No matter what version of Dungeons & Dragons you play, you are familiar with coins of one sort or another. But exactly what coins are present in your game, what the conversion rate is between them, and even what they weigh, changes from version to version.

Holmes Edition

I started playing with the Holmes edition of d&d (sometimes referred to as “the blue book”). Each coin weighed one tenth of a pound and had the following conversion rates:

5 Copper Pieces=1 Silver Piece
5 Silver Pieces=1 Electrum Piece
2 Electrum Pieces=1 Gold Piece
5 Gold Pieces=1 Platinum Piece
50 Copper = 10 Silver = 2 Electrum = 1 Gold = 1/5 Platinum

First Edition

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (1e) was very similar. The only difference was that copper and silver pieces were devalued. Each coin continued to weigh one tenth of a pound.

10 Copper Pieces=1 Silver Piece
10 Silver Pieces=1 Electrum Piece
2 Electrum Pieces=1 Gold Piece
5 Gold Pieces=1 Platinum Piece
200 Copper = 20 Silver = 2 Electrum = 1 Gold = 1/5 Platinum

Second Edition

Second edition revalued copper and silver up to about halfway between their Holmes and 1e values. Everything else remained the same. Many people started equating coins to pennies, dimes, fifty-cent pieces, dollars, and five dollar pieces. This comparison existed before but became more prevalent at this point.

10 Copper Pieces=1 Silver Piece
5 Silver Pieces=1 Electrum Piece
2 Electrum Pieces=1 Gold Piece
5 Gold Pieces=1 Platinum Piece
100 Copper = 10 Silver = 2 Electrum = 1 Gold = 1/5 Platinum

Final Edition

Third edition dropped the electrum piece and changed the weight of all the coins to 1/50 of a pound. This system persists through 3.5e and Path Finder. The electrum piece, like it’s fifty-cent piece equivalent, was always an odd coin and not particularly useful. Getting rid of it certainly didn’t hurt anything. Dropping the weight of the coins cut their size considerably, making them much more convenient to deal with.

10 Copper Pieces=1 Silver Piece
10 Silver Pieces=1 Gold Piece
5 Gold Pieces=1 Platinum Piece
100 Copper = 10 Silver = 1 Gold = 1/5 Platinum

That Other Game With the Same Name

My favorite distinction between D&D and 4e is that in D&D characters are people striving to become heroes, while in 4e characters are heroes predestined to become gods. The currency changes went through a drastic change which emphasizes that fact. Platinum pieces are now worth 20 times what they were before. In addition, a new piece of currency was added. The Astral Diamond weighs a tenth of what the other coins weigh and is worth 10,000 gold pieces.

10 Copper Pieces=1 Silver Piece
10 Silver Pieces=1 Gold Piece
100 Gold Pieces=1 Platinum Piece
100 Platinum Pieces=1 Astral Diamond
100 Copper = 10 Silver = 1 Gold = 1/100 Platinum = 1/10,000 Astral Diamond

Greyhawk Currency

In the book “Saga of Old City”, Gary Gygax details the coinage used within his Greyhawk Campaign. He doesn’t state how much each coin weighs, but he covered the conversion rates quite explicitly. Since brass and bronze are very similar metals, and 10 brass bits are worth 1 bronze zee, I assume the bronze coin is therefore larger and heavier. This being the case, I wouldn’t be surprised if all the coins had different weights.

5 Iron Drabs=1 Brass Bit
10 Brass Bits=1 Bronze Zee
5 Bronze Zees=1 Copper Common
4 Copper Commons=1 Silver Noble
5 Silver Nobles=1 Electrum Lucky
10 Electrum Luckies=1 Gold Orb
1 Gold Orb + 1 Electrum Lucky=1 Platinum Plate
50,000 Iron = 10,000 Brass = 1,000 Bronze = 200 Copper = 50 Silver = 10 Electrum = 1 Gold

Obviously, this system is a bit more complicated but it certainly adds a bit of flavor.

Throughout the Gord the Rogue books, and as evidenced by the three coins below copper, it is obvious that the value of these coins is much greater in his economy than in any of the above listed versions of d&d. In his books, a purse with ten gold orbs is quite a treasure, even to fairly high level characters.

Dragon Quest

In another game, SPI’s Dragon Quest (later bought and shelved by TSR), yet another system of coinage is used. The weight of each coin varies from 1-4 ounces (from 16 coins per pound to 4 coins per pound).

4 Copper Farthing (4oz)=1 Silver Penny
12 Silver Pennies (1oz)=1 Gold Shilling
1.5 Gold Shilling (1oz)=1 Platinum Shilling
14 Platinum Shillings (1oz)=1 Truesilver Guinea (2oz)
1,008 Copper = 252 Silver = 21 Gold = 14 Platinum = 1 Truesilver

So What

No real point here. I just thought it might be interesting to compare the different currencies used in different editions and other games.

Well, Maybe a Little Point

All this does beg the question “what if we used something other than coins?”. Actually, I do use other forms of currency in my game. Coins are used by humans and some of the other races that they trade with. But not all races prize coins.

Dwarves, with their love of precious metals, obviously embrace gold and silver coins. They also use other precious metals (among themselves) that they never trade with outsiders. Gnomes, on the other hand, have little interest in precious metals but are extremely interested in gems of all sort. Ogres, ettins, and others of limited intelligence, have trouble grasping anything as esoteric as there being any value tied up in coins. If they trade at all, it is in food, furs, and other items that they can actually use. Orcs, goblins, and other intelligent races, will use coins to trade with humans, food and furs to trade with ogres, but may use something else entirely to trade among themselves.

That being the case, what about ruins of lost civilizations? Those people may well have used something other than coins. If so, then any treasure cache found in such a ruins would contain those items instead of coins. It could be something as mundane as bones or shells. Or it could be something unusual. In the series Babylon 5, there were a race of soul hunters who collected souls within special containers. On Charmed, there were demons who collected and traded powers. A powerful ancient civilization may have scoffed at outsiders and trapped any they encountered within magical devices (such as the item Iron Flask). They could then have used these trapped beings as currency. There are all sorts of alternatives to coins that could lead to some interesting gaming possibilities.