Posted 5 years ago
The coins were minted by the German colonial/military government as they were successfully fighting a guerilla war against overwhelming allied forces. The coins were struck in brass and copper. The brass was from artillery shell casings and the copper from pipes mostly salvaged from the SMS Koenigsberg, a German cruiser that was trapped in the Rufiji Delta and damaged by British gun fire. The ship was scuttled by the Germans after some of the big guns and ammunition were salvaged for use as land based artillery. The first coins struck were the 5 heller KM-14 and the 20 heller KM-15a coins in brass. When the brass ran out the 20 heller production continued in copper. Total mintages: 1,307,760 coins in brass and only 325,940 in copper. That makes the copper version about four times scarcer than the brass. Both metal versions were struck with the same dies. The obverse dies exist in two versions; large crown and small crown. The reverses exist in three types: The first dies had fancy curled tips on both of the L’s in the word heller.
The second version has a curled tip on only the right or second L in the word heller. Kurt Jaeger states in his book on German coins Die deutschen Muenzen seit 1871 that the curled tip “broke off” early in the production. That would mean that the hub or master die used to make the working dies which were used to strike the actual coins, was damaged causing the missing curled tip. That was not enough of a flaw under the circumstances to discontinue the use of the damaged dies. As a result the type with two curled tip L’s is rare and the type with only one curled tip L is common.
A second reverse hub was produced which had two pointy tipped L’s.
Collectors of this series must deal with a few challenges. First the brass alloy had some variations causing some of the brass coins to be very dark and easily mistaken for the copper version. Secondly grading the coins can be problematic. Many of the planchets were crudely manufactured and have flaws. The dies were surprisingly good considering the circumstances but weak strikes are very common. The result is that one can find very worn looking coins that at first glance would be considered to be in poor condition while in reality they are in high grade condition. To grade these coins examine the rims and edges. If the rims are sharp and the edges are not worn smooth it is a high grade weak strike.