How much are coins worth by today’s standards? How much does a bag of silver weigh? What about gold? A magical sword costs how many thousands of gold coins? The local wizard shop has enough money to buy my 50,000 gp +3 Vorpal Blade, right? Is my character really carrying around enough money to fund a small kingdom?!

I have long been confused with how currency works in most fantasy games… “A round of beer costs 1 gold piece?! Really?! What would I buy for 1 copper, then?” “How much did I get for that magical sword?!” “Wait wait wait… I’m level 5, and I’m now in the top 1% wealth bracket?”

If I were to ever make a full-fledged Fantasy setting, I’d offer the following: Copper, Silver, Gold, and Gold Bars. Copper would be the most commonly used currency (12 cp for a day’s worth of cheap manual labor / or 1 cp per hour). In this fashion, one could say that a copper piece is worth about \$1. So, the poorest of the poor might expect to make about 12 cp per day.

12 cp is very little, but I got that number from a historical text that I once read, so it’s not unbelievable. This would represent pay for the poorest of the poor who are still able to find work (of the lowest paying kind).

Want to go buy a tasty hot meal from a vendor at the market or tavern? Expect to pay 5-6 cp. Of course, if you have a family, you’re going to need to stretch that 12 cp as far as you can (food, supplies to make clothes, taxes, etc.). A lot of poor families in a fantasy setting (town) would expect to eat grits and thin soup.

Also, I don’t expect them to have the money to buy that loot you’re trying to offload. That’s one reason most games let characters sell off loot at around 25-50% of its value out-of-game.

To make everything easy and smooth, I’d increase the value of the metals by 10:

10 Copper = 1 Silver
10 Silver = 1 Gold
(100 Copper = 10 Silver = 1 Gold)

Adding other metals (like Aluminium, Platinum, or Palladium) just isn’t practical. It’s not that they’re too difficult to process; it’s that they would too often get confused with lesser-valued coins.

However, I understand that magic items can be expensive. That is why I would include Gold Bars (actually, Bars and Bricks).

10 Gold Coin = 1 Gold Bar
10 Gold Bars = 1 Gold Brick
(10,000 Copper = 1,000 Silver = 100 Gold =10 Bars = 1 Brick)

And now, for the rest of the story…

Assuming that 1 gp is like a \$100 bill, not too many people will be walking around with those in their pockets. So, for a player character to tip the stable boy or innkeeper one or more gold pieces, well, that would be a big deal (especially if you do it often). Everyone in the area would hit you up for services or free hand-outs, and you would quickly get recognized by several, several people in the village or town.

“Hey, did you hear? Kahn the Bard just paid 10,000 gp for a magical cloak, then he tipped Matthias over at the stables 10 gp just for feeding his horse. I know that I only made 5 gp for all of last month’s work in the mine, but let’s go say Hi. I just know he and I could be friends.”

Kahn the Bard: “Hey there innkeeper, I’ll have an ale.”
Innkeeper: “Sure thing! That’s 3 copper pieces.”
Kahn the Bard: “Here, take 3 gold pieces.”
Innkeeper: “Uhhh… you know that’s like 300 copper, right? For a cup of ale?”

How soon in your game before copper and silver currency becomes obsolete?

It seems to me that currency in fantasy settings has been relegated to magic-item-use-only. I have actually been told that by several gamers over the course of two decades. “We only keep track of money so we can buy better magic items.” I understand that it can be tedious to spend 5 cp on a meal when you’re saving up for a 20,000 gp item. I get that. But all that means is that money is indeed there just for purchasing magic items, and I guess that is what my problem is.

I get it. Finding, spending, and selling loot worth thousands of gold is fun and exciting. But it just doesn’t work for me. Needing thousands and thousands of gold pieces to buy and sell magic items is an all-too-often unrealistic and overlooked burden. Who can carry that much weight? I’m just not ok with the whole concept. And seriously, why even have copper and silver in the game?

I imagine that at its fundamental nature, most people aren’t ok with it, either, which is why many games provide these convenient little magical bags and sacks that can carry a dragon’s hoard of coin. That just seems like a band-aid to the problem.

Why is it that fantasy movies and novels (not novels based on RPGs) never depict characters running around on their quests and adventures carrying thousands and thousands of coin in preparation of buying a magic helm, magic armor, magic weapon, a magic belt, a magic cloak, and two magic rings? Because the audience just wouldn’t buy into that. As a gamer at the table, I don’t I buy into it either.

