1923 Germany marks one of history’s worst cases of hyperinflation. It’s most notable for its dramatic devaluing of the currency and failed attempts to remedy it.
At the time, the Weimar Republic in Germany was recovering from the disastrous economic effects of the first world war. Throughout the war, the banks were producing four times more paper bills than unusual, and by 1923 this amount increased to staggering amounts. The largest note produced had a value of 120 trillion Reichsmarks.
Because the Weimar Republic was not a strong enough economy to solve the problem in other ways, their only solution was to print more money, leading to record levels of hyperinflation. By October 1923, there were a total of 400.3 billion trillion reichsmarks in circulation around Germany.
During this time, scenes of daily life belied a civilisation in ruins. Children played with worthless paper money as toys, shoppers took wheelbarrows full of Reichsmarks to buy a loaf of bread, thieves stole suitcases full of money only to dump out the paper notes inside and take the suitcase. Prices were rising so highly that, reportedly, a man who ordered a cup of coffee discovered it had increased in price by the time it arrived at his table.