Germany: Elberfeld (Wuppertal) - Kornverein bread token, 1847

Started by FosseWay, November 17, 2013, 05:51:35 PM

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The second half of the 1840s was a fateful time for the poor of many northern European countries as a result of potato blight ruining their subsistence crop for several years in a row. The population of Ireland fell by roughly 50 per cent as a result of deaths and emigration. In Scandinavia the famine was the final straw that started the first big Nordic emigration to the US, now immortalised by Moberg's Karl-Oskar and Kristina. But Germany suffered too, and unlike in Ireland or Sweden, the authorities tried to do something about the suffering.

To subsidise the price of bread, the city of Elberfeld issued the token illustrated below, denominated "1 BROD" (which seems to be an interesting middle way between High German Brot and Swedish bröd). A normal worker at this time had a weekly wage of 3 Taler (360 Pfennig). In 1835 a 7-Pfund loaf cost 35 Pfennig, but poor harvests and a greater reliance on bread during the potato shortage meant that in 1846 a loaf cost 90 Pfennig. The bread price eventually reached 105 Pfennig.

These tokens were distributed to people who paid no tax or were in the lowest tax band. On handing over a token they received a reduction of 30 Pfennig on the price of a loaf.

This was not the first time the city had used this system of social support. Bread tokens were also issued in 1816/17 during a time of bad harvests. 1816 was the "year without a summer" as a result of the huge volcanic eruption of Tambora in Indonesia, which caused global temperatures to fall markedly.

Information summarised from a post in this German numismatic forum (in German). The poster includes several links to original information sources.