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The E-Sylum: Volume 14, Number 23, June 5, 2011, Article 13

AN ODD AND CURIOUS CURRENCY: CIGARETTE BOXES IN GERMANY

Ursula Kampmann, editor of CoinsWeekly can be counted on for interesting original articles on numismatic topics. This week she linked to an account of her find of a hoard of odd and curious currency - cigarette boxes once used for money in post-war Germany, -Editor

German cigarette currency hoard Time and again the happiness has been described a collector experiences when at a coin fair he finds the one, the small and seemingly insignificant object that nobody else recognizes. Something similar happened to the author on a flea market in the city of Staufen at the foot of the Black Forest. Among the masses of old dishes and tattered novels a small container laid filled with old cigarette boxes. When asked, the sales woman replied that she lived on a farm and that she had found these boxes lying on a heap.

The situation was quite clear: we were facing a hoard of currency, albeit an unusual one. They were specimens from the post-war era when cigarettes used to be Germany's unofficial means of payment. May be the farmer had traded them for potatoes, eggs and butter. Since he possessed food, he had become such a "rich" man that he was not forced to instantly barter all cigarettes for commodities but hide some boxes in a small hoard for worse times.

Some prices in cigarette currency:

German cigarette currency 1.5 kg bread or bread ration food stamps → 10 cigarettes
1 chicken → 30 cigarettes
100-150 g meat or meat ration food stamps → 10 cigarettes
1 quilt cover → 125 cigarettes
75 g butter or butter ration food stamps → 10 cigarettes
15 g ground coffee → 10 cigarettes
25 g tea → 10 cigarettes
250 g sugar or sugar ration food stamps → 10 cigarettes
1 goose → 250 cigarettes

Hence, our little hoard represents the equivalent value of 4 chicken or a quilt cover plus 15 g of ground coffee.

The American-blend-cigarettes, especially the trademarks Lucky Strike, Chesterfield and Camel, were the most popular because with their blend they fought hunger most effectively. On the black market, therefore, one got 5 to 40 Reichsmark for an "ami", in contrast to 3 to 12 Reichsmark for a German cigarette - quite a lot of money all the same; after all, in 1946/47 a German worker working in the luxury food industry earned 96 Reichspfennige an hour, officially he had to pay 16 for a German cigarette. An average worker, then, had to work roughly 7 hours to pay his 40 cigarettes per month.

The "cigarette hoard" presented here consists solely of cigarettes produced in Germany - even though the "amis" dominated the market, Germany's own production did not come to a halt altogether.

It is safe to assume that only very few visitors the Staufen flea market had realized that the small jar contained an extraordinarily rare testimony of our own past that most of us - even though not eye-witnesses on the post-war era are still familiar with due to the stories we heard from older relatives.

To read the complete article, see: A relic from Germany's post-war era: a hoard of cigarette boxes (www.coinsweekly.com/en/A-relic-from-Germanys-post-war-era
-a-hoard-of-cigarette-boxes/8?&id=35&type=a)

Wayne Homren, Editor

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To submit items for publication in The E-Sylum, write to the Editor at this address: whomren@gmail.com

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