500 (Mythic) Pounds in cash

Sad, but this is what I did this weekend . . .

During the 13th century, the counts of Troyes were busy buying back fiefs they had previously granted to vassals, in a successful attempt to make all castle-holders direct liegemen of the count. One charter states that a certain knight agreed to the sale of his holdings for "500 pounds in cash". This charter is dated 1221, so it's completely relevant for an Ars Magica saga. The only actual coin in 13th century France was the denier, equivalent to the English penny in the conversion scale of 1 pound = 20 shillings = 240 pennies. Thus, 500 pounds in cash equals 120,000 pennies.

I wondered how large a pile of coins that was, what they put it in to move it, and how many containers it would that take.

Two types of Troyes deniers existed, the larger being 19mm in diameter, weighting 1.54 grams, and being 1/3 as thick (approx.) as a US penny (which is 1.55 mm thick).

I've found a wealth of information about medieval chests, the most common type of medieval furniture, but can't find any specific dimensions. An SCA site has plans for creating a "medieval hutch", which is 16" in heigth, 24" in length, and 13" wide. I suck at math. I think that means that such a hutch would have a volume of 4992 cubic inches, which equals 81,804 cubic centimeters. (I know that I have not taken into account the thickness of the boards used to make the hutch.)

A coin with a diameter of 19 mm and a thickness of .5 mm has a volume of 567 cubic mm (rounded off) or 57 cubic centimeters (rounded again). Is this right so far?

So said hutch would hold 1435 coins (81,804/57), I think.
If these calculations are right, it would take 84 hutches to hold 500 pounds in cash. That's several wagon loads of hutches, I'd imagine.

I also found measurements for a medieval coffer, or strong box. Using the same calculations, based on its size of 18 cm high, 35 cm long, and 20 cm wide, it has a volume of 12600 cubic centimeters, and would hold 221 coins. It would take 543 coffers of this size to move the coins.

How about barrels? What are the dimensions of a medieval barrel? A common barrel? I could not find adequate information regarding this. Would medievals move money in a barrel?

I'm imagining a scene where the characters come across a group moving 500 pounds from one area to another. What would the group consist of? Knowing how many coffers/hutches/barrels it would take would be useful.

Thanks in advance,
Matt Ryan

Cool, in our treasure chest are more than 2000 pounds :open_mouth:

Volume of coin 0.0000001417 cubic metres
Volume of Hutch 0.081 cubic metres
strongbox volume 0.0126 cubic metres
A 'standard' British Barrel 0.1637 cubic metres

Total volume of 120,000 coins =0.017 cubic metres which also matches the volume I would expect from 500 troy pounds of pure silver based on density
I would expect packing of coins to be fairly inefficient so probably occupy about 0.03 cubic metres and weigh about 178 kg (if pure silver)

So probably two or three strong boxes
Unless I have made a real mess of my maths which would be embarrassing

No, not really.
The described coin would have a volume of ca. 142 cubic mm, and that is 0,142 cubic cm. In a box, nicely stacked, each would have taken rather 180 cubic mm, however.

Kind regards,


No. the Volume of a cylinder is piR^2hieght, so they are:*.5, or 141 mm^3, or .141 cm^3... much less than you suspected. Your chest would hold 81804/.141 coins, or 580171 coins.

If you increased the thickness to a full millimeter, you'd only be able to carry half as many, but that shouldn't bother you. :wink: Your chest would only be half full.

If you make the boards 2 inches thick, (12x20x9inches) then it will hold:
30.4850.822.86=35396cm^3, or 251035 coins...or almost exactly what you were paid if the coins are a full millmeter in thickness.

Silver has a density of 8.6 grams/cc so... we have 304406 grams, or 304kg, and 2.204 lbs per kilogram, gives us a 671 pound chest for the 1mm coins and 145512grams--320lbs for .5mm, not including wood and fittings. A group of very strong men with proper tools-- a set of long bars set along the sides to give them a better grip, could probably move it to and from the wagon that would transport it.

Not as scenic as a train of wagons...but rife with so much more potential as they try to move that single, very, very heavy chest.


I know only the Hungarian customs.
Such sum of money was paid in marks (like in Germany) not in coins (~250g of silver). I think similar thing happened in this case.
The Hungarian coin was called dénár. Sometimes they paid dénár marks in this case they measured that many dénár the same weight like the standard mark.
The dénár mark was less valuable because of the more copper in the alloy.

Yes, normally "monies of account" - pounds especially - were used. In this particular charter, the knight asked for the actual cash.

Matt Ryan

Thank you. My girlfriend also pointed out my math error.

That is very useful information. Thank you.

Great stuff and very useful. Thanks to all who replied.

Matt Ryan