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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    HalflingPirate

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    Default What would my bronze age setting use as money?

    I've had a couple ideas, and my friend suggested another.
    So far we've got corn, which pretty much anyone can use. Bronze, which is difficult to obtain, but can be cast into tools and weapons. And iron, which is more difficult to cast, but perhaps easier to obtain. My setting is based in the Caribbean, in the distant future.
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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    EvilClericGuy

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    Default Re: What would my bronze age setting use as money?

    Barter.

    There will be some type of coinage at that tech level. Shells, since it's the Caribbean?

    SJGames produced a supplement for GURPS about low-tech economics. It might be worth a look:
    http://www.warehouse23.com/products/...-and-economics

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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    HalflingPirate

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    Default Re: What would my bronze age setting use as money?

    Seashells, particularly symmetric or rare ones, typically polished and/or marked in some way. Fresh-water mussels found only in a particular river system can form a controlled currency, especially if the 'king' owns the watershed and restricts access to it.

    Abalone and Conch are useful as coinage if expert shell carvers are employed to create coinage.


    Beads which can be strung on hair or on necklaces and bracelets often form currency in low tech cultures. Woven items which incorporate beads can be used for large purchases, while individual beads can be used for minor purchases. Beads may be of baked clay or ceramic, wood, stone, or even gems. Color, size, and auality can affect their value. For example, jade or turquoise might be valuable even in tiny beads, while dyed or painted wooden beads might be prized only by children or the very poor. Men or women might display their wealth by wearing beads.

    Trade tokens such as those stones on Yap can form the basis of wealth, but more often such tokens are transportable. Wooden plaques detailing debts, such as Farmer Joe trading a sow pig in exchange for a promise to pay in wheat might have a stylized pig on one side and a number of wheat sheaves on the other to record the transaction. If a standard price of six sheaves for a piglet becomes common, then a piglet token can be given to a farmer to purchase wheat as a promise to redeem the token for a pig, which can be redeemed from another swineherd who knows he can get six sheaves of wheat from any wheat farmer. Trade tokens can be virtually anything from marked sticks or stones to ivory or gemstones.

    Gold is usually the first metal people use because it can be found in its natural state and worked without need of refinement or smelting. Because of the manpower required to produce it in any quantity, it is typically reserved for the nobility, but gold rings or beads may be used to pay Royal debts, which may then become status symbols and currency.

    Ivory is another valuable item for currency. Animal skins and furs are often used by primitive cultures, with the skins of dangerous predators being premium items.

    Water is life, and for all of humanity, more wars have been fought over water rights than virtually every other cause combined. Hydraulic despotism is so common that almost every culture alive today owes its origins to the control of a river system. Even the Central American cultures were centered on cenotes, or openings into the cave systems in which water flows. Water allottments can be used as currency in many cases, most importantly in arid regions.

    Almost anyghing can be used as currency, but barter will remain a universal norm among humans. One notable culture reverses the profit motive, gaining higher status by giving more than a trader receives in trade, but most seek to maximize their return. In fact, barter will coexist with currency well into the age of industrialization.

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    Firbolg in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: What would my bronze age setting use as money?

    Quote Originally Posted by MonkeySage View Post
    I've had a couple ideas, and my friend suggested another.
    So far we've got corn, which pretty much anyone can use. Bronze, which is difficult to obtain, but can be cast into tools and weapons. And iron, which is more difficult to cast, but perhaps easier to obtain. My setting is based in the Caribbean, in the distant future.
    We know what they actually used IRL: https://www.amazon.com/Debt-Updated-.../dp/1612194192

    Before money was made of coins, it was made of contracts.

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    Ogre in the Playground
     
    WolfInSheepsClothing

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    Default Re: What would my bronze age setting use as money?

    metals were the first form of currency used because they have direct value, they are easy to carry around (up to moderate quantities) and they don't degrade with time. Copper and gold would be prime choices as they are corrosion-resistant, but even an iron ingot will take a long time to oxydize to a significant level.
    In memory of Evisceratus: he dreamed of a better world, but he lacked the class levels to make the dream come true.

