The land of Vau was once dominated by the Queens of the "Old Kingdom". The currency of the old kingdom was known as the "Argen". The Argen was minted in silver, bronze, and iron varieties. However The Old Kingdom collapsed 100 years ago due to the capital being sacked and royal family betrayed while trying to escape up a hidden mountain pass by warriors from Shabat.

While it's been 100 years since the collapse of the old kingdom the coins of the Queens still retain value. I'm wondering why they would? Now the silver and bronze have value in themselves so that's a no brainer, but why would the iron coins still retain value (even if diminished)?

Note: The new dynasty established by the Shabati: The Menanids where not very stable and the territory of the old kingdom fractured into dozens of successor states and petty kingdoms splintered away during the chaos of the collapse.

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    $\begingroup$ Why would the iron not still be useful as iron? $\endgroup$
    – Cadence
    Commented Nov 13, 2019 at 3:57
  • $\begingroup$ @Cadence it would be, but I assume iron by itself isn't all that valuable $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 13, 2019 at 4:21
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ @CelestialDragonEmperor Iron happens to be decently valuable in a medieval setting, good for use as the lowest value. Fiat currency is a modern(ish) convention $\endgroup$
    – Halfthawed
    Commented Nov 13, 2019 at 4:32
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    $\begingroup$ If I remember correctly, coins from the Roman Empire were still in use in Europe far after the collapse of the empire. $\endgroup$
    – Taladris
    Commented Nov 13, 2019 at 16:38
  • $\begingroup$ Your not going to have many surviving iron coins, iron corrodes especially in the form of coinage. Iron coins are a really bad idea. there is a reason it has rarely been used in coinage, even steel is almost always stainless steel. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Nov 15, 2019 at 2:13

12 Answers 12


The coins of a fiat currency, if designed correctly, will always have an intrinsic value lower than their face value; that is to say, that the value that the nation all agrees the coin is worth should be more than the cost of the materials and labour used in minting the coin in the first place. There is a very simple reason for that; if you put $2 worth of silver into a silver dollar for instance, then people just start melting down the coins and selling the silver. That's a bad way to manage currency as it means that you never really know how much currency you have out there and you end up devolving into a de facto barter system using precious metals instead of coins.

It also means that your mint is running at a loss instead of a profit; making money off literally making money was so common the practice even has a name; Seigniorage.

So while the metals may have an intrinsic value, a new empire, kingdom, oligarchy, or whatever won't see the coins as reserves as metal but reserves of value. As such, all the hard work has already been done. The real effort in making money is deciding how much to make to match the state of the economy, determining how much inflation you want to create to stimulate your economy without stifling it through excessive interest rates, etc. Your subjects, even though your major nation has split, already know how much a loaf of bread or a house costs in terms of the coins that exist, people are familiar with enough with them that counterfeit coins are more easily recogniseable...

Putting all this a different way, changing regime is a lot easier than changing currency and the wise leaders of the fractured enclaves of the former nations will know it. Not to mention the fact that a common currency means that establishing (or even just maintaining the existing) trade relations throughout the fractured nation becomes so much easier. All in all, it may well be a good idea for such a cluster of smaller nations to maintain a common currency, especially if they end up forming any loose confederacy or trade relationship.

There is a price to this kind of thinking, however. It assumes that each of the new nations has a roughly equivalent rate of production, or industry. If they don't, then sharing a common currency is actually a burden to the poorer performing nations.

Think of it this way; one of the reasons that Greece was in so much trouble within the EU was that it didn't have the kind of industry base that Germany or France did. In fact, a lot of their industry focused on tourism. Tourism is a discretionary spend, so when the Euro starts to go up in value against other major currencies on the back of car sales out of Germany and wine and cheese exports by France (massive over-simplification I know) then Greece loses out because the Euro costs more, meaning tourists choose to go somewhere else for their holidays.

If the same thing is true in your fractured nations and there is an imbalance between some of them, expect them to branch off and form their own currency that can change in value against other currencies to protect their industry and export sales. That said, at least one of the states to form out of the former nation is likely to keep the original currency, and as such all nations will respect its value based on the relative prosperity of the nation that uses it.

Put simply, keeping an old currency in circulation even after regime change can be a great shortcut that keeps industry going while the high priority aspects of the regime change can be attended to, and then the currency can be reviewed in detail later on as the time and priorities permit.

