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Practical Currency

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I read it in a comic. It must be true.

"...Do they not see that only Dust can give them what they want? For it is money and power and magic all intertwined in one miraculous substance! It is the essence that binds our civilizations together."
Ahsun ar-Delgùr, Endless Legend

Normally, your money is not inherently useful. Sure, you can melt down coins and make them into some sort of art project, or you can try to use your paper money to start a fire, but for the most part, money only has value because people agree that it does. The moment people lose faith in it, money will be worth nothing. (The proper term for this is fiat money.)

Not so with Practical Currency. You can actually use it for something. Maybe it's some kind of food, medicine, or weaponry. It's not too different from a barter economy — it's still goods in exchange for goods and services — but unlike barter, it also serves as a universal medium of exchange (people who don't need the item itself will still accept it because they can trade it for something else) and a universal measure of an item's value.

In the real world, there is commodity money. Not all commodity money is practical currency, however: gold, for example, until very recent times had very few not entirely decorative uses — mostly, tableware — but made good commodity money because it is pretty easy to tell what it is (to the uninitiated, silver, aluminum, and steel all look similar at first glance), rare (but not too rare, or else not enough people would have it to make many trades with), divisible (hard to make change with one cow), does not corrode, and had a generally-stable global supply (the last two combine to make it a relatively stable source to put your money in — see the Real Life entry on rice for what happens when it isn't).

As a general rule, items favored for Practical Currency — and commodity money in a general sense — tend to be small, to make it easier to carry large numbers around; non-decaying, so that your savings won't rot away in your wallet; and fungible, meaning that any one item is functionally interchangeable with any other. They also tend to be common enough that a meaningful amount can in circulation at any one time but not so common that hoarding huge quantities is trivial; generally, the most common kinds tend to have a more or less fixed source of supply or to require some working to produce. As such, small manufactured items, such as cigarettes, fishhooks, bullets or medicine, are very common options for this kind of currency.

Weird Currency is a Super-Trope; Energy Economy is a Sub-Trope. See also Gold–Silver–Copper Standard. This is often used as a way to justify Cast from Money, Money Spider, and the Money Is Experience Points trope.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • AKIRA: After Akira's destruction of Neo-Tokyo, many of the survivors have opted to use things like pills or solar cells as currency instead of Yen.
  • Den-noh Coil: The metabugs. Useful for making programs to muck around in cyberspace, and as such to playful kids they're quite the commodity.
  • Silver Spoon: In one scene, a group of upperclassmen shows up at Class 1-D wanting to have some of the bacon that Hachiken made. Since none of them have any money, they ask if it's okay if they exchange the farm products they made, such as jam, a basket of vegetables, and a large bag of rice, for a package of Hachiken's bacon. Hachiken accepts the bartering.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman: No Man's Land: Gotham City is cut off from the rest of the country and thus has no currency, with everyone using a barter system. Bullets are particularly prized; one man is mugged by a guy with a gun, and realizes he is in no danger. If the mugger actually had a bullet in that gun, the bullet would be worth a lot more than the paltry supplies he hopes to steal.
  • Bone: Residents of the valley use things like eggs and livestock as currency. Phoney finds this out when he tries to spend Boneville dollars at Lucius's bar, and ends up having to Work Off the Debt.
  • Hex, the post-apocalyptic re-skin of Jonah Hex, has a standard currency are Soames: pills used to decontaminate radioactive water.

    Fan Works 
  • Dungeon Keeper Ami: All currency is this to Dungeon Keepers, because their Dungeon Hearts allow them to turn items made of gems and/or gold into magical energy.
  • I Woke Up As a Dungeon, Now What?: In addition to all the reasons gold is used as currency in Real Life, gold coins must be sacrificed to the planet to perform ritual magic.
  • Rocketship Voyager: When Voyager ends up on the far side of the galaxy, they purchase some local currency by exchanging Federation standard bars of lead-pressed uranium. Earlier it's noted that renegade officer Chakotay has a hefty Price on Their Head in radioactive metal.
  • A Thing of Vikings: Dragonscale currency. Can be used for decoration, industry or even insulation, and, per Gresham's Law, gold and silver coins are rapidly disappearing from circulation—not that there was that much of it beforehand. Some of the chapter epigraphs note that dragonscale currency helped destroy European feudalism, by allowing for more money in circulation.
