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Money

BJ Swabb

Sage
I just had a thought on money and the fantasy worlds. I for one use gold coins, silver, and shillings as my sources of money. What do you use? Just curious on how your money supply work and how each coin serves for payment. In mine a gold coin is the largest of the amount of payment, making Silver the next and lastly the shilling that can barely pay for a cup of soup or an apple. Just interested in how you all use your money systems.
 

BJ Swabb

Sage
Cool. I know some use pence, denarius, groats (which is what silver is called in the 19th century), silver pennies called pfennings, debasments which are copper coins and the lowest of the money after gold came into the picture. But I also know others may use trading or favors as a source of payments as well. So I just wanted to see what everyone used. Even jewels are an option.
 

Devor

Fiery Keeper of the Hat
Moderator
I read that at some point in time and space a silver coin was supposed to be worth a goat, so I've tried to use that as a benchmark. A copper coin is worth a week of grain. A typical wage is 3-5 copper coins a week. So you go into a store, you pay them a copper, and they give you "marks" or store credit that you use to purchase things. I didn't want the currency to feel too real worldy, so the idea that you typically pay in advance but continue to come shop there seemed right to me.
 

BJ Swabb

Sage
I read that at some point in time and space a silver coin was supposed to be worth a goat, so I've tried to use that as a benchmark. A copper coin is worth a week of grain. A typical wage is 3-5 copper coins a week. So you go into a store, you pay them a copper, and they give you "marks" or store credit that you use to purchase things. I didn't want the currency to feel too real worldy, so the idea that you typically pay in advance but continue to come shop there seemed right to me.
I like that. It is an interesting way to place in a money system for sure.
 

pmmg

Myth Weaver
Gold, silver and cooper, for sure. Various places have different names for the currency, and I literally spent years trying to come up with the names of the coins around the world. In spite of it, there has not been a lot of commerce in my story. I don't think I have a single scene where someone actually pays for something. There is a lot of bartering. In one scene, a character offers to pay with coins, but it is turned down in favor of a different trade. So...so far, it seems unimportant.

How much could one buy with some coin? I dont know. I'd say silver if probably the most common, and it would be negotiated if it came up.

 

BJ Swabb

Sage
Gold, silver and cooper, for sure. Various places have different names for the currency, and I literally spent years trying to come up with the names of the coins around the world. In spite of it, there has not been a lot of commerce in my story. I don't think I have a single scene where someone actually pays for something. There is a lot of bartering. In one scene, a character offers to pay with coins, but it is turned down in favor of a different trade. So...so far, it seems unimportant.

How much could one buy with some coin? I dont know. I'd say silver if probably the most common, and it would be negotiated if it came up.

As I mentioned earlier trade seems to be a good way of doing things instead of coin. Many use it and I have seen many in books and movies that do it as well. And I guess it also depends on the situation and the person whom you are dealing with as well. One may want gold or silver, while another for example my leprechaun in my world often wants to make deals or wants a favor in return. It really depends on the situation or character in the story as well.
 

pmmg

Myth Weaver
As I mentioned earlier trade seems to be a good way of doing things instead of coin. Many use it and I have seen many in books and movies that do it as well. And I guess it also depends on the situation and the person whom you are dealing with as well. One may want gold or silver, while another for example my leprechaun in my world often wants to make deals or wants a favor in return. It really depends on the situation or character in the story as well.

Yeah...I may have to make it a goal to have an actual coin transaction in the new one. Clearly people are motivated by it, they just do all their spending off camera.
 

BJ Swabb

Sage
Yeah...I may have to make it a goal to have an actual coin transaction in the new one. Clearly people are motivated by it, they just do all their spending off camera.
Most times when I use it, which really I haven't as much yet, is when someone is in a tavern paying for a drink, or meal. But other than that I don't really use it much either. It just a nice addition to show in the story that money is still being used.
 

Mad Swede

Auror
I use a system of coinage since in reality a functioning state needs some form of currency. It can't all be about barter. Having a system of coinage also gives scope for all sorts of other incidents and events which can be used to start a story or deepen a plot or even provide som background events.
 

skip.knox

toujours gai, archie
Moderator
Money is a fun topic. Well, if you're an economist. Otherwise it ranges from dreary to trivial.

Or, maybe you're a fantasy author.

I tend to ignore monetary stuff as a reader. This is because as a historian, I absolutely trip over every use of it in fantasy novels. None of it is realistic, so I just suspend my disbelief. I have several hangars in the closet specifically for that; otherwise I'd have disbelief hanging all over the place.

Anyways.

