Renting a Right

What would you expect to pay or charge for the rental of a right? (I know, as little as possible or as much as possible, depending on which end you are at.) As in, for example, renting the right of taxation? Or the right to a mine? Or the rental of a herd and its pasture?

Ten percent of expected production? Ten percent of actual production? Half? A hundred percent and a chicken?

That would depend on sooooo many factors that giving even an approximate answer seems all but impossible.
The two main factors are:
a) How much additional "labour", risk, investement etc. does production entail? Without knowing this, answering your question is like answering ... suppose someone wants to buy one unspecified ingredient for their cake, how much of the total cake cost should that ingredient cost?
b) How knowledgeable are the bargaining parties? Does one hold power over the other? Is one in dire straits, e.g. is the one "selling" in dire need of cash immediately?

I don't grasp the first point. If you rent a right, you are taking all of the production costs on, and the risks, and gaining authority in that matter for the tenancy. If you rent out a right, you are getting the flat rate, with limited risks (the renter may not pay you), and granting most authority to exploit the right.

As for the second point, those are modifiers of bargaining. That's up to the players to hash out. The land owner wants a high rent, the renter wants a low rent.

Example: In this case, Group A has lands with many flowers and honeybees; they know nothing of bees; a local guild wishes to rent the right to exploit the bees; how much would a third party say Group A is due in honey and wax?

Of course, the bargaining will reflect things like a Group A being a monastery or a covenant with a reputation, or a negotiator having the Gift or otherwise being obnoxious, or the land being haunted or faerie-infested, and certainly that the owner has no other ability to exploit the bees, and lots of other factors, but what's the basic cut before these factors?

Yes, but if you are renting a right, then the amount of labor required is still a factor, because it's the amount of labor you're saving the landlord.

I would imagine that power dynamics would dwarf all other concerns. Who has the right, how reluctant are they to give it up, how easy or hard is it to exploit, and how much does the prospective renter want it? I imagine we're talking some sort of a monopoly here. So the question isn't what the right is actually worth. Rather, it's what monopoly rents can the right-holder extract from the renter. And that, to me, seems extremely dependent on the circumstances.

Is this a right that the holder can exercise himself (i.e., could he just take the toll himself)? That would tend to give power to the right holder. He'd probably want almost all of what it's worth, with just a little bit taken off the top. After all, he could just exploit the right himself and gain all the return, less operating costs.

Is it something that it would be very difficult to exploit, e.g., a valuable mine currently being used as home by a basilisk? Then advantage accrues to the renter. This is an enterprise that will lie fallow if the renter doesn't take it on. So, if the right owner wants any return at all, he needs to deal with the renter (or go to significant expense or risk himself).

This is an age where economic theory is not developed, and there are no regulatory agencies. It's all about power and who has it.

Another common situation has to do with farm rights- a lord leases out the rights to manage a village, and the person those rights are leased to rents out rights to grow crops, for example, as well as managing what crops should be grown etc. In these cases a lot depends on the relationship between the rentor and rentee- for example I some cases the rentor may be a hereditary position, but if the rentee doesn't like them then the rates may be much higher than if they are close friends.

What I am saying is this. Suppose that you are a great landowner, blessed with an absence of strife with neighbours, bandits and such. Part of your estate is a parcel of land can produce 100 mythic pounds of "stuff" every year -- mostly agricultural products. You give it to a loyal vassal in exchange for silver/military service/kind etc. How much value (again, whether in pennies or in bushels of rye) should you ask the vassal in exchange for the right to exploit the land? Well, if farming that land effectively involves expenses in the ballpark of 70 mythic pounds -- between seed, food for the peasants, compensation for the blacksmith etc. you are probably going to ask your vassal something like 20 pounds. Maybe 10 if you are really generous, maybe 30 if you are squeezing everything you can from him, but you can't quite ask him more than 30% of the land's income, and even that is pushing it.

Now suppose in your estate, adjacent to the aforementioned parcel of land, is a well-travelled ford. You ask light tolls to folks passing the ford, and these typically total 100 mythic pounds or so every year. The cost of keeping a toll collector there, maybe with a guard or two and a servant, does not exceed 10 pounds per year. If you grant the vassal the right to collect the tolls in your place, how much should you ask him (again, in a combination of silver, military service etc.)? Probably in the ballpark of 60-80 pounds per year. Anything less than 50 pounds would be absurdly generous.

So here we have two (realistic, for the middle ages) examples. Both are low risk, and involve the same balance of power. In one the "right" is worth 10-30% of the gross income of the resource. In the other the "right" is worth maybe 60-80%. Toss in social expectations, reputation, bargaining skill, a difficult position for one the parties involved (e.g. the lord needs the cash now so he can go on a crusade) and ... anything goes. You really could have folks giving away the right for "free" (maybe just a token payment, the main advantage being that the renting party keeps the resource in good condition and recognizes and enforces your ownership of it). And you could have some rare cases where "rights payments" amount to 100% of the gross product (e.g. if the renter does it for the prestige, or wants complete control over access to that resource for strategic reasons). Give us a concrete example, and we can give an estimate, perhaps with recorded precedents. But otherwise...

Much more the former case than the latter - the would-be renter has production costs (harvesting kermes insects for dye). It seems 20% of expected demand is not unreasonable; the would-be renter will start much lower than that, of course.

Now if only I had any idea of the yield for a given area...

As it was highlight, modern economics do not exist yet.

