The currency system in Ankh-Morpork and its wider environs appears to lurch ambiguously between one based on ye olde £sd currency system (as per main article, and as certainly used in Making Money) and the modern British decimal system.
In The Truth, for instance, the pay rate for a labourer at Hobson's Livery Stable is quoted at fifty pence per day. This is terminology and usage out of British decimal currency: it denotes what in the old money would have been called ten shillings. Nobody in the old £sd days would ever have said fifty pence: fifty old pennies would have been 4/-2, four shillings and tuppence, and that's exactly how it would have been phrased in spoken discourse. Out in the country, meanwhile, Death is offered sixpence a day as a farm labourer - evidence of an older system operating in parellel?
In Moving Pictures, the cost of entering the Odium to view a clicks is given at first as five pence, which Dibbler later doubles to ten pence. Again this is decimal usage and terminology for what the old British system would have called one shilling (5p) or two shillings (10p).
So has Ankh-Morpork attempted to decimalise, in which case the Mint would have caught up with it at some point and ceased to make the old coins? Or is this a continuity error?
For what it's worth - A-M seems to work better in the old money, it's more fitting... --AgProv 13:43, 6 October 2007 (CEST)
But AM's currency has always been the "dollar", not the "pound", and I think dollars have always been decimal? The APF quotes Pratchett as saying:
"The dollar is quite an elderly unit of currency, from the German 'thaler', I believe, and the use of the term for the unit of currency isn't restricted to the US. I just needed a nice easy monetary unit and didn't want to opt for the 'gold pieces' cliché. Sure, I live in the UK, but I haven't a clue what the appropriate unit of currency is for a city in a world on the back of a turtle :-)..." so it sounds like Pterry intentionally chose a non-pound unit of currency? Kellyterryjones 20:48, 21 October 2007 (CEST)
Point taken, but a currency, which has previously in the series and in the chronology of Discworld, been decimal (as far as can be ascertained) by the start of Making Money very suddenly - isn't. It's reverted to something akin to what the British had prior to 1971. Refer to the conversation between Moist von Lipwig and the Men of the Sheds right at the start of Making Money, in which the Men itemise every type of coin in circulation. (It's interesting, looking closely at the list of coins in circulation, that they don't seem to make shillings? Nor do they make the decimal equivalent of the old British one and two shilling coins, the five pence and ten pence piece)
In the previous books there are occasional lapses out of decimal back into the terminology of pre-decimal Britain - the Watch gives the "King's Shilling" to new recruits, for instance - but these may be explicable as anachronisms. (Just as older British people might still even now refer to "ten bob" for a 50p piece, or similar).
Although the Watch does so, when swearing in new recruits, with a tangible coin expressly referred to as a shilling, so this coin must have been in existance at some point in the recent past and is perhaps still in circulation in the now?
(We will omit use of the shilling as unit of currency in Borogravia, as this is foreign coinage. and anyway on Roundworld, the Austrian unit of currency is the schilling)
I do understand TP's decision to use the term "dollar" (Latatian solvem, hence $) for the principal unit of currency. Although all the sub-divisions - into pennies and multiples thereof, rather than cents or nickels or dimes - are very resolutely British ones. And archaic British ones, at that...--AgProv 23:33, 21 October 2007 (CEST)
I think, after much reading, thought and headaches derived therefrom, I've worked something out, although not as precisely as I'd have liked.
Ankh-Morpork's basic unit of currency is in fact the dollar.
But its subdivisions, as described in the opening chapters of Making Money, do indeed follow the British pre-decimal scheme with one intriguing exception.
In pre-decimal British coinage, there was no such thing as a two pence coin. This was only introduced in 1971 as part of decimalisation. In that opening discussion between Moist and the Men of the Sheds, we are told that all the pre-decimal British coin types exist in A-M - along with the two pence coin.
This is important, as the two pence coin is superfluous in a coin system based on the number twelve and divisors and multiples thereof. If you have a shilling (12p), a sixpence (6p), a thruppeny bit (3p), and pennies (1p), then any multiple or division you like may be created by permutating these coins. A 2p coin is at most useful, but not really needed that badly.
The 2p coin comes into its own - and is in fact indispensible - in the decimal system, predicated on multiples and divisors of the number ten. (and there aren't many: just two and five. Poor, compared to a twelve-based system).
Is it possible that A-M has, over time, experimented with both systems and a strange hybrid has evolved, where people refer not to multiples of shillings (even though the coin exists and is still occassionally referred to) but to multiples of pennies - thus people talk of an item as costing fifteen pence, thirty-seven pence, et c?
