Michele Orzano

Paper, Ink and Steel

Michele Orzano

Michele Orzano, senior editor, paper money, is responsible for the vast majority of Coin World’s paper money coverage and edits Paper Money, a section of the monthly Coin World. She joined the Coin World staff in 1985, and in addition to paper money, has written extensively on legislative and legal topics, including Coin World's ambitious coverage of the 50 State quarters circulating commemorative coin program.


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A room filled with paper money is no dream

​For some people being in a large room filled with paper money for as far as the eye can see is only a dream.

Well, wake up, dream no more, because that is pretty much what it feels like to be in Memphis, Tenn., every June.

That’s when that city becomes the center of the paper money universe and Lyn Knight and crew host the International Paper Money Show.

The 2014 show did not disappoint and once again dealers and collectors from around the world gathered to talk, buy, sell, exhibit and enjoy the hobby. If U.S. paper currency is not yet your thing, consider the “international” aspect of the show. You can always find something new and different on the bourse floor.

I always have fun looking at exhibits and chatting with dealers about interesting notes. One such chat this year was with St. Louis dealer Dusty Royer. He usually brings or buys at the show something worth chatting about.

This year he showed me and Coin World Editor in Chief Steve Roach some German paper notgeld depicting the sport of golf.

The “golf” notgeld depicts the club house, the golf course and a group of golfers — in golfing attire from the 1920s. The notes were issued by the city of Oberhof to promote its nine-hole golf course.

The pieces were issued in 1922 in 75-, 80- and 90-pfenning  denominations . According to Dusty, these were the first bank notes to feature golf. The set of three notes retail for $80 to $100.

Quick tutorial on notgeld. There are metal and paper (even porcelain) examples of these emergency pieces issued in the 1920s in Germany and other European nations. Following World War I economic hardships became more common and the need to make change was supplemented by notgeld. These emergency issues, literally translated as “not money” spread across the nation.

States, towns, merchants, banks, private firms, organizations and individuals issued these pieces. The designs on these items range from agricultural scenes to German fables or fairy tales involving goblins to satirical commentary to the Pied Piper of Hamelin.

Notgeld are fun to collect and you do not have to be able to read German to enjoy the designs. Many of the references are in German but there is an English-language book, Guide & Checklist World Notgeld 1914-1947 by Courtney Coffing, which can be purchased at online bookstores. Next time you are at a show consider looking for these colorful notes and start your next adventure in collecting.

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