In a post-apocalyptic nuclear world, it has been decided to use bottle caps as barter and barter in the region.

Since these are common but not so much, they are difficult to duplicate correctly and above all they can withstand the wilderness climate.

But if some products were to be as expensive as 10 000 bottle caps for a house.

How would it be possible for a person to pay correctly? and without there being false plates in the transaction?

Also, how would you load such objects over long distances for trade?

This is a logistics nightmare...

And yes, I'm basing myself on the world of that game, but shh, it's not necessary to mention it at this time.

  • $\begingroup$ Fallout based story much? $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 18:56
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    $\begingroup$ Bottle caps rust. Most coin currencies are made of material that does not (gold, silver, nickel, copper). What would half a rusted bottle cap be worth? $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 21:23
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    $\begingroup$ I never understood what happened to all the prefallout money and why nobody want to use it instead of bottlecaps. Using the caps makes no sense what so ever to me. They are really easy to fake compared to actual money and there isn't even any value in bottlecap. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 21:33
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    $\begingroup$ @A.C.A.C.: Aren't the bottlecaps specifically Nuka-Cola caps? You can make a bottlecap (even that's arguable, given the slapdash nature of the wasteland's tools and buildings), but forging the exact print would require a high quality machine. Comparatively, the paper money has decayed (note that 1950's bills were closer to paper than modern day bills), and the ink may have faded, thus making it hard to authenticate. $\endgroup$
    – Flater
    Commented Oct 26, 2017 at 13:19

4 Answers 4


Banks. You don't bring a tuck load of bottle caps to buy your house, you bring the seller of the house to the bank where your bottle caps are kept and with the help of the banker, transfer ownership of your bottle caps to the seller of the house. The banker is also happy to store a record of the transaction in case the ownership of the house is ever called into question.

In fact, it's been years since you've actually laid eyes on your bottle caps. What if the bank doesn't actually have your caps anymore? Does it even matter? Maybe it doesn't matter. And BAM! you have a Fiat currency.

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    $\begingroup$ Maybe, just maybe, the bank gives little slips of paper which, when turned in, give you a certain number of bottle caps. $\endgroup$
    – AAM111
    Commented Oct 26, 2017 at 0:55

Other answers have mentioned promissory notes and denominations as possible solutions, these are great ideas. I'd been thinking of perilous "bullion caravans" winding their way across the desert, a target for bandits and pseudo-Romans.

Let me add just one thing...

I'm not sure I like bottle caps as a currency at all, for a few reasons:

  • There is simply no way at all to get more of them. They were manufactured before the apocalypse in finite number. Over time, as they rust or get lost you will have inevitable, grinding deflation.

  • Per the original problem statement, lugging them around is a pain in the rear end.

And here's the big one:

  • They have no intrinsic value, so what you have is a fiat currency without backing. That is to say, the successful fiat currencies of today are backed by governments, who at the very very least will pay salaries with it and accept payments in it, and (just about) mandate its use. You don't have that in the anarchic wilds. You have a voluntary buy-in fiat system, which is vulnerable to people just not caring about bottlecaps. You gave it away in the original question with "it has been decided"... who decides? ;D

Update: Just occurred to me, it might be interesting if you cross-post this to economics SE and see what those cats have to say!

  • $\begingroup$ Hey, good Idea I will give it a shoot. $\endgroup$
    – user42086
    Commented Oct 26, 2017 at 17:07

They need to find something that is worth 100 or 1000 bottle caps. Either that or high ticket items need to be straight barter.

Some early currencies had coinage for commoner items and different coinage for high ticket items. I sheckle was a wooden coin/token given out by the city to farmers. It was worth 1 bushel of wheat. If a farmer put 10 bushels into the city granary, they got 10 sheckles. You could buy food low value clothe and common tools for sheckles. They also had metal coins (gold and/or silver, mostly) that they would use for high value items. No matter how many sheckles you had, you could not buy a sword, you needed coins.


Bottle Caps aren't an effective currency

To be an effective currency it must hold value which is one reason why the American dollar and the British pound are so prolific.

The reason a currency must hold value is because:

If I sold you a chicken today for 3 wibbleys and tomorrow I couldn't buy a chicken for 300 wibbleys I effectively traded something useful for nothing. The only reason we can support a currency is to say this useful item has a set value that will be the same '~over time~'. Then what makes currency advantageous is by saying all these useful items and services have a set value which currency can be used to represent and store that value facilitating trade. (A bit imprecise but this is a very large subject go read it)

As im sure you realize at this point this isn't quite how our world works. which brings us to inflation is when you increase the amount of currency thus devaluing it. If there is suddenly more currency then its rarity decreases, suddenly the chicken goes from 3 wibbleys to 30 wibbleys. Inflation can happen on the other side as well (though by another name). If suddenly you had 300 chickens to the point no one wants them any more, the price of your chicken starts to go down to the point you can have 1 chicken for 1 wibbley. Currency is subject to the same force of supply and demand.

Inflation is the same problem you have, a currency that could be easily forged or found in a shipping container by the thousands would be subject to erratic and controllable inflation.

Anyways, as to your original question. The simple solution is to have denominations. Maybe coke caps are like 1 dollar and a Crush orange cream soda cap is like 1000 (because its more rare).

You could also have banking systems. Promissory notes between banking branches were a huge solution to personal transporting of large sums of money in the medieval ages.

  • $\begingroup$ This is true, but also does not answer the question as asked. We already had one about making caps currency. This one simply assumes they are and your answer doesn't fit. $\endgroup$
    – Mołot
    Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 20:40
  • $\begingroup$ No the question was about how to make a cap currency work which I did address somewhat with the "denominations" suggestion which no one mentioned before. I also did rehash the banking aspect. But the real answer is you cant make this work because as I stated. $\endgroup$
    – anon
    Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 20:45

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