1. Beyond
    Offline

    Beyond New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 20, 2009
    Messages:
    7
    Likes Received:
    0

    Gold Coins

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Beyond, Jan 29, 2011.

    So, uh, I was wondering.

    I'm working on a story in which gold coins are more or less a standard currency, but then I hit a brick wall.

    'Cause I don't really know how much gold coins are worth.

    I hear gold is a fairly heavy metal, not to mention that it's generally considered valuable, but I'm unsure on the specifics of it being used as currency.

    Like how much "a lot" of money in gold coins be considered. Ten coins? A hundred? A thousand?

    How many coins could the average person carry around?

    Stuff like that, I guess. It's kind of important to me, because I don't want to have people in my story going about their day with preposterous quantities of really heavy stuff.

    Any help is appreciated in advance.
     
  2. Youniquee
    Offline

    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2010
    Messages:
    733
    Likes Received:
    36
    Location:
    Under your bed.
    You might be looking into this a bit too much.
    Maybe a lot being 10 coins?
    If it's fantasy, I doubt anyone will look into it that deep.
    Hope this helped..
     
  3. Beyond
    Offline

    Beyond New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 20, 2009
    Messages:
    7
    Likes Received:
    0
    Well, at the beginning of my story there's a fairly big purchase in gold and I want to make sure that I'm at least in the right neighborhood. I'm thinking about a hundred gold coins right now, but this kind of sounds off to me because it'd probably be either impractical to carry around or it's way too expensive.

    I guess maybe I'm thinking about it more than I need to, but ideally I'd stay somewhere within the realm of possible... even for fantasy.
     
  4. Ellipse
    Offline

    Ellipse Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 8, 2010
    Messages:
    714
    Likes Received:
    32
    In fantasy in general:

    10 coppers = 1 silver
    10 silvers = 1 gold

    or

    100 coppers = 1 silver
    100 silvers = 1 gold

    So you can make gold be as valuable as you want.

    In addition to being heavy and shiny, gold is an incredibly soft metal. If you took a solid block of pure gold and brushed your finger against it, the gold would flake away. This is why people don't make weapons/tools out of it. Gold has to be mixed with another metal. The purer the gold is, the more valuable it is. This is why gold jewelry has different measures of karats. But pure gold, itself, is worthless unless you 'magically' strengthen it somehow.

    In some books/movies you may have read/seen people bite down on a gold coin after recieving it. This is to test that it is not counterfeit. Since real gold is soft, their teeth would leave a mark on the coin.

    As to how many coins would the average person carry around, never more than they absolutely have to. If you walk around with a purse full of coins that are jiggling, it's a sure sign you are asking to be robbed.

    If you are carrying around a chest full of gold, then you will need help carrying it and people to guard it.
     
  5. Beyond
    Offline

    Beyond New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 20, 2009
    Messages:
    7
    Likes Received:
    0
    Huh.

    So somewhere around a hundredish for, say, a pretty expensive piece of rare jewelry works then?

    Okay, so pure gold doesn't work.

    Gotcha.

    Besides the "You're probably going to get robbed if you're carrying a load of money around" aspect of things, would there be a general limit to how much in the way of gold the average person could carry around before they're staggering just from the sheer weight of it?
     
  6. Honorius
    Offline

    Honorius Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2008
    Messages:
    1,449
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    Thebes
    Reminds me of Spice and Wolf. Main characters a peddler in fantasy medieval "europe".

    See, you can go with 10 silver=1 gold, but if you're going to be realistic (which you dont have to be by any means) you need something a little more complex. For instance, in Spice and Wolf, you have Trenni Silver coins, but there are also luminaire gold coins, and a dozen other coins from a dozen other kingdoms, none of which have a simple 10-1 ratio. The trick is, all coins have a specific amount of the respective material in them. For instance, American nickels have nickel in them, but the amount has varied greatly over the years. In a medieval land, if the gold content of a coin drops (was 90% gold, is now 80%), then what the coin is worth drops. So you have lots of currencies with fluctuating worth and value (much like today's currency exchange levels)

    So you have some options. You can do the 10-1 ratio, or a more complex system. My opinion though, is if you aren't going to be doing a bunch with gold coins (your character isn't a salesman or banker), just make up some arbitrary amount, or don't even specify it. You can write "Bob handed the man 13 gold coins in exchange for the meal" or "Bob handed the man a few coins in exchange for the meal."

    Oh, and there's an ad for gold at the bottom. Hahaha.

    As for quantity, i think generally in a fantasy, one would carry a small pouch of trusted coins of average worth while leaving the expensive stuff at home and having some cheap stuff for the kids. So... a traveler on a long trip (just off the top of my head) might be carrying 200 coins with him, but someone just walking around their own town might not carry more than 20.

