Today in Postal History

Germany to Sweden
December 1, 1923

I think this cover easily tops our German inflation cover of yesterday.
On December 1 the Brothers Bing and Sons in Berlin put this envelope in the mail
to a commercial account in Õrebro, Sweden, about 125 km west of Stockholm.
It bore three stamps with a face value of 75,000,000,000 Marks.
All of the stamps are from the 1923 series.
There is a 50 billion, a 20 billion, in the upper right and a 5 billion in the
lower left of the front (Scott 299, 298, and 296, respectively).
The stamps were cancelled with a Berlin CDS dated 1.12.23.

Aha!! The postal authorities decided that 75 billion Marks was not enough
and placed a label (later torn off) to that effect and returned it to the sender.
The sender dutifully added 25 stamps - twenty 10 billion and
five 5 billion (Scott 297 and 296) - to make the rate.
The total rate was 300 billion Marks to transport the letter less than 800 km!!

Here is how this happened.*
On November 26, rates had been quadrupled and
the face value of stamps had also been quadrupled.
The rate for 
a 20 gr letter to a foreign destination
was 320 billion Marks through November 30.

On December 1, the Rentenmark was introduced to stem the tide of inflation.
It was valued at 1 trillion of the old Marks.

The post office revised rates and procedures accordingly.
On December 1 the rate for this service dropped to 300 billion Marks
when existing stamps of 1 billion Marks or more were used.

Such stamps could be used until the end of December.

However, the quadrupling of face value in effect on November 26 was discontinued.

The sender, thinking that the quadrupling was still in effect, sent the
letter off with just 75 billion Marks to make the revised 300 billion Mark rate.
The post office responded by requiring 225 billion Marks to satisfy the December 1 rate.

The value of these stamps, if bought at the post office between November 26
and November 30, would have been 1,200,000,000,000 Marks.
That's right - 1.2 trillion Marks!
Makes a $5 cup of coffee sound downright cheap!

However, the 1.2 trillion Marks was only worth 1 Rentenmark and
20 Rentenpfennig, the currency introduced on December 1.

The added stamps were cancelled with a Berlin CDS dated 3.12.23.

Hyper inflation has to be one of the worst economic catastrophes.

*Many thanks to Bjorn Munch for his helpful explanation of the rates on this cover.


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