  • Triptych Continuum: The sols and lunes, Equestria's original currency. While the coins themselves are made of gold and silver, that wasn't the original source of their value. Their value derived from the inscription on the edge: "Good for nearly all Princess Labor, Public and Private". Any pony could, if they desired, walk up to the palace and trade an appropriate number of these coins in to get the Princesses to perform any of a wide number of tasks for them. The coins had value even outside of Equestria, because they could be spent to pay for the raising of Sun and Moon.
  • The Universiad: The Forum's standard internal currency is bullets.

    Film - Live-Action 
  • Casino Royale (1967). Played for laughs during the auction scene, where the bidders start off with currency from their respective countries before things get increasingly ridiculous.
    Russian officer: A wagonload of vodka!
    Chinese officer: SEVENTY MILLION TONS OF RICE!
  • In the 1998 Russian movie Checkpoint (Blokpost Блокпост), Russian soldiers in The Chechnya Wars use bullets to buy the services of a local prostitute. Knowing the bullets are likely to be fired back in their direction, they first boil them for over an hour to make them useless.
  • Delicatessen: Corn is used to pay for Clapet's meat.
  • The Force Awakens: The closest thing to currency seen on Scavenger World Jakku are packets of dried dough that bake quickly, measured in "portions". The junk dealer to whom Rey sells her findings usually pays her fractions of a portion.
  • In Time: Time from one's lifespan is used as money. As you might expect, this creates an Unstable Equilibrium where the rich are functionally immortal and Kill the Poor is taken very, very literally.
  • Kin-Dza-Dza! has matchsticks (made of natural wood and sulfur) useable this way on Pluck.
  • Jailhouse Rock: Elvis Presley's prison mentor is the richest man in prison, with hundreds of cartons of cigarettes in his cell.
  • Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior: Car fuel (usually gasoline) is the only reliable currency.
  • Schindler's List: During the Holocaust, Oscar Schindler convinces the Jewish business community to fund his factory by offering them surplus goods that they can use for barter in the ghetto, since he cannot pay them in money as Jews are not allowed to own any.

  • In Gene Wolfe's Book of the Short Sun series, the inhabitants of the Whorl (a giant Generation Ship at the end of its journey, now orbiting a pair of potentially-inhabitable planets) have taken to using circuit boards as currency due to their scarcity. This, of course, means that the ship's already-strained technology is failing rapidly, and the theft of boards from the ship's few operational shuttles means that soon there'll be no way out for those who haven't already left.
  • In Gordon R. Dickson's Childe Cycle, the interstellar currency is largely based on skilled professionals. If a planet needs someone or something, they hire out a specialist in exchange. The economy of the Fourteen Worlds is based on the trade of contracts, which not only affects political decisions, but also drives the plot of several stories.
  • Cradle Series: The standard currency is a "scale," a coin made of Forged pure madra (though the actual shape doesn't matter). Pure madra can be given to children to advance them faster, or be used to activate magical devices and items. Pure madra is the type that humans are born with, but due to its limited uses nearly everyone gives it up for something else very quickly. Scales are therefore made using special devices to purify aura, though the extremely rare adults who use pure madra can just forge scales themselves, making them richer than usual for their advancement. It is also perfectly possible to forge non-pure scales, but those are only useful to people of the exact same madra type, so they're less common.
  • In Tim Powers' Dinner at Deviant's Palace, the prevailing currency in a post-apocalyptic California is alcohol. It's a fuel, a disinfectant, and a beverage as well as money.
  • Discworld:
    • Making Money: There's much discussion of this, including pointing out that gold is worthless on a desert island, that it's also worthless in a gold mine (where the medium of exchange is the pickaxe), and the contrast between what happens when you bury gold vs. when you bury a potato. Oh, and in the end they decide to base the currency on golems.
    • Commerce in the villages of Lancre, where hard currency is a rarity, is more likely to be negotiated in chickens than in coins.
