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History shows many examples of inflation, from debasement of metal coins in Ancient Rome to the hyperinflation in Zimbabwe.  This page lists a few notable episodes.

The schinderling inflation in Austria

The schinderling inflation was a severe inflation in Austria in the 15th century.

It had many features of a modern-day inflation. People refused the money, and no goods were to be had, unless one happened to have the good old money or the Bohemian groschen. The chronicles describe the great suffering in the lands of Austria and neighboring Bavaria, and there are reports of deaths of individuals as entire families, and the destruction of countless livelihoods. Life returned to normal with a return to good currency.[1]

Inflation of Henry VIII

For economists, Henry VIII of England should be almost as famous for clipping his kingdom's coins as he was for chopping off the heads of its queens. Despite inheriting a vast fortune from his father, Henry VII, and even after confiscating the church's assets, he found himself in such desperate need of funds that he resorted to an epic debasement of the currency. This debasement began in 1542 and continued through the end of Henry's reign in 1547 and on into that of his successor, Edward VI. Cumulatively, the pound lost 83 percent of its silver content during this period.[2]

Vellon inflation in Spain

The vellon inflation run its course in 17th century Spain. In the country with the largest silver mines in the world have gold and silver vanished from circulation.[3]

The kipper and wipper inflation in the Habsburg lands

The kipper and wipper inflation (German; Tipper and See-Saw Time in English) was a severe inflation in the Habsburg lands in early 17th century.[4] The terms kipper and wipper came to mean counterfeiters or cheats in general. Many have seen the inflation as the sign of the End of Days.[5]

John Law's inflation in France

Following the ideas of John Law, paper money was introduced in France, producing first an economic and speculative boom from 1718, and ending with a disastrous crash in 1721.[6][7]

The Swedish crisis under Charles XII

Sweden was by the year 1715 in a difficult situation. After twenty years of war and loss at the battle of Poltava was the country exhausted. It lost important territories in Northern Germany and the Baltic, but it still had a wealth of copper and iron. But the king Charles XII was not interested in peace. Returning to his country after fifteen years, there was little enthusiasm for war. He found an eager helper and advisor in baron Georg Heinrich von Görtz, a man of great financial knowledge, but few scruples. To mask his authorship of the unpopular decrees, that followed, the king has left the announcements to the "Contribution Rent Office", an institution created by the Swedish Riksdag.

The taxes were raised, but didn't bring much income, foreign loans were also limited. Instead of slowly devaluing coins, Görtz aimed for pure credit money. First were introduced 'wage notes' as payment of state officials, that should be accepted as money. Later came obligations as payment for supplies, especially war supplies. First only for large sums. smaller denominations were soon introduced as well.

The introduction of pure credit coins took a full year to realize due to resistance of many officials, the emission was in May 1716. For a lack of sound currency and to "prevent the export of silver coins" was issued 1 million dalers from copper, denominated as silver (S.M.). The coins would be used to pay taxes, and were promised to be repaid.

At the time of king's death (November 1718) were 24.527.000 coins denominated to 1 S.M. in circulation. In addition there were 2.6 million dalers in money notes and 15 millions in obligations. Compare this to Görtz' estimate of currency in circulation from 1715 - 2 million dalers (which was probably too low - the state income of that year was 4 to 5 million).

In July 1717 was the agio of the token coins against sound coin reported as 22-24%. In May 1718 it was written, that 4 daler koppermynt buy more than 6 token dalers - which would be over 50%. After king's death were the token coins in 1719 devalued, the reports speak of 200 to 400%. A private report speaks of prices rising twentyfold, an official of 6-, 8- and 12-fold increases.[8]

The Seven Year War and Frederick the Great

Frederick, who foresaw the upcoming war, had to change his monetary policy and rented his mints to capable Jewish money traders, who were able to make them profitable. Most coins were in the contracts exactly defined in weight and purity, but some token coins circulating outside of Prussia were wildly inflated. In Poland were no coins made throughout the 18th century. It became an ideal target for devalued coins, the trouble this caused suited the king's long-term plans well (the First Separation of Poland in 1772 was being justified by the economical disorder).

And it was Saxony, that was captured first in the Seven Years' War, not least because of its wealthy silver mines. The coins were minted as before, but were not allowed in Prussian lands. Their small silver content showed after some use, and the new coins were dubbed Ephraimiten, according to their minter. Silver-white at first, the copper shone after a while through, as in the verse "From outside Frederick, from inside Ephraim."

The suggestion to make money with such a low content in Prussia in 1757 was strongly rejected by the king, the "infamous coins" should not circulate in his own lands. The king went as far as to destroy the records of his inflation, so not much is known about its magnitude - except for the mint in Dresden, which was briefly occupied by the enemy.

In 1758 was all coinage, even in Prussia, unified on 19 3/4 thalers per mark. In December 1758 were the Friedrichsdors devalued by 41%. In 1760 was the content set down to 30 thalers on a mark, only the Prussian 'Kurantgeld' (coins used to pay taxes) were left on the older standard. The new devalued coins were intentionally minted with the year 1753 to hide their true nature.

