Mundane Coin Interference

What accusation of code violation might be due against a magus (of Mercere) who:

Gathering mundane coins through ordinary trade, in bulk, uses magic to assess their justness, melt overly debased coins to their metals (which would be most of them), remixes the coins to a high sterling standard, and remints them with the markings of a mundane minter - which is to say, uses various dies to make them seem mundane. These are then recirculated.

Although the minting uses convincing marks, the coins are recast to be perfectly round, and to have rondels on rims, to discourage clipping.

Extra debasing copper is retained, to alleviate costs. The result is that fewer coins are entering circulation than before, but the net weight of silver is the same. The magus keeps careful books and retains none of this silver for himself. A covenant craftsman and some enchanted tools are used for speed and to lower mundane costs - an enchanted crucible and enchanted die stamp.

The goal of this (not that the Tribunal is likely to care) is to improve the quality of silver coinage, to facilitate trade and confidence in coinage, and to be sure that the silver spent by Redcaps is considered just and sound. The magus is involved in commercial trade - he profits indirectly by improving the perception of his silver.

Dealing with the Infernal?

Seriously, there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with this. The exception would, perhaps, be if (important) mundanes were offended by what was happening and blamed it on other magi.

Mundane authorities would presumably also be upset at him fraudulently acting as a mint (if they found out). But that's a mundane law issue rather a Hermetic problem.

I concur with Richard. You get around the Silver Consensus, but may still have to defend yourself against charges of Interfering with the Mundanes if it adversely impacts another Hermetic covenant in any way.

Who does so would make a loss, as the coins bought are backed by the authority - and the courts - of their minter, while the coins recirculated are actually better than their marks suggest. Of course a magus might magically create the additional silver used for this operation, and so lose 'only' some vis and time to stabilize a currency.

Their obvious improvement will be noticed. Officials, money changers and the wealthy will stash these coins and replace them with bad ones again ("the bad coin chasing away the good one"), as long as bad coins are still in circulation, and the 'bad' mints are still churning them out.

That would work.

As said already above, while he uses another mint's marks and that mint is still working, there is a financial loss for him in day to day business. In general, coins with the marks of mints no longer working had to be exchanged - at infavorable rates - for newer ones at the authorized markets.

So the effect of this operation is, to circulate additional silver and thereby strengthen for a short time the coins minted by some mundane authority. This could be used indeed to bolster the power of that authority, and construed as "meddling with mundanes" by magi adversely affected by it.


I don't see why any mundane authority would be upset about it, to be honest - although the mint might be slightly tweaked over it, or desire to know how these slightly superior coins are being produced.

I suspect the project would be ongoing, as the coins will still be pulled, debased, and recirculated, although if more than one mage decides to do the same the quality will generally stay high.

Even if a mage or covenant were to mint their own, with unusual markings, I don't know that anyone would be too badly irked so long as the marks were not apparently infernal and they were still sound, just, and sterling. Foreign coins turn up all the time. A king might be annoyed if his coins were dropping out of trade and being replaced, but on the other hand these are good coins.

Clippers and counterfeiters would be a little bent out of shape over it, as the new coins would tolerate less shaving and require more effort, but firstly, there' s not much to be done about it, and secondly, they're criminals, so they can eat it.

This would all mostly work in places with trade in coin, of course, which much trade is not.

I do think that some Quasitor would say "There's just something wrong with this..."

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The new coins would flush the bad coins, I would think, if the operation can get ahead of the mint production, which magic would mechanically be able to so long as enough silver can be passed through. Flushing the bad coins is part of the point. The magus in question is offended by debased coinage.

Although there's the problem that a mundane authority might choose to skim the silver out as fast as possible, leading to stagnation, and at least short term hording - possibly even a currency crash once a flood of silver returns to the market (if the bad coinage were largely flushed). That's a longer term effect, though.

As for bolstering the power of a given authority, yes, if some magi were somehow blamed and harmed. Mere harm to commerce would probably not constitute harm (and what are you doing that is harmed by high quality silver, masters?).

