100 years since the local money of Klaipėda district


On this day one hundred years ago, on 2 May 1917, the first local money in Klaipėda district was officially released.

The local money - notgelds (German for “money out of necessity”) - were monetary tokens of small denominations issued during World War I and after it in Germany in addition to its national currency due to the war, metal shortage and inflation. Under the German law, they were allowed to be printed by separate cities, towns and villages for their own use. They were issued by county or town administration - magistrates, sometimes by companies or even private persons.

Klaipėda district was part of Germany at the time, therefore it also had local money. In 1917, local Klaipėda money was released – monetary tokens worth half a mark. Unfortunately, not much information is available about them, the exact date of issue is unknown and so is their amount. It is guessed that they were printed at a local newspaper's printing-house. The monetary tokens featured inscriptions in German, numbers, small drawings of allegorical figures, part of them had a Klaipėda city stamp with its coat of arms. A note on the monetary token states that it is only valid in Klaipėda and its county.

Monetary tokens with a more accurate date of issue appeared in another town - Rusnė. At the time, the town was actually called Russ. Due to its extraordinary and isolated location (being on the border of Germany and an island) Rusnė, after World War I, was the first in the region to feel the shortage of small denomination money. On 2 May 1917, monetary tokens worth 50 pfennigs were issued. They were different from all the other Klaipėda district monetary tokens due to the text on them. Ostprussen (East Prussia) was written in the upper left corner and Kreis Heydekrug (Šilutė district, which was a province of East Prussia) on the upper right, with a number in between. It was written in German that they are “guaranteed by the Rusnė community (municipality) and hold payment power in local payment collection points”. Next to the date of issue, there were three signatures and a stamp. There were two variants of signatures. It was determined that the signatures on monetary tokens were put by the Burgomaster (town official) of Rusnė, an attorney, a merchant and even a pharmacist. Up to 20 thousand of these monetary tokens were issued. Nowadays, they are extremely rare.

Later, both in Klaipėda and in Rusnė monetary tokens of newer issue were also released. Other towns in Klaipėda District and Lithuania Minor (Šilutė, Tilžė and others) also issued monetary tokens.

The article is based on Vladas Zenkevičius book “Money of the Klaipėda District in 1917-1923” (Klaipėda, 2016).