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In my constructed world, they use three different coins. The coins would be worth (about) 0.05 USD (called a pesokt), 0.60 USD (a dolundar), and 1.20 USD (a sterllo), respectively.

Though, how they'd know it as 30 pesokt in a dolundar and 2 dolundar in a sterllo. There aren't other coins in this system, though in a related country they use the dozabi, which is worth about 0.002 USD.

I'm not sure if this is not calculated enough, maybe it seems too calculated to be natural, or if it makes any sense at all. [I'm thinking of changing the pesokt to be 20 in a dolundar]

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    $\begingroup$ Money is always relative to what people want to exchange it with : I'm ready to buy 0.80€ for a bread, but can I say I'm ready to exchange money for Krypton's dollars, a money which doesn't exist? This is the same when you compare your coins vs the US dollars, for them those dollars don't exist ^^'. You need to use another point of reference -food, lodging...-, or/and clarify the comparison (e.g. : "It's worth the same as X dollars in our world, in this time period"). $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 3, 2022 at 23:47
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    $\begingroup$ In overall, you need to tell in more details about your world, since as it is, it's unclear what the economic context is (as Angry Muppet asked, is there enough coin variety?) and how can we relate to this money and its usage :). $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 3, 2022 at 23:50
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    $\begingroup$ I do not understand what you are asking; I would appreciate a clarification. (Please check your arithmetic; 0.60 / 0.05 = 12 not 30.) (And the ratio of 1 to 24 between the smallest and the largest denomination is much too small. Normally you want to have something in the hundreds; for example, the Roman Imperial system had a ratio of 1 to 320 between the smallest and the largest denomination; the gold-standard British system had 1 to 480 between a half-penny and a sovereign; the everyday American system has a ratio of 1 to 400 between a nickel and 20 dollars note.) $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Sep 4, 2022 at 0:32
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    $\begingroup$ 0.05, 0.20, 2.00, 4.00 and 20.00 do not make 3 coins on my book. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Commented Sep 4, 2022 at 4:09
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    $\begingroup$ Mark Twain famously explained in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court that currency can only be understood by reference to its buying power. To evaluate this, we would need to know about the costs of typical everyday purchases like food, clothing, medicine, and the like -- exactly the stuff that is captured by the Consumer Price Index. "Precious gem" is an interesting price point but sheds no light on how this fictional economy is calibrated. $\endgroup$
    – Tom
    Commented Sep 4, 2022 at 19:04

7 Answers 7

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The question says "three different coins" and then describes five coins:

   pesokt =   1 pesokt
   dozabi =   4 pesokt
 dolundar =  40 pesokt
  sterllo =  80 pesokt
goldileon = 400 pesokt

The gaps are irregular and some are awkwardly large. The gap between dozabi and dolundar for instance is a factor of 10, so anything that costs a little less than 40 pesokt will require an inconvenient number of coins.

Most modern Earth countries have small and consistent ratios for their money (coin or paper), such as:

  1¢,   2¢,   5¢,
 10¢,  20¢,  50¢,
  1$,   2$,   5$,
 10$,  20$,  50$,
100$, 200$, 500$.

Is there some specific reason your money needs to be so irrational?

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    $\begingroup$ Is there some specific reason your money needs to be so irrational? Could be a fantasy setting, money wasn't always rational. See the definitions of pre-decimalisation currencies for a trip down lunacy lane. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 5, 2022 at 7:45
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    $\begingroup$ There could be historic reasons for this too. While not applicable here, it reminds me of Venezuela, where paying with cash is impractical since you would need dozens of the highest note to even pay for toilet paper. Perhaps those extreme jumps were attempts to catch up with local inflation, which grew faster than the value of each coin? $\endgroup$
    – Katai
    Commented Sep 5, 2022 at 10:08
  • $\begingroup$ The simplest reason for an irrational set of relative coin values is having gold, silver, and copper coins whose value is strictly from the metal in them. Even if the weights were initially picked to have clean ratios between the types changes in the relative values of the metals will result in messy relative values in the future. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 5, 2022 at 14:48
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You could have your world develop a base 12 numerical system instead of base 10 as is the case historically on Earth. A base 12 system means the numbers 1,2,3,4,6 & 12 are even divisible into the base. In the real world 1,2 & 5 are divisible into 10 so those numbers are the natural denominations in a base 10 currency.

