Question about Money, Gold and Currency !

Hi guys,

A bit of a complicated question here : we just looted multiple chest for 1,2m^3 of gold coin.
Our problem is this : How many (in average) gold coin -and only gold coin- can we found in that volume, and how many Mythic Pounds is this ?
I have trouble converting real currency in mythic money. The real pound is really not always the same currency. Sometimes gold, sometimes silver. Never the same ratio of gold in one pounds from X and one from Y... How to average all that ?

Cheers !

Depends on the coin, they come in all sizes- modern coins are typically one ounce, but a solidus was 4.5 grams, a gold dracham was 4.3 grams, and a shekel was 11 grams. the density of gold is 19.3 grams/cubic centimeter, or 19,300,000 grams per cubic meter, or 19,300 kg per cubic meter- or 9.65 metric tons, which is 10.651 tons imperial- though the next question is how tightly are the coins packed in- depending on how much empty space there is- I would guestimate it could range from 1% empty space to 20% empty space. The value ratio of gold to silver varied over Europe from 8:1 to 20:1 with 12:1 being fairly typical, so all thing considered you are looking at a potential range of values from 127,380 mythic pounds on the low end to 420,354 mythic pounds on the high end- I would probably put it at 229,284 mythic pounds if it were my call (90% solid at 12:1 trade ratio), although the introduction of that much gold into the economy will probably drive the value down, so maybe 152,856 mythic pounds (90% solid, trading 8:1) per cubic meter (so multiply the above values by 1.2)

Thanks for the answer.

We already accounted for the empty space in our 1.2m^3.
I agree with the 1:12 typical, it echoes with what i read and the few memories of an old college course on the subject.

On the calcul itself :
Gold is 19 300kg per cubic meter
Silver is 10 430kg per cubic meter
We know that we have 1/12 gold and 11/12 silver.
For 1,2m^3 of coin.
We have
0.1m^3 of Gold (1930kg of gold)
1.1m^3 of Silver (11473kg of silver)
Money can be disjointed from its value (our SG told us that these money are from all around Europe and Medit....), but let's assume for the sake of the solvability that the value is that of the materials : What is the weight our virtual average pound ? I tried to find the weight of a Pound Parisis or from Tours (since we play in France), but to no avail.
Then I cannot infer how many coins there is in the chest.

So, how do you find your transition to mythic pounds ?

The Anglo-Saxon pound, just as the Roman pound, was about 1/3 Kg. Now, the "mythic pound" is very loosely this weight of silver. Nothing more precise can be said without knowing more about where and when your saga is located; ultimately, the idea behind the mythic pound was to "abstract" purchasing power away from actual weights and exchange rates.

So, at 1kg of silver = 3 mythic pounds, and 1kg of gold = 36 mythic pounds ... your treasure would be worth very very roughly a hundred thousand mythic pounds, two thirds in gold and one third in silver. As you see, it's enough to support a covenant lavishly for many decades at the very minimum; the catch is how to spend it without "trouble". It's quite literally a king's ransom: 150 thousand marks, which is about 100 thousand mythic pounds, is the the ransom that Henry IV asked for Richard's the Lionheart's release, and over twice the yearly income of the English Crown at the time.

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Our Saga is now in 1277 in Nothern France. I think a pound is less than 300g in these parts, since it is roughly 81g of silver for the Pound and 4.4g of gold for the Ecu (worth 3 pounds I think, illustrating that money is deconnected from his nominal value).
The Mythic pound is actually many pounds in a lot of country, if based on the Anglo-saxon one.

Yes, of course. But our SG only gives us the dimensions of the coffer : It was designed to give us "as many money as you can dream", basically. But we thought it was a fun challenge to guess how many Mythic Pound it is actually. And since we try to use historical data when we found it, to know if the coffer was actually a big city annual GDP, or a realm one.

And it can be useful in our Saga, since we may need to wage mundane war, maybe by a proxy (French Crown is our foe, HRE is trying to catch one of us, and one zealous magus want to help the Teutonics to battle against the mongols and pagans...).

I am curious of your source : I searched for the income of many crowns in the XIIIe without finding many things !

First a little bit of history: 1277 the main gold coin in commercial use is the Florentine florin.

It is 3.5368 grams of rather pure gold, and its weight was chosen 1252 to correspond to a full lira in silver, 'a pound of silver' as handled by Florentine merchants at the time. This should also be a Covenants p.56 box Mythic Pound in 1277. The real weight of the debased silver coins needed to make up 'a pound of silver' in 1277 Europe varied a lot, and we better keep our minds off it.

