Germans still hoarding old Deutschmarks
Germany's deutschmark currency (DM), yearned for by some adults but almost unknown amongst children, can still be swapped for euros at the rate fixed back in 2001. Germany's central bank, the Bundesbank, reminded hoarders and the forgetful on Friday that they would trade the old currency for genuine cash.
It cited a survey conducted by YouGov in late November, which found that 54 percent of residents in Germany still had banknotes and particularly old coins at home.
The Bundesbank's official rate remains at one euro for 1.95583 DM - the rate of nearly two for one set in 2001 - if notes or coins are brought to the Frankfurt institute or its regional branches. It advises against mailing them.
The deutschmark launched in 1948 under Allied rule in post-war western Germany went on to replace former East Germany's "Ostmark" in 1990, during the year of German reunification.
Its sidelining as a cash and non-cash currency 11 years later is still lamented by euroskeptics. The euro is now used in 19 countries, including Germany as founding member of the euro zone.
Roughly 24 billion individual DM-coins, as small as one pfennig, remain in circulation. That represents about half of all DM coins ever issued, said the Frankfurt-based Bundesbank on Friday.
Those unrecovered included five and ten mark coins minted for commemorative occasions and often held by traders because of their potential to be smelted to extract their silver content. Also, some more rare coins could amass considerably greater values than their exchange rates as collector's items.
Only four percent of DM-banknotes were still in circulation, the Bundesbank added.
The notes had been particularly popular outside Germany: for example, in former Yugoslavia's successor states, five and ten-DM notes had been used in recent years as a "second currency."
In all, the combined value of deutschmarks still in circulation as cash amounted to 6.6 billion euros ($7.2 billion), the bank said.
After Germany's initial late 2001 rush to convert into euros, the figure has declined steadily. In late 2002, Deutschmark cash remnants had a combined value of around 9.4 billion euros.
The old mark almost forgotten by youngsters?
As an example of youngsters' unfamiliarity with the currency, the Bundesbank told of a four-year-old, who found a 500-DM banknote in his grandfather's album, and cut out the image of a castle depicted on its reverse side.
"He took the banknote with him to kindergarten, cut out the image of the "Castle Eltz" with scissors - fortunately leaving lots of space around it - and glued the castle on to a piece of paper that was then painted," the central bank said.
The picture, showing Castle Eltz in western Germany's Eiffel region, hung on a wall in the kindergarten until the real banknote was finally recognized - still exchangeable.
Moist in the cellar, masticated in the attic
In another example, an elderly couple, undecided on where to store their stash of banknotes, hid half in the cellar and half in the attic.
When they applied later to exchange them for euros, the cellar banknotes were damaged by moisture and the ones in the attic had been nibbled by mice.
Heirs who found deutschmarks during property windups often did not realize their value. One woman sent the Bundesbank three 5-mark commemorative coins.
"We sent these coins back to the woman who sent them - with the request that she offer them to a coin trader," the Bundesbank said. "Instead of the usual exchange rate of 2.56 euros, she received 100 euros per piece!"
Buried and found
Meanwhile, construction workers are still making finds.
In early December, police in the northern city of Bremen were handed an excavated cash box found by a 44-year-old worker. Its contents, sealed in a linen bag, turned out to be banknotes worth 141,000 deutschmarks or just over 72,000 euros.
A man from the United States had less luck. He sent in a miniature 200-mark banknote of four-by-eight centimeters in size, apparently unaware of the import of the note's imprint "Spielgeld," which means "play money." The Bundesbank returned it to sender.
ipj/msh (dpa, AFP)