|German East Africa Silver Rupee coin of Wilhelm II|
|German East African rupie|
German East Africa coins Silver Rupee - German East Africa Coins - German East Africa silver coins - German East Africa numismatic - Coins of German East Africa - Numismatic Collector Coins - buying silver coins for investment.
Obverse: Helmeted and uniformed bust of William II as german emperor left.
Legend: GUILELMUS II IMPERATOR
Reverse: Denomination (1 RUPIE) , year (1911) and mint initial (J) within palm-wreath.
Legend: DEUTSCH OSTAFRIKA
Mint Place: Hamburg (J); Denomination: Rupee (Rupie)
Weight: 11,61 gram of Silver (.917); Diameter: 31 mm
German East Africa, the country traversed by Colonel (Teddy) Roosevelt, when he was on his famous hunting trip in 1908 African safari tour, Tanzanian safaris, is still known for “Safari” trips. Natives are employed to carry tents, food, and other supplies. Each man, in accordance with government requirements, must receive a blanket, or sweater and a water bottle. He is supposed to carry on his head a load weighting not to exceed sixty pounds, and to average from fourteen to eighteen miles per day while he is on the march. His pay is an average of one dollars per week. In addition to his pay, each man receives two pounds of ground corn or mealies, which he eats only after the days march is over.
So you have been hooked by the lure of collecting German coins. You have checked out your local coin dealer, but his stock of German material consists mostly of common pre-Euro pfennigs in his 10 cent box. That brings you to eBay. This guide will help you understand the basics of German coin issues and purchasing German coins on this site.
First of all, buy the book before the coins. If you are interested in German coins from before 1871, you absolutely must get the Krause publication, Standard Catalog of German Coins. A 2nd edition was released in 1994, so it is a little dated and the prices are somewhat suppressed, especially for minor denomination coins and scarcer issues. A 3rd edition became available January 2011 and it is a monster of a book--Krause added the 16th century and more states. The second edition has more pictures (of the period it covers) and a nice index of legends and mottos in the back, but the prices in the third edition are generally much closer to market realities.
The German States Period (prior to 1871)
A (very) little knowledge of German history will help us understand German coinage issues. Germany did not become anything that resembles a modern nation state until 1871. Prior to 1871, the region that is modern day Germany (and parts of Poland, France, Denmark, Austria, etc.) was parceled into a dizzyingly large number of relatively independent duchies, grand-duchies, kingdoms, bishoprics, free-cities, etc. The coin catalogs just call these "German States" for brevity. Each of these independent regions would mint its own coinage for local circulation (though some coinage did circulate outside the boundaries of a given province). To complicate matters, through war, marriage, death, and treaty these regions regularly split and combined. A given territory may have been under the rule of half a dozen different rulers during just a few centuries, thus you can have complicated names for a state (like "Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach"). Additionally, because each region was economically independent, there are a large number of denominations of coins for the states: pfennigs, kreuzers, hellers, groschen, marks, gulden, thalers, etc.
How do you collect from the pre-1871 period? It is impossible to get everything (just look at the size of the Krause guide). Many collectors will try to collect coins from just one or two states (perhaps you have ancestors from Saxony or an interest in Hannoverian horses). Others collect by denomination (try to get examples of 6 kreuzer pieces from every region that minted them) or by design ("wild-man" coins are hot, as are "city-view" thalers). Like with any world coin collection, you just have to find some theme and build around that. For some fun suggestions, check out my guide Fun Ways to Collect German States Coins .
So what shows up on eBay? You will find very few German pieces prior to about 1650. Some do show up here, but not in quantity. Gold coins from the pre-1871 states period are also incredibly scarce on this site (and elsewhere--these tend to be the kind of thing that you find at high-class auctions). You can find a large number of the smaller denomination bronze, silver, and billon coins; the more silver and the larger the coin, the scarcer (though large Bavarian thalers from the late 1700's show up regularly). As a general rule, the larger and more powerful the state, the more coins they minted and thus the more coins available for collectors. Prussian coins are by far the most common, but even some of those are hard to get (try finding decent fractional thalers). Bavaria and Saxony are also relatively common. Some states, even modern ones, are nearly impossible to find on eBay (how much Birkenfeld or Oldenburg material do you see?)
