DEFINITION of 'Notgeld'

A German term that means "emergency money." Notgeld denotes a form of quasi-currency that is issued by a body other than a central bank - which is generally the only official issuer of a nation's currency - and therefore, is not legal tender. The term is widely used to describe such emergency money following its best-known example, the colossal amount of notgeld paper money printed in Germany during the period of hyperinflation after World War I.


While notgeld is most commonly issued in the form of paper money, it has also been issued in other forms such as coins and stamps. Notgeld was printed in abundance and in a variety of styles in Germany after World War I, with 36,000 different types of notes issued by over 3,500 towns, cities and firms. With an estimated total face value of over 500 trillion marks printed in Germany, most notgelds had very little intrinsic monetary value.