Gold Donation Commemorative Token was issued in 1916 under the nationwide propaganda campaign entitled “I Give Gold for Iron” (“Gold gab ich für Eisen”). The main aim of that well-planned large-scale patriotic drive was to collect gold coins and jewelry made of precious metals for war needs. Not just individuals but private and government institutions as well were encouraged to exchange gold for symbolical goods manufactured of iron. Gold and silver collected were subsequently melted into ingots and used by the Imperial Bank (Reichsbank) to reimburse procurements of military hardware.
Numerous patriotic items made of iron, e.g. badges, tokens, medals, rings, wedding rings, cigarette cases, caskets, brooches, pendants and chains of various design were manufactured all across the Empire under the slogan “Gold I Give for War, Iron I Take for Honor” (“Gold gab ich zur Wehr, Eisen nahm ich zur Ehr”).
Being voluntary in nature, a considerable social pressure for that campaign has been generated though: wearing of jewelry in public was deemed unpatriotic. On the contrary, display of iron bijouterie was considered patriotic duty of every respectable German.
Interestingly, this government-sponsored gold-for-iron campaign revived an idea used during the Wars of Liberation, when as long ago as 1813 Princess Marianne von Preußen, born Marie Anne Amalie, Princess of Hessen-Homburg (13.10.1785-14.04.1846) appealed to the Prussian womenfolk to make similar donations. Iron jewelry, which until then had been used mainly as a symbol of mourning, suddenly acquired a new status that of an effective measure to repel the forces of Napoleon. The drive for gold was quite successful, in fact, it was so successful that wearing gold during that period of war was frowned upon and seen as unpatriotic.
Thus, since 1916, every German subject who donated gold or jewelry amounting to over 5 Marks to a special Gold collection point (Gold-Kriegssammelstelle) or who subscribed to a war loan of the Imperial Bank, received token made of cast or blackened iron together with a honorary certificate as a proof of his patriotic action.
Design of the token was elaborated by a German sculptor professor Hermann Kurt Hosaeus (06.05.1875-26.04.1958), also known for Commemorative Token in Recognition for Donations for War Graves “I Had a Comrade” (Spende für Kriegsgräber “Ich hatt einen Kameraden”), sometimes referred to as “Iron Medal” (Eisenmedaille).
An obverse with raised border showed comely lady facing right (or left in heraldic perspective) on her right knee wearing old-fashioned long dress. She offered cross-shaped pendant suspended from a long chain with her left arm, while clasping to the body jewelry box with a crucifix hanging from it with her right arm. Legend in capital letters “In Iron Times” (“In eiserner Zeit”) was placed in semi-circle above the female figure. The date “1916” and ornamental curved line were situated below it.
A reverse with raised border had legend in five horizontal lines executed in capital letters: “Gold I Give for War, Iron I Take for Honor” (“Gold / gab ich zur / Wehr Eisen / nahm ich zur / Ehr”). Two oak branches with eight leaves each were placed below, and surname of designer – “Hosaeus” – in capital letters as well was situated at the very bottom of the reverse.
Circular medallions with their diameter ranging from 39 to 41 mm and weighing 15,4-21,7 g were manufactured of cast iron or blackened iron by the famous Berlin-based joint-stock foundry “Aktiengesellschaft Hermann Gladenbeck & Sohn”.
Gold Donation Commemorative Token of the Imperial Bank was issued in light beige square carton measuring ca. 50x50 mm without any inscriptions.
Accompanying horizontal rectangular certificate measuring 15,5x23,5 cm was issued in the name of Gold-Buying Honorary Committee (Ehrenausschuß der Goldankaufsstelle). Title, name (not necessarily), surname, cash equivalent of donated jewelry in Marks as well as date and month of charitable endowment were hand-filled. As for the year (1916), it was typographically printed on certificates. In case the latter was issued next year, “1917” was written in ink. Bottom portion of the document bore two or three signatures of the Honorary Committee members. Name of the city the certificate was issued in was either filled in hand or ink-stamped, as a rule in Gothic lettering. Two variations of certificates existed, differing in black overprint at the top: “Sammlung von Goldschmuck” and “1916” below, or “Reichsbank-Direktorium” and “1914 bis 1916” below.
Some holders of Golderinnerungsmünze der Reichsbank proudly wore non-portable tokens over their clothes, altering medallions into pendants, breast badges or brooches. For that purpose tokens were framed in thin silver rims with eyelets at top. Such combination of metals used, i.e. iron and silver corresponded with that the Iron Cross was manufactured of. The cheapest way of transformation of a token into pendant was a hole drilled a the top of medallion. Custom alteration of token into breast badge was performed by soldering horizontal pin and catching hook to the reverse of silver rim.
Unusual specimen manufactured of bronze instead of blackened iron is known to exist as well. It measured 41 mm in diameter and weighed 24,7 g.