Germany: The Hitler Provisional

A stamp issue released just days before the 1923 Munich Putsch – an attempted coup d’état by the Nazi Party led by Adolf Hitler – is often referred to as the Hitler provisional. The reference is misleading as the putsch was unsuccessful and the stamp issue itself had no other direct connection with the event other than the fact that it had been issued Munich.

Germany 1923 200m Definitive stamps
Germany 1923 200m Definitive

The definitive stamp issue introduced in March 1923 serves to demonstrate the challenging economic conditions that Germany faced at the time. Inflation had risen to alarming proportions – a loaf of bread that cost around 160 Marks at the end of 1922, cost 200,000,000,000 Marks by late 1923. The stamps featuring a utilitarian numerical design, ranged in value from 100 to 1,000m and by July, additional stamps featuring Wartburg Castle and Cologne Cathedral were added with denominations of 5,000 and 10,000m.

Germany 1923 5,000m stamp featuring Wartburg Castle
Germany 1923 5,000m featuring Wartburg Castle
Germany 1923 10,000m stamp featuring Cologne Cathedral
Germany 1923 10,000m featuring Cologne Cathedral

The postal rates charged so regularly that it proved impossible to keep pace with new definitive designs. Between August and October 1923, regional postal authorities surcharged the existing stamp issues with denominations ranging from 20 Thousand (tausend) to 2 Million (millionen) marks. A new stamp design was introduced in September and a further design in October 1923 with denominations ranging from 500 Thousand (tausend) to 50 Billion (milliard) marks. This latter series was itself surcharged in November 1923. On 7 November in Munich, the original 100m stamp from the March 1923 issue was surcharged with 1 Billion (milliard) Marks and it is this stamp that is often referred to as the Hitler provisional.

Germany 1923 800 Thousand surch. on 1,000m stamp
Germany 1923 800 Thousand surch. on 1,000m
Germany 1923 2 Million surch. on 500m stamp
Germany 1923 2 Million surch. on 500m

The Munich Putsch, also known as the Beer Hall Putsch took place days later on 9 November 1923 and involved approximately 2000 Nazi supporters led by Adolf Hitler, who marched on the Feldherrnhalle, a monument in the centre of Munich. The event was an attempt to bring down the government of the Weimar Republic and resulted in the deaths of four police officers and 16 Nazi party members. Hitler escaped the event but was wounded and later arrested and charged with treason. He was sentenced to five years in prison although only served nine months. However, the event had brought Hitler to the attention of the German nation and the rest as they say, is history.

In general, these stamp issues were produced in such vast quantities that they hold little value to the collector. However, there were numerous surcharging errors and variations that are of interest to the philatelist.

To view postal issues of Germany, please visit the M&S Philately HipStamp store.

Published by nigelmandsphilatelycom

Nigel Matthews has been a philatelist for more than 30 years. He has a particular interest in the postal history of the Caribbean including associated British Commonwealth countries (incl. Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, Leeward Islands, Monserrat, St Lucia, St Vincent, Trinidad & Tobago, Turks & Caicos) as well as Cuba, Danish West Indies, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Martinique, Netherlands Antilles and Puerto Rico.

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