During the two times the Saar territory was economically split off from Germany, i.e. 1920-1935 as the Territory of the Saar Basin and 1947-1957 as the Saar Protectorate and 1957-1959 as the state of Saarland in West Germany, the French Franc (German: Franken) was the official currency of the territory. Although local notes and coins had been issued during both periods, legally the Saar-Franken was never a currency of its own.
The Treaty of Versailles stated in article 45 that the newly formed territory would be administrated by the League of Nations for 15 years, and that during that time France was granted the complete benefit of the Saar coal mines. The new French administration of the coal mines was granted the right to process all financial transactions with French Francs. Therefore, from 1921 to 1923 the French Franc was used alongside the German Mark, and from 1923 on, when the Saar Territory was incorporated officially into the French economy, the Franc became the only valid currency. Due to the shortage of nonferrous metal, the coal mines administration began to print its own banknotes, the so-called *Grubengeld" ("coal mine money"). After 1930, these notes were replaced by the usual French notes.
After the plebiscite of 1935, when the Saar Territory was unified with the German Reich again, the German Mark was immediately reintroduced. The official exchange course was 1 Franc = 0.1645 RM.
On 16 July 1947, banknotes were issued for Saar denominated in Mark, which replaced the German Reichsmark. But already in November 1947, the French government introduced the French Franc as the official currency. Between the 20th of November 1947 and the 15th of January 1948, all notes and coins had to be exchanged, the exchange course being 20 Saar-Mark = 1 Franc. It was not before 1954 when the government of the Protectorate issued new coins denominated in 10, 20, 50 and 100 Franken. But the coins resembled the coins of the French Franc and were officially and legally not a currency of its own, but only local emissions of the French Franc.
After a referendum about the future status of the region, Saarland was incorporated into the Federal Republic of Germany as a Bundesland on 1 January 1957. The economic integration into Germany was completed with the withdrawal of all Saar-Franken two years later. On June 29, 1959 the federal ordinance "Verordnung zur Einführung der Deutschen Mark im Saarland" stipulated that - with effect of 6 July (§ 1) - all debts, credits, deposits, wages, rents, fees, interest servicing, or amortisation payments, and other obligations, as well as cash reserves and prices denominated in Francs were to be converted at the rate of 100 Francs = 0.8507 Deutsche Mark (§ 2). The conversion had been brought forward by half a year because of the accelerating depreciation of the French franc. The date was kept secret (called "day X") to avoid currency speculation, and only published 2 days in advance. The freedom to fix new prices was maintained, but especially temporarily or permanently fixed obligations, not to be altered at any time, were not to be renegotiated but converted at the rate fixed.
Appearance and acceptance
Pictures on coins of Saarland always depicted things related to the industry and mining in the region. Also the coat of arms of Saarland appears on every coin. Coins of 10, 20 and 50 Franks depicted a factory and mining tower, with the coat of arms of Saarland in front of them. 100 Frank coins depicted a gearwheel, again with the coat of arms of Saarland in front of it.
All four coins were identical to the official French coins in color, size and weight, only the writing and the picture was different. There were no genuine smaller coins, so that the usual French coins (1, 2, 5 Franc) were used instead. All French coins were accepted in the protectorate, whereas the Saar coins were usually not accepted in France, except in the bigger cities immediate to the border.
- The Saar money
- Linzmayer, Owen (2012). "Saar". The Banknote Book. San Francisco, CA: www.BanknoteNews.com.
- Bundesgesetzblatt (BGBl., federal law gazette) I, p. 402
- The Federal Republic of Germany fixed that rate and converted older obligations denominated in Saar francs at this rate into Deutsche Mark. Cf. the federal act on compensations "Bundesgesetz zur Einführung des Bundesgesetzes zur Regelung der rückerstattungsrechtlichen Geldverbindlichkeiten des Deutschen Reichs und gleichgestellter Rechtsträger (Bundesrückerstattungsgesetz - BRüG) im Saarland", which - in its Art. II, No. 8 - mentions the official rate.