This requires making a lot more good coins than the 'official' mint, whose sign they bear, puts out new bad ones - as the good coins will be stashed away, melted down for new bad coins or moved out of country before they compete on the market with the bad ones. How a magus finds that out might become an interesting story.

As the minting authority has to finance a bishop's politics, a king's wars, an emperor's crusade, you see how much magically created silver will be involved. Silver inflation through the amount of good coins suddenly available is quite possible. Yes, that would be then most likely "meddling with mundanes" on the largest scale.


Minting coins without proper permission is harshly persecuted by medieval minting authorities, kings and emperors. Death penalties are typical.

This idea would become very interesting when looking at TME, though. Wouldn't it make sense to officially entrust magi with the currency of a kingdom in a "Fourth Estate" campaign, using "Magic as Technology"? Or for the magi from "The Island of the Magicians" to mint their own coins?


The crime comes not in minting the coins, but in selling/distributing them, by "usurping" the authority to mint and circulate the coins*. OR to forge low-value coins - that would also be a crime no lord would have tolerance for. "Foreign" coins have an explanation, and a source beyond the reach of local authority - not so if a covenant did the same.

(There was money to be made in minting your own coins - they often started out debased, costing less to mint than their face value.)

But if these coins are indistinguishable from the originals, then this ain't that.

If the act put better coins into circulation, but they still bore the stamp and authority of the "proper" issuing political entity... that entity might be curious, they might be concerned at the act (since it is, on face value, utterly philanthropic and therefore suspicious) - and they might issue a death sentence "just because" (medieval legal logic often being no more complex than that), but I doubt they would actually be upset beyond losing sleep over the "true motives behind all this". :wink:

In that case all depends on tricky details and specific laws that we need not discuss on a forum. But TimOB above suggested "mint their own, with unusual markings" - which ostentatiously encroaches on appropriately defended royal or imperial privileges.


This article covers a period a bit after the standard Ars Magica game, but is a fantastic description of currency debasement in a pre-modern economy (Germany in the 1600's), that might be worth mining for plot ideas and the implications of currency manipulation.

I doubt any serious accusation could be moved against the Mercere, per se. The main question is, of course, how he gets the wealth to do this on a sufficiently large scale to have any impact at all. Suppose your Mercere is melting two debased pennies to make a new "good" penny. His loss is one penny: he owned two and now he owns only one.

Think about this: in 12th century England silver production was of the order of several tons of silver per year, i.e. several thousand new pounds of silver were put in circulation every year. The amount of silver in circulation is then easily of the order of a hundred thousand pounds or more. And I could easily be underestimating by an order of magnitude: after all Richard the Lionheart's ransom was one hundred thousand pounds.

For the Mercere to have any impact at all this money has to be sufficiently debased to start with (who cares if he brings silver coins from 90% to 95% silver?), and the Mercere has to "refurbish" a significant fraction of it (or the few "refurbished" coins get hoarded and simply disappear from circulation). Cost of the operation? At least several dozen thousand pounds, i.e. the combined wealth expenditures of the covenants in his Tribunal for a decade or more. Possibly several hundred thousand pounds, i.e. the combined expenditures of the covenants in the entire Order for a decade or more.

Ah, yes, I haven't gotten into the specific history - the strongly pushed point in much of the ArM material is that coinage is a relatively small part of trade that I'd lost track that coin can still be fairly large. There's also the general impression that much of coinage is both seriously debased and heavily clipped, which is not necessarily so.

92.5% is sterling and just from what I've found.

I don't see the high expense, though - an enchanted crucible, enchanted die (or such), some workers; many pounds of silver per hour. I'd think the question is how to get a stream of silver.

(Possibly an enchanted hopper in the shape of a wide-mouthed Herm - pour in silver and get fresh coins out the bottom, with the occasional copper round.)

The easiest way to get a stream of silver would probably be merchant cooperation - moneychanging. Deposit false and damage coinage and get sterling back on a weight-for-weight basis. Make sure the merchant is well satisfied as to the weight of the coin, justice of the scale, and give a displacement test - Archimedes did this in, what, the 300s BC? This could easily lead to sticky questions about the source of the coinage, though, which the crown or whoever may not like, which leads to Quasitorial curiosity.