So your 1.14 cubic meter of solid, reasonably pure gold weighs in at 22 018 kg, that is 6 225 521 florins, and thus the same amount of Mythic Pounds. You're crazy rich, and - provided that your autocrat is really, really honest - can just do away with most of the accounting for Mythic Pounds in your saga.

In a way you guys have become so rich that you have transcended money. It is fun excercise to calculate the theoretical value of the money you found.

But the best answer as to how much money you have found is that the question does not have an answer. Once you have that much money it no longer matters exactly how much money that you have, only that other people know that you have virtually unlimited funds. With this money you are probably in league with the Knights Templar and the later banking families like the Medici's. You are rich enough that you have ascended into a market of things that are not normally saleable, including as you mention yourself, armies, crowns, palaces, popes, sainthoods, priceless artefacts... you name it. But the catch is no-one is going to buy any of these things by showing up with a load of cash and dumping it in the lap of a seller. Your money in sense is so big that the only limit to it is your ability to convince others that you have the money. Which leads on to a second point, so long as no-one knows you have this money it is worth exactly one thing: Freedom from accounting. If you do put yourself in a Norway style of situation and abstain from spending the money in order to avoid crashing the regional economy then you have just gained freedom from accounting forever but you also cannot use the money for anything but living your normal lives, albeit perhaps slightly more lavishly than before.

I would suggest that you read up on Mansa Musa for a good example of what happens in real history when a dude shows up out of nowhere with unlimited gold and goes to town.

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Just a note on the maths, even the most efficient cylindrical packing isn't going to get the wasted space below 20% or so.

Yep. And IIRC we have coins of various sizes and weights in the mix.

So I assumed a third of wasted space in that box of 1.2 m x 1.2 m x 1.2 m: though this is pretty irrelevant, given the sheer amount of gold coins.

As I said, we already accounted wasted space in our 1,2m^3 : the coffer is actually 20% bigger.

Our SG said it was all gold coin, but not necessarily pure gold coin. Correct me if I am wrong, but a gold coin can be an alloy, and the purity is rarely 100%, that is why in all our coin, I guessed 1:12 gold to silver ratio.
but of course if this is all pure gold... it is way, way more.

In Europe during the 13th century there are very few types of gold coins in larger circulation.
The best known are:

  • the Byzantine hyperpyron (20.5 carats),
  • the Sicilian Imperial augustalis (20.5 carats),
  • the Florentine florin I already mentioned (pretty pure gold, near 24 carats),
  • the Venetian ducat (pretty pure gold, near 24 carats).

In 1277, hyperpyra or augustales are very rare, if present at all, in Northern France. The gold coin used for trading is the florin. The Venetian ducat is not yet minted.

One older relevant gold coin, the Byzantine solidus, got debased between 1030 and 1080, and then disappeared. So there may have been a short time before 1080, where it was 1:12 gold to silver and/or copper.

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We looted chests belonging to a rogue alliance of 40 magus of all Europe, so any money, even old money, could be in the chest, but, yeah, our SG is not really well versed in historical details of that sorts. I found it hard to believe that one could amass all this gold and only gold in a time were gold coin just reappeared,... it just looked like "Gold is better than silver, so they find gold coins !".

I wonder if 6 500 000 florins were in circulation at all at this time ?

The other solution is that the rogue magus created gold coin for their schemes with a ritual, each of them creating his own gold coin, thus amassing a fortune...

Much as I'd love to have historical coins, this would be my preferred scenario. It's an extra strike against them, the coins could well be pure gold (pure enough to arouse suspicion...), and no-one would have to worry about how someone had collected 6.5 million golden coins, be they roman antiques or more modern florins.

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If you consider, that the ransom requested by the Ayyubids for king Louis IX of France was 'only' 400 000 hyperpyra (about 372 000 florin), 6 500 000 florins are pretty unlikely to ever have been together in a single place in Europe.

This leaves your storyguide also another option still:
Gold coins like the Hyperpyron and the Augustalis served to spread and enhance the reputation and credit of the emperors who had them minted, while florins and ducats served for far reaching trade transactions. These coins had hence to be good, or their patrons would suffer soon by loss of credit.
Counterfeiting 'rogue' magi, however, do not care about this, and can freely mix copper - lots of copper - under their gold coins: and so your SG can reduce the value of these coins to near zero, if he cares.

for my calculation I assume that one mythic pound=one pound of silver. Adjustments for convenience and reliable purity (i.e. brand recognition of coins) tended to be pretty small in the 12th and thirteenth century, and a constant as conversion makes no sense to me (every pound of silver is worth 1.2 pounds of silver?), if you simply assume that a pound is a minted pound not a mined or refined pound.

