Warren Buffett tells CNBC today that he'd "never heard" of an obscure 35-year-old book on German hyperinflation in the 1920s until a reporter called a few days ago to ask about a report he's recommending it to friends.
When Money Dies: The Nightmare of the Weimar Hyper-InflationAdam Fergusson was first published in 1975. It's described as combining analysis with "eyewitness accounts by ordinary people struggling to survive" as Germany's currency lost almost all its value during the post-World War I Weimar Republic.
On Sunday, Britain's Telegraph newspaper said the book is now a "cult hit" because Buffett "apparently told friends that When Money Dies illustrated what could happen today if European governments attempt to spend their way out of the (economic) downturn."
Earlier this month it was republished as a paperback by Old Street Publishing in Devon, England.
The book, priced at the equivalent of around $14, is currently number 18 on Amazon.co.uk's list of bestsellers. A handful of used copies of the out-of-print hardcover edition are being offered at prices between £275 ($420) and £1160 ($1770.)
Details on the reported recommendation were sketchy. The Telegraph report said Buffett "tipped off a Dutch financier friend about the wisdom of Fergusson's analysis" making it "the talk of right-wing blogs and economics websites." The friend was not identified in the story, but "claims to have bought hundreds of copies to send to the Dutch government and the European Central Bank."
Buffett's recommendation of a book arguing for a 'sound currency' makes for a good story as governments around the world struggle with a policy debate over inflation versus economic growth.
The Telegraph quotes the book's 78-year-old author, an advisor to Britain's Foreign Office under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, as saying:
"In Britain today there is this debate between neo-Keynesians who want to postpone any tightening of the economy and those who say it should be done at once. To my mind it is a nondebate, because politically now is the only time tightening can be done. In a year or so it won't be possible, politically, any more. When governments are not strong or brave enough politically, finally the economy goes to pieces anyway.”
Unfortunately for those who may have thought Buffett's 'recommendation' of When Money Dies supported their point of view in that debate, the billionaire apparently hasn't even read the book.
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