I am reading "Interest and inflation free money" by Margrit Kennedy. I have only found this book online (here). It is not in my local libraries or bookshops. The author states (page 39 of pdf):

“Between the 12th and the 15th century in Europe a money system was used called "Brakteaten." Issued by the respective towns, bishops and sovereigns, it not only helped the exchange of goods and services but also provided the means of collecting taxes. Every year the thin coins made from gold and silver were "recalled," one to three times re-minted and devalued on an average about 25 % in the process.

Since nobody wanted to keep this money, people instead invested in furniture, solidly built houses, artwork and anything else that promised to keep or increase its value. During that time, some of the most beautiful sacred and profane works of art and architecture came into existence. "For while monied wealth could not accumulate, real wealth was created."

We still think of this time as one of the cultural culmination points in European history. Craftsmen worked a five-day week, the "blue" Monday was introduced and the standard of living was high. In addition, there were hardly any feuds and wars between the various realms of power. (27)

However, people obviously disliked the money which lost so much at regular intervals. Finally, towards the end of the 15th century, the "eternal" penny was introduced and with it came interest and accumulation of wealth in the hands of increasingly fewer people, as well as the accompanying social and economic problems. The lesson here is that taxes should be levied separately and not connected with the circulation fee on money."

I am looking to read more about such monetary system, but I can get no meaningful hits. The book seems to have a reference to this system (reference 27), but as I do not have the book I cannot check which is. Wikipedia has little mention on this monetary system, similar to what it is in the book. Google Scholar has no relevant result in English (mainly in German).

Are you aware of any study on this monetary system? Could I get some references on this?

  • 12
    It is self-contradictory to claim that the money is devalued periodically but there is no inflation. The fact that all references go to the same author may mean that this system exists only in her alternate history where the value of money can be manipulated without causing inflation or deflation.
    – MCW
    Commented Nov 13, 2017 at 14:19
  • There is a little more detail on the German Wikipedia - just right-click and select "Translate to English"). It's worth noting that Brakteat isn't the contemporary name for these coins, and wasn't used until the 17th century. Commented Nov 13, 2017 at 14:19
  • 2
    You might look at the term Renovatio Monetae. This seems to have several book hits, so I don't think its the above-mentioned authors invention.
    – justCal
    Commented Nov 13, 2017 at 14:49
  • 7
    "In addition, there were hardly any feuds and wars between the various realms of power. (27)" What? Because the Hundred Years War, numerous Civil wars in pretty much every kingdom, fight against Muslims in Iberia and the Balkans, pagans in the north, Mongols, and general succession wars do not count and had no effect on internal relations.Having bad currency is a poor system to base your economy on. Because if an alternative is available, people will take it. Not to mention goods will leave your country in favor of foreign money. Which can cause famine. Commented Nov 13, 2017 at 18:48
  • 7
    "Father's gone off to fight in the crusade". "I thought there weren't any wars, Mother. The monetary system discourages the accumulation of wealth, while at the same time ENcourages people to create works of lasting value". "Really? Like what, then?" "Well, like...paintings...and furniture...suits of armor..." "AH-HA! If there's no wars, then why're they making suits of bloody armor then - answer me that, my lad!" "Errrmmm...because..." "Because someone's been filling your head with empty drivel, that's why!" "Yes, mum. Mum - when can I go on a crusade?" "Oh, shut up, and keep starving..." Commented Nov 14, 2017 at 0:39

3 Answers 3


It appears that the author, Margrit Kennedy, has either misunderstood or is deliberately misrepresenting the situation with Medieval bracteates.

Medieval bracteates (a form of pennies) are pieces of thin silver sheet embossed on one side. They typically have a diameter of between 22 and 45 mm. Because it is struck on only one side, the coin image appears in a high relief, while the obverse remains hollow.

From the middle of the 12th century to the 14th century, bracteates were the predominant regional coin type in almost the entire German-speaking area (with the exception of the Rhineland , Westphalia and the Middle Rhine area). From a currency perspective, bracteates are typical of the regional penny currencies of the time.

In some regions, it is true that bracteates were periodically devalued and had to be exchanged for new money. In Magdeburg this happened twice a year in the 12th century. When the devalued coins were exchanged, the rate was three new coins for four old coins.

