How much is a Gold Piece really worth?

  • I have been wondering what a gold piece is worth, due to the fact there are many things that cost the same, but in reality, are probably worth radically different prices, such as a Goat and a Whip, which both cost 1 gp.

    What is a gold piece really supposed to be worth? Like, how would things be priced if they were in familiar modern monetary units instead of "gp"? That would give me something to base my adjustments to abnormal prices on, such as items not listed in the PHB.

    Don't answer in comments. Especially not replicas of existing answers. Thanks.

  • It's nearly impossible to put a modern-world value on 1 GP

    ...because things don't have the same relative values in our world as they do in a typical medieval-style adventuring world that is pre-industrial, but has magic.

    As you've already noted, 1 GP is worth about 1 goat or about 1 whip. It's also good for 2 nights' stay in a modest inn, or 5 gallons of ale. On the other hand, it's only 1/25th of the price of a 1 lb hourglass, 1/50th the cost of a chain shirt, or 1/1000th the price of a spyglass. These aren't items that are all of equivalent values in modern terms, so it doesn't make sense to try to assign a modern value to a gold piece. The gold piece has value exactly in relation to what kinds of items one can purchase with it.

    Today you could get:

    • a goat for about $75 - $300
    • a bull whip for about $30
    • 2 nights stay in a modest inn for about $100 - $150
    • 5 gallons of beer for about $30
    • a 1 lb hourglass for about $30 (so 1/25 of it is just over $1)
    • a combat-grade chain shirt for $500 - $1000 (so 1/50 of it is $10 - $20)
    • a spyglass for about $150 (so 1/1000 of it is 15 cents)

    So, by using modern item values, we might say that 1 GP is worth somewhere between 15 cents and $200 in $US.

    But before you dismiss the prices as being "inconsistent" with modern values, consider your setting. Relative prices are much different now. Many things are much easier to make, and the cost of hand labor is reduced. Other things may be more in demand or uncommonly made now, and cost relatively more. If you want to build a more modern setting for your world, you might as well just use a modern currency.

    Additionally, as other answers have noted, the developers set prices with game balance as a higher priority than the creation of a realistic economy.

    +1 for pointing out that the relative value of *stuff* is different in a world that has had an industrial revolution when compared to one that hasn't but has magic.

    Try having an **artisan hand-make** your spyglass, hourglass and bull whip. And beer, no fair using Bud Lite. Thanks to BDSM you know handcrafted whips are about $100-200. Seems like some of the low outliers are owing to mass production, take those away and it does seem to converge on the $150 ballpark.

    @harper I do see handmade spy glasses on Etsy for under $100 but of course they're probably still using mass produced lenses and other parts. But that was the point of my answer -- Many things are cheaper now due to the ability to mass produce either the item itself or the parts.

    Most of this is an amazing answer (and I upvoted), but I would quibble over 1 point. You said that the "cost of hand labor is reduced", but hand labor at least in the Western world right now is enormously expensive compared to the value of labor in the middle ages. As a related side note, you are using very cheap, mass produced beer in your example. Craft and small-batch beer, which involves more human labor per unit, is far more expensive.

    @TimothyAWiseman The question is almost certainly making the same assumptions; it’s unlikely that the asker is adjusting to exclude mass-produced items, since the heart of the question is their intuition that common things *don’t* cost so much, because it’s missing that historical difference and its relevance. Only accounting for hand-made American labour wouldn’t as accurately target the problem in the question.

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Content dated before 6/26/2020 9:53 AM