    • The idea of paper currency started in Going Postal, when people began using postage stamps as a means of exchange. The postage stamps are backed by the Post Office's services (a penny stamp is effectively a promise to carry a penny's worth of mail), and since the reliability of the Post Office is beyond reproach, they are generally considered to be as good as gold.
  • Water on Dune itself and melange (spice) everywhere else in Dune. Spice is vital for the survival of the Spacing Guild, as it is necessary in order for their Navigators to use limited precognition to safely navigate through space.
  • A Hero's War: The territory of Minmay undergoes an unusual financial crisis due to Cato's efforts, with the industrial base and production of goods growing so quickly that they can't mint enough coins to keep trade flowing — and the Chancellor (in this case a supreme ruler) firmly refuses to allow fiat currency, insisting that currency must be practical. Amongst an explosion of credit based trading (because people can't get hold of hard currency), one proposal is to use units of the recently invented magic storage as currency. Cato is intrigued, because it's a currency whose value will automatically shift as production (including magic production) increases.
  • In If This Is a Man, the author tells how, in the Black Market of Auschwitz Buna, which involved persons from both inside and outside the camp, the main currency were bread rations, but no more than four days of rations could be exchanged since it could spoil before and the debtor might eat his rations instead, although some inmates managed to have their bread delivered in installments. Another currency were Mahorca tobacco stamps, whose price rose and fall depending of factors such as lack of tobacco outside or an arrival of women to the brothel since these vouchers also allowed Aryan inmates to go there.
  • Brandon Sanderson's The Cosmere
    • Mistborn: The Original Trilogy:
      • The Final Empire has fairly standard coinage, but it's also the go-to weapon for steelpushers, to the point that steel mistings are called coinshots.
      • And this coinage is backed by Atium, an ultra-rare metal that gives Mistborn the ability to see a short distance into the future. While having your economy be dependent on a substance that gets regularly used up may seem like a bad idea, Atium is renewable due to being the "body" of one of the gods who made the planet, and the people who own the mine are very rich, even after the Lord Ruler takes his cut.
    • Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell: The primary currency is silver, which is the only thing that can harm shades or reverse their Touch of Death.
    • The Stormlight Archive:
      • The currency is spheres, tiny chips of gemstones encased in marble-sized glass balls. But they're not valuable because they're gemstones, but because the gemstones can act as magical foci for various things, particularly Soulcasting (transmutation magic). Diamonds are the least valuable, because they have the least useful Soulcasting property, whereas emeralds, which can be used to turn stones into food, are the most valuable denomination.
      • There's one other use for spheres: they trap Stormlight, though this is mostly just used for illumination....unless you're a Surgebinder, who powers one's abilities using Stormlight. Thus, the money can be used to fuel superhuman magical powers, though few people actually know this.
      • By the time of the third book, Oathbringer, the need for spheres with Stormlight has become even more important because the protagonists have discovered and colonized the lost city of Urithiru, which among other things is filled with machinery that functions by draining and using Stormlight. In order to get the city running, they have to trade spheres that have gone dun for spheres with Stormlight, but at such a loss that it is seriously hurting their treasury.
  • The Quantum Thief:
    • The currency on Mars is time. When one runs out, their mind gets put into a robotic Quiet work body for a few years to earn more. Think community service meets forced labor.
    • In the sequel novel, Fractal Prince, the city of Sirr uses a more disturbing form of currency: human minds. The city only exists because of the Wildcode Desert that protects it from Sobornost assimilation, but the Sobornost lust for all the minds forcefully uploaded into the Wildcode Grey Goo that they can't touch, so they hire the baseline humans of Sirr to "mine" them from the 'Code one at a time in return for scraps of their posthuman technology.
  • In White Crow, humans are not allowed cash, with a few exceptions; on one occasion, Mayor Tannakin Spatchet tries to pay the White Crow with a wheelbarrow full of brass pans, cheese, candles, paper, and so on.
  • Seekers of the Sky: Iron. It's rare, because the local incarnation of Jesus wished out most of it out of existence. A character even mentions using gold for currency, only for another character to say that, while gold is valuable, it doesn't have a lot of use. Of course, you better keep all your iron bars in a dry environment. Since many wealthy people also know the Functional Magic of the Word, they can keep all their iron valuables safe and dry in their Pocket Dimensions known as the Cold, to retrieve as needed. There is a scene where the protagonist sees a flagship of The Empire with its sides gold-plated (to show off, not for armor). He muses that they could've easily afforded to iron-plate the entire ship, but it would, of course, rust at sea.