Why not just fix the issue of currency, so that we don’t have to use magic items to try to make it work? Let’s put the currency at more reasonable rates so all of the characters in fantasy games aren’t always carrying around 50,000 gold coins wherever they go. Even in a fantasy roleplaying game, I find the alternative hard to believe.

So, let’s bring this ramble to a close… I have a problem with currency – there doesn’t seem to have been a realistic way to approach it thus far. Copper and silver are pointless. Thousands of coins are needed to equip characters of their “needed” magical equipment. And magical, bottomless bags and sacks are the answer to it all, apparently.

Can someone please put me in my place?

My name is Chris Stevens, and I approve this message.

#### Chris Stevens

In Chris's opinion, the very best vices are dirt bikes, rock music, and gaming, while the very best medicine is fatherhood. If he could just learn to balance them all, he'd live forever. He's much more creative than intelligent, often wakes up belligerent, and ponders many things insignificant. Lastly, in an effort to transform his well-fed body, P90X, Roller Blades, and Food are all laughing at him. And the pain continues.

### 19 Responses to “How impractical has currency become in fantasy RPGs?”

1. I think the biggest problem in Tabletop RPGs that use Copper, Silver and Gold is that there is no progression. At level 1 you wake up in a town to start your adventure you begin with 20s and 4c, Now go adventure with some new friends. Well all that gear to sustain you for a couple days travel all costs 5g each player. “but we barely have a gold all together” looks like my rusty short sword is going to have to hold out a few more days. But this is rarely the case, For a level 1 in most campaigns Ive heard of or seen. “Im a professional adventurer, I have 60g 9s 4c in my bag and im wearing a shiny breastplate and a Masterwork Sword of overachieving” Where is the monetary progression there.

Personally I would like using a Silver and Gold money system, as everyday Items food, lodge, horse stabling, are paid in Silver, and weapons, armor, magic items are paid in gold. And I do kind of agree walking around with 20k in gold is impractical and should come with penalties…..like random encounters.

2. It would be easy to get rid of huge sums of cash if the DM and players could agree that magic items are super rare (maybe only rumored to exist), and *have* to be quested for/found. You can’t just go to the Magic Mart and buy what you “need.” Then, you could keep the PC’s wealth level steady at “kind of well off.” Money becomes another limited resource to be used in certain circumstances – they would use coins if they wanted to bypass an encounter or make one easier – “you don’t have to come up with a likely-to-fail plan to break out of jail if you’re willing to pay off the jailer!” Bearing in mind that, regardless of level, the PCs aren’t really much richer than the jailer (maybe poorer!), and doing so would take a chunk of their savings. Of course, that goes against the grain of some settings.

It’s an interesting problem. On the one hand, designers want to make currency relevant because it’s such a big driver in the real world. On the other hand, it’s difficult to scale things – you don’t want a level 4 character gaining access to a +4 sword just because he has the cash. The result has been that cash is “kind of” relevant at lower levels, and “completely irrelevant except to buy magic items” at higher levels.

3. I always find this topic interesting.

I read somewhere once that by 11th level, a 3rd Edition D&D character carries more gold on his person than the *Gross Domestic Product* of most fantasy nations.

That’s right, by 11th level you’re not just worth more than a king, you’re worth more than the entire kingdom. So by 20th level, you carry more gold on your person than the GDP of *every nation in the world*. So do your 5 other adventure companions. And their cohorts. Hell, your mount’s magical barding is worth more than a king’s ransom.

Unfortunately, adding larger denominations of gold doesn’t really solve the situation. Consider:

1 Gold Brick, also known as an Ingot, weighs approximately 12.4KG (27 pounds). In your scenario, this ingot would be worth 100 GP.

So that 40,000 GP Ring of Evasion would cost…
– 40,000 / 100 = 4 4,000 Ingots
– 4,000 Ingots * 27.3 pounds = 109,200 pounds, or approximately 54.6 tons.

An elephant can weigh up to 7.5 tons.

– 54.6 / 7.5 = 7.28

To conclude, a Ring of Evasion is worth seven and one quarter elephants’ weight in gold.

Now how about that Tome of Understanding +5, worth 135,000?

My point is that the wealth system isn’t necessarily broken, it’s the magic item costing tables that are.