With base 12 you'd have a 12 dollar note that can be easily broken down (changed) into smaller 1 dollar, 2 dollar, 3 dollar, 4 dollar & 6 dollar denomination notes.

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    $\begingroup$ There is no relationship between the base of numeration used by the language and the list of denominations. For an illustrative example, see the English money before decimalization. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Sep 4, 2022 at 0:25
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    $\begingroup$ @AlexP if you look at the actual British coins, you had 3P, 6P a shilling (12P) that system is base 3, but... there were 20 Shillings in a Pound. Maybe that was for international and historical reasons: the number 20 is an exchange rate for silver to gold and it goes back to Roman times, when 20 silver denari were worth a gold Aureus. This 20-system for silver-gold was maintained on main land Europe as well: you had 20 silver Stuver or Patins in a standard Rhine gold guilder. For sake of standardisation the 20 was kept by the Brits for international trade, but the everyday coins were base 3. $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Commented Sep 4, 2022 at 11:22
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    $\begingroup$ @Goodies: Counting in pence, they had 1/4 (= farthing), 1/2 (= half penny), 1, 3, 6, 12 (= shilling), 24 (= florin), 30 (= half crown), 60 (= crown), 240 (= sovereign). The British 1—12—240 system is a copy of the Carolingian system prevailing in continental Europe since the late 8th century. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Sep 4, 2022 at 12:53
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    $\begingroup$ "instead of base 10 as is the case historically on Earth" - for some parts of history in some parts of Earth, sure. But 5000 years ago the Sumerians, among others, were using base 60; and that's why we have 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, and 360 degrees in a full circle. Base 60 is a viable alternative to base 12 if you want ratios of 3 and 4 between your units. $\endgroup$
    – kaya3
    Commented Sep 5, 2022 at 9:11
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    $\begingroup$ @kaya3 which is also assuming a 100% rational basis for denominations, which is an approach often taken here, but with little historical backing $\endgroup$
    – Hobbamok
    Commented Sep 5, 2022 at 10:58
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Does this make sense >:) ..well I see 2 options:

A) you are a Brit and in favour of the old 3-6-12 system http://projectbritain.com/moneyold.htm

B) you are an alien with six fingers on each hand

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  • $\begingroup$ This actually fits strangely well, as the country that uses these was based on old England. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 4, 2022 at 0:09
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Logical Currency

Looking a the last part of the question first, currency is going to be a calculated thing by its nature of being an artificial construct. It will be based on either a physical property of what it is minted from, or based on the numerical system that your society commonly uses (or used to use). Most of us use a form of decimal currency with intermediate denominations to limit the number of coins and bills that have to be minted because we tend to use a decimal number system to do our work in.

Even the old British money before they discovered the decimal system int the 70's had a logic behind it at the time -- the troy system of weight precious metals. The intermediate shilling does not correspond to the troy ounce, being 12 pennies and not 20. However 12 divides into a lot of numbers compared to 20 which probably explains that. The link in Goodies' answer pointing to the old British system of money is interesting to read on that part.

Looking at what is in the question as of September 4, we get the following conversions up the currency chain

  4 pesokt = 1 dozabi
 10 dozabi = 1 dolundar
2 dolundar = 1 sterllo
 5 sterllo = 1 goldileon

In the context of your world, this might make perfect sense as most things purchased with physical money work well with this monetary system. I don't have that context so I can't answer that part effectively. But the lack of anything between the dozabi and the dolundar is interesting -- is there actually nothing, or is it the case that there is something like a half-dolundar coin that just never got its own name?

Pattern Finding

Another interesting pattern to the currency is the following:

  10 dozabi = 1 dolundar
10 dolundar = 1 goldileon

There is definitely some decimal things going on there. Which explains the Sterllo -- it is an intermediate value between the dolundar and the goldileon.