If so, does the certainty still hold that a shilling has twelve pence and a dollar 240?
This has to be the sticking point - exactly how many pennies to a dollar? Is it decimal-based - 100 pennies - or £sd-based - 240 pennies to a dollar?
I'd lean towards this hypothesis:-
Because of the existence of the small coin which make up a shilling according to the divisors of twelve - six, three, two and four - there must still be a presumed need for coinage that breaks a twelve-based unit down into smaller parts. Therefore there must still be a shilling, even if only as a notional coinage item, that has to be broken down into smaller units which are a lot more convenient than a pocketfull of individual pennies. (Why carry three separate penny coins when one thruppeny bit will suffice? Or six seperate pennies when a sixpence is most convenient? Use that sixpence to buy a penny's worth of goods, and the change comes back to you as a thruppeny bit and two pennies.)
The decimal system is a lot less efficient in this regard: the divisors of ten are five and two. (Therefore the tuppence coin, while optional in a twelve-based system, becomes indispensible here)So I would view A-M's money system as an £sd based coinage - if only because the coins are still being made to support £sd - but with a decimal gloss - ie, the shilling has fallen out of usage as an obselescence, and people find it more convenient to add up, subtract, multiply and divide in multiples of pennies. It takes some of the brain-numbing maths out of it. (Any British person over forty-five will tell you about the schoolroom agony of learning to do dreaded Sums in the pre-decimal currency... calculating in pennies only and leaving out the shillings makes the maths so much easier!) Yet the shilling must exist, at least as a default coin: the Men of the Sheds are quite explicit when they tel Moist that the cost of manufacture for every Elim coin is one shilling.
Help, my brain hurts...--AgProv 10:40, 5 November 2007 (CET)
- To make it more difficult: an elim is 1/16th penny. How does that fit in decimal/12-based systems? --Sanity 08:43, 6 November 2007 (CET)
Everything below a penny is the result of division by two, so that you get two halfpennies for a penny, two farthings to a halfpenny, two mites to the farhing and two elims to the mite. This has an oddd logic to it - whole, half, quarter, eigth, sixteenth. And, heh, what illegal commodity is routinely weighed out in these fractions? Clue: it gets you through times of no money...AgProv 11:06, 13 June 2012 (CEST)
A few handwavium explainations occur:
- Given that history has been patched so many times there are in fact both decimal and 12-based systems in use at the same time.
- It's a decimal system, but much like many of my father's generation who experienced the decimalisation of the £, the decimal coins are referred to in their closest 12-based names, ie a 50p piece becomes a shilling IIRC.
- The Silver dollar and gold dollar represent two different coinage systems, one decimal and on 12-based.
- --Megahurts 10:57, 20 October 2010 (CEST)
Then there's the actual metal used. Usually we hear and think of gold-colored A-M dollars, regardless of their actual gold content, but in Wyrd Sisters Verence and the Boggises both carry silver dollars. Perhaps a brief experiment; I don't remember any other mention. This was already 1984 UC by the DWTL. Perhaps like Roundworld two hundred years ago, a mixture of new, old and foreign coins was in circulation. (Americans derived the terms Dixie and two bits from this situation.) Small change at this time was usually unnamed copper "coins" or "pieces". --Old Dickens 16:42, 10 January 2009 (UTC)
- Verence the Fool got those coins from duke Felmet so they must not neccesarily have been minted in AM, but rather at whatever place Felmet was duke of. Iron Hippo 16:25, 23 January 2009 (UTC)
But the thieves had a few of them already, so they weren't unusual. Back to the free exchange of new, old and foreign coins scenario. I lied; that was before the Lancre "timeslip", it was 1969 and possibly before the Patrician promoted the purely symbolic A-M dollar. --Old Dickens 21:15, 23 January 2009 (UTC)
Then there is the situation in I Shall Wear Midnight where Tiffany is at first taken aback by the old Baron's stinginess in offering to pay her only fifteen dollars for all the nursing care she has put in for him. Then he explains, after she has lugged the Castle Treasury from under his bed (where it was safe from the aunts but not from Miss Spruce), that while the face value of the coins is only fifteen dollars, they are pure gold, and a honest coin dealer in Ankh-Morpork would give her five thousand dollars for them... so we have a very old antique system where once upon a time there actually were solid gold coins in circulation (before they were sea-watered down to the current sequin-sized $AM gold-coloured coin. The Baron makes disgusted reference to the seawater-equivalent gold content of the modern dollar, implying that he knows the worth of current money...). And each Very Old Dollar is now worth $AM333.33 - a reflection on how Twoflower caused something of an economic stir when he arrived in the city with a Luggage-ful?