In D&D3rd/Pathfinder, again as an example, magic items are priced based on a formula: Spell Level * Caster Level * X,000, where X varies based on the type of magic item. It’s that X that really makes things, well, Xponentially costly.

If magic items were scaled back to, say, Spell Level * Caster Level * X0, rather than X,000, the entire economy would change overnight. Suddenly the Ring of Evasion only costs 400 GP.

The problem with reducing the amount of GP each item costs is that we’d then have to actually start counting our Coppers and Silvers because they’d suddenly be worth something. That means more math, and math is hard.

• “and math is hard.” Awesome!

You know, I don’t think I’m ever going to be happy. You’ll see me skulking in the corner with my ale, pitching Coppers…

4. Currency really isn’t the problem here, Chris. It’s the assumption, which many campaigns quietly make, even without thinking about it, that magic items are bought and sold which is the problem.

If we use the 1cp=\$1 relationship, and thus s the 1gp=\$100 relationship, then when a player character goes to the village store and picks up a 10,000gp magic item, that’s like heading over to 7-11 and plunking down a million bucks in cold currency. “I’ll take that fighter jet on aisle two, plus two Slurpees, please.”

Just as it’s impractical to pay for warplanes with currency, it’s impractical in a campaign world to be buying expensive magic items with currency. There’s nothing wrong with currency in fantasy RPGs; it’s their use that is problematic.

Which brings us to the core of the issue. Why are magic items assigned a market value in the first place? Well, that’s because those systems haven’t figured out a way to assign relative value to magic items that doesn’t involve money. The systems need a way to say that a Belt of Strength +2 takes up four times as much of a character’s magic item loadout (also known as wealth-by-level) as a Pearl of Power. Using money is probably the simplest thing the designers could come up with. The problem comes when campaigns extend that to magic item trading.

• That’s an interesting point, Mattastrophic. Do you have any suggestions as to a game that handles currency and magic item trading better? Alas, I’m not as current as I once was.

5. I think that the issue Mattastrophic points out is more an issue with the way the GM is allowing magic items to be purchased. If the magic items had an appraised value of 10,000 gold pieces and were only available at upscale auction houses, I think it would be alright. It’s a matter of how difficult it is to get it. Besides, unless an object is so rare and priceless that nobody will ever in their wildest dreams want to part with it, someone will be willing to pay some amount of money to get it and therefore a monetary value can be assigned to it.

Besides, alternative measures of value don’t really work. You could drop the dollar sign and just say that it has a “magic essence rating” of 10000, but that’s a further layer of abstraction because we don’t think of value in those terms. At some level, saying an artifact has 900, 1200, or 2100 magic essence becomes just an arbitrary number without meaning. Saying an artifact costs \$900, \$1200 or \$2100 has more meaning. It’s a subtle distinction, but I think it’s an important one.

6. To answer your question on alternatives, the best I’ve seen is the Wealth system that d20 Modern used. Basically, purchasing an item has a DC. You try to meet it by rolling a d20 and adding a Wealth rating, which ranges from 0 (impoverished and in debt) to 30+ (filthy rich). If you meet or exceed the DC, you can buy the product no problem. If you fail the DC, then it’s either too expensive or it’s just not in your budget for the month. You can still buy it, but you have to reduce your Wealth rating by some amount to a minimum of 0, making it less likely you will be able to afford items later.

The nice thing about this is that you can handwave all the penny pinching if you’re rich enough to not bother. Buying a meal at a tavern would probably have a DC of 1, so unless you have a Wealth rating of 0 (which would mean you are impoverished or in debt), you don’t even need to roll and your character pulls out the pocket change to buy it, handily solving the issue of Kahn the Bard in your example.

7. So, the problem is not that there’s anything wrong with currency. What’s wrong is that, A) magic items shouldn’t really be things you can just wander into a shop and buy (as others have pointed out), and B) the basic premise of the sorts of campaigns that are bothering you is the fundamental problem. And that basic premise is “We are professional adventurers who live to adventure”. That is where the concept of purchasable magic items comes from. If the adventurers are adventuring to get more shit that lets them adventure better, that both doesn’t make any sense and leads to the problem you’re talking about.

