Kipper und Wipper

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Kipper und Wipper (German: Kipper- und Wipperzeit, literally "Tipper and See-saw time") was a financial crisis during the start of the Thirty Years' War (1618–48).[1] Starting around 1621, city-states in the Holy Roman Empire began to heavily debase currency in order to raise revenue for the Thirty Years' War,[2] as effective taxation did not exist. More and more mints were established until the debased metal coins were so worthless that children allegedly played with them in the street, which became the basis for the short story by Leo Tolstoy "Ivan the Fool".

The name refers to the use of tipping scales to identify not-yet-debased coins, which were then taken out of circulation, melted, mixed with baser metals such as lead, copper or tin, and re-issued. Often the states did not debase their own currency, but instead manufactured low-value imitations of coins from other territories and then spent them in yet other territories as far as possible from their own lands, hoping that the resulting damage would then occur to the economy of those other regions rather than their own. This worked for a while; but after a time, the general public caught on to the manipulation, resulting in pamphlets denouncing the practice, local riots and the refusal of soldiers and mercenaries to fight unless paid in real, non-debased money. Also the states began to get back their own debased coins in taxes and customs fees. Due to these problems the practice largely stopped around 1623; however, the damage done was so large that it created financial disarray in almost all the city-states in the area. The same thing re-occurred on a smaller scale near the end of the century and again during the middle of the 18th century; however, the debasement spread from Germany to Austria, Hungary, Bohemia, and Poland.


  • Kindleberger, Charles P. (1978), Manias, Panics and Crashes. A History of Financial Crises, New York, ISBN 0-465-04380-1
  • Dool, Donald H. (December 2001), "Coppers hail from kipper und wipper period", World Coin News: 34–38

External links[edit]