There may be a hint of a resolution of the "decimal versus £sd dollar" problem in the small print of The Truth.
Doubleday hardback, page 39: William de Worde has just casually been informed by the Dwarfs that they've done the cashing-up for the day's sales. As per agreement, the gross total left over has been divided betwen the Dwarfs and William - the assumption is that this is after paying off the Canting Crew for their street sales. (Prior to this, Goodmountain is seen having a row with Foul Ole Ron and Foul Ole Ron over a disputed sixpence)
Sales of eight hundred copies, sold at twenty pence each, at the agreed five pence on each copy, on this basis, have left William with a stated sixteen dollars - which, he notes, take up a surprisingly large and heavy volume in pennies.
800 x 5 gives the total in pennies:- 4,000. How does this break down into whole dollars?
4,000 divided by 240 = 16.66 recurring. 4,000 divided by 100 = 40 exactly.
On the face of it, the £sd dollar wins, giving William the sixteen dollars plus sixty-seven pennies over. But I feel as if I'm not taking everything into consideration here, as if there's something obvious that I haven't spotted. Any takers to look at this with fresh eyes? --AgProv 10:48, 22 January 2009 (UTC)
Sales of 800 copies of the Times at 20 pence each brings a return of 16,000 pennies to Gleam Street.
The agreement with the Canting Crew is that they receive a full dollar for every 30 papers sold.
William's take is 5p on each copy, or 25%. This nets him 4,000 pennies.
The Dwarfs presumably take the rest, as wages, running costs of operating the press, and profit margin for Budonny and Goodmountain.
Now if the Canting Crew receive one dollar for every 30 papers sold, on 800 papers they have sold 26.67 dollars' worth of profit.
- If 240 pennies per dollar, their take is 6408 pennies. B&G therefore take home (16000-4000-6408 = 5592 pennies, or $23.30. (£sd)
- If 100 pennies per dollar, their take is 2667 pennies. B&G therefore take home (16000-4000-2667 = 9333 pennies, or $93.33. (decimal)
Still not conclusive... --AgProv 10:05, 23 January 2009 (UTC)
In this case, a 100-pence dollar sounds more likely. That gives the Dwarfs (who have the investment, pay the rent, buy the paper and ink and pay several Dwarfs) over half the gross. The 240p dollar gives an enormous amount of money to the circulation department.
Before the payout, they discussed the commission for selling the papers.The bargaining went:
1p - 5p
2p - 4p, ok make it $1/30, so it's 3.33p/paper and they're using decimal dollars.--Old Dickens 23:36, 23 January 2009 (UTC)
A subtle lead to Making Money in The Truth
It has just occured to me that one of the issues raised in Making Money is that of the sheer volume of new coins the Men of the Mint have to make in order to replace those which, for one reason or another, are dissappearing from circulation. As a general rule, the smaller the denomination, the more expensive it is to manufacture a coin, often running at several times the face value of that coin.
Having just reviewed the section above on the sheer number of pennies and lower-denomination coins which end up on Gleam Street every night - 16,000 penny coins after a very short period of trading - the thought occurs that this must be one of those unexpected and unpredictable runs on the currency which necessitate the Men of the Sheds having to do a lot of expensive overtime to compensate. Or else, very shortly, the bulk of the city's pennies will be out of circulation and in coffers at the Times. (at least, until the Dwarfs can find time, and a very sturdy well-guarded cart, to get it down to the bank and exchanged into dollars).
Is this sudden penny-shortage part of the extensive imbalance that Moist is sent in to remedy? --AgProv 08:23, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
in Making Money, there's one bit that makes it clear that there are 100 pennies in a $AM. When Moist spends his first new dollar at Boffo's, he buys 35 pence worth of stuff, gives the proprietor a new dollar bill, asks for half a dollar in change, and tells him he's 15 pence ahead. So, half a dollar is 35 p + 15p = 50 p. A whole dollar is thus 100 p. (pages 135 and 136 of the american hardcover) There's no real problem with having all the strange english change: the $AM is a large unit. It's more than a day's pay, for most people. So the vast majority of transactions are going to be for a small fraction of a dollar, so pennies, half-pennies, and farthings are useful. The men of the sheds are still making them, because no one's told them not to. (and, of course, self interest...)