Now, many campaigns of a more modern milieu have an over arching plot of some sort, and that’s fine. If the PCs are saving the princess or the kingdom or the world or whatever, that’s totally cool. But those campaigns shouldn’t have the acquisition of general, non-magical wealth as one of their goals. “Treasure hordes” need to be mostly magical items; there shouldn’t be a more currency than the PCs need to be comfortable and facilitate their goals. Either the DM can cut out the middle man entirely and just put magical items that are directly useful for his PCs, or he can work out a plot method in which magic items the PCs don’t want can be traded for things that are useful for the PCs (I imagine given as gifts to powerful and plot-driving NPCs in exchange for favors or whatever). TL;DR: A plot driven campaign where the adventurers are going to be adventurers and heroes the whole campaign should cut out the middle-man, which is to say currency; entirely, and just have 95% of treasure be magic items.

The other kind of campaign, the sandbox campaign, requires your PCs to be actual goddamn people, rather than hero-machines. That is to say, the PCs aren’t a fighter and a wizard and a rogue trying to collect more magic items so that they hit monsters more often; they are Blordang, Knight of the Flaming Rose, who wants to bring a great fortune back to his home village and set himself up as the local baron; and Filifang, necromancer, who wants to fund his research into a magical version of resurrection so that Mankind is no longer beholden to those thrice-cursed petty gods; and Callieva, who is going to set up her own thieves guild and drive all the other thieves’ guilds to extinction and have her minions hunt down every one of their members in revenge for the murder of her lover when she was 18. They need to have extra-mechanical goals for that wealth. The original assumed premise for OD&D was that the characters were adventuring because the other options were more horrible than adventuring, and that as soon as they had enough money to fund whatever their goal was, they would *stop* because delving into ancient monster and trap filled tombs is *crazy*. All you need for currency to make sense again is to build your campaign on the premise that adventuring is a means to an end, not an end in and of itself.

8. I’ve pretty much just eliminated coins and currency from my campaigns, or at least from the characters. I simply assume that unless there is some reason to say otherwise, PC’s have enough coinage on hand to purchase a meal, buy drinks, rent a room, tip a stable-boy etc.

Most of the things a PC might want to buy are simply not for sale. No magic items, no castles, nothing of that sort. If someone wanted to become a great baron he’d need to be awarded titles by the nobility, earn the trust and loyalty of the people, and be granted the right to rule. I would assume that coins may have changed hands but that kind of mundane transactions are happening behind the scenes.

Ultimately I think the concept of “purchasing” power, influence, prestige, or magic items is an extremely modern world paradigm and has little place in a fantasy campaign; whether your flavor of fantasy is “hero-quest” or “sandbox”.

9. Wealth systems are nice. Maybe some sort of fudge quality later to gauge your economic standing.

Like others have said, I think the inclusion of those mythically powerful items just being bought and sold regularly skews things. The only game I really saw handle money well, was Green Ronins Dragon Age. Playing that game we cherished every penny we found.

10. A quite interesting topic. My problem is not so much about magic items, i don’t put them to sell, but treasure. I have a complicated 1g = 50 silver 1s= 10 copper system (because i like it more realistic and problematic (?)).

The thing is that a worthy treasure can’t be a few gold coins. Just imagine the picture, the moster dead in the floor, the warrior with blood in his chest, the sorcerer out of energy almost fainted. And then the thief open the chest and there are 5 golden coins!

Now, i want my players characters to be able to buy a good horse, or a house, or even spending days in luxury after a dungeon. So we have a reward’s economy. But once you have 50 golden coins, you find your players going to a tavern and asking for a meal and beer and considering to even think how much cost a waste of time. So, the daily roll play economy is done.

Taverns, basic equip, meals, travels and other products and services costs are suddenly an abstraction.

An option i’m considering is put all those daily costs in a table. A random table that is not related only to the things your character did under your direct decision. Let’s say Hercules went to the city and then to a tavern, then contacted the guy who told him to go in a quest.
Well, I will tell the player in all the time the character was in the city he did spent some money, and so we roll some dices and set which kind of life he had and how much did it cost. I might create different tables for different life style levels. In anycase, i don’t want to track each coin. And for any specific copper i used for a ferry, i would consider included in the table result.

11. Really? The only thing money is good for is magic items? Oookay…

Even if you can’t buy deeds from cash-strapped nobility (all those parties…) investment in a venture has been serving (with mixed success) for quite some time now. Supporting those who support you is not new. Donating to a temple that heals you? Common sense and yes, that’s building a relationship which – if you’re smart – may be reciprocated!