CAUTION: This site has massive amounts of counterfeits from sellers in China. If you see a large silver coin from a German state (Bavarian commemorative thalers, especially), listed by a seller in China, vastly under-priced, then it is probably a fake. Don't be one of the suckers who bids on this junk and encourages the fraud.
German Empire (1871-1918)
More history: Prussia and her allies won a decisive victory over France in 1871. One of the results of this war was that it unified Germany under Prussian rule, and thus unified German coinage. Well, mostly unified the coinage. In 1871, the German Empire adopted the decimal system, where 1 mark = 100 pfennig. Denominations of the small coins (in 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 25, and 50 pfennig, and 1/2 mark and 1 mark) were standard throughout the empire and coinage started in 1873. All the coins are of basically the same design: an imperial eagle front and the denomination on the reverse (the earlier coins had a small eagle and the later coins had a large eagle). Each issue has some scarce-to-rare dates or mints that you may never see on eBay, but you can put together a fairly nice type set quite easily (with only the large eagle 50 pfennig being tough for a budget collector). At its peak, Germany had 9 different mints operating, so nearly every series has some very scarce issues; "H" coins from Darmstadt tend to be the rarest, and "A" coins from Berlin are usually the most plentiful. The silver 50 pfennigs (which were succeeded by the more common 1/2 mark of the same size and weight) and the nickel 20 pfennigs are both under-appreciated series. The base metals coins 1-10 pfennig are often sold in large lots.
While Germany was unified, there was still some local governance. Prussia therefore allowed each region to mint its own coins in the larger denominations (2, 3, 5 mark silver; 5, 10, 20 mark gold). The catalogs put these with the other states coins, but they really do have some continuity. Almost all of these coins have the imperial eagle on the reverse, and a local monarch (or representation of a commemorative occasion) on the obverse. You will find some of the gold here (until it all gets hoarded), but look out for counterfeits. For all silver types, Prussia is again the most common. Saxony, Bavaria, Baden, and Wurttemberg are also relatively attainable; Hamburg just slightly less so. All of the rest ranges from scarce-to-unobtainable. (Some of the silver coins minted during WWI are so scarce that they might be offered for auction once in a lifetime, but not on eBay.)
During WWI, there were a few iron coins (1, 2, and 3 kopeks) minted by the military for use in occupied Eastern Europe. These are obtainable, but look out for rust and expect to pay more than book for really nice examples.
German Colonies (this stuff often gets listed under the "World Coins: German" heading):
Germany never really got into the colonial binge like the rest of Europe, so colonial coinage is very scarce.
The most common material comes from German East Africa (modern Tanzania), 1890-1916, nearly all of it is quite beautiful (except for the Tabora 5 and 20 heller pieces). The small hellers can be had for 5-10 bucks; the rupies and fractional rupies will cost significantly more. A lot of this shows up on eBay, but beware of fake 2 Rupie pieces--most of the prices exceed Krause values. Tabora coins (minted in a railyard) are really popular right now; collectors are beginning to realize how scarce these crude 5 and 20 heller pieces are. Well-struck examples are selling for about 2x-3x catalog prices.
Kiau Chau (port city in China), only minted 1909, produced two copper-nickel coins (5, 10 pfennig) that are both scarce, but both show up here at prices above catalog.
German New Guinea (minted 1894-1895) is the scarcest German colony--occasionally some genuine coins get sold here, but most of the stuff advertised as German New Guinea is fake or reproduction. The Bird of Paradise coins are really pretty; it is a shame that there are not some real ones for collectors. [Edit, 12/12/12--eBay now has much better policies about forgeries listed in the Coins and Paper Money category than when this guide was first written. Most of the GNG coinage that has been offered over the past few months appears to be genuine. Nevertheless, it is still scarce.]
After the war, Germany experienced sharp inflation and a massive shortage of coinage. As a result, several cities privately, and often without government sanction, minted small change coins (and printed cart-fulls of paper) during the late teens and early 20s. Coins were typically minted in zinc or iron, and were often holed or non-round shapes. There are just too many of these tokens to discuss here, but now you know what that stuff that shows up in your searches. Some of it is really popular (like the Westphalian tokens with the horse).
