While a valuable coin during the Middle Ages, it lost its value through the years and was the minor coin of the Mark in the German Reich, the FRG and the GDR.
A ligature of the letters 'p' and 'f' exists for the pfennig: . This ligature is written only by hand and has nearly fallen out of use since the 1950s, with the demise and eventual abolition of the Reichsmark.
The etymology of the Pfennig is not completely clear, but seems to rely on the way coins were minted during the Middle Ages: the base material were thin flat metal discs. The value was embossed from one side, creating a pan (German Pfanne) -like coin.
In some pre-German countries (like Prussia and Bavaria), coins had similar but different names, as Pfenning, Penning, Pending, Pfanding and Penny. This was for better handling due to different currencies (of different states within the Deutscher Bund) used simultaneously.
The Goldmark, introduced in 1873 as currency of the newly founded German Reich, was parted as 1 Mark = 100 Pfennigs. This partition was retained through all German currencies until 2001. The last West German one- and two-Pfennig coins were steel with a copper coating, the five- and ten-Pfennig coins were steel with a brass coating. The latter was called Groschen. All four coins had their value imprinted on the obverse and oak on the reverse.
The coins of the Mark of the DDR were made of aluminium, except for the 20 Pfennigs coin, which was made of an aluminium copper alloy.