“In the economic firestorm that was Weimar Germany in 1923, a young Ernest Hemingway happened to be travelling through the region with his wife. Hemingway converted some loose change into German marks. He went to a fruit stand. He picked out five good-looking apples and paid for them with a 50 mark note. He received 38 marks back by way of change. An elderly gentleman then approached him and asked, somewhat timidly:
“Pardon me sir, how much were the apples?”
Hemingway counted his change and told him: 12 marks.
The elderly gentleman smiled and shook his head:
“I can’t pay it. It is too much.”
Hemingway watched him sadly walk away. He confessed:
“I wish I had offered him some. Twelve marks, on that day, amounted to a little under 2 cents.”
This is an anecdote from Adam Fergusson’s When Money Dies: the nightmare of the Weimar hyperinflation. I recommend this book, not least because we may soon have to listen to its central message all over again.”Boom !