  • In the Uglies trilogy, "The Smoke" community uses instant food packs as currency, which makes newcomer Tally quite wealthy by the community's standards.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine: During Jake's time in prison, he finds out that since the various anti-smoking legislation over the past few years has made cigarettes impractical, they've been replaced by ramen packets as currency inside prison walls. Specifically gourmet ramen, the kind they don't sell in the prison cafeteria. Jake ends up having to procure 100 packets of Piccante Beef for the crimelord running the prison in return for a contraband cellphone.
  • In Ghosts (US), since the ghosts cannot touch anything but each other and the things they were wearing when they died, they exchange back-rubs as a form of barter, mostly for TV time. Hetty, matriach of the house, and a former Robber Baron, quickly cornered the market here, since she hates being touched by the other ghosts
  • In Jeremiah's post-apocalyptic world canned food is used as the main currency.
  • In the TV series Love & War waitress Nadine is an aging socialite whose husband is in prison from the Savings & Loan scandal of the early Ninties. At one point she mentions she's going to visit him and bring 2 cartons of cigarettes in order to buy him his way out of his latest Noodle Incident.
  • Parks and Recreation: According to the Pawnee town charter, buffalo meat is acceptable currency. (Yet another of Pawnee's archaic laws that has yet to be repelled.)
  • A side comment by a Free Jaffa merchant in Stargate SG-1 suggests that naquadah is used as currency, or at least a standard of measuring value for barter.
    • It would have to be a specific kind of naquadah. Weapons grade naquadah is extremely dense, as shown in an episode where two Jaffa (who are much stronger than regular humans) are carrying a weapons grade naquadah brick the size of a laptop. Daniel, being physically enhanced by an alien artifact, knocks out the Jaffa and stashes the brick into his backpack, having no trouble carrying it (why the backpack didn't rip is not clear). When the effect of the artifact wears off, he has to dump the naquadah in order to even walk. There is also the liquid kind.
  • Star Trek: Voyager:
    • When the crew first arrives in the Delta Quadrant, they find that the only thing most aliens there care about is how much water you have to offer them. Of course, once the Kazon find out that Starfleet replicators can make an unlimited amount of water, they immediately declare war on Voyager to try to obtain their technology.
    • On the ship itself due to the need to conserve power, use of the replicator is rationed. As not everyone wants to eat Neelix's cooking, these replicator rations become used as a form of barter.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Ars Magica: payment for magical goods and services in the Order of Hermes is generally done with concentrated magic known as Vis. It's pretty rare for Vis or other magical goods to be sold for money.
  • BattleTech: ComStar's currency, the C-Bill, is based upon a fixed amount of transmission time on the organisation's Hyper Pulse Generators. The exact amount seems to fluctuate, though its stability versus the currencies of the Great Houses and ComStar's effective monopoly on interstellar communications make it very desirable. In the Dark Age, after the HPG network has collapsed aside from a few planets, the C-Bill has naturally become nearly worthless and an economic crisis has occurred throughout the Inner Sphere. One sourcebook mentions that because of all the instability, one of the most commonly used forms of "currency" has now become crates of ammunition.
  • Deadlands: Hell on Earth: Although the game itself uses dollar values for convenience, it mentions that most places operate on a barter system and any spare 'cash' the characters have is usually in the form of easily transportable luxury items. Also, bullets are hard currency pretty much everywhere, due to consistently high demand and low or non-existent production.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • 2nd Edition Maztica Campaign boxed set. The Mazticans use cocoa beans and ears of mayz (corn) as money.
    • Giff in Spelljammer use smokepowder (gunpowder) as currency and prefer to be paid in it.
    • Invoked in Dragonlance, where the primary currency is steel coins. After the Cataclysm, metals with no practical value like gold fell out of favor. Subverted, however, in that fans have pointed out that there are many reasons why steel coins don't make a lot of sense, not least of which is the fact that it rarely costs as many steel coins to buy a sword as would need to be melted down in order to make one.