  • $\begingroup$ You might also get a double economy with the traders using the old coin for international transactions and the locals using a newer, local, coin for everyday use, much like american dollars are used in much of the world. $\endgroup$
    – Borgh
    Commented Nov 13, 2019 at 9:26

Retiring the old coinage and minting new one takes a lot of effort and a centralized institution with sufficient control over the territory.

The Menanids were not very stable and the territory of the old kingdom fractured into dozens of successor states and petty kingdoms splintered away during the chaos of the collapse.

Other than barter, using old coins is the only way to oil the economy. Pun intended, as having iron coins lasting 100 years will require continuous oiling.

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Also, if petty kingdoms all have claims to be the Only True Heir of the original Empire they will try to retain some link to the old state, like using old empire's coins. $\endgroup$
    – user28434
    Commented Nov 15, 2019 at 13:05

There are two obvious mechanisms that can insure your iron coins retain some value

  1. Iron does also have intrinsic value of its own / always will :

If a 9 inch iron dagger blade weighs 445g & the iron coins weigh one ounce (28 grams) then sixteen of the iron coins are enough to make a blade.

So if a new dagger is normally sold for two gold pieces then allowing for his own profit margin for the work turning them into a blade & the cost of the handle a blacksmith should normally be willing to pay something like one gold piece for sixteen of the old iron coins.

From there standard barter mechanics take over.

Regardless of their original face value your iron coins settle at a value of perhaps sixteen (maybe as low as twenty in the absence of a nearby iron crafting industry) per gold coin.

  1. Some other state adopts them & continues to use them as their own :

If you've a reasonably stable widely accepted neighbouring coin system a neighbouring nation may have simply adopted it as their own legal currency rather than bother minting their own, when the nation responsible for it goes to the wall it's easier to maintain the status quo & keep the now dead countries currency as your own than do anything else.

It's already widely accepted & understood after all.

The same can apply to whatever replaces the now defunct country, why change what's been working well so far, you've got the infrastructure for minting already in place so just carry on.

The new rulers will likely want to put their own head on any new coins but why change anything else?


The Old Kingdom had developed unparalleled technology for fine detail metalworking. Unfortunately, the technology was lost with the Kingdom, and nothing close has since been developed.

This makes their money impossible to duplicate, that is, impossible to forge.

Precious metals are at a disadvantage. How confident can people be that that's real gold? Sure, the specialists can tell, but that's expensive and inconvenient.

Meanwhile, anyone with perfect or near-perfect vision can tell whether an Argen is a real Argen, just by looking at the Queen's finely crafted eyes.


The coins hold their value because they have intrinsic value, the value of the material they're made out of.

Unlike current fiat currencies in our world, that's how currency got its value originally. A coin had the value of the amount of metals that went into its creation. It wasn't until much later that that link was lost, mostly when somewhat less scrupulous rulers started to make coinage that looked like it was all gold or whatever but really was just gold plated nickel or iron.

Also, a currency holds its value as long as it has meaning. As long as the people using it agree to its value, it has that value.

So if you agree as a society that a 1 Denari coin buys half a loaf of bread, a tankard of beer, or half a pound of pork chops, that coin has that value. As soon as a butcher decides that no, he no longer accepts that coin in trade, things start to collapse. That may well take time, unless entire towns or counties come to the same decision together and decide to mint their own currency.

At that point, either a system of barter with other places is negotiated, or that community basically cuts itself off from the rest of the world.

This isn't uncommon. After WW2 the German Reichsmark was still used for a while in Germany, this time backed by the allied occupation forces, until a new currency could be created and produced in sufficient quantity to take over. Of course that only took a few years. Similar when the EU switched to the Euro. The old currencies remained legal tender for a transition period of several years, and were slowly removed from circulation with stores and banks taking care of filtering them out and turning them in for Euros at the several nations' central banks as they got them in normal transactions.


Money is valuable because money is valuable

At one point, the Argen was valuable mostly because the Old Thrones said it was, and used their power and influence to make it so. But people adapted to this reality. Now lots of people have these coins. They don't want them to become worthless, that hurts their economic power (because something that used to be valuable now isn't).

So there are a bunch of people for whom Argen coinage is still going to be worth something. These people will still accept Argen coins (because who would trust someone if they want to give you Argen but won't themselves accept them?)

And that in turns means an Argen is valuable to you. Because you know you'll be able to spend it.

Money is weird. You might be wondering 'doesn't this mean all you have to do to create a new currency is convince enough people it IS a valid currency?"

