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Money in Middle-earth

Although barter is the primary source of goods exchange in Middle-earth, currency is used as well. Unlike D&D, Gold is rare in Middle-earth. As such, the main standard of value is not the gold piece. Currency has a few sources in Middle-earth. The main and original source of existing currency is the mints in Arnor and Gondor. The currency system used was established by the Dunedain long before other currencies came into use. This currency system was based on the tharni and the castar. The castar was based on a pound of silver and was equal to 1/60 of a pound of silver. Soon the tharni “Quarter” was made and became the base currency in the realms of Gondor and Arnor. Because they could not get enough coins for their own trade, the northmen of rhovanion established their own currency yet retained the value of a tharni in their own silver piece. Although they started by pressing coins by hand, the northmen soon relied on the nearby dwarves to mint the coins for creation and distribution.

Without currency, the weight of the different metals used for coins corresponds to different values, and this is the means that traders use to determine value of currency they are unfamiliar with. Some locations may not accept foreign currency however especially if a currency scale is not present.

Conversion

1 silver penny or 1 tharni are equal to the standard D&D gold coin. Silver Pennies (SP) will be given for prices of goods that are found in treasures, stores etc.

Coins
Name Metal Weight Coins/lb Value in SP
Gondorian/Arnorian Currency
Hundred Piece gold 2/3 oz 24 100
Castar silver 4/15 oz 60 4
Tharni silver 1/15 oz 240 1
Northmen/Shire Currency
Gold Piece gold 1/3 oz 48 50
Silver Pennies Silver 1/15 oz 240 1
Copper Farthing Copper 1/6 oz 96 1/4
Coinage
  • Hundred Piece The hundred piece is the largest denomination of the Arnorian and Gondorian mints. As its name implies, it is equal to 100 Tharni(which are the base currency). The hundred pieces was created as an easy means of carrying large amounts of wealth in a convenient manor. Alghough, because the gold resources available to both of the mints were scarce, the hundred piece did not permeate through society as well as planned. Mostly held in vaults or in a wealthy person’s private dwellings, the hundred pieces are rare in circulation but are gladly accepted when found. Cast of solid gold, the Hundred piece is as thick as a nickel and slightly wider than a quarter.
  • Castar Originally the central currency of the realms of Gondor and Arnor, the castar fell into a secondary roll due to the number of minor transactions that began to require currency instead of barter goods. The castar is cast of pure silver. The castar however is still in production in Gondor and is widely used through the realm of Gondor. Comparing to modern coins, the castar is as thick as a quarter and slightly less wide.
  • Tharni Tharni means “quarter” and was originally created to equal 1/4 of a castar. When more and more tradesmen began desiring a smaller denomination of the standard currency, the tharni began to replace the castar as the main coin of the kingdom of Gondor. this tharni is minted of pure silver and is equal to one 240th of a pound of silver.
  • Gold Piece The gold piece came into the currency of the northmen through the dwarves to the north. The dwarves of the lonely mountain who minted the silver pennies for the men of Rhovanion decided that carrying around and storing large amounts of silver pennies was foolish so they decided to mint a new coin with a higher denomination. Because gold is 10X more valuable per pound than silver, they decided to make a gold coin that would be about the same size but worth 50X more. They were minted to have the same thickness as a silver penny so that stacks of the coins could be easily normalized in storage vaults. These gold coins were minted until the dragon Smaug destroyed the dwarven kingdom under lonely mountain. Smaug desired these gold coins far above the silver pennies and gathered as many of them as he could. Gold pieces can still be found in Middle-earth, but they are a rare find. Compared to todays coins, gold pieces are as thick as dimes, and as wide as nickels.
  • Silver Penny The silver penny is 1/15 oz of pure silver. It is the backbone of the currency system in the shire and rhovanion. When the northmen began desiring their own currency, the silver penny was minted to equal the Tharni of Gondor. Throughout the years it has changed shape slightly but the weight remains the same. The silver pennies are minted with many different designs on them depending on where or when they come from. Silver Pennies are all thin cicrular disks of silver and have roughly the same dimensions throughout Eriador and Rhovanion. Compared to today’s coins, a silver penny has the thickness of a dime but a slightly smaller width.
  • Copper Farthing Originating from the shire, a copper farthing is 1/6 oz of pure copper. The farthing began to be a minted coin when traders in the shire would use the more common “copper penny”(which was really just 2/3 oz of pure copper) and cut it into farthings or quarters for smaller transactions. The farthings spread to Bree and were used by hobbit and men alike to trade. Bree then began minting the copper farthing outright as its own denomination and since it has spread throughout Eriador. Like gold pieces, copper farthings were minted to have the same thickness as a silver penny. Because of this, copper farthings have the same thickness as a dime, and are slightly wider than a nickel.
Raw Metal values

If a scale is not available, raw metals can be traded as currency. Their values are shown below.

Metal Values by pound
Type Value in Silver Pennies
Mithril 24000
Gold 2400
Silver 240
Copper 24

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