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    Halfling in the Playground
     
    WolfInSheepsClothing

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    Default Re: What would my bronze age setting use as money?

    Currency in the Bronze Age doesn’t really fit our modern idea of currency. I don’t fully understand it myself but from my wiki-fu and high school level history knowledge I can tell you that currency and writing formed together, writing being a way to keep track of wealth via wedges on a clay tablet as a sort of receipt. The formation of the wedges indicated the goods and quantities and were used to hash out deals without having to transport your goods until the deal was established which was important due to all the pirates during the Bronze Age. This method contributed to the Bronze Age Collapse btw.

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    Default Re: What would my bronze age setting use as money?

    Why not borrow more heavily from the history of the region? Cacao or carob seeds were used in analogous ways to money. The latter is useful because according to folklore it hardly ever varies in size or weight, and ended up lending it's name to our measurement of gold purity, the karat.
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    Pixie in the Playground
     
    OrcBarbarianGuy

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    Default Re: What would my bronze age setting use as money?

    Livestock. For more advanced cultures, promissory notes redeemable in livestock.

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    Firbolg in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: What would my bronze age setting use as money?

    Quote Originally Posted by Wampyr View Post
    Currency in the Bronze Age doesn’t really fit our modern idea of currency. I don’t fully understand it myself but from my wiki-fu and high school level history knowledge I can tell you that currency and writing formed together, writing being a way to keep track of wealth via wedges on a clay tablet as a sort of receipt. The formation of the wedges indicated the goods and quantities and were used to hash out deals without having to transport your goods until the deal was established which was important due to all the pirates during the Bronze Age. This method contributed to the Bronze Age Collapse btw.
    The clay tablets were debt contracts, issued & managed by the temples.

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    Ogre in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: What would my bronze age setting use as money?

    I guess it depends a lot on what your society is like. The places in the Middle East we think of with the words bronze age were highly regulated societies, planned out to the very seems of what record keeping on clay tablets would allow. They had (at least in some times and places)
    currencies that were anchored to the prize several different products, rather than just one like is the case with the golden standard. What was actually used to represent this value differs from place to place. Using one of the materials the coin is anchored to seems logical, and works if it's a metal. But in other cases shells or even carved stones were used. As long as the cost of obtaining it is as high as or higher than the value it represents the money is safe from counterfeiters (if also kind of inefficient from the viewpoint of a central bank maybe). So shells for instance were used in inland areas, not near the shore.

    The great civilizations of pre-contact South America were also technically bronze age civilizations, and they too were highly advanced in an organizational sense, so I suspect they might have used similar systems. But if we get further from the right places to be in both of these periods we'd probably see more trade in commodities themselves. People who live on livestock trade in livestock. Even today they pretend to tourists that they want to buy their daughter for 4 camels (which is a good price, at the bottom of the wife market you could get one wife for four goats, and one cow for four wives). Those stereotypes come from somewhere. When all you have is a hut you live in and therefore do not want to sell, the clothes you wear and therefor not want to sell, perishable foodstuffs and animals, you trade for animals. Or for the foodstuffs when dealing with small amounts. You buy vegetables for a bowl of milk, new sandals for several bowls over the next few weeks, and a table costs you a whole goat. The nice thing about this system is that you're essentially trading in investments. You don't have any money sitting around doing nothing, as long as you don't pay for something with that cow it's making you milk and more cows.

    It gets a little trickier in societies that rely mostly on plant materials or the hunt. You want to trade in something that at least retains its value. Something like grains or even potatoes might work, it stays edible for a year when stored correctly and you can plant it, in different seasons even, to make your money grow. It's just not as compact as metals, or as self-portable as livestock. So you start to need storage spaces.

