The marka (Polish: marka polska, Polish mark, abbreviated mp, Polish-language plural declensions: marki, marek) was the currency of the Kingdom of Poland and of the Republic of Poland between 1917 and 1924. It was subdivided into 100 fenigs (a Polish spelling of German "pfennig"), much like its German original after which it was modelled (see German mark).
During the Great War, in 1915, after defeating the Russians, the Central Powers occupied the whole territory of the former Congress Poland and appointed two Governors General: a German (Hans Hartwig von Beseler) in Warsaw and an Austro-Hungarian (Karl Kuk) in Lublin. The civil administration of the country was laid into the hands of imported German (mostly Prussian) and Austrian (mostly Polish) officials. Four currencies circulated: the Russian ruble, the German Papiermark, the German Ostruble and the Austro-Hungarian krone. On December 9 the following year, after consultations with the Austrians, the chief of the German Administration, Wolfgang von Kries proclaimed the foundation of a new bank, called the Polish Loan Bank (Polska Krajowa Kasa Pożyczkowa) and the creation of a new currency unit, the marka, equivalent to the German mark. The stability of the new currency was guaranteed by the German Reichsbank up to the amount of 1 billion mark.
In 1917 new coins (1, 5, 10 and 20 fenigs) and banknotes (½, 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1000 markas) were introduced and started to replace all the previously-used currencies. All the banknotes were white with the White Eagle of Poland on a red field. At the time of the Armistice of November 11, 1918, 880 million markas were already in circulation. The new Polish government decided to retain the marka as currency and to allow the Loan Bank to continue operating. The following year the German-made banknotes were replaced in circulation with new ones. These featured Polish historical motifs. The notes of 10 and 500 markas displayed a picture of Queen Jadwiga, the notes of 5, 10, 100 and 1000 markas showed Tadeusz Kościuszko. A silver coin of 50 markas was planned but never issued due to the galloping inflation. Only one such coin is known to exist today.
Poland, already devastated after 123 years of partitions and by 5 years of war, now entered a series of armed struggles, which crippled the economy even more. In 1920, during the Polish-Bolshevik War, new banknotes of ½ marka with Kosciuszko and 5000 markas with both the Queen and Kosciuszko came into use. There were now 5 billion markas in circulation. However, the following years the crisis deepened and by 1922 a period of truly ruinous inflation began. By then there were 207 billion markas in circulation. It was necessary to print notes of 10,000 and 50,000 markas. At the beginning of the following year the inflation gained even more momentum and speed, and notes of 100,000, 250,000, 500,000 and 1 million markas were introduced, only to be followed by notes of 5 and 10 million markas later that year.
Early in 1924 financial reforms of devised by politician/economist Władysław Grabski were instituted. The Bank Polski was proclaimed as the new central bank of Poland. The marka was exchanged for a new, gold-based currency, the złoty, at the rate of 1,800,000 markas to 1 złoty. One American dollar was then worth 5.18 złotys—or 9,324,000 Polish markas.
Exchange rate of 1 United States dollar to Polish marka:
- 1919 - 90
- 1921 - 6000
- May 1923 - 52,000
- July 1923 - 140,000
- Beginning of November 1923 - 2,000,000
- End of November 1923 - 5,000,000
- January 1924 - 9,300,000
- Tadeusz Kałkowski, Tysiąc lat monety polskiej, Cracow 1981
- Paweł Zaremba, Historia dwudziestolecia 1918-1939 (1 - 2), Paris 1981