Harnic coins and roleplaying props

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Sageryne
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Harnic coins and roleplaying props

#1 Postby Sageryne » Wed Jan 25, 2006 11:48 pm

Hi all,

I was thinking about coins today. I use Canadian dimes to represent Harnic silver pennies. They make a nice visual representation for players. One of the things that suprised me is how light and compact dimes in bulk actually are. It got me thinking about the weight of "real" Harnic coins.

According to Harnplayer (Harnview page 19), the average Harnic silver penny is about 1 dram. This got me doing a little research into weights and measures.

According to Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pound_%28mass%29

The troy pound is now used only for measurements of precious metals such as gold, silver, and platinum, and sometimes gems such as opals. Most weight measurements of precious metals using pounds and ounces use troy pounds and ounces, even though it is not always explicitly stated that this is the case. Some notable exceptions are Encyclopædia Britannica (a U.S. encyclopedia for about a century now) which uses either avoirdupois pounds or troy ounces, likely never both in the same article (which would make an awkward system with 14 7/12 ounces to a pound).

1 troy pound = 12 troy ounces = 240 pennyweight = 5760 grains.

A pennyweight was literally the weight of a penny, as adopted by King Henry II (1154–1189). This was a sterling silver penny weighing 1/240 of a troy pound (1.55517384 g).


Note that silver, as a precious metal, uses the Troy pound (with 12 oz) rather that the Avoirdupois or international pound with 16 oz.

So, to make things simpler for me, I will use metric grams and then convert back at the end.

4 farthings = 1 silver penny (1d)
12 pennies = 1 shilling (12d)
20 shillings = 1 pound (£1 = 240d)

As a GM, I think the most useful amount of coins to know the weight of would be £1 (240d).

240d x 1.55517384 g = 373.2417216 grams = 0.37kg

1 Avoidupois Pound = 453.59237 grams = 0.45kg

So, £1 (240d) weighs about 0.82 "regular" pounds, or exactly 1.00 troy pounds.

Therefore, a substantial haul of "loot", £10 (2400d), would only weigh about 8.2 "regular" pounds and would easily fit in a small sack. At least £500 (120,000d) of the Earl of Vemion's annual feudal payment must be made in silver. That totals about 410 "regular" pounds of weight and would probably fit in a couple of chests or barrels.

I don't know if anyone else cares about this, but it does challenge my assumption that £1 (240d) was bulky to carry around. In fact my prop bag has over £2 and easily fits into the palm of my hand.

Just a few random thoughts.

TTYL

Kerry Mould
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#2 Postby macgorgor » Thu Jan 26, 2006 12:03 am

It gets even better with gold coins, those £500 would weight less than 25lbs (a small sturdy sack would be enough).
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#3 Postby Balesir » Thu Jan 26, 2006 12:52 am

Hi, Kerry,

More accurately, the Troy weights represent the amount of silver in the pennies. Almost all coins had a bit of some other metal (tin, commonly) added to give some strength. Hence the coin weights in HarnWorld - by which several pounds in coin are still quite surprisingly portable...
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#4 Postby macgorgor » Thu Jan 26, 2006 1:11 am

Balesir wrote:More accurately, the Troy weights represent the amount of silver in the pennies. Almost all coins had a bit of some other metal (tin, commonly) added to give some strength. Hence the coin weights in HarnWorld - by which several pounds in coin are still quite surprisingly portable...


Andy, is this a way to reconcile the 1 dr (avoirdupoids) penny and its 1 pennyweight (Troy) silver content, with the difference being the non-precious metal content?
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#5 Postby George Kelln » Thu Jan 26, 2006 2:04 am

Rather than having a slide rule, abacus, or calculator always on hand, I use the £1 = 1-lb rule, this rule proves very convenient for me as GM and players alike. For example when a PC picks up a sack of coins and asks how much it weighs, opposed to how many coins, I can tell him that the sack of coins weighs about 2-lb. The PC then has the decision, either pour out the coins on the ground and count them, or estimate that there is approximately 500 coins in the sack.

This method still allows for the carrying about in a purse with quite a fair amount of coins in it, giving those sticky finger thieves some incentive to snatch a few purses while wandering about in the market square. It also serves as a benchmark for adventurers when they find a horde of a 1,000,000 pennies hole in some dragon hoard, as it take at least 19 pack mules to haul out this loot alone.
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#6 Postby Sageryne » Thu Jan 26, 2006 2:15 am

Hi Andy,

Balesir wrote:More accurately, the Troy weights represent the amount of silver in the pennies. Almost all coins had a bit of some other metal (tin, commonly) added to give some strength. Hence the coin weights in HarnWorld - by which several pounds in coin are still quite surprisingly portable...


Yep, I have no problem with this. I am a realist, so a few grains +/- don't worry me much. My understanding is that in the Middle Ages, people rarely paid large amounts with NUMBERS of coins (i.e. 240d), but rather with a specific WEIGHT of silver. This neatly avoided the problem of coin clipping, but also explains the aversion to Rethemi coins which are often heavily debased with lesser metals.

One of the interesting suggestions I came across while researching this issue was Gresham's Law

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gresham's_Law

Circulating unmilled British sterling silver coins were known to be shaved to almost half of their minted weight. This form of debasement in Tudor England led to the formulation of Gresham's Law. The monarch would have to periodically recall, paying only bullion value of the silver, and re-mint circulating coins.


Now, this "recall" was much later than Harnic times, but it does reflect that debasement and shaving were cronic problems that would not go away.

