First, let me introduce the setting.
It's happening in post-apocalyptic SE Europe (Balkans specifically), about 100 years from now. Strange genetic disease wiped out large portion of humanity in a matter of a few years. The rest of humanity killed and pillaged each other until our numbers were indeed few. The surviving humans have a genetic disorder which makes pregnancy harder.
Nature is, for an unknown reason to people, thriving, mutating, being more hostile to people. Wild plants are growing slightly faster, predators are bigger, stronger, smarter and more dangerous. Beside that there are the "wild ones", feral humans that live like animals. All this has made trade and traveling quite hard, but not impossible.
Cities are overgrown, forests are bigger.
People are living in smaller independent settlements (100-300 people), scattered, fortified. Bandits and roamers are common. Settlements are somewhat self sustaining, but still need to trade between each other - for example some are agricultural, having extra veggies but lacking meat and tools, others are hunting or fishing based, and there is one specific settlement, based around the old University, which harbors and preserves "old" technology and knowledge, and uses that knowledge as a commodity. There is no unified government or force, and all attempts do do such have failed.
Technology is somewhat preserved, but only partially. For example, people know what solar panels are, or that somehow electricity can be produced from a windmill, but only a very few people actually know how it works and the science behind it.
Now, finally, to the QUESTION.
I am looking for a form of currency that people can use in trade or for paying for services. I don't need a fiat currency as modern money, or backed up currency like bottlecaps from Fallout series (they are backed by water). I need something that has actual practical use and value to people.
I've researched that various things have been used as currency before, like animal pelts, cattle, shells. But, I can't really picture post apocalyptic random traveler hauling bunch of pelts with him or dragging 3 cows and 2 pigs just to have a way to pay anything anywhere. Or how do you pay for shelter in a settlement or pay your bodyguard for a week of protection? Give him two chickens and he's on his way?
People will also say why don't they just barter, but, in a bartering system you can't really pay for someone's services (protecting, fixing, and so on).
I think in this setting, also, precious metals like gold and silver are practically useless for surviving, except they are rare and look pretty.
So, I welcome ideas for currency that fits in this:
- Has actual practical use and value to people in this environment
- Should be rare, hard to find, but not impossible.
- Hard to counterfeit or cheat with
- Size matters - should be easily transportable (like precious metal coins or lumps, only, as stated above, they don't really fit the bill, that you can carry it easily)
- Durability, can't be fragile
- Take in consideration described technological level and society, and that a hundred years have passed since "the end" and most things are gone and decayed
I've been trying to come up with a realistic solution to this problem but having hard time. Any help or ideas would be most welcome.