    • In the Mystara setting:
      • The Red Steel region has Cinnabryl, a metal which nullifies the effects of toxic contaminants in the soil. When depleted by prolonged contact with the afflicted, it becomes the titular red steel, which has no curative powers but is of higher quality than ordinary steel. Cinnabryl is used in high-value coins as well as jewelry, while red steel coins are lower-end currency. Because cinnabryl coins are constantly being depleted by whomever can afford them, only constant cinnabryl-mining keeps the economy from collapsing.
      • High-end coinage in The Magocracy of Glantri is permeated with magic, which wealthy wizards can utilize to aid in certain arcane laboratory procedures.
    • 4th Edition introduces residuum, a metallic dust infused with magic. It's a common de facto currency in higher-level play since it's ten thousand times more valuable than gold by weight and can power every variety of Ritual Magic, including the creation of magic items, in place of the normal spell components.
    • Gems are a high-value trade good that can be exchanged like currency (non-trade goods can only be sold at a loss), which comes in handy for the mages who need them as components or focus items for various spells.
  • In Exalted: Jade.
    • It's the most common Magical Material, and has significant practical use as a construction material, but is used by the Realm as a currency (jade coinage is actually significantly more valuable in its practical uses than the value attached to the coins). This is partially because it helps control the flow of jade, partially because it enhances the mystique of the Realm (ruled by the Dragon Blooded, the Exalted associated with jade), and partially to create a sense of legitimacy and continuity with the Old Realm.
    • The Old Realm actually tied the practical and monetary values of jade together; ritualised financial transactions were necessary for keeping large portions of the world from dissolving, and jade's natural magical stabilizing properties made it the ideal currency for such transactions.
  • GURPS After the End: Rifle cartridges are currency.
  • The currency in HoL is wastems, helpless little creatures that are used directly as money (as opposed to being bartered like livestock). Wastems double as emergency rations. Unfortunately, they look identical to wastits, whose favorite food is player characters.
  • The Lamentations of the Flame Princess expansion Veins of the Earth has light as the most valuable resource for characters and often used as a defacto currency in more civilzed areas of the Veins. The is is abstracted in the rules as Lumes (the ability to create 1 hour of light, whether through mundane lamp oil or something else).
  • In Mage: The Awakening:
    • It's relatively easy to whip up normal funds by magic, so mages often demand payment in tass: a stable physical form of Mana that has many valuable spellcasting applications.
    • The only currency among the Tremere liches is stolen souls, which they eat to fuel their immortality. They're also social Darwinists who don't do any favours for each other without payment.
  • Mutant: Year Zero and it's sub-games each have their own take on this, based on what is both most rare and most essential to survival for the various groups. The Mutants have bullets, the animal mutants of Genlab Alpha have food, and the robots of Mechatron have "Energy Points." The only exception to this are the normal humans of Elysium, who have bog-standard fiat currency in multiple forms. One Settlement project they bring with them is meant to avert this, bringing normal currency into the outside world.
  • Starfinder: The Pact Worlds credit is pegged to the economic utility of a single Universal Polymer Base (UPB), multifunction components the size of a grain of rice that can be retooled into parts for practically anything. Some settlements and black markets even use UPBs directly as currency.
  • Trade is implied to be this in Star Realms. The starting units that provide Trade are not merchant craft but rather Scouts and Explorers - ship types that usually used to gather intelligence and scientific information respectively. Such data is useful in itself in research or navigation, but it can also be used in barter as well.
  • Warhammer: Age of Sigmar: The most common currency across the Cities of Sigmar is Aqua Ghyranis: magical life-giving water from the Realm of Life. One phial can cure sickness, and larger quantities can gurantee the biggest harvest a farm has ever seen. Most people carry waterskins of the stuff instead of wallets or purses, and particularly wealthy people can have casks of it in their basements. It's measured by droplets, then phials, then glass spheres. One city in the tundra of Ghur is known to use icicles of it chopped up into frozen coins.

    Video Games 
  • Zigzagged in Animal Crossing: New Horizons: Nook Miles Tickets are used to redeem trips to mystery islands, which is used as a method of hunting for desired villagers, costing 2,000 Nook Miles for one roll. A fan site used for trading, Nookazon, allows you to set the price of your offer in Bells, Nook Miles Tickets, and even other desired items on a purchase.