The withheld 4th coin was called strike money, and this was often the only tax revenue of the minting authority (Renovatio Monetae). Obviously, the periodic devaluation caused huge disruption for businesses and traders. The city guilds began to issue a so-called "eternal penny" ("Ewiger Pfennig") from about the mid 13th century.

The rise of the Ewiger Pfennig marked the end of the bracteate period, although they remained in use as "pilgrim coins" until the 17th century.

There is a very useful study (in German) available to download as a pdf: Versuch über die Brakteaten, insbesondere über die Böhmischen

  • 3
    Dense I guess, but I'm not seeing anything in here inconsistent with the quotation in the question.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Nov 13, 2017 at 15:31
  • 2
    If I lost 1/4th of it at random intervals (or can I say "whimsical intervals", since its entirely at someone else's whim?), that would seem plenty of motivation for wanting to keep as little of my accumulated wealth in that currency as possible. People hate risks they can't predict or control.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Nov 13, 2017 at 15:43
  • 2
    At what point do you just start using the weight of the coin rather than the face value? And while specie may have been scarce, and there may have been a need to keep it in circulation, all that means is that the specie itself does not accumulate. Most wealth and power would not have rested in coins but in land. So all this would have done is slowed upward mobility while cementing the place of the rightful superiors, ie Nobles and the church (nobles in disguise). Commented Nov 13, 2017 at 18:45
  • 2
    @sempaiscuba " That said, I'm not sure how much upward mobility there was in 12th/13th/14th century Europe anyway" Which is kind of the point and would have been an area of concern for nobles. Later you end up with sumptuary laws, much later when the dynamics of european mercantilism has changed there is an unease towards the rising merchant class. I wonder how the existant merchant republics handled this situation. Commented Nov 13, 2017 at 19:04
  • 2
    @user2259716 That's not quite what I meant. It's just that I've always associated the concept of "upward mobility" with "post-Black-Death Europe". When there was a shortage of manpower and people's labour suddenly had a perceived "value". That also corresponded with an increase in personal freedoms, new forms of land tenure etc. Before that, the feudal idea of everyone having a fixed place in society applied pretty much everywhere in Europe. Commented Nov 13, 2017 at 19:13

Brakeaten money was a form of seigneurage in the late Middle Ages. The term is German because it was practiced in most parts of Germany. What it means is that the sovereign, from time to time, issued new coins, forcing people to exchange their old metal coins for new ones, with the sovereign "taxing" this process by keeping say, one new coin out of four. What distinguished brakeaten money from other coins was a relatively simple design that made it possible to "recyle" them more frequently.

As onerous as it was, it was an "honest" form of taxation that was mildly deflationary (because it temporarily took money out of circulation). Wages stagnated as a result (in nominal terms), but peasants were relatively prosperous because (mild) deflation meant that their wages were rising slowly in real terms; deflation meant that their (same) money bought "more."

What changed the equation beginning with the end of the 15th century was the import of gold and silver from the New World. This initially affected Spain and Portugal but soon affected other parts of Europe. (For instance, the Holy Roman Empire was connected to Spain through King Charles V.) Now, governments could operate through deficit financing. That is, they would borrow money (when silver and gold supplies were relatively low) and pay later, when the supplies were higher, devaluing them in real terms, pocketing the difference. Lenders typically lost money on these transactions because the resulting inflation eroded the value of their loan repayments. (A similar thing happened to American bankers during the inflationary 1970s.)

Ordinary people lost out as a result. In Spain, during the 16th century for instance (the hardest hit area), their wages doubled in nominal terms (e.g. in gold coins), but prices went up four times, so their standard of living was cut in half over a century.

Source for New World: "Mexico" by Ralph Hancock


REFERENCE No. 27. Hans R. L. Cohrssen, »Fragile Money« v The New Outlook, sept. 1933, str. 40


  • 6
    While the question did ask for a reference, and this seemingly is a reference, for an answer it would be best if you provided more information. Background and analysis on what the reference says, possible analysis or reliability on the source and / or author. As it is, this would be best as a comment as readers would have little to go on. Commented Nov 13, 2017 at 20:49
  • 3
    Presumably this is the missing "reference 27" from the book quoted in the OP. Commented Nov 13, 2017 at 21:04
  • Thanks. Did you find this int he actual book?
    – luchonacho
    Commented Nov 14, 2017 at 12:01

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.