The answer is yes. That's exactly how it works. Private currency was a thing for awhile. It isn't anymore not because it doesn't work, but because it worked too well and basically all governments decided allowing it was a bad idea, and cracked down.


Why would they stop being valuable?

Metals has intrinsic value, high purity metal used in coinage even more so. but also consider very old coins are worth more now than they were originally, especially if the place that made them no longer exists. A roman coin is worth way more than its intrinsic value.

For most of history coins were not standardized, they were worth what they weighed, the stamping on the coins were just proof of purity. The coins will still be valuable long after the civilization that made them is gone. In fact the ability to retain value outside the place that made them was one of the advantages of many metal coins, a gold coin was still worth its weight in gold anywhere. The value will fluctuate a little bit becasue the value of the metals may change but unless there is a huge flood of new metal (spain and silver) they will likely stay consistently valuable for dozens of generations.

If said civilization standardized sizes they will stay valuable even longer since they also serve as semi-standardized weights. If they punched holes in them like some countries they last even longer because they are also easy to transport.

Iron is a problem, but not for the reason you think

you seem to be worried about irons value, but iron of known purify is very valuable, to the point I would bet most of the coins get melted down to make things or more likely corroded away. Iron is not a good metal for coins, even worse if it is going to be mixed in with bronze coins. it makes you wonder why they would make coins of something as corrosion prone as iron. I doubt you will have many surviving iron coins. Copper, bronze, brass, and silver coins last because the corrosion is stable that is it does not continue once it has formed a surface coat, while iron will corrode away entirely. Worse if it is in contact with bronze or copper while wet it will corrode even faster due to galvanic corrosion.

I suggest changing iron to copper.


how about because it have historical value in it.

like respect or nostalgia for the old kingdom, like the past ruler or the kingdom is very influential for the current kingdom history or tradition etc.

thats why they still keep such currency.


There is a historical example of this. When comminists came to power in 1917 in Russia, they had to continue to mint old "czar" money (actually restarterd - czar was overthrown 6 month earler).

The main reason was - foreign affairs. Other countries had everything nominated in czar golden coins and they do not want to change this way (gold is gold).

But that was not the only reson - this 10 rubles in gold was the only hard currency in the chaos of revolutions and civil war. It was widely used amoung all the sides (yes, coins minted by Reds was used by Whites). It was so common that almost all coins left are of "bolshevik's mint" - czar coins is a greater rearity (most of them were taken out of country and refourged)

This "old money" were printed (as paper money) even after civil war - most industrial countreis refused to acknowledge USSR and demanded to use czar currency.


Each of the successor states claims to be the rightful heirs of The Old Kingdom. They continue using the currency as part of their claim. Unlike those other pretenders.

Except for those oddball trading countries who decide to use the same currency as their trading partners for convenience sake.


Anything used as money needs to have 5 properties:

  1. Divisibility
  2. Portability
  3. Durability
  4. Recognizability
  5. Scarcity (high ratio of value to weight and volume)

Silver and gold have been used historically because they score highly on these things and they were recognized as having commodity value for jewelry and other uses.

Note also that nothing has intrinsic or objective value: all value is imputed. Prices can be objective and give a rough indicator of value in that if you're willing to pay a given price for an item, then you value the item more than you do the amount of money you have to pay. But it can't be objectively stated that you value an item 5x more than the money or 3x more than another item.

All prices result from two auctions: seller vs seller in offering items at various prices; and buyer vs buyer bidding for items.

The use of coins is an attempt to increase Divisibility and Recognizabilty as well as possibly Durability and Portability.

The use of iron coins would be problematic because iron would swiftly corrode and be destroyed, so Durability is low, unless the iron is alloyed or magically preserved. In your world, the Scarcity of iron may or may not be low. Both of these would factor into the imputed value of the iron coins when they were minted, much less 100+ years later.

If, as I think was said later in this thread, the old kingdom made the coins unique(Recognizability) and highly Durable, then they could be used as currency for a long time. However, because they can no longer be made, they also could not be debased(inflation) so local governments might attempt to ban them or put other relatively debased coins on the market. In that situation, Gresham's law would come into play and the old kingdom coins would be hoarded by people and come off the market.


Peasants -- and the vast majority of your population are peasants -- don't care. It's coins. Such have always been used to buy and trade with. Most of them have no notion who the sovereign is even when the land is united.

In early modern France, peasants who dug up troves of ancient Roman coins would just use them as coins. It was vastly easier than barter.


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