Notgeld by Linz’s Klemens Brosch —20

"which means “emergency money,” is a form of temporary currency used when state-sponsored bills are scarce, usually during times of economic or political crisis—most was made between 1914 and 1939, during World War I and the Interwar period preceding World War II. It could be issued by local municipalities and organizations like regional savings banks as well as by private companies or individuals. In order to keep bills from being stockpiled, nearly all notgeld included an expiration date after which the currency was rendered invalid. Despite the economic benefit of keeping bills in circulation, there was an ulterior appeal to unspent notgeld for those who produced it: since each bill can be considered a certificate of debt, each bill unspent was a quantity of money that didn’t need to repaid by the issuer. As such, aesthetically appealing notgeld was advantageous for producers, since it was more likely to be saved and collected. Over time, some bills, called “serienscheine,” were produced in sequential series explicitly for collecting purposes, occasionally even being printed on unusual materials (like silk, porcelain, or leather) that correlated to the manufacturing focus of the business or town creating it. Notgeld represents a remarkable transition in 20th Century Western European design; the tension between the decorative folk aesthetics of a pre-industrialized region and the more regimented visual language of an emerging modern society. Some of these modernist expressions, like the notgeld created by a young Herbert Bayer, represent early examples of renowned design movements like De Stijl or the Bauhaus. Unfortunately, others are far more insidious portents of the rise of the Nazi party and the aesthetics of German nationalism. Ultimately, my fascination with notgeld is rooted in the same revelation I’ve had with many topics covered here before: that a small, disposable surface can often be the perfect substrate for visual experimentation." — Elizabeth Goodspeed