1. Bradley Parr
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    Bradley Parr Member

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    What Currency to use?

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Bradley Parr, Dec 2, 2015.

    I am writing a young adult fiction and cannot decide which would be more appropriate:
    Everyday Life Currency (Such as Dollar/Yen/Euro)
    Fictional Currency (I can't really put an example here, coin maybe?)

    Thanks in advance.

    -Brad
     
  2. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    It depends on your story and the era. Mine's in the future, most currency is credit/debit rather than physical money but that meant there had to be a black market currency so gold, silver and jewels are also used.
     
  3. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    You can never go wrong with precious metals and gems.
     
  4. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    My story is set in the past, so they use copper and silver ingots. In reality they would be using tin, zinc, and the alloys as well, but I figured that would just confuse the reader.
     
  5. Bradley Parr
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    Bradley Parr Member

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    Thanks for the responses guys :)
     
  6. Lew
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    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    I deal with 1st century Roman and Chinese currencies in my WIP. Roman currency was gold-based, 50 gold aurei to the pound or about 1/3 of an oz. Worth about 400 dollars today. 25 silver denarii to the aureus, about $16 and the daily wage for a day laborer. Sestercius was their bronze equivalent of paper money, no intrinsic value, but 100 to the aureus, 4 to the denarius, so about $4. There are smaller ones, but I just called them coppers (as and half-as) basically pennies. Chinese used bronze coins with square holes in the center so they could be strung together as catti (root for cash, borrowed from Chinese). I had them weigh Roman denarii to determine an exchange rate, as theirs was also tied to gold and silver (though not much used), and came up with a string of 250 bronze coins for a denarius.

    Outside of the their respective empires, bronze and copper coins were worthless, as they had no intrinsic value, just the official exchange rate for gold and silver. My centurion learned this in Taprobane (Sri Lanka) when he tried to pay for meal with sesterces..."That's not worth anything here, Antonius, just give him a denarius." "Arrgh, it were a good meal but not that damned good!" "Give him a denarius and be done with it."
     
  7. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think that the answer to that would depend on a lot of other things. Is it a fantasy world or real-world? Historical or current?
     
  8. Lew
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    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    Historical fiction... trying to keep the story along the line of something that might have happened, or perhaps something similar did happen, but is lost to us.

    Bookend 1. Chinese sent diplomatic mission to Rome in 97AD which may or may not have reached its destination. Confirmed it got probably to the mouth of the Red Sea near Aden. For the sake of my story it did reach Rome

    Bookend 2. In 166AD a Roman diplomatic mission reached China, possibly to discuss an alliance against Parthia, an idea I hinted at in mine. Nothing further came of this, as a global plague, probably first instance of small pox, devastated everything from Britain to China, empires fell, Rome staggered on for another 250 years, and global trade dried up.

    In between there almost had to be a first Roman mission to China, which, like my fictional one, would not go according to plan. An interesting 9000 mile sea journey, 5000 mile trek home over the Silk Road with lots of people trying to kill them.
     
  9. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    In that case, I definitely wouldn't use dollars. It would be best to research the actual currency, but making something up would be less jarring than using dollars, since dollars would immediately break the fictional reality.

    Edited to add: Fewer people are likely to worry over, "Was there REALLY an historical currency called Golden Larks?" than would say, "You can't have dollars in ancient history!"

    Edited to add: Oh, sorry. I thought you were the original poster. :) Original poster, the above is what I'd say if you said that your novel was either fantasy not closely based on the real world, or historical.
     
  10. Lew
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    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    Of course I didn't use dollars! But I wanted the conversion figure in my mind so I had a feel for how much to pay for things. And for much money the ships were carrying for trade. I guessed tens of millions in sesterces, in gold and silver species only, per ship, which according to Roman Indian Ocean Trade and Rome and the Distant East, turns out be spot-on. Total trade according to Pliny was 100M sesterces or almost $500M/yr. That mattered because it attracted a lot of unwanted attention (piracy). Which they got!

    At the individual level I avoided being that specific, except for the one case of the centurion being willing to pay $16 equivalent for a bowl of curry and some wine. But certainly not quoting the exchange rate. For example for passengers joining a west-bound caravan in Turfam, the cost was "several silver coins" what kind not defined, quantity just that: several. And they provided their own animals, shelter and food, and helped with the daily loading/unloading of animals, and with security, if they were trusted and good enough.
     
  11. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yep, I confused you and the original poster who was asking about using dollars.

    For what it's worth--and you may not be interested in doing this much research--I suspect that proportional values might be very different. For example, I remember reading that food rationing and price regulation for World War... I and II? Just II?...was the thing that made food reasonably affordable for the poor in England--that it was a very fundamental change of historical proportions for the poor to be able to eat reliably. Depending on the availability and value of food, that presumably good-quality meat-containing food might translate to $160 or even $1600 in value, or, to translate it into labor, it might be several days' worth of wages for a low-paid laborer, who would survive on terribly inferior food.
     
  12. Kalleth Bright-Talon
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    Kalleth Bright-Talon Member

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    From what I can gather, based on my personal experience unless your YA Fiction has a strong basis in reality, modern day/historical fiction, you can be quite lax with what currency your characters use. For my work, which doesn't take place on Earth, I went for the traditionally used metals in coins. Not quite Fiat money but moving in that direction, meaning gold coins, silver coins, copper coins, blended in with precious stones, materials and services. Really, just consider what sort of things characters in your world would value.
     
  13. Bradley Parr
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    Bradley Parr Member

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    @ChickenFreak Thanks for getting back to me.
    Current/Modern World.
    It's a Realistic Fantasy (If that makes sense) Everything is fictional, but I am keeping everything as realistic as possible.
    I guess if this is the case, my own currency might be the way forward? (Although currency isn't a highlight in my first book, the sequel has an arena with a "Currency" reward)
    Thanks
     
  14. Kalleth Bright-Talon
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    Kalleth Bright-Talon Member

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    If this is the case, then I would definitely recommend actual money. Mostly because your reader may have an easier time of things understanding the relative value of transactions. Now I'm going off of your statement that "Everything is fictional, but I am keeping everything as realistic as possible." meaning that it takes place in an alternate Earth, with many similarities with real life, but a few key differences. So, you should definitely use real currency to increase the feeling of legitimacy that your realistic fantasy writing ought to have.
     
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  15. Bradley Parr
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    Bradley Parr Member

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    @Kalleth Bright-Talon Hard to argue with that! Thanks a lot! :)
     
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