posted Sunday, April 13th 2008 by
None of the Above
Back in 2006 I asked what a gold piece would be worth in modern currency. Enough has changed in two years (and it seems I made a few miscalculations) that I’ve decided to revisit the topic.
Since 2006, the price of a troy ounce of gold has shot up from US$565 to US$930. Since a troy ounce is actually slightly larger than a regular ounce, a standard pound (sixteen ounces) of gold is worth around US$13,570. With fifty gold pieces in a pound, a gold piece today is worth US$271.41, UKÂ£137.72, or â‚¬172.52 to European gamers.
Of course, this assumes that D&D uses our modern pound weight, which before 1958 varied significantly between different countries. There’s also no guarantee that a “gold coin” will be pure gold. Coins intended for circulation have traditionally been made from gold alloyed with copper or silver for better durability.
This also assumes a modern economy, when the relative values of precious metals, goods and services have changed significantly since mediaeval times. If we take the more historically consistent measurement of a pint of common ale, a single gold piece today is worth somewhere between $80 and $160 US, Â£40-80, or â‚¬50-100.
What can I get for a dollar?
Suppose you discover a portal in your basement and decide to emigrate to the City of Greyhawk. What can you expect to be charged for goods and services?
- Manual labour (per day): $27 (gold standard), $12 (beer standard). Modern day ranges from $46.8 (USA federal minimum) to $87 (UK minimum).
- Mercenary (per day): $81 (gold standard), $36 (beer standard). Plus danger pay. Modern day equivalent is around $219.
- Tent: $2,700 or $1,200. More than a little off-base at ten to thirty times the cost of the modern counterpart.
- Riding horse: $20,250 (gold standard), $9,000 (beer standard). Half as much for a pony, and five times as much for a military grade mount. Surprisingly close to a modern-day motor vehicle.
Things get a little crazy when we move into the “strictly adventurers only” price range:
- Masterwork weapon: $39,600 to $89,100.
- Belt of Strength +4: Doubles the wearer’s physical strength for between Â£1.92 million and $4.32 million
- Warship: $3 million to $6.7 million.
- Ring of Three Wishes: $11.8 million to $26.4 million
Finally, for further comparison, consider what these real-world items would cost a D&D character to buy:
- Nonmasterwork handgun: 7sp – 14 sp, ammunition 1-2cp per ten bullets
- Car: around 75gp to 150gp; fuel costs 1cp/ten miles
- F-15E fighter jet: 222,000 to 500,000 gp, likely out of the price range of a single non-epic character
- Aircraft carrier: 16.7 to 37.5 million gp. Without aircraft.