Report from the Fronts #14: Unusual Banknotes

I recently acquired two banknotes that are pertinent to these reports. The first is a one rupee note issued in February 1916 by the Deutsch-Ostafrikanische Bank (German East Africa Bank).  It is actually an Interims-Banknote, a provisional banknote, which is hardly surprising inasmuch as the German colony was being invaded from every side.  Cut off from Germany and losing all the major towns, the colonial authorities began printing these emergency bills, ultimately using every sort of paper – even wrapping paper and wall paper – they could get their hands on.  When the regular paper ran out, they began using paper made from jute.  Coins were being minted from shell casings.

General Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck

General Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck

Interims-Banknote - obverse

Interims-Banknote – obverse

Interims-Banknote - reverse

Interims-Banknote – reverse


When Lettow-Vorbeck had to abandon the capital, Dar es Salaam, Governor Heinrich Schnee accompanied him and insisted on bringing the four tons of remaining banknotes.  This load required 400 porters and slowed the march, causing Lettow-Vorbeck to threaten to burn the lot if he was delayed again.  When in 1917 this supply was gone, along with the mints in Dar es Salaam and Tabor, Lettow-Vorbeck used a child’s printing kit to make crude Buschnoten, bush notes.

Buschnote - reverse

Buschnote – reverse

Governor Heinrich Schnee

Governor Heinrich Schnee

Buschnote - obverse

Buschnote – obverse

One wonders what a single rupee would get one in 1916 Tanganyika.



The second is more interesting – well, at least to me.  This is a ten perpera note issued in July 1914 by the Kingdom of Montenegro – Краљевина Црнa Горa (Kraljevina Crna Gora).  Why is this interesting?  Because although Montenegro was a discernable and frequently independent principality from the 16th century and was formally recognized as a kingdom by the Treaty of Berlin in 1878, it issued its own currency for only twelve years – or perhaps less.

10 perpera - reverse

10 perpera – reverse

10 perpera - obverse

10 perpera – obverse













In the second half of the 19th century Montenegro was using the Austria-Hungarian kroner (at least I think so, inasmuch as the new Montenegrin currency was based on the kroner), and this remained the case after 1878.  Prince Nikola I Petrović-Njegoš, ruler of Montenegro since 1860, introduced a national currency in 1906, the perper, named after the currency of Serbia. The king of Serbia, Alexander Obrenović, was assassinated in 1903, and Nikola believed himself to be the successor of the now extinct Obrenović dynasty and would unite all the Serbs.

Nicola and friends

Nicola and friends

Proclamation of the Kingdom of Montenegro

Proclamation of the Kingdom of Montenegro

Nikola I of Montenegro

Nikola I of Montenegro

The 1906 issue was of small denomination coins, and gold perpera coins appeared in 1910, when Nikola proclaimed himself king. The first banknotes were not printed until 1912. In January 1916 both Serbia and Montenegro were overrun by the Austrians, and Nikola went into exile, ultimately in France. The Austrians subsequently overprinted existing perpera notes and in 1917 issued vouchers in perpera amounts.

The royal family before the war

The royal family before the war

The royal family in exile after the war

The royal family in exile after the war

In December 1918 Montenegro disappeared as an independent state, absorbed into the new Serbian dominated state of Yugoslavia, and Nikola was declared deposed, dying in exile a few years later. When Yugoslavia disintegrated in the 1990s and Montenegro became independent again, the government decided to use the Deutsche Mark and then the Euro. Thus, Montenegro essentially only issued its own currency from 1906 to 1916 and banknotes from 1912 to 1916.



Funny Money

(Medical stuff has caused me to miss the last post and abbreviate this one.  [I would like conservative free-market privatized health care advocates to spend three hours in an emergency room.]  I present a variety of unusual bank notes.  The images could be better, but removing all the bills from their frames was too much work.)

We start with inflated notes.  (For the greatest inflation ever see the earlier post The Sad History of the Hungarian Pengo.)

Most of you have probably seen the classic Zimbabwe bill.

This is one of the last notes printed by the collapsing Yugoslavian government.

This one is from the short-lived country of Serbia Krajina, which consisted of the Serbian parts of Croatia that seceded in 1991; it was reincorporated into Croatia in 1995.

Here are some notes issued by Germany during the acute inflation of the twenties, not by the state but by the railway system.

Also from this period, Notgeld (“emergency money”) issued by the city of Gotha for local use.

Here is the earliest bill issued by the Weimar Republic – 1919; it still has the imperial eagles of the Second Reich.

More “German” money from the Third Reich.  The top bill is for the puppet state of Serbia, the bottom is for the puppet state of Bohemia and Moravia (the remains of Czechoslovakia).

Moving east, we encounter money issued by a couple of very brief authorities.  From the nightmare of the Russian Civil War (1917-1922) notes printed by the two major White powers.  The first is from Kolchak’s Siberian army; 50 kopeks, not much.  He ended up dead.

The scond bill is more impressive, issued by the Don Cossack Military Government  in the south, but a 10,000 ruble bill does not suggest widespread confidence.  Denikin and Wrangel and their friends also ended up dead.


And more emphemeral money, these from the State of Chihuahua during Mexican Revolution (1910-1920).  The two men portrayed on these 1914 notes, Mexican President Madero and Chihuahua Governor Gonzales, had both been assassinated the previous year.


And finally, the last issue of the Khadafi government in 2009, the famous “Jack Benny” bill.