German East African rupie

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German East African rupie
Deutsch-Ostafrikanische Rupie (German)
1904 Deutsch Ostafrika 1 Rupie Revers.JPG
1 Rupie coin
Central bank Deutsch-Ostafrikanische Bank
User(s) Flag of the German East Africa Company.svg German East Africa


(prior to 1904: 64 pesa = 1 rupie)
Coins ½, 1, 5, 10, 20 Heller, ¼, ½, 1, 2 Rupien
Banknotes 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 500 Rupien
This infobox shows the latest status before this currency was rendered obsolete.

The Rupie was the currency of German East Africa between 1890 and 1916, continuing to circulate in the Tanganyika Territory until 1920.


The Indian rupee was the dominant currency used along the East African coast during the second half of the 19th century where it had marginalized the American gold dollar and the Maria Theresa thaler. The German East Africa Company acquired rights to mint coinage in 1890 and issued rupies which were equivalent to the Indian and Zanzibar rupee. The Company retained its coinage rights even after the takeover of German East Africa by the government later in 1890. In 1904 the German government took over currency matters and established the Ostafrikanische Bank.

The Rupie was initially equivalent to the Indian rupee. Until 1904, it was subdivided into 64 Pesa (equivalent to the Indian pice or paisa). The currency was decimalized on 28 February 1904, with 1 Rupie = 100 Heller. At the same time, a fixed exchange rate of 15 Rupien = 20 German Mark was established.

In 1915 and 1916, a large series of emergency issues of paper money were issued. 1916 also saw a final issue of coins including gold 15 Rupien coins which contained an equivalent amount of gold to 15 German Mark. Later in 1916, German East Africa was occupied by British and Belgian forces. In Tanganyika, the Rupie circulated alongside the East African rupee (to which it was equal) until 1920, when both were replaced by the East African florin at par. In Burundi and Rwanda, the Belgian Congolese franc replaced the Rupie in 1916.

During the First World War, gold from the Sekenke Gold Mine was used to mint coins to pay German troops fighting against the allied forces in the Belgian Congo.[1]


In 1890, copper 1 Pesa and silver 1 and 2 Rupie coins were introduced, followed the next year by silver ¼ and ½ Rupie and in 1893 by silver 2 Rupien coins.[2] The silver coins were minted to the same standard as the Indian rupee.

As a consequence of decimalization, bronze ½ and 1 Heller were introduced in 1904, followed by bronze 5 Heller and holed, cupro-nickel 10 Heller in 1908. In 1913, holed, cupro-nickel 5 Heller were introduced. In 1916, crude, brass 5 and 20 Heller coins were issued, together with the gold 15 Rupien mentioned above.


In 1905, the Deutsch-Ostafrikanische Bank introduced notes for 5, 10, 50, and 100 Rupien, and 500 Rupien in 1912.[3] Between 1915 and 1917, World War I emergency issue (interim) notes were produced in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 200 Rupien.[4]

Emergency issue (provisional banknotes)[edit]

Colonial German East Africa was cut off from Germany resulting from a wartime blockade. Silver coinage was hoarded for its intrinsic value in commercial transactions, and the colonial government was pressured into creating interim banknotes.[5] Previous issues of banknotes (i.e., 1905 and 1912) were produced by the German printing company Giesecke & Devrient.[3] The colonial government contracted with the printers of Deutsch-Ostafrikanische Zeitung, a daily newspaper in Dar es Salaam, and on 15 March 1915 they produced the first issue of provisional notes (20 rupien),[6] initially printed on linen and later on paper made from jute.[7] Given the wartime supply shortages, the provisional notes were also printed on commercial paper, wrapping paper,[8] and in one very rare instance, wall paper.[9] Initially variations of white, the notes also appeared in a wide variety of colors, including blue-gray, olive brown, reddish brown, golden brown, dark brown, gray brown, shades of blue, and dark green.[8]

The translated text of the notes states: (front) Provisional Banknote. The German East African Bank will pay, without checking a person’s identity, one rupie (etc.) from its offices in the D.O.A. protectorate.[6] and, in both German and Swahili: (reverse) One hundred percent of the face value of this banknote is deposited with the Imperial German East African government. A warning on the lower reverse of the note states that counterfeiting will result in a minimum sentence of two years at hard labor.[6] Treasury records from colonial German East Africa indicate that 8,876,741 interim notes were printed.[10]

Complete denomination set of World War I German East African Rupie
(1915-17 emergency issue series)
Value Year Image Size
1 Rupie 1915
GEA-9Ab-Deutsch Ostafrikanische Bank-1 Rupie (1915).jpg
105 mm × 63 mm (4.1 in × 2.5 in)
5 Rupien 1915
GEA-32-Deutsch Ostafrikanische Bank-5 Rupien (1915).jpg
118 mm × 72 mm (4.6 in × 2.8 in)
10 Rupien 1916
GEA-41-Deutsch Ostafrikanische Bank-10 Rupien (1916).jpg
130 mm × 88 mm (5.1 in × 3.5 in)
20 Rupien 1915
GEA-45a-Deutsch Ostafrikanische Bank-20 Rupien (1915).jpg
156 mm × 99 mm (6.1 in × 3.9 in)
50 Rupien 1915
GEA-46a-Deutsch Ostafrikanische Bank-50 Rupien (1915).jpg
150 mm × 98 mm (5.9 in × 3.9 in)
200 Rupien 1915
GEA-49-Deutsch Ostafrikanische Bank-200 Rupien (1915).jpg



  1. ^ Modern Gold Coins accessed: 25 July 2010
  2. ^ Cuhaj 2009, p. 372.
  3. ^ a b Cuhaj 2010, p. 543.
  4. ^ Cuhaj 2010, pp. 544–46.
  5. ^ Sandrock 2002, p. 17.
  6. ^ a b c Sandrock 2002, p. 20.
  7. ^ Sandrock 2002, p. 22.
  8. ^ a b Sandrock 2002, p. 24.
  9. ^ Sandrock 2002, p. 33.
  10. ^ Sandrock 2002, p. 34.

External links[edit]

Preceded by:
Indian rupee
Ratio: at par
Currency of German East Africa
(Tanganyika, Burundi, Rwanda)
1890 – 1916 in Burundi and Rwanda, 1920 in Tanganyika
Note: German East Africa was occupied by British and Belgian forces in 1916
Succeeded by:
East African florin
Location: Tanganyika
Reason: given to United Kingdom by Treaty of Versailles
Ratio: at par
Succeeded by:
Belgian Congolese franc
Location: Burundi, Rwanda
Reason: given to Belgium by Treaty of Versailles