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The earliest form of economic exchange was bartering. Even in the Third Age it remains common, especially in areas which are at some distance from major trading centers. The first step towards a monetary system was the introduction of trading tokens near the beginning of the First Age. Trading tokens, which represented the items being traded, were used as a form of "IOU." A fisherman, for example, might agree to give a farmer fish throughout the year in exchange for a portion of the wheat at harvest time. The farmer would give the fisherman a number of wheat tokens representing the amount to be repaid. In order to keep everyone honest, and to avoid misunderstandings, these tokens were often baked into clay envelopes to seal the deal. The problem with this approach, however, appeared for those who had a number of such deals, since they couldn't tell what was in the envelopes until they were broken open (which was only supposed to be done when they were redeemed). Pressing a number of tokens into the side of the clay envelope while it was wet solved this problem. It was not long before the tokens ceased to be used and tablets of clay were used to record contracts in what was becoming the first written language.

The First Currency

Copper was the first metal to be discovered and used extensively, it was usually fashioned into knives and axe heads. When a process was discovered to melt the copper and pour it into axe-shaped molds, these copper axe heads began to take on the roll of the first true currency because--unlike trading tokens--the axe heads had an innate value and could be traded for many different items. Even when bronze began to replace the softer copper as the metal of choice for axe heads, copper axes continued to be made for the sole purpose of trade. That these axes were intended solely for trade is indicated by the fact that they were never sharpened, and actually grew smaller and thinner to make them easier to trade.

The First Coins

At the same time, other precious metals such as gold, electrum, silver (and in some places iron & tin) began to be used in trade. These metals could take a variety of forms from dust and nuggets to large bars. All were traded by weight so they had to be measured out. To facilitate trade, various merchants and merchant guilds began to fashion pre-measured disks of metal and stamp them with their value. Because some merchants would use false weights or debase the metal by adding in lesser quality metals, the ruling authorities began to restrict the right to issue coinage.

The Coins of Anghar

In the World of Anghar, there are four basic coins: The gold aster, the silver trochee (TROW-kee), the copper aesc and the bronze kerma. Each coin trades at a sixteen to one ratio. Which means 1 coin is worth sixteen of the next lowest denomination. Occasionally coins of 1/2 and 1/4 value of each type are issued, however the primary method of making change is to simply cut the coin. So when a merchant hands you a half-silver, he really hands you half of a silver piece. While some people have been known to "shave" coins (and most merchants are known to reject shaven coins) the smallest regularly traded piece of a coin is 1/8. This is known as a "bit" or a "piece of eight". Each bit is equal to two coins of the next lowest type. To convert large numbers of coins to higher denominations just halve the numbers. For example, if someone had 24 coppers this would convert to 12 silver bits or 6 silver quarters or three half silvers. Thus 24 coppers equal 1 and 1/2 silvers.

How much is it worth?

The most common coin a peasant will ever deal with is the copper aesc, which is approximately equal to 2.50 U$. This gives silver coins a value of 1/8=$5, 1/4=$10, 1/2=$20 and 1 silver=$40 which is probably a little high considering that 1 silver is the traditional wage for a laborer's day of work--so prices may have to be adjusted a bit. One thing to bear in mind is that this is a pre-industrial society, so manufactured goods are rarer and more expensive than today, while peasants (and labor) are plentiful and cheap. In this society, there are no disposable goods and planned obsolescence is unimaginable. It is much better to repair a thing than to buy new. The one exception to the rarity of manufactured goods is in the six cities (particularly Argentium) which are just beginning to enter a magical-industrial age. Land is even cheaper. In fact if you can clear it, farm it, defend it from the dark races and pay your taxes and knight's duties, then it's pretty much free!

How much does that coin weigh?

"Weight is usually stated in gold pieces, 10 gold pieces equalling 1# (pound)." This quote (including the misspelling) is taken from page 102 of Advanced Dungeon & Dragons ® Players Handbook 1st ed. © 1978 by TSR Games.

The author obviously pulled this number out of thin air. He was off by at least a factor of 10. Even a casual researcher would immediately find that coins fashioned from precious metal are generally measured in grains not ounces. In the ancient world, there were six principal weight standard and each standard had a coin called a drachma. These were:


Weight of Drachma in grains













As you can see the lowest weight is 56, the highest is 97 with an average of 75.42. This means the least number of coins per pound would be 72.16 with the highest 125 and an average of 92.81. (A far cry from 10 huh!) As you can see the coins of AD&D are completely unrealistic. In the world of Anghar, to keep things simple, we will simply use 100 coins to the pound or a weight of 70 grains. Slightly below the average, but well within historical parameters.