    With carrying it around, it would be inconvenient to carry around hundreds of coins, so you'd carry small amounts at a time. If a big deal is made, the person receiving would probably go to a bank (i think they had banks then...) or stash the stuff away.
     
  7. jaywriting
    Offline

    jaywriting Member

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2011
    Messages:
    43
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    UK
    Real gold coins are generally mixed with other metals when minted, for reasons of both hardness and economics.

    How many coins can a person carry? How many coins can you carry? I could carry 50-100 in my pockets. Say a coin weights 10g, I could probably carry several thousand on my back.

    How much is a gold coin worth? At current prices a 10g pure gold coin is worth roughly $500. So 20 coins could buy a car and 200 coins a cheap house.

    A large purchase in your world might cost some hundreds of gold, perhaps thousands. An adult could probably carry 5-10 thousand gold without too much trouble.

    Hope this helps. I'm curious what the large purchase is now..
     
  8. Ellipse
    Offline

    Ellipse Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 8, 2010
    Messages:
    714
    Likes Received:
    32
    Just a suggestion. If this is a town with a lot of merchants a money exchanger/counter (essentially a bank) would be common place. A merchant or a fairly well off townperson could use bank notes to transfer funds between accounts as payment.
     
  9. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    they'll be worth whatever you want/need them to be worth in your story... since this is not the real world, it can be anything from worthless, to one coin being enough to buy anything you can name... it's up to you to set their worth... no one else can, because we're not writing your story...

    as for weight, that's also up to you... gold coins can be small and thin, or large and thick... make the the size that fits best into your story... you can find out the actual weight of various sized gold coins by googling...
     
  10. The Degenerate
    Offline

    The Degenerate Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 11, 2011
    Messages:
    197
    Likes Received:
    11
    Location:
    New Jersey
    I agree with Ellipse. For big purchases, it would make sense to issue a bank note rather than pay the merchant in a large sum of gold.
     
  11. FrankABlissett
    Offline

    FrankABlissett Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2008
    Messages:
    422
    Likes Received:
    22
    Location:
    Sault, Michigan
    If you want to be in the ballpark, here's a link with some of the info you requested:
    http://dougsmith.ancients.info/worth.html

    Really, though, you can easily make it worth whatever you need. Between adjusting the size and debasing (adding in base metal), you could even have different kingdoms in your world where one has a coin worth a lot and another has coins worth less.

    -Frank
     
  12. Allegro Van Kiddo
    Offline

    Allegro Van Kiddo Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2010
    Messages:
    566
    Likes Received:
    20
    Gold isn't "worth" anything.

    It's only worth what people THINK it's worth and that's called "Market Value". So, if gold is hard to come by and people really like the way it looks, which is what gold is all about, then they will think it's worth a lot. If some wizard or advanced science can make a lot of gold, then people will still like how it looks but it will be worth less due to the abundance of it.
     
  13. Islander
    Offline

    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2008
    Messages:
    1,542
    Likes Received:
    59
    Location:
    Sweden
    The average person? Zero.

    First, gold used to be much, much more valuable in historical times, because their methods of mining weren't very efficient compared to today.

    Second, the average person was very poor. If they were lucky, they had a small plot of land to farm for themselves, but more likely, they were working for the farmer actually owning the land.

    Third, there was less need for currency, since most goods people used in their daily lives (like food) were produced by themselves, or by people close by, whom they could barter with.

    Common people were more likely to use coins out of copper and other less precious metals. The ancient gold coins I've seen in real life have been very small and thin, which makes sense, because a small amount of gold carried so much value. It's said that a king's ransom could literally be carried around in a backpack.

    There were primitive banks in medieval and pre-medieval times, like trusted people you could store your gold with, but you usually had to go back to the same bank when you wanted to withdraw the gold. There was always a risk that banks would go out of business and the money became worthless, so most banknotes were viewed with suspicion.

    Even paper money issued by the government could suddenly lose its value if the government was overthrown, or decided to print more money than they could back with their gold reserves. It wasn't until industrial times banknotes became reliable, and the banks started to cooperate on a large scale so it became easy to exchange banknotes for local currency.

    If you think about it, how could a bank in Italy be supposed to trust a bank in Germany, hundreds of miles away, in a time when news took weeks to travel across the continent, and there were no phones or radios? Transporting the gold between the banks was dangerous and police had much less presence than they have today.
     
  14. Pen
    Offline

    Pen Member

    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2011
    Messages:
    98
    Likes Received:
    4
    Gold itself was generally quite an expensive metal, and any significant amount of it was quite rare. Coins tended to be alloys, or even were deliberately debased by the rulers. The Roman denarius, a coin in relatively common circulation, had the theoretical value of £10 in modern money, and weighed about a tenth of an ounce. It was divided into ten asses, which were copper or bronze.
     