Information may also be useful. Of course, unless you’re Sherlock Holmes or Hannibal Lecter, this may require stuff to be written down. Even if you can’t buy your way into power, you can invest in a community in other ways. Libraries can change a town – just ask Alexandria. Or if you prefer sports, a coliseum. This stuff need not be behind the scenes.

Transport is another thing. Want to terrify someone with money? Get them to buy a ship. And a crew. That +3 sword might pay for the first year. Maybe. And how else were they going to carry all that gold? Who has handy haversacks or bags of holding? So you’ve got to think about logistics or the gold’s going nowhere. That elephant may be useful…

Magic is implicitly scarce unless you say otherwise. The only problem is some systems break that assumption and charge exhorbitant fees to maintain that state. At higher levels of d20-likes you need magic to optimise, or in some cases, have a chance. You could adopt magic as alternate currency. Identifying your universal standard may be a challenge.

If you want economic realism, either revalorise your monetary standard or bring down the price of magic. Your game may be more Jhereg than Conan The Barbarian but that’s a matter of taste. So what else would you buy magic with? Indentured servitude is an option but how many players will go for that? It’s why they keep trying to off those viziers.

Magic facilitates but it doesn’t replace unless you say so. You can abstract wealth if the book-keeping leaves you cold. Or you can scale back your challenges so you don’t need +15 bonus to your AC to survive 5 rounds of combat (the time you need for your frontline to get their kill on). Think laterally and it still works.

What’s left? What’s always left. Also gems. You might want to look into those… portable, valuable, pretty as well. 🙂

12. Another point is that you shouldn’t really be giving all that cash to the PCs. Gems, jewelry, and objects of art should make the bulk of the “big wealth” from monster hoards. And, when they sell that extra Sword of Ginsu +5, they don’t get coin, they get a letter of credit. The King doesn’t give them a chest of coins in payment for the quest, he gives them a land grant.

All of these things have a “cash value”, but are not coins or bars. You can hold millions of dollars worth of gem stones in the palm of your hand. And letters of credit have been around since writing became complex enough to handle the transaction. It’s just as absurd for the town pawn shop to have the coin on hand to buy whatever unwanted magical doodad, as it is that they would have the item the PCs want on demand.

If your PCs are going to be running around with a bunch of wealth, make it clear that it isn’t coin, but has a gp value for tracking purposes. Or, it is being held for them by a potentate, church, bank, trade house, guild, or what ever works for your campaign world. If you think of that wealth as an abstract amount, it’s a lot easier to comprehend.

And, as to buying magical widgets, it can be done, But not off the shelf, It has to be made. Or perhaps an existing one for sale may be found, but agents need to be sent out to make inquiries. Either way, it takes time, and may add to the cost, and may result in failure.

And, remember, the classic adventurer has little or no cash. That’s why they go down into the dungeon. How they spent a kings ransom in the few weeks (days? hours?) between adventures is another really wild Yom Kippur story.

13. Most gamers overlook the sophistication of the Medieval credit system: “Some citizens found it convenient to deposit some of their money in a bank account and receive a moderate interest (often camouflaged as an optional bonus) while using the account for receiving and making payments by written transfer in the banker’s book. A reliable depositor was often allowed to overdraw his account…” quoted from “Medieval Banking–Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries” by Roberto Naranjo at http://ehistory.osu.edu/world/articles/ArticleView.cfm?AID=59

By the middle ages, only 297 metric tons of gold had been mined the world over. A gold sarcophagus is about 1.5 metric tons. Think about how much was actually available in circulation. (Ans. not much at all.) Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-21969100

In sum, your PCs shouldn’t be lugging around large sacks of gold. They should be trading in paper–cheques and IOUs specifically.

Your PCs may need a wealthy banker, patron or financier to bankroll their next dungeon crawl. They might need to put up some collateral, like their wives and children. What if their risk reaps little reward? What happens then? That sounds like a great adventure seed…

14. Coins, currency, and economics play as large a role in an RPG as the players and GM want them to. If your campaign is a fun, hack and slash romp through a set of goblin caves 19 miles from the nearest merchant, then most likely coins and treasures are just numbers and line items you write down. If no one wants to deal with the economics, then the “business” of trading can become a quick sentence or two at the beginning of the night — “I send my hireling into town both to sell the tapestries and urns, and to deposit all of our coin with the baron.”