Weimar Republic (1923-1936)
At last the German coinage is unified. A few aluminum coins were minted during the inflationary period (50 pfennig, 3 mark, 200 mark, 500 mark), and most all of these can be found easily. Then came the rentenfpennig and rentenmark (1923-1924). This short-lived series is relatively plentiful; 1923 dates can be tough, but 1924 is usually common. In 1924, Germany introduced the "reichsmark" and "reichspfennig"--they did nothing to change the designs on the coins other than to alter the denomination. The brass 50 reichspfennig is the only minor coin you cannot find here. They also made a nice series of silver 3 and 5 reichsmark commemoratives; many of these are available here, but prices climb steeply for high-grade scarce types.
Third Reich (1933-1948)
Initially, minor coins minted by the Third Reich government were just the Weimar era issues (note the overlap in dates), but they did alter the silver coinage immediately. Once they did change the minor series designs, the Third Reich did little to alter that coinage from the Weimar series--small coins were still minted in bronze and in brass of the same size, but the wheat sheaves were replaced by a German eagles grasping a wreathed swastika. Silver coins did change, however, and the Nazis minted 2 and 5 reichsmark pieces of higher fineness than the Wiemar silver. Of the minor coins, the 50 reichspfennig in nickel is really scarce--expect to pay for these. There are 4 silver types for each denomination: Luther, Schiller, Potsdam Church (with or without date) and Hindenburg (with or without swastika). The Luther and Schiller are scarcest; Hindenburg is the most common and often sold in bulk. During the later war years, silver coinage stopped altogether and the minor coins were all minted in zinc. You can still find lots of these zinc coins (often for less than a dollar each), but bright, unspotted examples are quite scarce and should command a premium.
Three notes specific to eBay: First there are NO GOLD COINS minted during the Third Reich period. None. Nothing. Anybody selling "gold" Nazi coins has just taken cheap coins and plated them. Secondly, there are no official coins with Hitler's effigy on them. Any "Hitler" coins are medallions or tokens. Finally, there are some interesting series of tokens from ghettos and prison camps, but genuine examples are rare and expensive, so look out for fakes.
Two special official Third Reich Series: As with WWI, the Germans minted some coins (zinc 5, 10 pfennig) coins for circulation in military occupied territories; these are all scarce, but the 1940A are the most common. In an ironic turn of events, the allies minted coins (zinc 1, 5, 10 pfennig) during their occupation of Germany that looked just like the Nazi issues, only with the swastika removed. These are not as scarce as the Nazi military coins, but they are not as common as the standard issues, either.
Modern, pre-Euro Coinage:
East and West Germany resulted in another split coinage; the West German stuff is almost all common and available (often in bulk) except for a few key dates and early silver commemoratives. Deutsche Marks are obsolete, but at present they may still be exchanged at German banks for Euros, so bulk lots often bring relatively high prices (at .50-.75 dollars per face-value in marks). The East German stuff is likewise available, though the commemoratives are marginally less available, some even rare, and the "E" mints are tough for the minors. Neither West Germany nor East Germany were very creative with their coin designs (except for the commemoratives), so you will find a span of roughly 50 years where all the coins look the same, little oak trees and eagles in the West, and hammer and compass in the East. Most of this stuff, especially East German aluminum, is available in poundage (those lots where a seller has a bag of 10 or 20 lbs of foreign coins) due to the introduction of the Euro.
It is too early to say much here--check your change if you travel to Europe. Germany has always had more operating mints than other countries, so watch those mintage figures and see if any mints are lagging; those might be worth hanging onto.
Note on buying internationally: Because you are buying German coins, much of this stuff is sold by European sellers who list on the US site. You can find some really nice stuff from these sellers; given that returns are so difficult, be sure to check feedback and shipping costs before you bid so that you know you are dealing with a reputable seller and that you don't get stuck overpaying because of high airmail fees. Often these sellers will ship for lower prices at "buyer's risk"; you have to determine if you mind that risk.
I hope that this guide has been helpful to you; please contact me with any questions that you might have.
German coins and currency, including issues of the Weimar Republic, Nazi, East Germany and Unified Germany.
German coins of the modern era can be divided into three categories: those minted by the German states prior to and immediately following the unification of those states into an empire in 1871; coins circulated between World Wars I and II; and the separate monetary systems that were established after 1949, when Germany was divided into eastern and western nations. The two countries reunified in 1990 and have used the Euro since 2002.
Values of Coins of Germany, Europe and Canada, USA and other Countries