Lets Talk Currency

#1
I'm sure this has been posted before, but I'd like to hear peoples opinions on currency. What makes it interesting? For me, its interesting if it is a unique commodity to your world.

Personal Rankings:

Stormlight Archive (A+ ... Spheres that have tiny slivers of gems inside, which hold stormlight the stories power source. Neat and important. They even recharge during storms)
Fallout (A ... Bottle Caps, not very useful but very unique, makes sense why they would use them too, small and its impossible to mint coins anymore after the nukes)
Metro & Friends (B ... Bullets, not very practical for carrying around, but pretty bad ass, giving it a B because its pretty over-used at this point)

Harry Potter (D ...  Galleon, Sickle, Nut. But they are just gold, silver, bronze at a needlessly weird conversion rate.)
etc...

I will say I feel like you get a free pass if your writing Sci-Fi. They are pretty much always called some kind of Credits, and that seems fine to me. And of course if you are writing something in our world, you also get a free pass for using real world money.

In my world it's extremely hot in the north, and extremely cold in the south. There really isn't any "green" going on in the middle. Fruits, grass, and flowers aren't very common. But for the life of me I can figure out something that is uncommon that could be used as currency.

What are you guys thoughts on currency?

Re: Lets Talk Currency

#2


"In Time" Had a cool concept of currency, they turned Time into a currency, which means the rich are practically unaging and youthful (they stay aged 25 physically) whereas poorer people literally live paycheck to paycheck. You can steal time by holding each other's arms in a particular way, bet it away, and use it just like normal money. In that world the middle-man step of using money to buy things to live, you use the Time to live and to pay for things to live.

I like the concept of "living" money, where you trade a goat for a coat, or a dozen, the goat can provide wealth over time in the form of hair and milk but you may need a coat for winter. That kind of currency is also hard to fake but easier to "kill" so you have to be conscious about it. Though I could see it falling down into receipts and notes, like a "2 goats from my farm" note you give to someone similar to a cheque.

Re: Lets Talk Currency

#3
TheRedNaz535 Wrote: Harry Potter (D ...  Galleon, Sickle, Nut. But they are just gold, silver, bronze at a needlessly weird conversion rate.)
etc...
And that's why commodity currencies can be really wonky. 

Also, I'd like to take a moment to draw a distinction between currency (e.g., the US dollar, the euro) and the physical medium of that currency (e.g., a $1 bill, a dime).  It's surprising how often a fantasy world doesn't draw a distinction and so you end up with a giant sack of coins or other physical units, and they refer to those, rather than the underlying monetary system.  E.g., "I have a thousand coins" vs. "I have 250 drammas."  Or alternatively, I don't care what specific bills or coins I have in my wallet; I want to know what the total dollar amount is. 

For more information, look up the articles on Wikipedia for Currency, Money, Banknote, and Coin. 

For your story writing purposes, why not a fiat money systems issued by some sort of governmental power or other powerful group?  Currency only needs to be rare for commodity money.  Fiat money just needs to be able to avoid forgery and a few other issues. 

Re: Lets Talk Currency

#6
Whats the tech level? Are resources rare?

Instead of currency you could have a barter system with a standard. Like if metal is rare it could be a half pound of raw ore for a pound of flower. Or an metal slip (processed iron) for a decent meal or stay at an inn.

On the other hand if it's a mid level but not space faring civilization just use the rare minerals standard. An ounce of silver is worth this much (insert currency name here).

For really interesting currency types? I read a book once where elves used wooden coins made out of rare bark types.

Maybe animal parts? Flora was rare you said right? Maybe some kind of fossilized or dried flower?

Re: Lets Talk Currency

#7
TheRedNaz535 Wrote: I will say I feel like you get a free pass if your writing Sci-Fi. They are pretty much always called some kind of Credits, and that seems fine to me. And of course if you are writing something in our world, you also get a free pass for using real world money.
"Republic credits? Credits are no good out here--I need something more real."--Watto

Re: Lets Talk Currency

#8
LambentTyto Wrote:
TheRedNaz535 Wrote: I will say I feel like you get a free pass if your writing Sci-Fi. They are pretty much always called some kind of Credits, and that seems fine to me. And of course if you are writing something in our world, you also get a free pass for using real world money.
"Republic credits? Credits are no good out here--I need something more real."--Watto
Wait, what does he ultimately accept? 

Re: Lets Talk Currency

#9
luda305 Wrote:
LambentTyto Wrote:
TheRedNaz535 Wrote: I will say I feel like you get a free pass if your writing Sci-Fi. They are pretty much always called some kind of Credits, and that seems fine to me. And of course if you are writing something in our world, you also get a free pass for using real world money.
"Republic credits? Credits are no good out here--I need something more real."--Watto
Wait, what does he ultimately accept?
No idea, but I would guess and say probably some kind of valuable metal.

Re: Lets Talk Currency

#10
I like the concept of a mix. The prevailing "currency" is the barter system, but each time you get to a populated region, that place has it's own form of currency (credits, units, coins, notes).

You barter to trade some kind of physical item for the local cash so you can buy things in the area. If you keep living there, all of your commerce is in that currency. If you leave, you can exchange out to some physical items that travel well (depending on how the rest of the world is built).

