12 Days of Christmas: Santa Claus stars on paper money

Coin World explores numismatic items along 12 themes related to Christmas
By , Coin World
Published : 12/19/14
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Coin World continues reviewing the “12 Days of Christmas” in numismatics.

Santa Claus appears on paper money

While Jesus is the religious focus of Christmas, Santa Claus is the center of secular attention.

Though the form and name of Santa Claus (or Saint Nicholas) vary throughout the Western world, the story of a gift-bearing traveler is a major component of the legend around the world.

Given his significance in delivering holiday spirit, it’s only natural that Santa Claus would make an appearance in numismatic fashion.

And so he does, mostly on multiple modern coins with mintages in the thousands, targeted at collectors.  

But there is a little-known segment where Santa may be found with a touch of history.

Read all of Coin World's "12 Days of Christmas" posts

In Germany during World War I , inflation ran rampant and money was short, so a class of substitutes called notgeld (literally meaning “emergency money”) soon appeared to fill the gap. Notgeld includes porcelain and metal tokens, but most issues were paper. 

By war's end, many of these issues transitioned into a commemorative purpose, and from 1919 to 1922 abundant issues were released to capitalize on the desire for attractive designs with meaning.

Literally tens of thousands of pieces of paper were printed, and many examples show scenes indicative of Christmas.

A 50-pfennig note from Coburg, dated Dec. 1, 1918, shows Santa Claus trudging through the snow to make his appointed rounds, gifts in tow for eagerly anticipating children. An example sold in an auction on eBay.com that closed Dec. 7 (along with a 25-pfennig note lacking a Christmas design) for $31.76, including shipping.

There are undoubtedbly many other possibilities to consider in selecting just one paper notgeld for your own “12 Days of Christmas” list.

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