Sickles and Sixpence: Deciding Your Fantasy World’s Currency

I’ve talked once about deciding on your fantasy world’s religion, but there’s another question I’ve been struggling with: money. Moolah. Coinage. Currency, whether it be in bills or beans or other shiny things.

*very* shiny things

There are two facets to fantasy money important to consider in world building — what counts as currency/trade in your fantasy world, and what do you call it?

Obviously, unless your plot deals intimately with the economic structure of your fantasy realm, you’re not going to want to inundate your readers with this kind of detail. Readers want to know about your characters, their troubles and the big ol’ exciting plot, not exchange rates and other economic jargon. 

But, think of Harry Potter. Going to Diagon Alley for the first time and getting money from his Gringotts vault is a threshhold-crossing moment for Harry. He’s brought into this  unfamiliar but amazing magical world, given a purse of gold coins, and told to go buy stuff. We learn so much about wizards in that chapter — we see their cauldron shop, the owl emporium, the shop that sells their custom-tailored Wizarding robes. And legitimizing the whole experience is a brief, comically confusing rundown of Wizard money:


“The gold ones are Galleons. Seventeen silver Sickles to a Galleon and twenty-nine Knuts to a Sickle, it’s easy enough.”
JK Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

And suddenly, as a reader, we’re right there in it. We want a moneybag of tinkling, glittering gold galleons. We want to buy our wand and school books and get fitted for our robes. Even a brief mention establishing your fantasy world’s currency can go a long way to legitimize the world. It’s a little detail, but a fun one, and one you can make as unique or imaginative as you like.

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