German 20 Marks
(Wilhelm I and Wihelm II)
Grade range: Almost Uncirculated/Uncirculated
Minted 1871 - 1913
Actual Gold Content: .2304 troy ounce
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The later German 20 Mark gold coins are two of the most popular with investors. As the last gold coin minted prior to the disastrous inflation that befell Germany in the 1920s, they proved to be life-savers for those who had the foresight to put some away before economic disaster struck. At the height of the 1920's Nightmare German Inflation, a family's life savings could not purchase a cup of coffee. A purse of Wilhelm 20 Mark gold coins on the other hand stubbornly held its value, a lesson that has not been lost on the modern saver, particularly those of German descent. Even today, it is said the nightmare inflationary experience of the 1920s affects central bank and federal government economic policy.
Wilhelm I was known for his deep religious convictions, high sense of honor and integrity. But showing little political interest, his primary goal upon ascending to the Prussian throne in 1861 was to reorganize and strengthen the Prussian army. He was met with opposition from the Prussian legislature, and his desire to remain politically neutral led to his appointment of Otto von Bismark as his prime minister in 1862. Bismark proved to be far more historically significant than Wilhelm I, engaging Prussia in a number of conflicts aimed at attaining the goal of a unified German Empire. Perhaps the most notable of these conflicts was the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71. Upon the defeat and surrender of Napoleon III at Sedan, Wilhelm I was proclaimed the first emperor of Germany (Kaiser) in 1871.
Wilhelm II ascended the throne of Germany in June of 1888. Fairly or not, he is generally recorded in history as one of its dark players -- highly intelligent, but also tactless, vain, ambitious and adventurous. Historians believe his policies in the early 20th century, particularly toward Britain and France, drove Europe to the brink of war. His personal blunders also strained Germany's diplomatic relations with other countries.
The most well known instance of this may be the "Daily Telegraph Affair" of 1908. When Wilhelm was offered an interview with the newspaper, he saw it as an opportunity to promote his views and ideas on Anglo-German friendship. Instead, due to his emotional volatility and subsequent outbursts during the course of the interview, Wilhelm ended up further alienating not only the British people, but also the French, Russians, and Japanese all in one fell swoop. He effectively implied that the Germans cared nothing for the British; that the French and Russians had attempted to instigate Germany to intervene in the Second Boer War (a war between the British and republics within South Africa, resulting in their addition to the British Empire); and that the German naval buildup during that time period was targeted against the Japanese, not Britain.