I wonder if King Miginath has his feudal payments melted down, purified, a fixed amount of "hardening metals" re-introduced and then new coins struck before spending them, as a way of keeping the purity (and thus the value) of Kaldoric coins high. It would certainly keep his Royal Mint busy.

Just another little thought that was generated by the loving detail that keeps me enamoured of Harn.

:D

TTYL

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#7 Postby Brandybuck » Thu Jan 26, 2006 6:35 am

Sageryne wrote:One of the interesting suggestions I came across while researching this issue was Gresham's Law

Gresham's Law is an economic principle which states "bad money drives out good." In essence, debased coinage will cause good coinage to be horded and not spent. That's only in the presence of legal tender laws, where people are required to accept the bad coinage at face value.

I can't think of any Harnic kingdom that has two coinage standards. Rethemi coinage isn't legal tender in Tharda, or it would have driven out the native Thardic coinage. On the other hand, I can easily see Thardic and Kandayan coinage pushing out Rethemi currency, a reverse of Gresham's Law.

p.s. The exception to two coinages is Azadmere, but they're not the type of folks who would debase their coinage.
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#8 Postby john » Thu Jan 26, 2006 6:59 am

I don't think you can cound on the mass of a "hardening metal" to sugnificantly increase the weight of a silver penny.The other metal would have to be denser than silver, which is pretty dense. For example, silver at 10.5 g/cc is almost half again denser than tin (at 7.3 g/cc).
And I don't think you would use lead as a hardening metal, nor would gold be a good choice!
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#9 Postby macgorgor » Thu Jan 26, 2006 7:44 am

Brandybuck wrote:I can't think of any Harnic kingdom that has two coinage standards. Rethemi coinage isn't legal tender in Tharda, or it would have driven out the native Thardic coinage.

IMG I differentiate between Shostimi and Golothan pence quality-wise. Coins struck in Golotha and at Shostim are respectively termed black and white pennies, and ordinary people rarely see or handle something else than the black ones (or golothan bronze farthings, but that is another matter entirely)

On the other hand, I can easily see Thardic and Kandayan coinage pushing out Rethemi currency, a reverse of Gresham's Law.


Mmh, on the contrary, mercantylers/usurers in Rethem tend to hoard foreign coinage, I think that's even canon. This would imply that they might use it as legal tender, perhaps within the confines of the Mangai.

The exception to two coinages is Azadmere, but they're not the type of folks who would debase their coinage


A good reason why adventurers often happen upon heaps of Khuzan silver pennies. People have to hoard them there first.
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#10 Postby redenton » Thu Jan 26, 2006 8:06 am

Brandybuck wrote:
Sageryne wrote:One of the interesting suggestions I came across while researching this issue was Gresham's Law

Gresham's Law is an economic principle which states "bad money drives out good." In essence, debased coinage will cause good coinage to be horded and not spent. That's only in the presence of legal tender laws, where people are required to accept the bad coinage at face value.

I can't think of any Harnic kingdom that has two coinage standards. Rethemi coinage isn't legal tender in Tharda, or it would have driven out the native Thardic coinage. On the other hand, I can easily see Thardic and Kandayan coinage pushing out Rethemi currency, a reverse of Gresham's Law.

p.s. The exception to two coinages is Azadmere, but they're not the type of folks who would debase their coinage.


If you have a kingdom like medieval England that has a strong central government has controls in place to offset the trend. It is true that bullion in the form of coins or ingots flowed in the direction based on prices. However, the English would gather up these debased coins and restrike them at the prescribed standards of the Royal mints. This is one reason English coinage remained so strong throughout the medieval period while other regions kept debasing their coinage.
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#11 Postby Brénan-al-Saél » Thu Jan 26, 2006 9:39 am

This is a little off topic ... but I wonder if anyone has thought about asking these guys to do some Harnic coins ... http://www.shirepost.com/

Their Middle-earth coins look very nice, but sadly I don't have the resources right now to buy any.

Cheers,
Brian

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#12 Postby Dogberry » Thu Jan 26, 2006 2:12 pm

As far as I can see in HW, there is no troy pound, and even the standard pound is supposed to be 0.5kg, or 500g, so that 1 dram = 1.95g, or 240p=468g, or a little less than one pound. Allow 32g for a small purse, I allow my PCs to carry a purse weighing one pound, containing 240p.
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#13 Postby Rothesay » Thu Jan 26, 2006 3:08 pm

I have two medieval silver pennies. One is from the reign of Edward III and the other is from the reign of Henry V. Alas, I lack the means to weigh them properly, but I can say that each of them is relatively light. By no means do they weigh the same as a modern dime either Canadian or US. Indeed, I would say that at most they weigh half of said weight, but I have no present means of proving that beyond comparing the medieval with the modern coins.

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#14 Postby Sageryne » Thu Jan 26, 2006 9:51 pm

Hi,

I don't worry about the exact weight of a Harnic penny. I use dimes as roleplaying props, nothing more.

Personally, I like George's solution:

George Kelln wrote:Rather than having a slide rule, abacus, or calculator always on hand, I use the £1 = 1-lb rule, this rule proves very convenient for me as GM and players alike. For example when a PC picks up a sack of coins and asks how much it weighs, opposed to how many coins, I can tell him that the sack of coins weighs about 2-lb. The PC then has the decision, either pour out the coins on the ground and count them, or estimate that there is approximately 500 coins in the sack.


That gets rid of a ton (pun intended) of calculations. A large amount (like the Earl of Vemion's annual feudal payment of £500) is easy to figure out, £1 = 1 lbs, thus £500 = 500 lbs, requiring at least a couple of sturdy chests.

I like simplicity.

TTYL

Kerry Mould
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