Coins and trading system in the empire

Table of Contents

The monetary system used in the empire is very ancient and predates the creation of the empire itself. However, it is a system resting on trust and good relationships between Estates and so it breaks down frequently during social and military troubles.  

History

 
The monetary system currently in use was invented in the Estate of Arianie a few millennia before the creation of the empire. The Arianies had strong trade exchanges with their close neighbours, the Northern Islands, all based on bartering products for other products of equivalent values. To facilitate those exchanges, the Arianies invented a system with coins that have a guaranteed value and cannot be counterfeited with or without magic. This system proved so popular that it slowly spread east, west and south throughout the continent, until each Estate had their own version of the coins.   This works well for intra-Estate trade, but creates new problems for inter-Estate trade. Indeed, each Estate now has to agree upon the value of each other's coins before exchanging them, and to trust that the others both recognise the coin and upheld their worth without devaluating them. This is not without reasons, as a House falling when wrench their Estate from their control often results in the new ruler refusing to recognise old coins and debts owed by the old House.   To avoid this, the imperial government has attempted to promote the use of their own coin system, whose value is guaranteed by the Lord-Consul leading the government. This has had limited success as a reference system, but many Estates dispute the value of their own coins compared to this imperial coin and refuse to recognise its validity.
Map of the Empire of the Covenant
The Empire of the Covenant is a millennia-old federal empire spread over a whole continent and gathering around 600 independent Estates. Those are ruled by powerful mages, lords and ladies who are the Heads of their Houses and who are linked to the ancestral magic of their Lands. Estates are divided by their affilitation with the Light or Dark political factions.   See Geography, Climate and Demography of the Empire and Political Organisation of the Empire.
 
Lady Merisse was not happy when she first examined the finance of her new Estate. Her predecessor had had no idea how to properly run it and it seemed to be very close to financial ruins. And she was just supposed to shoulder all of the consequences now?   She clenched her fists on the wood of her desk and breathed in slowly. She had to think through this. Refusing to acknowledge the debts would greatly destabilise the local economy and make enemies of all of her neighbours...   Well, it was not as if they liked her to begin with.
 

The coins

 
The coin system does not rest on the value of one material, like gold or a gemstone, since their value can vary a lot and is difficult to estimate. Indeed, the value of a material depends on their magical content. To have a coin system, the magic inside each coin of the same value needs to be both identical and impossible to counterfeit.   To solve this problem, coins are minted from a cheap metal with uninteresting magic, and they are then treated with the magic of the ruler of the Estate where they are being made. So long as the magic is intact inside the coin, their value is guaranteed by the ruler of the Estate.   Thus, after being minted, boxes of coins are brought in front of the ruler and placed inside special caskets covered in runes. The ruler needs to touch the casket with both hands and push their magic inside. The runes will then guide it so that it goes inside each coin in a specific amount and in a given pattern. The process takes about one hour for one casket and does not require a lot of focus on the part of the ruler.   The design of each coin varies depending on the ruler's desire. Most have the coat of arms of their Houses minted on the coin rather than a symbol attached to their individual person, as that could create the belief that the coin would become worthless after their death. To indicate differences in value between the coins, different sizes and indents on the side of the coins are used, as well as different metal alloys to give them different colours.
Piles of coins by Angie J on Unsplash
A coin with the coat of arms of House Mérisse by AmélieIS
 
Lady Merisse could not prevent a smile, self-satisfied smile from twisting the corner of her lips when she lifted the coppery coin. She was new to the Orage Mountain region, but the legends around the prickly sparks had really caught her attention and it felt fitting to have the powerful and spiteful insects as her symbol.   With the first coin in hand, she finally felt like she had a proper House. There was no disputing that she was a real lady now. Mistress of all that she surveyed.



If you want to read more about Lady Merisse's story, you can go here:  


Cover image: A coin with the coat of arms of House Mérisse by AmélieIS

Comments

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24 Dec, 2021 17:03

I really appreciate the detail in integrating the magic into the coins. It sounds like an interesting event each time they bring chests of coins.

Eternal Sage AmélieIS
Amélie I. S. Debruyne
26 Dec, 2021 00:07

Thanks :D From the POV of the ruler, it's mostly a very boring task they've got to do once in a while XD

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7 Jan, 2022 17:18

I like the idea of magic being necessary to give the coins value. Does seem a bit complex though if every estate has their own set of different coins with different values, plus an imperial standard floating in the background. The lack of a standard is going to chaotic, but it feels like that was the intention.

Eternal Sage AmélieIS
Amélie I. S. Debruyne
7 Jan, 2022 18:23

Exactly XD The empire is really the size of a whole continent, with each Estate its own country. Even in the real world we all continue to use our own individual money, with the euro being an exception which still has a lot of critics. It's more a case of "why should we give up our very nice coins and take those of our stupid neighbours???" :p I imagine that locally, people agree that the coins from the most powerful Estates are used as an unofficial standard.   Thanks for the comment :D

To see what I am up to:WE list of articles and goals.
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