I have written and self-published five novels, and never once have I felt the need for a monetary system. In fact, I sort of revel in the lack of a system (I never revel in the lack of money). This stems from my training as a medieval hsitorian. Ya see, there were approximately one and a half jillion monetary "systems" in the Middle Ages and, somehow, Europeans managed pretty well. There were few standards and less consistency. By the time we have reliable records, real value of physical coins was down to weighing the dang things on scales; that is to say, it was about the actual silver (or gold) content and not about the face value printed on the silly thing. In fact, for accounting purposes, many business folk (and kings, or at least their accountants) abandoned issued specie altogether and went with the lovely invention known as "money of account." On account of you can't trust coins.

So, if you want to be scrupulously accurate (and who among us doesn't like scrupulosity? ... which, to my surprise, does not offend local spell check), then go ahead and write whatever you please. It'll probably align with something somewhere somewhen (which, it doesn't surprise me at all, makes the local spell check turn red, but really shouldn't).
 

CupofJoe

Myth Weaver
I like that in the Belgariad books, there were several similar monetary systems Some were more trustworthy than others. So while day to day you might be happy with the coin of X for business deals you would want to be paid in the coin of Y.
 
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I agree with skip.knox on the relative unimportance of currency. As a reader, I've never taken the time learn the hard facts of monetary value. I'm a Dostoevsky fan, but I have absolutely no idea what the value of rubles are, especially in the 1800's. Same goes for fantasy novels. I'd rather just go with whatever the author is using rather than try to dissect it and memorize what each fictional coin's value is.

Of course, as an author, I believe you're obligated to at least stay consistent. Your character can't buy a loaf of bread with a silver coin and then a suit of armor the next day. I believe a little bit of vagueness can help with this.

In my own book, there are several different types of coin with different names. I never explicitly describe them, but I have a rough idea of what each one's value is. What I like to do, rather than tell your readers what it's worth, is use the character's reaction to show it's value.

For instance, if your MC throws a shilling at a street musician, you know it's loose change. If he throws down a shilling at a tavern, orders a round of drinks, and everyone in the bar stops to stare, you know it's worth an awful lot.

Stuff like that, in my opinion, is more intriguing for the reader versus hard facts they have to memorize beforehand. Otherwise, it can become homework that most people won't be interested in. But that's just my ten cents/shillings/etc.
 

Aldarion

Archmage
On the flip side, however, it is good to know at least roughly the value of money as well as the items. That way you can avoid old tired tropes which will break immersion for anybody little more knowledgeable than average, such as gold coins being used basically like modern-day dollars, or a golden dragon in AGoT being able to buy a round of drinks and a guy receiving for a tournament prize enough money to hire an entire sellsword company.
 
I think it can be fun as a reader to learn a currency in a fantasy world - even if it doesn’t make sense. It could be a made up word that gives the reader a further glimpse into another culture. Conversely, it’s gets a bit boring when the only currency is ‘coin’, as is so often used in fantasy settings.
 

Demesnedenoir

Myth Weaver
I have multiple currencies and exchanges in big cities, and even a banking system with Notes of Value or Exchange a little similar to what the Templars did back in the day, but I don't go into massive detail on the systems. It'll be noted that people question the % content of the minting, shaving, counterfeiting, etc. There are also bullion prices versus minted values... one culture uses electrum as its highest denomination, another red-gold, one has very little gold and outlaws the ownership of gold by anyone outside nobility, but has plenty of silver. Gems and jewels are most often carried when needing to move large values. If people are talking about wealth in general, they'll use the term gold, but often as not they could mean bronze, silver, or even iron where iron is in short supply.

Will the reader really get all of this? A little. But I try to keep a basic sense of things behind the scenes.
 
Nothing wrong with the default gold/silver system. It's pertty standard and will blend into the background for the reader to the point where it's simply character pays for something, moving on. Though if you're modelling your system on a real world example, I think you're undervaluing what a shilling was worth. In some medieval periods in england, a shilling would be about a weeks worth of work for an average laborer...

If you want to make things more interesting, then you can always spice it up, and come up with either something that fits with your world, or has some weird and elaborate system just because. Or just copy one of the real world systems. The British one is lovely because it makes absolutely no sense to an outside observer. But the same goes for probably many other systems.
 

Vaporo

Inkling
I use boring old copper, silver, and gold coins in my setting, but I have some history a behind them.

After a massive societal collapse, the world operated under a crude barter system, with farmers trading their failing crops for spare parts and electricity from the few power plants which were still in operation. After about half a century, a de facto currency developed: lengths of copper wire and scrap steel. Between the two of these, you could crudely repair most machinery and simple electronics. However, over time steel fell out of fashion as a currency for a couple of reasons. For one, without foundries constantly producing fresh steel, the world's steel supply was slowly rusting away. As such, it was seen as a poorer investment than comparatively corrosion-resistant copper. Steel is also heavy and difficult to transport in worthwhile quantities. Plus, most of the world's remaining bulk steel eventually found itself holding together the superstructure of some barely-functioning machine. Although it may have existed on some merchant's ledger somewhere, trading in it became less and less common.