The "King's Shilling"
In Men at Arms, the "King's Shilling" is in fact a dollar, and Colon doesn't know why it's called that [implying that there is no coin in circulation known to the general public by that name, whether for five pence or ten or twelve or any other number].
Also, though much is made of the gold content [or lack thereof] of the AM$, the coins are described as "Silver dollars" in another scene of Men at Arms.
As for the "$sd" theory... what, precisely, is the evidence in Making Money that there are twelve pence per "shilling", or 240 to the dollar? (I'm reading through it now, but the lack of an actual citation to the text in the article is curious) - is it just the use of the term "shilling" itself? Couldn't that refer to 5p or 10p? I'm just now starting MM, but a google books search shows that the word "shilling" appears only once in the book with no reference either to how many pennies are in it, nor how many of it are in a dollar. It seems to me that the only evidence comes from people who are reading the text who are already inclined to believe it is so.
My theory: there are in fact ten pence per shilling, and ten shillings per dollar. This matches up, broadly, with roundworld Australian currency (the dollar having been converted from ten shillings of the old pre-decimal currency), which itself is a rebuttal to the idea that if the currency is decimal than a shilling must be 5p. The only difference being that Ankh-Morpork has more readily kept the old names of things. Remember, the Ankh-Morpork currency is a _dollar_, not a pound. There's no reason to think that - even if there is a coin called a "shilling" - that there are twenty of it per dollar.
More [somewhat conflicting] evidence: In Night Watch, half a dollar is five times 10p, and there is a coin called a sixpence. I think on the balance of all evidence, there are two possibilities: either the dollar is 100 pence from an old pound which was 240 [i.e. 5/12 of a pound], and there are decimal coins down to 10p along with older denominations like 6p before that - or, the dollar underwent the same kind of decimalization as the roundworld pound, and a "sixpence" is in fact 2.5p. And, bringing us back to the section title I posted earlier, NW also has an "old shilling" probably worth half a dollar in silver, which Vimes is sworn in on. All this points to some kind of currency restructuring having gone on in the past [earlier than NW]. Random832 04:14, 23 October 2010 (CEST)
A summary of evidence
Feel free to add to it - some of this is based on this talk page [i haven't read all of the books yet] Random832 22:46, 23 October 2010 (CEST)
|Silver dollars||Wyrd Sisters|
|Dollar as "King's Shilling", Colon unfamiliar with actual shilling||Men at Arms||Dec|
|Silver dollars||Men at Arms|
|Placeholder for summary of evidence [to be written] from The Truth||The Truth|
|Old "shilling" as silver coin no longer in circulation||Night Watch|
|Half Dollar is five times 10p||Night Watch||Dec|
|"Sixpence" as a coin currently in circulation||Night Watch||$sd|
|Silver dollars||A Hat Full of Sky|
|Stamps: ½p, 1p, 5p, 10p, 20p, $1, $5||Going Postal (including illustrations) |
20p per Making Money
|"Goldish" dollar coin||Making Money|
|Coins in circulation are: ¼p, ½p, 1p, 2p, 6p, $½, $||Making Money||$sd|
|An elim costs a "shilling" to make||Making Money|
|The elim is not in common circulation [or Moist would know about it]||Making Money|
|Half dollar, minus 35p, =15p||Making Money||Dec|
|Pure golden dollar||I Shall Wear Midnight, Snuff||Dec or £sd|
I would suggest that we have to assume Ankh-Morpork is as confused as only Ankh-Morpork can be about coinage. Perhaps the various denominations are known in the street for what they will buy, and arithmetic is not generally applied. Think of post-revolutionary America, where existing British, French, Spanish, and local coinage and notes were used alongside Continental dollars where they were available (the Spanish "piece of eight" producing "two bits" and the Louisiana ten-dollar note suggesting the term "Dixie").
Now, are there any suggestions for the monetary units of Pseudopolis, Quirm, Genua, Klatch, Überwald or others? --Old Dickens 03:30, 4 July 2011 (CEST)
I assure you that anyone who dealt with any amount of money in the days of precious metal coins could do the conversions required to take payment in whatever the purchaser was offering, and make change with what was at hand. And the purchaser would know that he was, or wasn't getting, a fair shake. People are canny about the things they care about, and money is something most people care dearly about. The evidence in the later books makes it pretty clear that the AM dollar is decimal, even if there are some strange coins and names. --Dms
- We are assured that Morporkians know the value of money, but the question was whether by arithmetic or recall. The discussion above should show that it's not at all clear whether the dollar is decimal or duodecimal (or both). --Old Dickens 04:43, 10 September 2011 (CEST)