Again there is still a missing intermediate between dozabi and dolandar, but again it is possible that it just never got its own fancy name and is literally a half-dolandar.

That, perhaps ironically, makes the pesokt the odd thing out of the five. It is both smaller in value than everything and does not fit in a decimal sense of the currency system. Could it be that like how we in Canada phased out our pennies that there was actually a smaller currency split long ago that was 1/10 of a dozabi that they have basically inflated out of? Nobody knows but you, but I'm looking at patterns that do and don't exist when answering this.

An Alternative Pattern

In contrast, my pattern-seeking brain finds that this does not make perfect pattern-based sense, and it is the dolundar that is the oddball. To fit an alternate pattern, the dolundar should be half it's value from the question (1 USD). If that change was made, then the following pattern of conversions emerge:

  4 pesokt = 1 dozabi
  5 dozabi = 1 dolundar
4 dolundar = 1 sterllo
 5 sterllo = 1 goldileon

This makes a nice pattern of 4, 5, 4, 5; and potentially opens up a logical extension of the currency upwards.

As a further observation would become more evident that there is some Base 20 things going on -- It is 20 Pesokts to 1 Dolundar and 20 Dolundars to a Goldileon. That is a bit different than the decimal systems that we take for granted nowadays and it might be interesting as to why they have developed along those lines. Does this vigesimal system run through other aspects of their life or is it just the money?

Should anyone be interested, the Wikipedia article for the Vigesimal number system.

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    $\begingroup$ The old British money may have had logic behind it, but the coinage did not. Besides the pound, shilling, and pence coins, you had oddballs like the Guinea (21 shillings) and half-Guinea (10 shillings sixpence) $\endgroup$
    – Mark
    Commented Sep 4, 2022 at 18:22
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The coins would work in principle but I suspect it is preferable to have more small denominations. This limits the number of coins you need to carry around in your pockets.

For example the British system has the following values (smallest unit is a Farthing) 1,2,4,12,24,48,96,120,240 and the Early Roman system has 1,3,4,5,6,12,30,120. You have 1,5,10,50,100,500.

I am also suspicious about a sword costing 100 apples and a big book costing 50 apples. In today's money at 20c per apple that is only 10 dollarydoos for a big book and 20 for a sword. With today's technology a big book is more like 50 dollarydoos and a sword costs several hundred dollarydoos.

And that's with modern technology. If your world is premodern then the book and sword are made by hand. They will both be more expensive and I suspect the book is the more expensive of the two!

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  • $\begingroup$ Whether printing is known and widespread (and whether the script is small and alphabetic or huge and symbolic) also has a lot to do with relative cost. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 4, 2022 at 17:11
  • $\begingroup$ Regarding the relative prices of apples, books and swords, if it's for a game then the pricing ought to be determined by what makes the game balanced mechanically, rather than what is more realistic/believable. Otherwise totally agreed, if swords are needed in some society then that society does not have the technology to produce books and swords at such low prices - unless, perhaps, apples are particularly rare and highly-valued as a result. $\endgroup$
    – kaya3
    Commented Sep 5, 2022 at 9:18
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Yeah, it makes sense! What you've described is essentially the coinage system of the US/French influenced half of the western world since about 1790. Once the French, for some strange reason, adopted the base 10 for currency, a number of other countries in Europe followed suit, which led to the formation of the Latin Monetary Union, basically the eurozone of the 19th and early 20th century.

For reference here are all the coin and banknote denominations of the LMU, Euro and Dollar (including all historical US denominations), in terms of the cent:

LMU: 1, 2, 5, 10, 50, 100, 200, 500, 1000, 2000, 4000, 5000, 10000
Euro: 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, 10000, 20000, 50000
US$: (.1), .5, 1, 2, 3, 5, 10, 20, 25, 50, 100, 200, 250, 300, 500, 1000, 2000,
5000, 10000, 50000, 100000, 1000000, 10000000 (with a proposed 400)

We can see a couple of patterns that emerge from these lists, namely the "systems" of intermeshing multiples. That is, if you take 10 pennies, you get a dime; if you take 10 2 eurocent pieces, you get a 20 eurocent piece.

