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Design  |  Herbert Bayer
Designed  |  1923 
Production  |  1923 
Manufacturer  |  Bank of Thuringia
Orgin  |  Germany 
Style  |  Modernism
Material  |  Paper, litho
Size  |  9,5 x 14,6 cm
Weight  |  15 Gramm
Lot ID  |  118
Bank of Thuringia | Banknotes |
Herbert Bayer  |  Bank of Thuringia,  1923  | Sold

Four 1 billion German "Mark" banknotes, letterpress on paper. These banknotes were designed for the State Bank of Thuringia by Herbert Bayer in 1923. The plain sans serif typography exemplifies the Bauhaus aesthetic. Notes measuring approx. 9,5 x 14,6 cm.

Literature |

  • Hans M. Wingler (Hg.): Herbert Bayer: Das künstlerische Werk 1918-1938, Bauhaus Archiv Berlin 1982, p.29
  • Bauhaus 1919-1923 catalogue of 1988 Brussels exposition on the Bauhaus, Page 92 # 62

In 1923, the German economy was devastated by World War I and reparations made for rampant inflation. Hyperinflation set in and, as prices rose exponentially, common currency became worthless. To meet the demand, paper notes were printed almost nightly in every region, jumping from thousands to millions to billions. These banknotes are known as Notgeld, or “emergency money.” In a normal economy, currency design says little about social climate and nothing about individual opinion, but Notgeld gave designers a platform at a volatile time.

At just 23 years of age, Herbert Bayer was called upon to design a series of Notgeld for Thuringia, a liberal stronghold and then capital of Germany. Virtually overnight, Bayer created a full range of banknotes. The results are stunning examples of modernist design, shining the light of rational thinking forward rather than seeking comfort in the past.

Clarity and immediacy were the first priority. The typography - selected from whatever the printer had on hand - is dominated by sans serif. In big, beautiful, arabic numerals the value of each note is the most prominent element, awash in a field of optimistic color, reprising rather playfully as patterning on each side. The content is blocked in an orderly grid, rotating 90° to allow the text to fit naturally, given the form.

The only non-typographic element present is a modestly scaled crest of the Weimar Republic, with the sole function to serve as the official seal. No other work in the canon of modernist design so clearly delivers on the principles of Bauhaus modernism: honesty, functionality, and beauty.

Source: Written by Aaron Carámbula

Herbert Bayer  |

Herbert Bayer (1900 – 1985), Austrian born graphic designer, painter, photographer, sculptor, Art Director, environmental & interior designer and Architect, was widely recognized as the last living member of the German Bauhaus. In the spirit of reductive minimalism, Bayer developed a crisp visual style and adopted use of all-lowercase, sans serif typefaces for most Bauhaus publications. In 1928, Bayer left the Bauhaus to become art director of Vogue magazine's Berlin office. Bayer is one of several typographers of the period including Kurt Schwitters and Jan Tschichold who experimented with the creation of a simplified more phonetic-based alphabet. Bayer's works appear in prominent public and private collections including the MIT List Visual Arts Center and the MoMA Collection in New York. Herbert Bayer is listed at

More about Herbert Bayer.

Bank of Thuringia  |

In 1923, Weimar (district of Thuringia), the capital city of Germany at the time and where the Bauhaus school was first established, Herbert Bayer (who was 23 at the time) was called  to design almost from one day to another a series of Notgeld or emergency money for  the region of Thuringia, a liberal stronghold and then capital of Germany . The inflation demanded currency ranging on the "millions", otherwise nothing could be bought with lower denominations. Virtually overnight, Bayer created a full range of banknotes with a full display of modernist design representative of the Bauhaus style of minimalism, functionality, geometric exactitude, beauty, grid arrangement and modern look. His designs were a complete departure from tradition and made use of a bold sanserif type. They were issued two days later with the ink still wet.

These bills differ extremely from the tradition, which usually had swirls, serifs, images of national symbols, emblems, local cotes d'arms, and other national or regional elements. The only non-typographic element present is a modestly scaled crest of the Weimar Republic, with the sole functional purpose to serve as the official seal. Seen by some as a removal of a romanticized idea of nationalism, the display of the "Bauhaus ideology of beauty, functionality and honesty" is seen by others as the representation of the need of the nation at the time,therefore being deeply nationalist and idealistic. Ironically, these banknotes were quickly useless (and even said, worth more as wallpapers) and had to be replace with some others with higher denomination to cope with the dramatic rise in prices.

More about Bank of Thuringia.

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