By end of 1762 was a return to normality possible, for a start was the money improved to 19 3/4 Reichsthaler per mark. The old money was being withdrawn, the Saxon 1/3 thalers were accepted at a discount of 70%, the groschen at 117,50%. A lack of new money was noticeable until the end of 1763. In 1764 was the standard finally returned to 14 Reichsthaler per mark for the thaler and its parts . The golden Friedrichsdor was again coined by the standard from 1750. The mints were again run by the Prussian state.

Frederick came out of the war as a winner and his disconnected lands could be united by keeping the wealthy Silesia. Since a long period of peace followed, the Prussian economy recovered rather fast.[9]

Inflation during the French Revolution

The French Revolution brought with it a massive inflation of the paper money called assignats. It was nominally backed by confiscated lands, when introduced in 1789. But eventually it was printed to finance all government's expenses and has lost most of its value by 1796 when its production has stopped.[10][11]

Inflations during Napoleonic Wars

Austria 1792-1815

At the end of the Seven Years' War in 1762, the government of Maria Theresa decided to introduce paper money, the "Bankozettel", in value of 12 million gulden, in denominations of 5, 10, 25, 50 and 100 gulden. There was no forced exchange ratio with specie, but one third of tax payments had to be made in them. They could be also exchanged for 5% state obligations. The paper money was after some difficulties accepted and its usefulness recognized; an agio of 1-2% was paid on it against coins. In 1771 followed another emission of the Bankozettel, not exchangeable for obligations.

At the beginning of the Seven Years' War was Austria's state debt 118 million gulden, after it 271 million. Maria Theresa took special care to stabilize the budget. Under her son, Joseph II., however, the fiscal situation worsened. With new offices the civil budget rose from 18 to 28 million gulden; the expenses for the army grew from 33 to 66 million, total expenses of the state to over 100 million. Since 1782 had all budgets a deficit - at first small, but in in 1787-1790 yearly over 20 million. The in 1785 existing Bankozettel of almost 7 million were withdrawn and new ones were issued in value of 20 million gulden, for all taxes above 10 gulden, a half should be paid in them. In 1787 were almost 11 million more issued. Under Joseph II's successor Leopold II the debt increased again.

A period of wars with France followed under emperor Francis II. The churches were requested to give away their silver and gold items, to support the war against France, hostile to religion. New state debt was emitted, more Bankozettels were issued and token coins in circulation were strongly devalued. But the debt emissions had little success, evidence of Austria's weak credit. Forced war loans were instituted, in form of surcharges to taxes. The paying of interest on these loans was stopped in 1804 and in 1815 they were exchanged for a fifth of their worth. Lottery loans also produced some income. Finally, allied England paid some subsidies and granted two loans of 103 million gulden in total.

All that did not help. The debt grew from 399 millions in 1791 to 680 in 1802; the state income did not rise in this period and actually decreased slightly. The volume of the Bankozettel grew from 26.7 million in 1793 to 91.86 in 1798. 1 and 2 gulden Bankozettel were introduced to make up for the vanishing silver money. In 1800 their exchange rate rose to 118 3/8 % against silver (100).

More devaluations of coinage followed, more issues of Bankozettel and more taxes. The outcome of war in 1805 cost Austria dearly, with Venetia, Tyrol and other lands lost. The increasing emissions inspired counterfeiting and mistrust among the population. In a 1806 patent were the emissions declared for nothing but a war measure. But the funds collected to pay them back and lower their amount had to be used against another war threat. In 1807 were the Bankozettel in circulation at almost half a billion, the budget deficit 23 million. Several attempts to loan more money from the population have failed. More emissions and the loss of land with war damages due to the Treaty of Schönbrunn led to a fall in the exchange rate in 1809 - 100 silver gulden cost about 221 in Bankozettel in January, and 404 in December.

It took the count Joseph Wallis, the president of the Hofkammer, to resolve the issue. He planned a devaluation in utter secrecy. The Bankozettel were falling ever deeper, and the budget for 1811 planned a large deficit. On the 15th March, 1811, were everywhere at the same hour opened the envelopes with the "Bankrottpatent". The over 1 billion Bankozettel were exchanged in a ratio of 1:5 for "Einlösungsscheine", as well as all taxes and other payments. The copper coins were likewise devalued. The rates on state debt should be halved.[12]


In Russia was the paper Ruble ("Ruble Assignationes") introduced as a consequence of the Turkish Wars under Catharina the Great and her plans to open up the newly acquired lands at the Black Sea. At first were issued only 40 millions, at the end of the Napoleonic Wars it was over 750 millions. A silver ruble was in 1815 worth 426 paper rubles; but the silver never vanished and remained the basis of the currency. In 1839 was the inflation ended by declaring that all contracts and prices should be in silver.[12]


