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The Pfennig (help·info) (German pronunciation: [ˈpfɛnɪç], abbreviation Pf, symbol ₰), plural Pfennige (help·info), is an old German coin or note, which existed from the 9th century until the introduction of the euro in 2002.
While a valuable coin during the Middle Ages, it lost its value through the years and was the minor coin of the Mark currencies in the German Reich, the former Federal Republic of Germany (FRG, West Germany) and the German Democratic Republic (GDR, East Germany), and after the German reunification in the present Federal Republic of Germany until the introduction of the euro. Pfennig was also the name of the subunit of the Danzig mark (1922–1923) and the Danzig gulden (1923–1939) in the Free City of Danzig (German: Freie Stadt Danzig; Polish: Wolne Miasto Gdańsk).
As a currency sign the letter 'd' for 'denarius' in German kurrent script was used: ₰. This abbreviation has nearly fallen out of use since the 1950s, with the demise and eventual abolition of the Reichsmark with its Reichspfennig. The symbol is encoded in Unicode at U+20B0 ₰ german penny sign (HTML
The British penny is etymologically related to the 'Pfennig', the Swedish penning, which was also model for the Finnish penni (1860–2001), the Polish fenig (1917–1918) and the fening of Bosnia and Herzegovina (1998–today).
The etymology of the Pfennig is not completely clear, but seems to rely on the way coins were minted during the Middle Ages: the base material were thin flat metal discs. The value was embossed from one side, creating a pan (German Pfanne)-like coin.
In some German countries (such as Prussia and Bavaria), coins had similar but different names, as Pfenning, Penning, Pending, Pfanding and Penny. This was for better handling due to different currencies (of different states within the Deutscher Bund) used simultaneously.
In the 8th century Charlemagne declared that 240 Pfennigs should be minted from a pound of silver. A single coin had a mass of 1.3 grams, or 1.7 grams after the coinage reform of circa 790. Until the 13th century, the pfennig was made from real silver, and thus of high value. From the 12th century on, the King was no longer able to enforce the regalia to mint coins, so many towns and local lords made their own coins, mostly using less valuable metals and less metal per coin, so different Pfennigs had different values.
By the late 17th century the pfennigs had lost most of their value. The last Pfennig coins containing traces of silver are rarities minted in 1805.
The Mark gold currency, introduced in 1873 as currency of the newly founded German Reich, was divided as 1 Mark = 100 Pfennig. This partition was retained through all German currencies until 2001.
The last West German one- and two-Pfennig coins were steel with a copper coating. The five- and ten-Pfennig coins were steel with a brass coating. The latter was called a Groschen, while the five-pfennig coin, half a groschen, was regionally (east of the river Elbe) also referred to as the Sechser (English: sixpence), deriving from the former duodecimal division of the groschen. All four coins had their value imprinted on the obverse and an oak on the reverse.
The coins of the Mark der DDR were made of aluminium, except for the 20 pfennigs coin, which was made of an aluminium copper alloy.
Free City of Danzig: 10 pfennig 1932
West Germany: 1 pfennig coin 1950
East Germany: 1 pfennig coin 1979
Rottweil: Rottweil pfennig, issued between 1200 and 1220
Nazi Germany:10 reichspfennig coin 1937.
Pfennig since the euro
After the introduction of the euro, some, mainly older, Germans tend to use the term Pfennig instead of cent for the copper-coloured coins (and the term Groschen for the 10-cents-coin).
The pfennig ligature is defined and coded in Unicode as follows:
|₰||U+20B0||German penny sign||₰||₰|