    And then there is places that live of the international trade. They can't use money because their far off partners don't recognize its value, and they can't use common commodities because they're not very portable. So they use goods like salt or spices, and also metals and gemstones, maybe booze or tobacco as well, depending on the time and location. Weapons would be a good currency here as well. They have the least standardized currencies, but there are few places where they couldn't pay with any of the common options, because it's stuff any trader can resell to somebody. Just don't use anything that doesn't keep well.

    So if these people are supposed to be disorganized, someone reinvented bronze and some other technologies but people make a living by just claiming land, cutting lumber, hunting, farming and waging some small tribal wars, then commodities of some sort are probably their currency of choice. The more common the better. If this is a more organized society with more trade actual coins made from soft, rare metals are probably the most logical option. If most of the important people are traders, consider salt and spices and such.
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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    HalflingPirate

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    Default Re: What would my bronze age setting use as money?

    Mesoamericans were not bronze age: their technologies were strictly stone age. You can do a lot with rocks and lots of practice, including building great civilizations.

    Throughout the Americas, trade networks wore permanent paths which can still be seen where modern roads were not built on them. Chert, useful for arrow and spear heads, was a currency, as were stone tools. Knappers were the smiths of these societies, and represented division of labor even in social organizations which did not otherwise specialize. Everyone was trained to hunt and farm, but knappers were set apart.

    The various Mesoamerican cultures had an interesting system of taxation which was not unique, but was very common in the Americas. Males between set ages, (teens to around thirty,) were required to spend a month out of a year, (or a season,) working for tbe government. Part of that was military service, but it also involved forming transport companies which moved huge amounts of goods from place to place by loading a bag and carrying it to its destination. There are skeletons with evidence of heavy loading on one side of the body which shows that these cultures used humans as draft animals. In this case, time was literally money.

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    Ogre in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: What would my bronze age setting use as money?

    Quote Originally Posted by brian 333 View Post
    Mesoamericans were not bronze age: their technologies were strictly stone age. You can do a lot with rocks and lots of practice, including building great civilizations.
    They knew how to make and work some softer metals and alloys right? They just didn't use it that much in part because of how developed their non-metal tools and technology were.

    I figured they were worth mentioning when looking for examples of "roughly that tech level" anyway.
    The ultimate OOTS cookie cutter nameless soldier is the hobgoblin.

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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    HalflingPirate

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    Default Re: What would my bronze age setting use as money?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lvl 2 Expert View Post
    They knew how to make and work some softer metals and alloys right? They just didn't use it that much in part because of how developed their non-metal tools and technology were.

    I figured they were worth mentioning when looking for examples of "roughly that tech level" anyway.
    Gold can be found in nature and worked with wood, stone, and animal byproduct tools. Other than that, they had zero metal useage before Columbus, but they were capable of feats of science and engineering that we could not duplicate today. One example is the very accurate Mayan calendar which made European calendars look like crude caveman attempts at timekeeping. The Mayan Codex is an interesting document, but libraries were destroyed by Conquistadors containing knowledge we will never be able to duplicate. And yet, they never made use of the wheel.



    Bronze coinage is not a bad idea, but the coins we've used for many generations are actually a very particular technology. Instead of coins, perhaps arrow heads are used. If they have been in use for many generations perhaps the arrowhead is only suggested by the shape of the coin. Stamped coins require metal or ceramic molds which are harder tban the material of the coin or the mold will deform with every coin struck. More likely is a sand or clay mold with a wood block to stamp the shape of the coin in the mold repeatedly, and furnaces capable of melting copper so the coins can be cast.

    People employed in bronze casting were most often victims of arsenic poisoning, so consider copper mining and smelting as convict labor jobs. Ten years in the mines equals a death sentence even if the foremen are nice guys and the workers are well fed. Bronze smiths in cities and towns would be nutty as fruitcakes by the time they were masters of their crafts due to the accumulation of metals in their bodies.

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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    NinjaGuy

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    Default Re: What would my bronze age setting use as money?