If, on the other hand, you are playing in a more lifelike, day-by-day campaign, then coins and economics might play a huge role. I once played in a campaign where adventurers had to be licensed and the fees got vastly expensive at the higher levels. This wasn’t just a cheap trick for stripping the party of its gold though, as the GM accounted for all of the gold by building up the community. The characters didn’t have vast amounts of gold, but they were rich because they had founded the town. Everyone knew them and most owed their livelihoods to the adventurers in one way or another. In this same campaign, magic items had to be licensed as well. Magic items of great power were taken for the good of the community by the church or the baron. Showy uses of magic were frowned upon and unlicensed magic was not tolerated. While the party had unlicensed magic, we paid mad bribes (to another complicated part of the economy — the thieves guild) to keep that information under wraps.

Basically, in that campaign, adventuring really was our job. When we came back into town, the church, the mages guild, the thieves guild, and the nobility would all send messengers to collect their “cuts” within an hour of our arrival. There were more times than just one or two that we had to “borrow money” to get healing because our cut to the church wasn’t large enough. The time we encountered a rust monster at 6th level nearly bankrupted us completely; all the fighter types had to wear non-magic leather armor for months while new armor was constructed. We had to borrow money for weapons. Believe me, we were scraping together silver and copper that night. 🙂

Also, we had 3 nights of adventure trying to find a pickpocket that had stolen the large purse the party’s dungeon map was in. While not related specifically to coins, I thought I’d throw that one in anyway. 🙂

15. I moved to silver as the base coin in my campaigns some time ago, when gold shows up in treasure, characters (and players) take notice. But alternate forms of currency, letters of credit, deeds, gems and jewellery, all exist depending on need. But as most of the character in my game are low(ish) level, worries about huge amounts of money has not been an issue.

16. I’ve been thinking similar thoughts myself – and I’m only thinking about an epic6 type campaign so I can’t imagine how crazy it’d all get at 20th level.

The figures exist, I think, mainly because we need a way to measure the relative value of items – I’d immediately decided to reskin the coinage as pretty soon you’re not dealing with anything less than gold anyway, so why even have copper or silver?

Carrying around more than 100 coins of any type must start to get cumbersome. Even if a shopkeeper had 10,000 GP to buy your item, where the hell would he keep it? In the end I thought I’d assign anything over about 500gp a “treasure point” value: these are things that can be traded for each other but cost more than you’d expect someone to have on them. The economy still exists but expensive items have to be bartered not bought. Gems etc can have TP values too so they can be traded “full price” for magic items.

Even with 1 TP being about 650 gp – a rough low level approximation for 1000xp worth of earnings in Pathfinder, to help me track treasure allocation – it’s not long ’til we get into crazy big TP figures too, so it may not be a high level solution.

DnD’s quadratic cost progression is the root of the problem – and the only way to change that is to change systems.

17. Not to necro the thread, but hey …

I found it to be relatively simple: use real values.

Copper isn’t going to go 100:1 for gold; silver won’t go 10:1. And if a 1 CP = \$1, your 0.124 kg (or whatever) gold coin is going to be bloody cheap compared to reality.

For my own homebrew world, I looked at the same problems, but from the other direction – what is the metal worth TODAY, and if 1 CP roughly equals \$1, then what’s the value of a coin made of gold (of a particular size) actually going to be worth? Thus:

———-

Copper is the coin of the common man. It’s what he pays pretty much everything in, if he doesn’t use barter; beyond ten or so miles outside any of the major local settlements, barter is the usual way of the world, though taverns and such take and give enough money for the farmers to know relative values and have a few coppers to spend for beers. This is the equivalent of today’s dollar.

Copper Coinage:
Thin Penny: the size of the dime, 17.03mm x 1.35mm, 2.75g. Value: 1 CP.
Light Penny: quarter-sized, 23.65mm x 1.75mm 6.87g. Value: 2.5 CP.
Heavy Penny: half-dollar sized, 30.18mm x 2.15mm, 13.75g. Value: 5 CP
<
Silver is the coin of the middle class, the merchant, the businessman. A farmer selling livestock to a butcher or grain to a miller may receive silver; this is the most likely time for him to acquire it. Silver is the five- and the ten- and the twenty-dollar-bill of the medieval world; it is the workhorse of the economy.

