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Inverted anchor cross. A cross with slightly widened ends, with two anchor flukes coming out of the top and curving left and right, also with slightly widened ends.

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Crown with ribbon above date Script: Latin Lettering: ♦1916♦ -DOA- T

1916 German East Africa 20 Heller

A German coin from colonial-era Africa

Crown with ribbon above date

Script: Latin


German East Africa

The German East Africa Company (German: Deutsch-Ostafrikanische Gesellschaft, abbreviated DOAG) was a chartered colonial organization which brought about the establishment of German East Africa, a territory which eventually comprised the areas of modern Tanzania, Burundi, and Rwanda. The Company originated in 1884 as the Gesellschaft für deutsche Kolonisation (Society for German Colonisation) with the aim of trading in Africa.

German East Africa extended over present-day Tanzania (with the exception of Zanzibar), Burundi, Rwanda and Mozambique.

During the second half of the 19th century, the Indian rupee was the dominant currency used along the East African coast. The German East Africa Company acquired rights to mint coinage in 1890 and issued rupies which were equivalent to the Indian and Zanzibar rupee.

Until 1904, the rupie 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, which was then adapted into the Swahili language as the word ‘hela’ which is still in use today meaning ‘money’. At the same time, a fixed exchange rate of 15 Rupien = 20 German Mark was established.


The obverse features a crown with ribbon, above the date. The issuer, Deutsche Ost Afrika, is represented by the initials, D.O.A. and I believe the T is for “Tabora”, the area they were issued in. Tabora is in what is now Tanzania.


Denomination within wreath Script: Latin Lettering: 20 HELLER

The reverse features the denomination within a wreath. Interestingly for collectors, there are a number of varieties of the coin. These were issued in 1916, during WWI, and at the time German forces captured the area, including Tabora. These coins are considered emergency coinage. They were issued in both copper and brass with the same design.

Numista and other sites list two different obverse and three reverse variations. The date on mine is narrower than DOA and it is the small crown, obverse B. Mine has the filled triangle looking feet to the L’s in HELLER, making it reverse B. The other two variations have a flat “foot” on the L, with a “tail” which then curls back to the vertical line. One has equal sized L’s, the other has one smaller “tail”. One of the images used in that Numista example has a very large cud at the top of the reverse (I mentioned cuds in my 2005 New Zealand Dollar post). So errors such as that are also worth keeping an eye out for.

Crown with ribbon above date Script: Latin Lettering: ♦1916♦ -DOA- T





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