    Large, Immovable, Rare Rocks. This has literally happened.

    Nearly anything of recognized value can be used as money. Grain receipts, for example, were a really early form of paper money in pre-feudal Europe - I deposit my grain in the silo, they give me paper to indicate how much grain I deposited, and I wander into town and trade those grain coupons for goods & services. The limitation with this is that it was tied to a renewable consumable with an expiration date - it could only really have value if you were nearby enough that someone could actually get the grain from the silo.

    The town of Ithica, New York, currently has it's own fiat currency, the "Ithica Hour", which is worth 1 hour of work. Something like that could be implemented anywhere with some way to tell the time. Tangentially related, in parts of the Christian Bible, the denarius is a bronze (and later, silver) coin that is described as a valuing "day's wage for a common laborer", and represented by a stamped piece of metal.

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    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    BardGuy

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    Default Re: What would my bronze age setting use as money?

    Given that this is based in the future you could use relics from the old world. Things that are functionally useless but hard to reproduce. Like say, bottle caps.
    Last edited by Jackalias; 2018-03-25 at 04:22 PM.

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    Ogre in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: What would my bronze age setting use as money?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jackalias View Post
    Given that this is based in the future you could use relics from the old world. Things that are functionally useless but hard to reproduce. Like say, bottle caps.
    Since the setting is the Caribbean this might actually work. There could be an underground layer full of plastic waste. (The plastic would definitely and obviously have started to degrade, but at least it floated well enough to get to land in the first place.) If OP is willing to be a little silly the money could even come from a single industry/a single sunken freight, like these rubber ducks that became improvised tools for tracking ocean currents.
    The ultimate OOTS cookie cutter nameless soldier is the hobgoblin.

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    Default Re: What would my bronze age setting use as money?

    Probably things like gold, silver, and ink marks on paper. Sorry, I know it's boring, but it's probably true.
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    ClericGirl

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    Default Re: What would my bronze age setting use as money?

    Money can be almost anything, but some things serve better as money than other things. At its core, physical money is representative of points in the game of economics, a game which works because everyone in a culture agrees to play it. Essentially, anything that makes a good game piece will make good money. At first you might be inclined to back your game pieces with something actually valuable, like grain stores, to try and convince people that they should bother to play the game in the first place, but once everybody's playing that becomes less important.

    What makes a good game piece? Well, for starters, you want something that people can't just throw in a ton more of, because then you get inflation and that messes up everyone's scores. And you probably want something that isn't easily destroyed, either, because the whole point is the keep track of people's scores. And you want something that people will have a hard time making themselves, because you want people to get more points by playing the game (e.g. cooperating as a society to produce goods and services for each other so that those playing the game might thrive more than a man alone), rather than by manufacturing game pieces. And you probably want something that isn't so valuable that you'd be way better off not using it as money.

    One of the dangers of the game, of course, is that while you generally want the people playing to forget it's a game and that these are just playing pieces with no inherent value, you definitely don't want the people writing the rules to forget that, lest they make poor rules that allow for exploits where you can earn points for things other than the desired behavior (cooperating to produce superior goods and services and quality of life for everyone), or vice versa (good behavior becomes unprofitable). But that's a bit of a tangent, I suppose.

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    Default Re: What would my bronze age setting use as money?

    To summarize Mr./Ms. Savant's very lucid post, money should be made of a maerial and/or in a form that is
    • Rare or difficult to produce, to prevent rampant counterfeitting;
    • Durable; and
    • Not of too great intrinsic vale.

    It also should be
    • Not so rare that there can't be a sufficient supply of it,
    • Portable,
    • Easily recognized as money, and
    • Nontoxic.

    These are the reasons that gold and silver, made into coins with detailed design have been the items of choice for most of history in most places, and are good choices still. Also why, when paper momey is used, it includes features such as special paper, special ink, and very fine, intricate designs meeting the "difficult to produce" clause of the firsr bullet.
    -- Joe
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