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I read many years ago a story about someone in Germany in the 1920s who had been tipped a US dollar immediately seeking investment advice presumably because it was so valuable. Now, this did not make a lot of sense to me since ultimately it would still have the buying power of a dollar although perhaps with hyperinflation the situation is more complex.

Did stocks simply skyrocket as the value of a company's hard assets go up astronomically (in marks)? If you were a landlord, did you do well or at least do okay because rents went up or were you wiped out because of something like rent control/leases which meant that your tenants were paying you almost nothing for an apartment and you could not evict them?

In general, what sort of assets (besides gold and similar valuables) were good to have had during the German hyperinflation?

  • I don't think this is a bad question nor is it a simple one to answer (comprehensively). This PFM:SE question is closely related. – gktscrk Aug 26 at 6:21
  • @gktscrk: i am interested specifically in 1920s when financial systems were less sophisticated and, for example, gold coins were still in use. There is a lot of info about how people today in VZ dealt with inflation but I am not sure if it applies to Germany in 1920s. – releseabe Aug 26 at 7:23
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    Note that the gold-backed Mark ("Goldmark") found its end in 1914. While existing Goldmark became legal tender again in 1923, de facto none were used that way (and no new Goldmark were minted). – DevSolar Aug 26 at 7:42
  • @MarkC.Wallace: I think the circumstances of this hyperinflation -- caused by printing marks to pay reparations -- may have made it hard even for people with hard assets: maybe the French, etc. were confiscating gold or, if u owned shares, companies were having their equipment dismantled and taken as payments. – releseabe Aug 26 at 11:27
  • @releseabe - inflation, including hyperinflation, doesn't change the value of non-monetary assets. ( a longer answer might discuss the the relationship between liquidity and value store/barter, but ....). The definition is that loans are repaid with "cheap" money, which benefits borrows, but harms the loan owner/investor. Doesn't matter why the value of money is falling, merely that the value is falling. (That's my understanding, although as I said, I haven't studied this period, and I'm a few years stale, so I'm happy to learn) – Mark C. Wallace Aug 26 at 11:43
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Mild inflation may often be good for stock prices, but when people cannot afford basic necessities, there may not be as much money available for speculative investment. In Wiemar Germany, stock prices were volatile but generally declining during the worst of the inflation. Below I've taken a graph from an article by Hans-Joachim Voth and added a thick red arrow to indicate 1923, the peak of hyperinflation.

German stock prices 1870-1928

As Voth states:

During the hyperinflation, German stocks were often extremely cheap. In November 1922, for example, the capitalization of Daimler Motor Work was equivalent to the value of 327 of its cars. Market volatility was extremely high, with share prices often changing by 30 or even 50 percent per month in real terms. (p.67)

How investors fared overall is a more difficult question to answer. In such a volatile market, I suspect there were both big winners and big losers. Overall, a lot depends on the specific time frame you look at.

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  • You're right! How "investors" performed is not relevant to how the asset classes in general performed (which really is more in line with what @releaseabe was asking about). – gktscrk Aug 26 at 13:22

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