Special Reports

Getting rich quick in 1923

This story from 1923 caught my eye for a number of reasons. The Herald receives get-rich-quick ads almost on a daily basis, and they are promptly declined. We won't print them. Then there's the world debt crisis that has Europe back in the news again. The inflation of the German mark in 1923 was an interesting story and well worth reading again. You can read an essay at pbs.org/wgbh/commandingheights/shared/minitext/ess_germanhyperinflation.html

Here's some high finance

By the Kennewick Courier-Reporter

Published on November 8, 1923

The Courier-Reporter this week received an order for the following advertisement to be inserted in its classified columns:

"Speculate -- In German Money. One dollar for half a million Marks, worth $110,000.00 before the war. J.H. Keirns, 630 Geary St., San Francisco."

As a get-rich-quick proposition, Mr. Keirn's scheme is a hummer. He offers to sell a half million German marks for one American dollar. Yesterday the German mark was quoted on the New York exchange as being worth .0000000004 of a cent. At this rate the half million marks which this San Francisco high financier offers to sell for one dollar would be worth .0002 (two ten-thousandths of a cent).

Mr. Keirns may be able to advertise his German money scheme and keep out of jail, but this paper doubts it. He says the half million German marks which he offers to sell for a dollar were worth $110,000 before the war. This is not true. The marks which the printing presses of the present-day German are turning out by the bale, were worth nothing before the war. The valuation of $110,000 for a half million was based upon the gold mark of the pre-war German which, except in name, bears no more relation to the German mark of today than an American dollar does to a Japanese yen.

The Courier-Reporter's advice to its readers is that if they desire to speculate in German money, they give the advertising fakers a wide berth and consult their bankers.

After writing the above the editor called up the First National Bank to verify the quotation on German marks. He was informed by L.E. Johnson, president, that his bank had been notified by its city correspondents that they were no longer listing German paper marks which are considered worthless. "Anybody who is offering to sell German marks and representing that they have any monetary value is a 'flim-flammer'." added Mr. Johnson.