Creating Fictional Currency

Foundation of currency and its use

Money! My fictional world needs money!

money

No worries. If you’re writing a fictional country, nation, kingdom, or alliance that uses currency, then chances are you’re going to need to make one up. All you or your fictional country need to start a currency are three basic things:

  • A bank of stuff (gold, silver, anything of value to serve as the base)
  • A system that people understand
  • Trust

What bank foundation will make sense for your world? Gold and silver are easy, but there might be other metals or gems within your world that are valuable.

(Now, currencies often start of with backing, but don’t necessarily cling to that forever. A system like the United States’, where currency is backed by a promise, not a stack of gold, is called a fiat currency. A dollar is worth a dollar because that’s what the government tells us. Good news: in a fiat system, you can print money when it’s needed, when the economy tanks. Bad news: if you lose the faith of your people, then the money loses its value entirely. Just ask Zimbabwe.)

Then, do you have independently-named increments (penny, nickle, dime, quarter, dollar)? Or do you have a single unit that people exchange in large amounts ( 円 /yen)?

You’ll also need to name your currency. This can be difficult if you’re trying to go for something new, but there’s a generator for everything these days, isn’t there?

Then, you basically just need to figure out how currency fits into the lives of the people in your world. Consider the following:

  • Do they use coins, bills, or both?
  • How much value does your fictional currency have to the USD/Euro/your real life currency?
  • Does currency reign, or is it balanced with barter?
  • Does the currency come as easily to the poor as it does to the rich? (i.e. do the poor barter instead of use currency because that’s all they can manage?)
  • How does the bank system work? Do people store physical money within a bank? Or do the banks use fractional-reserve banking? Are banks regulated? Or, conversely, are people responsible for storing their own funds (personal vaults, holes in the backyard, what-have-you)?
  • How much does the physical money matter at all? Think about how much “money” is exchanged daily over the internet. The twenty bucks I just spent online came out of my bank account (which is basically imaginary money, right?) and transferred to another seller’s bank account. They might spend it online again, and then that person again…without a single coin or bills touching anyone’s hand.
    In a sci-fi world, or any futuristic setting, holding a coin in one’s hand might mean basically nothing. Units, credits, bitcoins, or something of that sort might have evolved out of a gold- or silver-based system from long ago. That type of system takes a lot of trust, but if you have centuries or more of use under the same treasury, that trust might be inherent.

Multinational currency

How will interacting countries within your world exchange goods? Do they convert their own independent currencies or have they established a single unit for trade?

The Euro is a good example of this. Glance over its history to see how that worked (if you don’t remember living through it).

There are many ways you could go about this, but it basically amounts to the governments of these nations coming to some kind of agreement to implement a new currency for ease of trade. If they are all very close to one another, like Europe’s countries, then it makes sense for day-to-day lives of citizens. Traveling becomes easier without needing to convert money frequently.

You’ll want to consider the relationships between these nations, and how any future disagreements could affect the value and acceptance of the currency. Do individual countries keep their own currency in addition to the international one?

Now, go! And write about all the money we writers don’t have.

empty wallet.gif

Happy writing!

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