Another point is that gold coins weren't used much in Western Europe, it was too poor. Spending the money in France, Spain, Germany, Scandinavia or England will be very difficult.

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Take a look at the tatters of the Carolingian silver coinage system (the one with 1 pound = 240 pennies) in Italy around 1200 here.

It was still used for all local trade, but was a mess: before 1180, 240 Veronese silver pennies together held less than 30 grams of pure silver. And Frederick II hadn't yet begun to debase Italian local silver currency further.

Covenants p.56 box Mythic Pounds in the 13th century will have to align to these local uses of money, or they do not make much sense in 1220. Players better keep their minds away from the Mythic Pound's relation to medieval reality: 13th century money issues are hard to define, difficult to research and make sense of due to sporadic evidence available, and no fun.

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It is fun enought for me wanting to learn more by asking the question (here first, maybe find a book later if time permit) :wink:
In fact, it is one of the subject which interest me the most in medieval history : radical change from our own vision of life and society, especially in those "small" thing like money...

Another "no fun" example of this is the concept of property :
One man owns the land, another owns the usage, another actually uses the land. But ten different man can owns the usage of the land from each other, only one truly using it, paying, in cascade, the other 9.
Owning the land is not necessarily choosing who gets to live and use it.
All the economy is based on "annuity" (mostly based on the rent gained from the land), since credit cannot be used. Since medieval paradigm truly believe in the End of Times, these annuity are perpetual, can be rediscovered, given, fractionned, forgotten...
Imagine just an economy were, when you die, you give 1£ of rent to the Church -in exchange, the Church will say your name in a mass every year until the end of time-, set on the rent your families get from the renting of a house you own. Your son give the same thing to the Church for the same benefit and based on the same house. your grandson does the same...
The guy living in the house you lend give each year 3x1£ to the churchmen, and need to give you a rent also. He cannot pay, so he left. Your family now have to pay the 3x1£ of the house to the Church, or get rid of the house. But you can very well imagine 10 guys between your family and the guy who left, each giving money every-year to the guy up in the order, each not wanting to pay and then leaving their right on the house.
That is a way of making debt or surproduction vanish : everyone just stop using something until one came.
All this economy, based on the absence of virtual debt and the idea that the time is finite is the contrary of our capitalist modern economy : virtually infinite debt allowing the production for an infinite time in an unclosed environment.

So, yeah, medieval paradigm regarding everyday economy IS fun, and it can be useful and fun also in a roleplaying game where you try to think with the eyes of someone else, someone who doesnt know what consumption is, what virtual debt is... someone who barely know that money is.
Some anthropologist present money (as universal currency) as a mean to destroy social ties : when you can exactly pay back someone, you can cut all social ties with him. 95% of medieval peoples were not using money (or only for a fraction of exchange), so the community, who did what for whom and when, was especially important for the social contract binding all people together. That is why travelling people (without ties to the community) were despised, and why banishment was such a harsh punishment we could not understand now...

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If you wish to go beyond wikipedia about the Florentine bimetallic standard from 1252 going into the definition of the florin and its assumed corresponding value in silver, see Money and Banking in Medieval and Renaissance Venice: Volume I: Coins and Moneys of Account. Florence had already in 1272 three names in accounts for 'groat of silver', namely the "soldo di piccioli" from 12 customarily debased silver pennies, the "soldo a fiorini" as a better Florentine silver grosso, and the "soldo a oro", 1/20th of the gold coin proper.
You can order the book to check here.

If we now look at the Covenants p.56 box Mythic Pound, for 1277 you can decide, whether that is:

  • a 'lira a oro' - that is a gold florin, worth now 29 Florentine silver grossi,
  • a 'lira a fiorini' - that is 20 good Florentine silver grossi,
  • or a 'lira di piccioli' - that is, 240 debased Florentine silver pennies.
    But it can't be all three of them, as their value already in 1277 was different.

So better keep your hands off the job to define a 'Mythic Pound': the Florentine tried with their gold florin, and after just 20 years had to abandon their bimetallic currency again.

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part of the issue is that new silver mines were discovered/developed around the turn of the 12th century into the 13th, which led to an inflation of silver, and gold became more valuable by comparison, not that anybody at he time thought in those terms, but this meant that the relative value of silver and gold changed depending not just on when but where- the fact that various countries were trying to standardize currency on a bimetallic standard meant that valuations of the same coins varied from place to place, and drove a lot of trade that might otherwise not have happened... because X of one coin in one place was worth N of another coin somewhere else and Y of a third coin still elsewhere and the cost of merchandise was evaluated by the coin it was being priced in, rather than there being a direct exchange of currency.

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