I believe the landlord won't set the rental cost as a % of production since it involves a lot of bookkeeping and require a certain level of education. He will more likely go "I believe if I was doing this job myself, it will bring me 100 pounds a year, thus give me 50 pounds a year and we are set". Add here some negotiations between both sides "But it will cost me 60 pounds to manage this right, I cannot pay you 50. What about 25 ?" And so on and so forth.
So they will set for a fixed amount to be paid in silver, in product or in services (15 men-at-arms, a boat, or 1 master carpenter and 20 serfs to build this bridge).

Then if the rentee is smart/lucky, he can squeeze more money than the landlord expected. Obviously, he does not want to have his taxes "renegotiated" next year, so he will need to hide this extra benefit (how lawful are his servants ? how obvious is it that he found a new vein of first grade iron ore ?).

If the rentor squeezed really hard the rentee, maybe this one as to resort to unpopular decision (jacking up the fees to pass the bridge) or cut some corners (using convincts as cheap labor, working them to death - under the influence of a spirit of greed of course) or even harboring a band of bandits which give a share of their loot in exchange of protection from the law.

Potential for lots of story material.

I'll rent it for half the annual gross, or sell it for seven times the annual gross.

Keep in mind that while not technically part of the setting, rate of return does play a role in what people consider a good deal, even if they don't express it in those terms. If I have to pay one landlord 20 pounds a year and hire men costing 30 pounds a year to gain 150 pounds worth of potatoes, this will not be seen the same as say paying a lord 20 pounds a year and sentries 5 pounds a year to get 125 pounds a year worth of tolls, even though both have a net gain of 100 pounds a year.

Actually, getting a set fraction of the production was a very typical bargain for stuff with highly variable yields - e.g. the right to fish in the lord's pond/stream/lake was often paid with a fraction of the catch. One-fish-in-five (i.e. 20%!) would be pretty normal.

10% is what you'll be paying in tithe to the church on the right. So, I would think that 10% in rent would be "reasonable" and (say) 50-70% would be "unreasonable". Whether the context calls for a reasonable or unreasonable value depends, well, on the context.

Something else to consider is whether it is 10% (or whatever) in actual production or 10% of some nominal production value. If it is actual production the renter will need to be audited periodically (possibly a story opportunity). If 10% of nominal production then the renter will win if he increases actual production (and lose if something reduces actual production).

The tithe paid to the church is (usually) audit based.

This is ultimately two related questions.
First: how much can be gathered?
Second: for how much can it be sold?

Here's some data that some random web surfing found.
It was apparently a "cash crop for the poor" since antiquity, typically gathered by women.
Pliny the Elder reports that peasants in Spain could pay up to half their annual tributes from gathering kermes from the local oaks. Apparently medieval lords also accepted it as rent, and a single woman could gather about 2 pounds (in weight) of the stuff/day. To dye wool, you needed about the same weight in kermes, or maybe a little less. Other sources say that it was not really so valuable for the time and effort required to gather it.

This tells us that its value is sort of ok for the labour invested (at least compared to other returns you could get from oak woods), but just because you spent a small time of the year harvesting it. It probably does not have such a large return per acre as "normal" crops or even pasture land. Since it took maybe 4 acres of "normal" land use to support a peasant (so, to generate 1MP/year), I'd say... 1 Mythic Pound for every 10-80 acres of oak woods? A bit arbitrary, but honestly, variations in price for the stuff can easily be a factor 2, and variations in quantity yielded per acre could easily be a factor 4 depending on the size, sparsity, level of infestation etc. of the oaks. Note that this still allows a covenant located in the middle of a forest to obtain its 100 Mythic Pounds of income from trees within a day's walk, if those trees are predominantly oaks. But either the gathering is done by magic, or it's not going to be the primary support source of the covenant: mundane folks can only work for about a month at it, and it's not so valuable that they can afford to live on it the rest of the year.

Note that in antiquity and medieval times most folks still believed that what you gathered were plant products (of the oaks), with the insects actually "spontaneously generating" from them. So your magi might not gathering animals, but oak berries! Then again, a few people got it "right" (e.g. Pausanias, though he thinks the red comes for the blood of the little beasties).

That's fairly helpful, ezzelino. Thank you!

Does this put the kermes in the vermin category, allowing the use of Rego instead of Creo as per A&A?

The Romans described the kermes as a worm, I seem to recall.

You might also have to consider, just who did collect the kermes before your character rented the right to that. And from where does the workforce for the collection come, after the character rents the rights.
Medieval agricultural economy tends to be localized and centered around the work and needs of the local people. Even small changes here can have big consequences.


Well, yes. That's the plot.

The magi have settled in a place, the rulership of which is unsettled; the local peasants rolled through a while ago, collecting kermes. The magi, who are naive, demand their due; negotiations and letters are exchanged. Soon a merchant agent will arrive soon to investigate the situation; his family has paid rent for this right from the local nobleman and Churchmen.

It is a good idea for me to have a grasp of what they pay/paid for the rent. It's possible the magi will try to outbid; the merchant may offer a nominal rent to the magi just to squelch the issue (a pound of kermes may not be valuable, but crimson dye is expensive); other outcomes are possible. I don't know what the magi will do, but I'd best be prepared with some round figures.

The magi could wind up with several sets of allies, enemies, competitors, friendly rivals, debts, suits, vast profits, Hermetic or civil charges...

They did realize there was an insect associated with kermes (after all, the thingies crawl about), but they did not realize that what one collected from oaks to make the dye was the "worm" itself. Instead they thought it was "the scarlet berry of the holm-oak (Pliny's own words for kermes)" from which the worms "spontaneously" self-generated.