Silver Coinage
Silver Penny: 2/3 dime-sized, a mite: 12.07mm x 1.05mm, 1.26g. Value: 25 CP (2.5 SP).
Knuckle: penny-sized: 19.14mm x 1.67mm, 5.04g. Value: 10 SP (1 GP).
Crown: silver-dollar-sized: 37.99mm x 2.12mm, 25.21g. Value: 50 SP (5 GP).

Gold is the coin of the rich – the wealthy merchant, the noble, the trader. A truly prized animal may bring in gold, or an amazingly fine (masterwork) weapon or item of armor. Spices in bulk may well be worth their weight in gold, though even some of them are worth more …

Gold Coinage
The Old Chit: About the size of the silver penny: 12.54mm x 1.12mm, 2.67g. Value: 20 GP
The New Chit: Dime-sized, 17.93mm x 1.37mm, 6.68g. Value: 50 GP.
Thumb: Nickel-sized, 21.19mm x 1.96mm, 13.34g. Value: 100 GP.

Platinum is something the common man never sees, and few merchants as well. Wealthy merchants, powerful traders, high nobles and their factors – these are the people who deal in platinum. This is what you sell your discoveries for if you’re foolish.

Platinum Coinage
Knocker: Again the size of a dime, 17.91mm x 1.4mm, 7.57g. Value: 100 GP (10 PP).
Thumper: Half-dollar-sized, 31.1mm x 2.32mm, 37.8g. Value: 500 GP (50 PP)
Hand: Beyond American currency, 42.46mm x 2.49mm, 75.62g. Value: 1000 GP (100 PP).

When money really needs to flow, trade bars are used. The size of all trade bars used within the former influence of the Ravennan Empire were established by law, and have become custom. They are 100mm x 50mm x 30mm — about 4 inches long, 2 inches wide, and a little over an inch thick.

Trade Bars
Copper: 1.341 kg, 5 GP.
Silver: 1.573 kg, 315 GP.
Gold: 2.895 kg, 21,700 GP.
Platinum: 3.217 kg, 42,600 GP.
Iron: 1.18 kg, 86 CP.
Cold Iron: 1.18 kg, 26 SP.
Silversheen: 1.482 kg, 450 GP.
Mithral: 2.824 kg, 30,000 GP.
Adamantine: 3.771 kg, 65,000 gp.

A note on the last four Trade Bars:

Armor, shields, weapons, etc. made out of those four items is not made entirely from those metals; they are alloyed into the base steel by various processes, spreading the material through-out the steel and changing its properties. Adamantine becomes adamantium steel; mithral becomes mithral steel, etc. It takes a smith possessing masterwork skills to work with these metals and alloy them into ‘base’ steel. Generally, the steel can be made much, much thinner and still give better protection than standard steel, but … you didn’t really think 50 lbs. of adamantine cost only 17,000 gp, did you?

This, however, leads to very heavily guarded trade caravans transporting a single bar of adamantine … or a bar of mithril hidden within a hidden compartment.

It should also be pointed out what things cost – and are worth. A simple +1 longsword, excluding the value of the extraordinary (i.e. masterworked) blade, is worth 1,000gp. While the absolute value (GP sale price) is not something I’m going to alter, look at what level of mundane stuff that simple +1 weapon is worth. Practically everything any of you own is equivalent to a +1 weapon. Other comparisons:

An everburning bullseye lantern – or a single sleep arrow – is worth a carriage, with enough change left over to live pretty well for a couple of weeks.
You can exchange a +1 Keen weapon for a good-sized manor house in town.
A Holy Avenger is worth no less than 4 – and maybe 5 – warships. Or a mansion. Or a small keep.

Does this mean that someone ‘churning out’ magical items could rake in the dough? Well, yes, it does – but there are very few of those, and most of them have More Important Things on their mind. (Nor, really, can you ‘churn out’ magic items … nor will I allow you to do that sort of thing.) Most others who are trying to gain that level of competence die during the journey. And when push comes to shove, and we get into the Character Narrative nitty-gritty, Homecoming takes place in a world where magic is ‘low’, quiet – subtle. Tamped down, if you will. It is the actions of the PCs that will bring the level of power up, where a backpack that’s ‘been in the family for generations’ is revealed to actually be a handy haversack but didn’t show it until now … so be prepared.