circulate in the former GDR as legal tender, because the Bundesbank could not deliver enough small coins to adequately replace the former GDR coinage in a timely fashion.
Official coins of the German Democratic Republic during the 1970s and 1980s
Front Back Material Weight Size
1 Pfennig
aluminium 0.75 gram
(0.026 ounce)
17 millimeter
(0.669 inch)
5 Pfennig
aluminium 1.10 gram
(0.039 ounce)
19 millimeter
(0.748 inch)
10 Pfennig
aluminium 1.50 gram
(0.053 ounce)
21 millimeter
(0.827 inch)
20 Pfennig
brass 5.4 gram
(0.19 ounce)
22.2 millimeter
(0.874 inch)
50 Pfennig
aluminium 2.0 gram
(0.071 ounce)
23 millimeter
(0.906 inch)
1 Mark
aluminium 2.5 gram
(0.088 ounce)
25 millimeter
(0.984 inch)
2 Mark
aluminium 3.0 gram
(0.106 ounce)
27 millimeter
(1.603 inch)

Commemorative coins

Commemorative Coins of the German Democratic Republic
Front Back Material Weight Size
5 Mark
Commemorative Coin to the 20th Anniversary of the GDR
nickel bronze 9.7 gram
(0.342 ounce)
29 millimeter
(1.142 inch)

There were 123 commemorative coins all together, which had a nominal value of 5, 10 or 20 Mark. The coins were released because of various anniversaries or special events. Silver, Copper/Nickel/Zinc (German Silver/Nickel silver
Nickel silver
Nickel silver, also known as German silver, Argentann, new silver, nickel brass, albata,, or alpacca, is a copper alloy with nickel and often zinc. The usual formulation is 60% copper, 20% nickel and 20% zinc. Nickel silver is named for its silvery appearance, but it contains no elemental silver...

) or other alloys were used for the coins. A complete list of all released commemorative coins can be found in the "Liste der Gedenkmünzen der DDR". Some of the commemorative coins were produced in very large volumes, especially the one that is shown above. The high volume caused those coins to enter circulation, because they were of little to no value for collectors.


Heading Image Details
Reissue of pre-1948 banknotes
Old Rentenmark and Reichsmark notes then in circulation in the Soviet occupation zone had adhesive stamps affixed in June 1948 to extend their validity while new banknotes were being printed (see Currency reform above). These notes were issued in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 Deutsche Mark. Colloquially, these reissued banknotes were referred to as Klebemark ("sticker marks") or Kuponmark ("coupon marks").
Series 1948 DM banknotes
The reissued Reichsmark and Rentenmark banknotes with adhesive stamps were replaced by newly-designed banknotes on 24 July 1948, in denominations of 50 Deutsche Pfennig, 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, and 1000 Deutsche Mark von der Deutschen Notenbank (DM).
Series 1955 DM banknotes
A second issue of 1955 contained the denominations 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 Deutsche Mark von der Deutschen Notenbank.
Series 1964 MDN banknotes
In 1964, the government issued a new series of banknotes in denominations 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 Mark der Deutschen Notenbank (MDN). Upon their issuance, the Series 1948 and 1955 banknotes were withdrawn from circulation.
Series 1971/1975 M banknotes
Mark der DDR (M). Upon their issuance, the Series 1964 MDN banknotes were gradually withdrawn from circulation. The 5 MDN banknote was the last to be withdrawn, in 1981.
5-mark notes, Series 1975
Protestant Reformation
The Protestant Reformation was a 16th-century split within Western Christianity initiated by Martin Luther, John Calvin and other early Protestants. The efforts of the self-described "reformers", who objected to the doctrines, rituals and ecclesiastical structure of the Roman Catholic Church, led...

-era German pastor
The word pastor usually refers to an ordained leader of a Christian congregation. When used as an ecclesiastical styling or title, this role may be abbreviated to "Pr." or often "Ps"....

 who was a rebel leader during the German Peasants' War
German Peasants' War
The German Peasants' War or Great Peasants' Revolt was a widespread popular revolt in the German-speaking areas of Central Europe, 1524–1526. At its height in the spring and summer of 1525, the conflict involved an estimated 300,000 peasants: contemporary estimates put the dead at 100,000...

. The reverse shows several harvesting machines, which was meant to highlight the importance of agriculture
Agriculture is the cultivation of animals, plants, fungi and other life forms for food, fiber, and other products used to sustain life. Agriculture was the key implement in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that nurtured the...

 in the "Workers and Farmers State">(Arbeiter- und Bauernstaat) that the GDR proclaimed itself to be.
10-mark notes, Series 1971
Clara Zetkin
Clara Zetkin
Clara Zetkin was a German Marxist theorist, activist, and fighter for women's rights. In 1910, she organized the first International Women's Day....

