One of our questions from the get go was how does money work in a game where the equipment is based on common sense rather than an exhaustive list? Several Events give the character money, two of them give £500 and the Inheritance Event gives £2000, but how much is that? I knew those were decent chunks of money but how much was it back in the 1800’s? I had to do some digging.
Lets Talk Money
I didn’t find a simple answer right away. I did however learn a thing or two about victorian and edwardian british currency. For you brits out there, you’ll have to bear with the rest of us who don’t know what a guinea is.
First of all you have the british pound. At the time a pound was worth about five american dollars. So £2000 was about $10,000.00 US back then (that’s not counting inflation). If you had a one pound coin it was called a sovereign, if you had a paper pound it was called a note.
Most everyday things didn’t cost anywhere near a whole pound back then. The brits did have pennies but one hundred pence didn’t equal a pound, twelve pence equaled one shilling (nickname: A bob). Twenty shillings equaled one pound. That means 240 pence equaled one pound. Shillings were a common coin used to pay for services in those days. Taking a cab, renting a room for the night, etc. would be paid for in bobs.
So what’s a guinea (nickname: yellowboy)? It’s a coin worth one pound and one shilling. Don’t ask me why I really can’t tell you. They seem to be the currency of choice for certain professional services like hiring a lawyer.
There was a wealth of other coins, I don’t know if anyone is going to need them in game. If you’re already an expert on coinage, the added realism could add a lot of flavor. I don’t think I’m going to have my players worry about carrying florins and mites.
I got different answers as to how much £2000 would be worth today but it’s somewhere between £100,000 and £155,000. In US dollars, that’s near a quarter of a million. Some estimates put it at closer to half a million US dollars.
Here are some approximate prices from back then.
Horses ranged from as low as £6 to as high as £200 (or possibly higher?).
A Colt Peacemaker in 1873 cost $17 or £3 8 shillings
Rent might cost a working class family 16 shillings a week.
2 bushels of coal $1.36 or 5 shillings 5 pence
In game, having that amount of money is primarily a way for a player to say “I’ll just buy one at the store.” and not worry about it. £500 is not going to run out in short order if they’re not making huge purchases. That said, what if they want to make big purchases like funding a new invention? I’m working on that. One thought is to have money convert into SP for things like buying vehicles, animals, and buildings or invention funding. I don’t want money to be converted back and fourth too freely though because it would break some systems. Any suggestions?