However, in addition to copper rarer silver and gold wires were also traded, less as a currency and more as an investment at first. Silver has the highest electrical conductivity of any metal, and so was especially valued for wiring by the few who understood the electronics they worked with. And gold wiring has similarly high conductivity, but never corrodes. Both were useful for niche electrical repairs and became extremely valuable on account of their rarity. Over time though, wealth increased and high-value trades became more common, and trading cartload upon cartload of copper wire was wildly inconvenient. So, such high-value trades soon often took place using gold and silver wire. As their use became more currency-like, this also helped to stabilize the value of gold and silver. Interestingly, most of the world's gold in silver was not in the form of wire prior to the Great Collapse. However, trading valuable metals in the form of wire was so expected that gold and silver supplies were often drawn into wire prior to trade to make it more palatable to buyers.

Eventually, the last of the pre-collapse machinery failed and the practical use of metal wire fell by the wayside, but the currency had been established. However, for centuries there was a critical lack of standardization. Some traders measured wire by gauge and length. Some measured by mass. Some places even measured by length alone, provided that the gauge was not overly thin (A holdover from the era where wire was used to repair machinery, when many repair men cared little about the gauge of the wire, so long as it spanned the necessary distance). In such areas there was often a lucrative side business of buying thick wire, stretching it, and reselling for a profit.

Wire has the unfortunate ability to cover and hide other contents. It was easy for unscrupulous traders to sell loosely-bundled wire wrapped around a core of cheap stone to increase its apparent weight. Eventually, it became expected for all respectable traders to tightly spool their wire in a pattern which made it difficult to conceal other contents inside the bundle. Thus, it became more common to perform a brief visual inspection of the spools, then weigh them to ascertain value. Standard spool sizes were eventually established, allowing trusted traders to make quicker trades without the hassle of weighing the spools.

However, common people outside of certain high-confidence trading circles were given no such trust. When making a purchase from a trader with wire, an average person had to go through the tedious process unwinding their spool and cutting the wire to the correct length, leading many common people to prefer other commodity currencies like salt, if not an outright barter system. By this point in history though, approaching five centuries since the Collapse, the need for valuable metals to be in wire form was long past. Thus, trading in scrapped copper was introduced.

Originally simply a method to reclaim wire which had been cut to a length no longer worth spooling, traders became more and more comfortable trading cast copper ingots, rods, and plates in addition to spools of wire. Thus, copper "pieces" equal in weight to the smallest standardized spool began to circulate among the general public. Although still not completely without issue, merchants were much more comfortable making transactions with laypeople using copper pieces than spools of wire, since the cast copper pieces were much more difficult to counterfeit. Soon, gold and silver pieces were also circulating, and although still called "spools" in some places to this day, now 1000 years since the collapse most or all transactions are made in the form of coins derived from the volume of the smallest standardized spool.

If you care about the value of the coins:
1 copper piece/spool ~= $10 USD.
1 silver piece = 10 copper pieces ~= $100 USD
1 gold Yersa (the coin minted by the city of Yersama) = 50 silver pieces ~= $5000 USD

The approximate values can be variable depending on location, with some (usually quite remote) places valuing them up to five times what is listed here. However, the 1:10:50 ratio between the coins was established centuries ago, is practically universal, and is highly resistant to all but the greatest shocks to the supply of metals simply on account of how deeply ingrained it is in the culture and minds of traders and laypeople alike.

Each coin is the same volume (equal to the volume of the original spool), although can by differentiated by feel based on their different thicknesses and diameters, with golds being the widest at slightly larger than a US silver dollar.
 

Joe McM

Minstrel
I just had a thought on money and the fantasy worlds. I for one use gold coins, silver, and shillings as my sources of money. What do you use? Just curious on how your money supply work and how each coin serves for payment. In mine a gold coin is the largest of the amount of payment, making Silver the next and lastly the shilling that can barely pay for a cup of soup or an apple. Just interested in how you all use your money systems.
For one of my countries I use crowns, shillings, and pennies. For the primary country, I haven't decided yet. Admittedly, for a while, I avoided defining specific currency, but found that I eventually had to. My currency usage is not definitive though, as my first novel which mentions it, has not yet been published. Thanks for raising the question.
 

JamarionWaller

New Member
That's a fascinating concept. It's intriguing to hear about different money systems in fantasy worlds. Reminds me of when I was exploring apps to find people to play games with. It's like building your own community in a virtual world! Just like with your coins, each app serves a different purpose, from connecting with friends to meeting new players.
 
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