, an early German Communist and women's rights
Women's rights
Women's rights are entitlements and freedoms claimed for women and girls of all ages in many societies.In some places these rights are institutionalized or supported by law, local custom, and behaviour, whereas in others they may be ignored or suppressed...

 advocate. The reverse shows a female engineer sitting at a control console inside the Rheinsberg Nuclear Power Plant
Rheinsberg Nuclear Power Plant
Rheinsberg Nuclear Power Station was the second nuclear reactor in East Germany after the Rossendorf Research Reactor, and the first nuclear power reactor in East Germany. It was built close to the city of Rheinsberg on the Stechlinsee...

, which has been put into operation in 1966.
20-mark notes, Series 1975
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a German writer, pictorial artist, biologist, theoretical physicist, and polymath. He is considered the supreme genius of modern German literature. His works span the fields of poetry, drama, prose, philosophy, and science. His Faust has been called the greatest long...

. The reverse shows several young children exiting a school, meant to emphasize the importance of education in the GDR.
50-mark notes, Series 1971
Friedrich Engels
Friedrich Engels
Friedrich Engels was a German industrialist, social scientist, author, political theorist, philosopher, and father of Marxist theory, alongside Karl Marx. In 1845 he published The Condition of the Working Class in England, based on personal observations and research...

, the co-founder of Marxist theory. The reverse shows an industrial complex like those in the PCK Raffinerie in Schwedt
Schwedt is a city in Brandenburg, Germany. It is the largest city of the district Uckermark near the Oder river on the border with Poland.-Overview:...

. The confusion of pipes and smokestacks in the chemical plants and power stations highlighted the importance of industry in the GDR.
100-mark notes, Series 1975
Staatsbank der DDR was the 100-Mark denomination. The blue note shows Karl Marx
Karl Marx
Karl Heinrich Marx was a German philosopher, economist, sociologist, historian, journalist, and revolutionary socialist. His ideas played a significant role in the development of social science and the socialist political movement...

 on the front, and the back displays the Palast der Republik
Palast der Republik
The Palace of the Republic in Berlin was the seat of the parliament of the German Democratic Republic, the People's Chamber, and also served various cultural purposes...

 as seen from the Unter den Linden
Unter den Linden
Unter den Linden is a boulevard in the Mitte district of Berlin, the capital of Germany. It is named for its linden trees that line the grassed pedestrian mall between two carriageways....

 boulevard in East Berlin. In the background, the Berlin TV tower, the red city hall (Rathaus), and the Zeughaus
The Zeughaus of Berlin is the oldest structure on the Unter den Linden. It was built by the Brandenburg Elector Frederick III between 1695 and 1730 in the baroque style, to be used as an artillery arsenal...

(Arsenal) can be seen. The combination of science, politics, business, and people was intended to honor the socialist system and to show the GDR as a progressive and modern country.
200- and 500-mark notes, Series 1985
Staatsbank der DDR (State Bank of the GDR) had planned to issue 200- and 500-Mark notes. The notes were, in fact, printed in 1971 and in 1984 as a preparation, but were never circulated. A few examples are held by collectors.

These notes differed from the lower-denomination notes in that they did not have a personality on the obverse. The 200-Mark note had on its front a family with two children in front of a modern GDR high-rise apartment building. The back pictured a schoolyard with eight children and a teacher. The watermark was a dove of peace.

On the 500-Mark note, the front showed the coat-of-arms of the GDR (hammer and a pair of compasses in a wreath), while the back showed the State Council (Staatsrat) building of the GDR in Berlin.

East German military currency

In 1955, East Germany printed special military banknotes, which were never circulated. They were similar to the series of 1948 banknotes, in denominations from 5 to 100 Mark, along with a handstamp for state coats of arms or "Sample Note". Preparations were made to introduce them in 1980, but they were never carried out. They were intended to be used in international missions of the National People's Army
National People's Army
The National People’s Army were the armed forces of the German Democratic Republic .The NVA was established in 1956 and disestablished in 1990. There were frequent reports of East German advisors with Communist African countries during the Cold War...


Further reading

Jonathan R. Zatlin, The Currency of Socialism — Money and Political Culture in East Germany. Cambridge University Press 2007 ISBN 0-521-86956-0

External links

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