  15. Spacer
    Offline

    Spacer Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2011
    Messages:
    136
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Texas
    Well, I have some gold coins. A coin containing 1 oz of gold is worth 1330 to 1340 dollars right now.

    It is indeed heavy. See the "density" in the info box. Look up a few other elements too and you can see that it's 70% heavier than lead, and nearly 2½ times heavier than iron (barbells and dumbells are made of iron typically!)

    A 1oz coin is small, so indeed feels heavy in the hand.

    Pure gold is also easily scratched, bent, and dented. Something like a Krugerand or American Eagle is an alloy, and can be handled. Something like the Australian 'Roo, which is very pure gold, is too detailed and thus too delicate to touch and must stay in its plastic case.

    Idea: You know how some country's coins are multi-color, with a center in a different color than the outer? Maybe, for lower value coins, have a very small disk of durable gold alloy surrounded by a handy-sized disk of zinc or nickle.

    You can go to a coin dealer and see modern and ancient coins for yourself, without having to buy any. You really must experience it.
     
  16. Elgaisma
    Offline

    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2010
    Messages:
    5,337
    Likes Received:
    92
    Read up on Doubloons/pieces of eight they are the closest in Earth history. Also generally what people mean when they talk about 'Gold Coins'
     
  17. Spacer
    Offline

    Spacer Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2011
    Messages:
    136
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Texas
    Bimetalism doesn't work. If you impose a fixed ratio, then one of the two species will disappear from circulation since it is "really" worth more than its exchange value in the other metal.

    Right now, my 1oz gold coin is worth $1335, and the silver coin $27.84. That's a nearly 48:1 ratio. If the coins were worth 16:1 as currency, the metal in the gold coin would be worth 3× its value as currency!

    With multiple types of coins, the value of each would fluctuate with market conditions, just like different country's monies do. Think of European stores prices before the Euro.
     
  18. Spacer
    Offline

    Spacer Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2011
    Messages:
    136
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Texas
    Re "buying power" of ancient coins:

    How many gold coins for an ipod? Sorry, no recorded music for any price. An air conditioner for my castle? Sorry, no-can-do. An airplane ticket? Nope.
     
  19. Pen
    Offline

    Pen Member

    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2011
    Messages:
    98
    Likes Received:
    4
    Well, obviously you couldn't buy an iPod in ancient Rome, but the buying power is an extrapolation from things like loaves of bread, rent, and labour. The average daily wage for a labourer or soldier in ancient Rome was roughly 1 denarius, which was a smallish coin made of a silver alloy. It was increasingly debased to raise revenue until it had to be replaced in circulation. Gold wasn't in common circulation, but it could be found as its alloy with silver (called electrum) in some high denomination coins. As has been said, it's probably best not to go for "10 silver = 1 gold" or similar. Indeed, if you just named your currency (like the Romans, ten asses to the denarius) you could sidestep the issue. Name it after a past or present leader in the country of origin (the denarius was replaced by the antoninianus or something).
     
  20. Elgaisma
    Offline

    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2010
    Messages:
    5,337
    Likes Received:
    92
    Mosaics, tapestries, good food, private bath, servant to wipe your backside :), a slave to play you music or sing for you. Who needs an ipod.

    Air conditioning isn't exactly needed in a draughty castle, but room sizes are nice :)
     
  21. Leonardo Pisano
    Offline

    Leonardo Pisano Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2011
    Messages:
    453
    Likes Received:
    13
    Gold is honest money. You can express it into fiat money, like the pound or the dollar, but see it the other way around: you can buy a wad of paper bills for a gold nugget.

    There are gold coins on the market, eg Kruger Rand, Am Eagle - just to give you an idea what it's worth in useless paper - but that's because you have a reference in your head in dollar, for instance. Like some here said, you can give it any value you want.
     
  22. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    what's 'honest' about it?

    you can't eat it, and on its own, it can't keep you warm or give you shelter...

    plus the fact that to get it, people enslave and kill each other...
     
  23. Allegro Van Kiddo
    Offline

    Allegro Van Kiddo Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2010
    Messages:
    566
    Likes Received:
    20
    Hell yes!

    It's worthless. It's just a popular delusion.
     
  24. Mystic_snowfang
    Offline

    Mystic_snowfang Member

    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2011
    Messages:
    38
    Likes Received:
    0
    It depends, if a character is a rich noble maybe ten gold is not that much. However if a poor man came across ten gold, he'd be quite happy (and very rich, and likely to be mugged)
     
  25. Leonardo Pisano
    Offline

    Leonardo Pisano Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2011
    Messages:
    453
    Likes Received:
    13
    Gold/silver are called honest money, because, unlike a wad of paper without any backing,
    gold/silver has intrinsic value. Look it up and you'll find zillion websites that will tell you the same -- the term honest money I didn't make up - the market did.
     

Share This Page