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The amount of money in circulation was still pretty big compared to the size and expenditures of the Order. As for quality (intended as total silver content) it varied a lot with the time and location. English pennies were often pretty good. Where and when is your saga located?

I believe there have been pennies with more silver than that (I seem to recall that Charlemagne's were around 95%), though go much higher and the coin becomes too soft. 92.5% silver was a good standard, and I seem to recall that it was the standard in England in the late 12th century (the Tealby penny).

I may have misunderstood your initial post, but it seems to me you were saying that your Mercere was essentially making "good" coins from a larger number of "bad" coins, keeping the total amount of silver constant. While the "manufacturing" costs may well be minimal (particularly if using magic), the fact remains that you are making 1 "good" penny out of, say, 2 debased pennies. Where do you get the debased pennies from? One of the two can be repaid with the "good" penny, but the other must come from somewhere - that extra penny is essentially the cost of the operation. Are you stealing it? Gaining it by selling merchandise? Etc.

Ah, wait, here it is:

Why would a merchant accept one "good" penny for two "debased" pennies with the same total silver content? He's not gaining anything, and he's probably losing money: after all, he can now only spend one penny where before he could spend two!


Oh - right, there is a drop in number of pennies, but not 2:1. Debased currency generally didn't go that bad, and it would often be rejected if the silver percentage was that low.

Why would a merchant accept one "good" penny for two "debased" pennies with the same total silver content? He's not gaining anything, and he's probably losing money: after all, he can now only spend one penny where before he could spend two!
Silver coins are commodity money, not fiat currency. That good penny is worth more; it will be accepted as hard coin without trouble - a flimsy debased coin, off-center and oblong, three-quarters size from clipping, will not.

Silver coins of the holder of the minting rights in the area are to be accepted on authorized markets at their face value, even if debased at minting. Of course, clipped coins need not. Non-authorized markets are usually strongly, and often violently, discouraged by the holder of the minting rights.
So non-debased, better coins of the same aspect will not buy more on markets. Hence they will either be used there at a loss - or will not be used there at all. This means they will be hoarded, or melted down within or without the country, if recognized by the wealthy able to organize this. This is Gresham’s law, applied to the middle ages.


Any way you look at it, you are still breaking the law and trampling on the rights of another.

"..and thereby bring ruin on my sodales.."
Breaking the law is only important if it brings ruin upon your sodales. If it only brings ruin upon yourself, that's just fine.

I see the first, I don't see the second at all.

The only right the "state" cares about is whether they are the only ones making money on the coinage and that they are seen as the only ones who should.

And in this case, they appear to be the only ones issuing coins - so as far as the public is concerned (and that's really where the "rights" lie, in public perception), what rights have been wronged, again?

If I went to the middle of the desert, and claimed to be Mark Lawford, and had ID to prove it and credit cards to use - I would technically be breaking the law, but by that alone I'd hardly be trampling on any rights.

And if I went to the city with my fake ID and made a deposit in ML's checking account using that ID - again, that's certainly Identity Theft, and I could be found guilty of such, and it would worry people what else I might be able to do with that power - but that act by itself is not exactly "trampling" on any rights, not that anyone would care.

No one is (publicly) claiming or challenging the rights of the other, no one is stealing from the other, no one is acting against the others interests, the "rights" have not been abused (even if they have been "borrowed").

So... nah.

This act would not be seen as a threat or crime any more than the mere awareness of the existence of wizards is seen as a threat and potential crime. Yes, that power can worry some, and ~IF~ someone connected this act with the Order, then that could become awkward - possibly. Potentially, any wizard can cause great harm with their magic - but by any measure, this just ain't that. :wink:

(Note - I acknowledge that there is a legal discomfort created when the acting party puts themself in a position to break the law to the harm of another, even if their every action is to the benefit of that other party. It's the diff between those two that I'm talking about, and that the Order has to live with every day.)