After my last post about the Staatliche Münze Berlin, the Berlin State Mint, a few German readers provided a lesson in the political structure of Germany to understand the institution’s role in the country’s coin production.
Unlike what I wrote previously, the Berlin State Mint is a government mint but for the government of the Federal State of Berlin.
Berlin is one of two cities that is also designated as a state. The other is Hamburg. The divisions trace back to the many small states that existed in the region during the days Holy Roman Empire. In short, it was an attempt to bring unification to the region by attempting to allow each smaller states, kingdoms, principalities, cities, etc. to provide their own rule for the common good. Some reference suggests that there were over 300 individual governments with their own governing rules at the height of the Empire.
Arguments, wars, and Napolean brought about many changes where many of the smaller states merged into larger ones and others changed by conflict. Following the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I, Germany was forced to give up territories that left the current state boundaries were mostly set as they are today.
Although the Third Reich tried to unify the country around a federal government, there were a number of administrative functions left to the states including the minting of coins and printing of currency. Even Adolph Hitler learned that to keep his version of an orderly government, he had to work with each of the states.
Following World War II, the concept of the confederation of states continued with the formation of the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) and the German Democratic Republic (East Germany). Although the federal government has evolved with more central power, the states continue to have a degree of independence in their operations that a person with a background in United States history would consider a confederation.
As the country evolved and times mandated change, many of the mints were closed. Production consolidated with the changes in the political structure of Germany. Following the unification of Germany in 1990, only five state mints remained:
- A: Staatliche Münzen Berlin, the Berlin State Mint (www.muenze-berlin.de)
- D: Staatlichen Münzen Baden-Württemberg, State Mint of Baden-Wuerttemberg, Munich (www.mintbw.de)
- F: Bayerisches Hauptmünzamt, Barvarian Main Mint, Stuggart (hauptmuenzamt.bayern)
- G: Staatlichen Münzen Baden-Württemberg, State Coins Baden-Wuerttemberg, Karlsruhe (www.mintbw.de)
- J: Hamburgische Münze, Hamburg Mint (muenze.hamburg.de)
NOTE: First letter on the line is the mintmark associated with the mint.
When the euro was introduced, German law mandated that the minting of the euro coins would be distributed evenly among the five mints. Any production beyond the federally mandated requirement to produce the euro is between the mint and the Finance Minister of the state.
As for the currywurst coin, although it is produced by the Berlin State Mint, it is a product of that mint and not a product endorsed by the German federal government.
If you are confused you are in good company. Even after spending parts of three days looking into the history, I am not sure I am right. It is more confusing than the structure behind the U.S. Mint!