Re: Lets Talk Currency

#11
I use coins, in this order. 1 Jade is worth ten ruby, 1 ruby is worth ten topaz, 1 topaz is worth ten sapphire, 1 sapphire is worth ten emerald, 1 emerald is worth ten platinum, platinum is worth ten diamond, 1 diamond is worth ten gold, 1 gold is worth ten silver (1 silver is worth 26000 USD), 1 silver is worth ten bronze, 1 bronze is worth ten copper, 1 copper is worth ten iron, and 1 iron is worth 100 normal. 1 Jade is worth one trillion normal. 1 Jade is worth 2.6 trillion USD.  1 normal is worth 0.26 USD. Of course, I use coins, not minerals. They are magic coins. In mine, each coin is based on a category which can eat them for one meal-but normal can't do it. You can also eat one that is ahead to gain the power of that category.

Re: Lets Talk Currency

#12
Economics and currencies are incredibly under-explored in fantasy. I'm probably going to abandon the idea because I don't know squat about economy, but I was playing around with a setting that had a few political factions that each used their own currency. The MC of that story is a merchant trying to navigate that hot mess and make her fortune. And let me tell you it got complicated quickly. Rival currencies is something that should logically exist in diverse fantasy settings, because a shared, 'general' currency (like 'gold coins') requires a stable value that out-weighs the value a goverment could get by controlling its own economy through its own currency. 

'Money' as we know it is a token. That value is completely made up. A USD is technically just a piece of paper. Despite this, the dollar has a value, because the American government says people need to pay their taxes with it. Thus there is a demand for the dollar in the United States, and people can't just switch to using what benefits them the most. The native Americans had to abandon their old ways of living in part because they couldn't get the standard currency unless they worked for someone or sold stuff to someone who could give them the government-approved currency, because they too had to pay taxes. Economy slavery like that is still a thing in some parts of the world. Money is a powerful tool and a government isn't likely to give that up just because it'd be convenient for people to easily trade across borders. 

There are a few currencies that are or have been useful across borders. One of them is the Euro, but that works because it's backed by the EU, and even with our modern travel and communication methods, it's a strained cooperation at times (anyone remember when Greece lied about the stability of their economy in order to join, and the economy of multiple countries nearly tanked as a result?). In the past, the USD worked in most countries because it was backed by the now-removed gold standard, but that obviously didn't work out since the gold standard ain't there anymore. There was also some old Roman coins that come to mind, that were backed by the value of the silver they were made of. But that silver content diluted over time (it was melted down and mixed with less valuable metals so people could make more coin with less silver) and last I heard it was theorized that this was one of the reasons why Rome fell. The token value of its currency was no longer backed up by what the government promised it was backed by. There is of course the possibility of using the base value of a metal but then we get back to hauling around coffers full of coins when we want to make an expensive purchase. 

I see why authors don't want to touch this (hell, I'm interested in the history of economics and *I* barely want to touch this) but there's a lot of room for juicy conflict in the world of currencies. Especially in settings where there are a lot of rival countries and factions. 

Re: Lets Talk Currency

#14
WoorldPresident Wrote: I like Caves of Qud's system of having water be a form of currency used to supplement trade, it really makes you balance what you want to buy with the amount of water you need to survive to get more stuff to sell. Seeing something like that in a story could be cool.

Man, so do I. I had a D&D campaign where I stole this idea. The Mcguffin was basically just a chalice that filled up with water over and over again. Such a fun idea.

Re: Lets Talk Currency

#15
That's a surprisingly difficult question, because in order to give a real answer to it, you need to put a tremendous amount of thought into the economic situation, the technology, the society, the resources at hand, the political realities, the practicality, and so much more.

For your particular question (assuming without evidence you are writing some kind of pre-industrial setting), I would suggest either the classic gold/silver/copper system for each city/country/polity (with each city's coins being worth a little more or less in neighboring towns, and often coming down to a bit of haggling), and long distance trader rely on spices to work as portable value.  That is, they might travel across the desert with their exotic goods, and bring back a few sacks of cinnamon, and use a portion of their haul to pay for local services along the way (at least when some barter-able good was not available).

In my own story (the only one I've written where currency would be a concern), I mostly dodged the question entirely, at least in the narrative itself.  That's not to say I didn't put some thought into it, but that was mostly so I could think of a name for it.  I think it the vast majority of stories, the question isn't actually that important, even if it focuses on economic concerns.

Re: Lets Talk Currency

#16
Each principal civilization uses its own unique currency in my story. Still, the most commonly used for trading is the GmbH Mark, shortened from the Goldmark. for example, Pesos are used in Texico and Mon in Imperial Japanese territories. The Federacy uses the standard sci-fi credit system based on one credit equals one ration bar. Other realities with multiple nations use their own national currencies, such as the British Empire and their Pounds. The Mechanese do not use currency, per se, as they are usually taken care of by their God-Computer from cradle to (usually early) grave.

Most convert their currency into the GmbH Mark for trading as they are the most widely used. They are in either paper notes, coins, or digital value notations that can all be converted to one another at a bank.

Money is weird.