  • Ashes 2063 has scrap as currency. Aside from its barter value, Scav can use it in workbenches to upgrade his weapons or craft pipebombs.
  • Caves of Qud has drams of water as currency. Justified since the game takes place in a post-apocalyptic wasteland where drinkable water is rare.
  • Clockwork Calamity In Mushroom World: Mushrooms, which can be collected in aptly named Mushroom Zones, and stated to be tasty in-game.
  • Corridor Z: Weapons, upgrades, perks, and outfits can be purchased with food rations.
  • Crying Suns has Scrap as the galaxy's main currency. It's the only thing that still has any value in the wake of galactic civilization's collapse, and in gameplay it's spent to buy things or upgrade your battleship's statistics.
  • Cultist Simulator has Spintria, a currency used almost exclusively by occultists. As such, every denomination of Spintria has an aspect that allows it to be used in Ritual Magic just like any other occult implement. It's especially useful for summoning Rites, as the cheapest Spintria denomination, Iron, conveniently carries the Edge aspect most summons require.
  • In Death Road to Canada, food becomes the main currency in a zombie-infested America, needed pay for training, gear, and recruitment at trader camps. A few traders will also pay out food if the player is willing to give away some gasoline or rarer items.
  • Souls are the standard currency in Demon's Souls and its Spiritual Successor Dark Souls since they are a source of great power. Some unlucky people in Demon's Souls actually need souls to exist since they (like yourself) are already dead and need souls to keep their own souls from fading away.
  • In Destiny and Destiny 2, Glimmer is a universal currency valued by pretty much anyone who can be traded with. Glimmer is a form of programmable matter that can easily be modified into any shape with the right equipment, making it highly valued, and can be "mined" via underground Golden Age factories that automatically produce it from raw material like rock.
  • The Diablo II community used certain well-known "rare" items (well, they drop rarely, but given the size of the playerbase there are still tens of thousands of them) such as the traditional Stone of Jordan ring as currencies. Though each trade was effectively a barter, valuable items would have an agreed-upon market value in, say, Stones of Jordan or Zod Runes. Later, due to a mechanics update, chipped gems (the "least valuable" kind) became especially useful in crafting, and became the de facto newbie currency (for players still too young to trade in Stones of Jordan).
  • Eldritch (2013): A Roguelike "Artifacts" can be used as currency in the stores or as fuel for your magic spells.
  • Dust in Endless Space, Endless Legend, and Dungeon of the Endless, is an almost magical substance made of nanomachines created by the Endless. All factions (bar the Harmony) use it as their currency. In Endless Legend, set on the medieval Lost Colony of Auriga, the Roving Clans revere the substance, being a nation of traders, even though they do not fully understand it, and in Dungeon of the Endless there are merchants who trade Dust. Dust is also the lifeblood of the Broken Lords, who had to encase their souls in Animated Armor sustained by Dust in order to survive Auriga's collapsing climate. In-game this is represented by (most) empires being able to speed up building upgrades and recruiting units by 'spending' their Dust.
  • EVE Online uses ISK as its currency, but in-game time cards also act as currency, both for in-game and real currency, since it can be purchased with either.
  • Fallout:
    • Bottlecaps are normally Weird Currency instead, but in games where you can craft bottlecap mines... In addition, Fallout: New Vegas gives you the crafting recipe for filling a shotshell with silver coins, courtesy of Caesar's Legion.
    • One mission involves a representative of the Crimson Caravan Company sending you to find an operating cap-making machine and shut it down, as any newly-made caps lower the value of the currency. She also notes that people waste caps when they use them as land mines.
    • The setting's equivalent of the gold standard is this as well, after a fashion. Caps are backed by the most precious resource in the wasteland: Clean drinking water. Which doesn't help the New California Republic, as their gold-backed currency has taken a dive in value after losing their gold reserves in the NCR-Brotherhood War.
  • Freedroid RPG trades in Valuable Circuits, which also turns all droids into Money Spider.
