Hole in the Sky
Money and Coinage
Keeping things simple, we’re going to use versions of the Roman and Carthaginian coinage of the time in this game.
So here’s the deal, making all the stuff below simple:
Ax or Farthing = copper piece, 40 to the pound, the size of a fat Sacajawea. $1 GURPS.
Zeug = bronze piece, 20 to the pound. 10 farthings, size of a silver dollar. $4 GURPS.
Shekel = silver piece, 60 to the pound = 10 zeugs. About the size of a quarter. $40 GURPS.
Talent = gold piece, 80 to the pound = 10 shekels. About as big as a dime. $400 GURPS.
American coins in Numidia:
A quarter would pass as a shekel, being slightly larger but less pure. Half dollar, and silver dollar as two and four shekel pieces. A dime would pass as a Roman denarius, worth $16 GURPS.
US pennies are bronze, worth about half a farthing, or $0.50 GURPS.
US nickels are white bronze, a rare metal in the ancient age, probably worth more for the metal value than they would be as coins since no one in Ancient Numidia would be likely to know what they are. And nickel is hard to mine with less than TL 5 tools. Canadian nickels are pure nickel, there may be a few in town. Other Canadian coins are the same as their US equivalents.
There may be a few British coins in town, a shilling is almost exactly the same weight, size and purity as a shekel. Like the US quarter, close enough. A British penny is 1/4 of a zeug or $1 GURPS. A British brass threepenny bit is made of zinc brass, an uncommon but not unheard of metal. It would pass as what it was, a quarter of a shilling or shekel: $10 GURPS.
A Mexican ten peso coin was approximately the same as a US silver dollar, $160 GURPS. A Mexican copper 5 centavo, about the same as a farthing, $1 GURPS. Ignore other Mexican coins.
US gold coins from collections would be made of gold somewhat purer than the local standard. A golden $10 US eagle would be half an ounce of almost pure gold worth about 2.5 talents or $1000 GURPS. Double eagles, half eagles, quarter eagles and gold dollars would be multiples or fractions of this. A British gold sovereign is the same size and weight as a US half eagle, more or less. Same for the Mexican gold hundred peso piece.
Paper money, being irreproducible by any technology within reach of the time travelers should probably keep its value inside the colony, figured in silver dollars.
A shekel was about a day’s wage for a semi-skilled workman or a skilled workman who also got room and board, barely enough to live on and support a family. A zeug is the price of a cheap meal or a pint of beer or a cup of wine or a large loaf of bread in the marketplace. A pound of pork would be about a shekel, chicken, mutton or fish would be cheaper and beef would be more expensive. Salt in Numidia would be about a shekel a pound or more, several times that much in Goa.
An untrained male slave sold for as little as 30 shekels, wholesale; a trained male slave for as much as 500 shekels, retail. A slave with a professional talent, such as a scribe, accountant or doctor might be worth twice as much. Female slaves varied a lot in worth, from as little as half as much as a male to ten times as much, depending on age, beauty and training. The price of children also varied by market forces.
A live chicken or a dozen eggs cost a zeug in the market. A sheep or young pig cost 1 shekel, wholesale. An ox or donkey about 10 shekels. A horse, two to fifty times that much depending on training, appearance and temperament. A trained camel, about the price of a similar horse but who cares what a camel looks like? An elephant cost a minimum of a 100 shekels, up to 2000 or more.
A night’s stay in an inn cost a shekel, more or less, with dinner and breakfast perhaps. A private room would cost two to ten times as much but would include wine with meals. Sleeping on the floor in a really cheap tavern might cost only a zeug. Sleeping in the stable would cost the same or a couple hours of work. Space in the stable for an animal with a bag of feed would cost a zeug or two.
Renting a two room apartment would cost about ten shekels a month but would be room enough for a family of six. No cooking indoors allowed and space at a communal hearth to cook would run a shekel a week or so.
Access to fresh water is a farthing per container carried away, the same for a place to dump nightsoil or garbage. Most people don’t pay and just dump the stuff anywhere. In larger towns, “honey wagons” collect “soil” and garbage to carry out of town and be composted in huge smelly pits. When full, the pits are buried and a year or so later are dug out by slaves and sold for fertilizer. This is a civic enterprise and paid for by profits and taxes on households.
Dyers and tanners will buy piss at about a farthing per large container. Some people make a living by maintaining public urinals.Horse and cow manure are collected in wagons for free and sold as fertilizer, a g-dollar for a bushel.
Fuel for heating and cooking is usually charcoal or wood, about half a shekel for as much as one man can carry for charcoal and half that for wood. Lamp oil and candles are expensive
Tolls for roads, bridges and city gates run about a farthing per person or a zeug per conveyance, more or less, up to five or ten times that.
Rich people pay ten times as much for things like living quarters, clothing, food and personal service but space and food for their slaves and animals is usually included in the price.
The basic Roman coins were the assarion or copper piece, the denarius or silver piece and the aureus or gold piece.
The basic Carthaginian coins were the zeugitana, bronze, the shekel, silver and the stater, gold.
Celtic coins were the ax, copper; the face, silver; and the horse, gold.
The assarion was a HUGE copper coin, six to the Roman pound or about 2.25 modern ounces. The usual coin in circulation was a smaller Carthaginian bronze coin, the zeugitana, a little bigger than a modern quarter, about 90 to the modern pound and worth about one fifth as much as the assarion.
The denarius was a small silver coin, about the size of an American nickel but thinner. It had more copper in it than American silver coins. It weighed about 1.5 times as much as an American dime and was worth ten assaria or 50 zeugitana but was a hell of a lot easier to carry. The Carthaginian shekel was almost the same size as an American quarter but was worth the same as the denarius because of an even higher copper content with enough arsenic to make it look silver. About 100 denarii to the modern pound, about
The aureus was about the same size as the denarius but almost twice as heavy, being of gold. It was worth 25 denarii. The Carthaginian stater was smaller, had less gold in it, and was worth ten shekels.
The Romans figured that an ounce of gold was worth a pound (12 ounces) of silver which was worth a talent (66 Roman pounds) of copper. A Roman ounce was about 1.15 modern ounces so a Roman pound was about 14 modern ounces. So a talent was about 56 modern pounds. The Carthaginian figuring was pretty close to the same, though their talent was heavier since copper was cheaper in their trade network.