This image from a German broadsheet shows techniques for the physical manipulation of value in the early seventeenth century. The time of the ‘Kipper und Wipper’ (ca.1618-23), or ‘the rising of the moneys’ as the English were wont to call it, describes an extraordinary crisis of hyperinflation that afflicted the cities and principalities of the Holy Roman Empire in the early years of the Thirty Years’ War. Kippen referred to ‘clipping’ coins and tilting scales; wippen to a see-saw motion; and the phrase itself to the money-handlers who were blamed for the crisis, deceiving clients with sleights-of-hand at the scales to take good money for bad. Although dishonesty at the exchanges hastened the effects of Gresham’s Law (‘bad money drives out good’), the chief underlying cause of the economic and social catastrophe that followed was probably the attempt by German princes to make war preparations: hoarding and minting money competitively. For example, Brunswick had seventeen mints in 1620. By 1623, it had forty. The consequences are shown as a sketch on the curtain which flaps over the window to the world beyond: Discordia.
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