The US clearly has four of these underlying systems and the euro has two. The US has a 1-5-10 system, a 5-25-250 system, a 2-20-200 system, and a 3-300 system. The euro has a 1-5-10 and a 2-20-200 system.

That said, only one thing strikes me as "off" is the existence of the parhaff. It doesn't really fit with the rest of the system: it doesn't multiply up to anything and doesn't really divide that well. I don't expect it would see much use in commerce. And while one might think that 2 eurocent pieces don't make much sense, they do have 20c and €2 pieces for multiples. The US fails because we got rid of the 2c & 20c pieces and don't use the two dollar bill, but make heavy use of the twenty dollar note. The 25c piece is a historical left-over from when the US dollar was dominated by Mexican currency, and has no decimal multiple since we got rid of the $2.50 coin.

The existence of the parhaff, to me, seems to lack a rational explanation. Was it once part of a historical currency system that once had multiples of 2 (like a 20 a/o a 200 piece). Like the US 3c piece, it's possible that the parhaff exists for some very specific public need that you don't mention, which would ultimately make sense! Otherwise, it perfectly mimics American and European currency systems!

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  • $\begingroup$ To be fair, I mostly added it because someone said that there should be more lowers level coins. I am think of changing it 2.5 pesokts and calling it a 'half-dozabi', if you think that will make it better. And I may add a 200 coin well. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 5, 2022 at 2:19
  • $\begingroup$ @CaptainYulef --- I'm not saying that would be better! Only that things like the denominations coins (and paper money) come in generally happen for a reason. And that reason is usually very local in origin. And perhaps at a very ancient time as well! I don't know who told you to have more lower level coins, but that only makes sense when the lowest denomination actually has some economic power. Low denomination coins tend to disappear very quickly. Canada no longer mints pennies, several European countries no longer mint 1 & 2 cent coins. If a pesokt buys a single mint leaf, it's worthless! $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Commented Sep 5, 2022 at 4:07
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As a consumer of such content I would hate having to remember all that useless stuff.

Unless you are inventing a 100-page long monetary system (which you obviously aren't), stick to what everyone's familiar with and just come up with two different names for cents and dollars/euros/etc.

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  • $\begingroup$ In Harry Potter, fo example, it doesn't take long for you to get used to the money system [albeit Harry was also not used to it at the beginning]. By using characters reactions to prices and some descriptions, it should be fine. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 4, 2022 at 23:26
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    $\begingroup$ @CaptainYulef First of all, Harry Potter has 3 different coins with way, way, way better names than yours (29 Knuts in a Sickle and 17 Sickles in a Galleon vs your convoluted system). Second, will you gain something by making it harder for readers to follow along? Why would I care if there are 17 handeggs to the furlong and 81 furlongs to the football field? You are building an alternative reality. Spend your time on a good story, not on ways to make the readers completely ignore the weird coins because they don't care about something that makes literally no difference to the story. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 5, 2022 at 1:43
  • $\begingroup$ @CaptainYulef Harry Potter doesn't actually USE the weird system. Conversion rate itself is completely irrelevant (it could be say 47 and 13 and nothing would change) and is only meant to show irrationality/craziness of the wizarding world. Reasonably memorable coin names tell you everything you need to know (something costing bronze knut = cheap; gold galleon = expensive). $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 5, 2022 at 12:07
  • $\begingroup$ @ZizyArcher Exactly. Stories don't need to explain anything, just make something relatable. "I was out the other day, and guess what I found? A bright golden galleon! Just there, in the middle of the road. I was flying higher than a twittler." We've all enjoyed a find better than the local penny and remember the feeling that came with it. On the other end, "That thing! I wouldn't pay a single bronze knut for it." $\endgroup$
    – user458
    Commented Sep 5, 2022 at 23:35

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