Part of the allure of collecting stamps is learning about and appreciating the historical context of each stamp. Postage stamps are both product and testament to such historical context. One great and potentially valuable example of this is the 1923 German inflation stamp.
How much a 1923 German inflation stamp is worth depends on a few factors, such as the denomination, whether it is on an envelope or not, the condition of the stamp, and its rarity. As a starting point, an 8,000,000 mark overprinted stamp is worth about $340, but it really does vary a lot.
The four factors mentioned above influence the value of a 1923 German inflation stamp. The market is very fluid, however, and the price cited above is projected to grow by 10 to 20 percent over the next five years. Read on to learn about this fascinating stamp and its approximate value.
A Brief History Of The German Inflation Stamp
In economics, inflation is an increase of prices and a decrease in the value of money. German inflation stamps were a response to a period of hyperinflation from about 1918 through 1924.
What Caused Germany’s Hyperinflation Period?
The German hyperinflation period was a result of Germany’s role in World War I. The country was in poor economic shape and had lost almost 4 million military members during the War. The country was up to its eyeballs in debt, demoralized, and very quickly going broke. The hyperinflation period was really a result of 4 main factors.
World War 1
Germany decided to finance its war efforts by taking its currency off the gold standard and borrowing. It also expected to win the war and impose penalties on the Allied governments as compensation. But Germany lost the war and was nearly bankrupt.
The Treaty Of Versailles
The Treaty of Versailles levied fines and reparations on Germany for being the sole cause of the war. In addition, Germany owed the Allied governments for starting and waging the war. Germany made one payment and defaulted on the second.
Natural Economic Growth
Because of the war, Germany had been in a standstill in just about every part of German society. That economic standstill held prices in check. Once the War was over, however, prices rapidly caught up with natural economic growth cycles.
Rapidly Devalued Currency
Because of the transition of the gold standard and prices that were catching up after a period of multi-year stagnation, German currency went into freefall. It was very quickly rendered worthless. In response, the German government printed more money, which made inflation run higher. This cycle repeated several times.
As the value of German currency plummeted, prices continued to spike. The combination of these two things made ordinary items exceptionally expensive.
Some examples of devalued currency include:
- A loaf of bread costing billions of marks
- Postage for normal sized letters costing millions and then billions in marks
Another example of the rapid increase in inflation is that workers were often paid more than once a day and then given time off to spend the money. The goal was to spend it before it devalued, or inflation could render goods too expensive for workers to afford.
Additionally, as the crisis escalated, goods became scarce. Merchants could not afford to restock items. Consumers could not afford to shop. Farmers refused to sell produce because they did not want to receive worthless money as payment.
How Germany Beat Inflation
German hyperinflation ran unobstructed for most of the period between 1920 and 1923. At that time, for just 102 days, Gustav Stresemann became Chancellor. Stresemann replaced the mark with the German Rentenmark. The Rentenmark was backed by American gold. America also loaned Germany $200 million, mainly through bonds.
The next year, an American named Charles Dawes developed the Dawes Plan. It was essentially a renegotiation and reorganization of the portion of the Treaty of Versailles that dealt with German reparation payments to offset costs associated with the war.
The Dawes Plan also addressed issues with foreign troops being in parts of Germany and the associated work slowdown. By freeing the occupied region, several vital industries began to produce raw materials and manufacturers began to produce goods once again. It also restructured the reparation payments Germany had to make to make them more affordable.
The effect of new currency, backing by the American government, financial support via bonds and gold, as well as revamping what Germany owed the Allied nations reversed the economic situation. Inflation was halted and wages stabilized, the currency held value once again, and the government was able to implement economic reforms.
What Are German Inflation Stamps?
German inflation stamps were issued between 1921 and 1923 to combat the hyperinflation of postage stamps in the country.
Without Inflation There Is No Inflation Stamp
As far as stamps go, the 1923 German inflation stamps were nothing special. Without hyperinflation, the stamp would probably never have been produced. Anyone that does not know better may never pick an inflation stamp out of a drawer of stamps and be impressed by it or think it’s worth anything.
Inflation Stamps Merely Reflect Inflation
The reason it was not a remarkable stamp in and of itself is because, as a stamp, inflation stamps are boring. Some have even described the stamp as less attractive than an everyday German postage stamp. As a stamp, all it did was reflect the price of that stamp as it was impacted by hyperinflation.
On January 1, 1922, a regular German postage stamp cost one mark. By September of 1923, it cost 70,000 marks. 70,000 marks for one stamp, however, was on the low end. Eventually, stamps wroth 1 trillion marks were not enough to mail a single letter. The stamp’s price was a mere reflection of two things:
- The inflation happening across Germany
- The complete collapse of German currency
As a point of interest, the price of a German inflation stamp is a window into the inflation that was gripping Germany at that point in history. Stamp prices served as a grim timeline of how the inflation progressed and took over every aspect of German life.
Inflation Stamp Logistics
The prices for inflation stamps reflected inflation throughout the time they were issued. Almost 200 different version of inflation stamps were issued during the two years between 1921 and 1923.
The German postal service could not design stamps fast enough to keep up with the rise of inflation. By the beginning of 1923, it was overprinting new, higher values on old dies. Often, a stamp printed one day would be invalid just a few days later.
German Inflation Stamps Were Giant Red Flags
German inflation stamps were a window into the psyche of the German government and a red flag of what was to come. Shortly after the inflation stamps, the world experienced The Great Depression. That event pushed Germans back to their post-World War I days.
As the world slogged along through the Depression, Germany endured what it had been enduring since the end of the war. The desperation, resentment and anger that built up starting with inflation stamps festered for over a decade.
1923 German Inflation Stamp Value
There are several factors to consider when determining a stamp’s value:
- Grade and condition
- Stamp topic
- Historical context
With most stamps, each of these characteristics factor into the value of a stamp, but the most important is the grade and condition, followed by rarity and age. When determining the value of a 1923 German inflation stamp, however, appraisers consider the historical context most important.
Condition is still a major driver, but the historical context factors in significantly because of the history and timeline that led to the stamps. In essence, the condition of the stamp is important, but only because the history of the stamp makes it relevant.
Value-wise, however, inflation stamps are not very rare. They are easy to find and purchase. In many cases, a legitimately cancelled inflation stamp is worth more than a pristine inflation stamp that was never used. If you have one, it is important to have it assessed by an expert as many collectors back then had them cancelled to order, which makes them less valuable.
The denomination of the stamp can also factor in as some print runs produced fewer inflation stamps than others. Lower denomination stamps are more common and worth less than high denomination stamps.
As a frame of reference, a five-million mark 1923 German inflation stamp retails for about fifty cents. You can find some that are rarer and worth more, but that generally is the ballpark most German inflation stamps will fall into. Higher denomination stamps sell for much more because they are rarer.
The value of a 1923 German inflation stamp depends on several factors, like condition and denomination, but it’s the historic context of why they were produced that makes them valuable. The value of a 1923 German inflation stamp can range from fifty cents to $340 depending on these factors.