England stopped to redeem its banknotes for hard money in 1797, until the resumption in 1815, but the disagio was never more than 31%. The 1793-1815 war cost around 830 million pounds, 391 was financed from war taxes and 440 from loans. But the troops and subsidies to allies had to be paid mainly in gold; in 1814 had the Bank of England less than 1/10 of gold compared to the banknotes in circulation, but their agio to gold was only 9%. One reason for the relative stability was the burgeoning foreign trade, exports much higher than the imports. During the war in 1814 and 1815, the gold reserves were 2 to 3 million pounds. After the war, with banknotes in circulation at 26,6 million, the reserves rose to 7,6 million by August 1816 and 12 million in October 1817. England's healthy economy weathered the monetary disturbances quite easily.[12]


The Prussians were strongly inclined against paper money after seeing the French Assignats in action. But the threat of a coming war persuaded the government otherwise. In February 1806 were issued "Tresorscheine" in value of 4 million thaler, due to a "lack of currency". They were fully redeemable in good silver coins, and were mandatory to accept. One quarter of all payments to the royal cashier's offices should be rendered in these notes. After the battle of Jena and Auerstedt and French occupation of all Brandenburg and Silesia had the government escaped to East Prussia. The redemption of the notes was suspended and their value on the stock market rose and fell with the developments on the field of war. The total amount of the "Tresorscheine" was limited to 10 million thaler; although there was also a 2 million issue of "Thalerscheine" in 1810. In 1813 was the redeemability of the "Tresorscheine" restored. The paper inflation in Prussia turned out to be very limited, with the silver coins remaining in circulation.[12]

Inflation in Weimar Germany

One of the most extreme hyperinflations in world's history, this episode took part in Germany between 1921 and 1923.

Inflation in Nazi Germany

This inflation was remarkable for the success in suppressing increasing prices, but its effects were not less severe.


  1. Richard Gaettens. Geschichte der Inflationen Von Altertum bis zum Gegenwart (German: History of Inflations from Old Ages to the Present), Die Zeit der Schilderlinge (The Time of the Schilderlings) p. 40-51. ISBN: ISBN 3-87045-211-0. Referenced 2010-01-29.
  2. Carmen M. Reinhart and Kenneth S. Rogoff. "This Time is Different", Princeton University Press, ISBN 978-0-691-14216-6. Referenced 2011-07-13, p. 175.
  3. Richard Gaettens. Geschichte der Inflationen Von Altertum bis zum Gegenwart (German: History of Inflations from Old Ages to the Present), Die Velloninflation in Kastilien (The Vellon inflation in Castile) p. 52-73. ISBN: ISBN 3-87045-211-0. Referenced 2010-01-30.
  4. Richard Gaettens. Geschichte der Inflationen Von Altertum bis zum Gegenwart (German: History of Inflations from Old Ages to the Present), Die Zeit der Kipper und Wipper (The time of kippers and wippers) p. 74-99. ISBN: ISBN 3-87045-211-0. Referenced 2010-02-04.
  5. Tryntje Helfferich. "The Thirty Years War: a documentary history", Google Books, Hackett Publishing, 2009. Referenced 2011-06-30.
  6. Richard Gaettens. Geschichte der Inflationen Von Altertum bis zum Gegenwart (German: History of Inflations from Old Ages to the Present), John Law und die französischen Finanzprobleme nach dem Tode Ludwigs XIV. (John Law and the French financial troubles after the death of Louis XIV.) p. 100-126. ISBN: ISBN 3-87045-211-0. Referenced 2010-02-23.
  7. Doug French. "John Law and the Invention of Modern Finance", July 2009, referenced 2010-02-27.
  8. Richard Gaettens. Geschichte der Inflationen Von Altertum bis zum Gegenwart (German: History of Inflations from Old Ages to the Present), Die Schwedische Geldkrise unter Karl XII (The Swedish crisis under Charles XII) p. 127-146. ISBN: ISBN 3-87045-211-0. Referenced 2010-04-19.
  9. Richard Gaettens. Geschichte der Inflationen Von Altertum bis zum Gegenwart (German: History of Inflations from Old Ages to the Present), Die Finanzierung des Siebenjährigen Krieges durch Friedrich den Grossen (The financing of the Seven Years' War by Frederick the Great) p. 147-172. ISBN: ISBN 3-87045-211-0. Referenced 2010-07-12.
  10. Richard Gaettens. Geschichte der Inflationen Von Altertum bis zum Gegenwart (German: History of Inflations from Old Ages to the Present), Die Assignaten der Französischen Revolution (The Assignats of the French Revolution) p. 173-198. ISBN: ISBN 3-87045-211-0. Referenced 2010-07-15.
  11. H.A. Scott Trask. "Inflation and the French Revolution: The Story of a Monetary Catastrophe", Mises Daily, April 2004, referenced 2010-07-14.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 Richard Gaettens. Geschichte der Inflationen Von Altertum bis zum Gegenwart (German: History of Inflations from Old Ages to the Present), Inflationen im Gefolge der Napoleonischen Kriege (Inflations following the Napoleonic Wars) p. 199-212. ISBN: ISBN 3-87045-211-0. Referenced 2010-11-09.

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