  • In For Honor, steel is considered the main currency, both in gameplay and in-universe. This is primarily due to the Medieval Stasis and post-apocalyptic nature of the setting, which devastated the infrastructure and created a permanent Forever War. Steel is apparently very difficult to create (to the point that the Vikings use mostly leather and light chainmail and the Samurai use almost nothing but wood in their armor), and thus became an essential medium of exchange between the various factions.
  • In the Roguelike FTL: Faster Than Light, the "scrap" you collect throughout the universe can be used to pay merchants for repairs, supplies, or new weapons and systems. Or you could actually use it as spare parts to upgrade your existing systems, which also makes this a mix between Experience Points and currency.
  • Genshin Impact: Mora looks like a standard fantasy gold coin, but is noted to function as an all-purpose magical catalyst, explaining why you have to use it to enhance weapons and artifacts. It is created and backed by Morax, the God of Contracts, also known as the Geo Archon Rex Lapis. This has resulted in his nation of Liyue being an economic powerhouse. Ironically, Rex Lapis turns out to be absolutely terrible with money, to the point of casually promising millions of mora even for small favors and being in serious trouble when he realizes he doesn't have access to his mint anymore.
  • Ghost of Tsushima abstracts the currency as bundles of "supplies". This works twofold: since the island is under siege and occupation by the Mongols, supplies of food and medicine would be worth more to the people of the island than any actual money would be. It also averts No Hero Discount by justifying why Jin, a member of the high-ranking samurai class, would have to pay to receive better equipment — he's not actually paying money, and is merely providing the resources needed for the local blacksmiths and armorers to make his gear for him.
  • Gothic: In the penal colony, magic ore is used as a currency. It is supported by the fact that the outside world desperately needs this ore and is ready to give food, booze, and hookers in exchange for it. You can also find coins, which unlike most objects have zero value.
  • Gold's not of much use in Grim Dawn, it being set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Bits of iron serve as the main currency instead, because they are backed up by the weapons that can be made from melting them down.
  • Guild Wars:
    • The game uses gold and platinum for its official currency, but characters can only hold 100 platinum on their person at any given time: enough to buy anything from an NPC, but nowhere near enough for trades in the player market. Thus, the de facto currency is ectoplasm, chosen for its use in crafting rare armour. It's measured in "globs" and is bright pink; its currency symbol is e, as in 100e.
      • Players base the trade value of ectoplasm on the current price of buying ectoplasm from a material trader NPC. As this price can go up or down based on how much ectoplasm he has "in stock", the trade value actually fluctuates based on ectoplasm supply.
    • Zaishen Keys are used somewhat less widely. They're used to open a chest containing rewards, which also progresses an in-game achievement. The biggest benefit to using Zaishen Keys over ectoplasm is that there is no game controlled market, allowing for a relatively stable price.
    • Armbraces of Truth are tokens used to buy collectible armor skins. They are similar to Zaishen Keys in having no game controlled market, but are much more difficult to acquire in comparison to both the keys and ectoplasm. Where keys and ectoplasm both run in the range of 5 to 6 platinum, a single Armbrace can be worth over twenty ectoplasm.
    • Pre-Searing characters cannot acquire ectoplasm, so high-end trades are instead based on black dye, an item used to dye items black. It is the rarest dye and thus most valuable, even in the main market.
  • Haiku, the Robot: Spare Parts (shown in the game as bolts and gears of various sizes) are the currency used in Arcadia. They're stated to be valuable because they're needed to repair machines and are hard to come by given the state of the world. Haiku can even use them to repair themself, essentially giving the player the ability to recover HP in exchange for some money no matter where they are.
  • The bushels of grain produced by your fields in Hamurabi can be used to buy additional land.
  • Heat Signature takes place in an acid-rich asteroid field, used to make batteries. And melt the bullet-proof armor off of people. Naturally, the local currency is barrels of acid, denoted with a waterdrop with some currency horizontal marks etched in. Then there's the Fleshstripper, a gun that expends 1 acid to fire a spread of shots; any enemies caught in the way will be Stripped to the Bone.
  • In the Homeworld series the currency is the Resource Unit (RU for short), an amount of mined resources that can be used to build starships but the Bentusi will take as currency in their trade.
  • Horizon Zero Dawn: The main currency is metal shards, small pieces of the metal plating used to make the terraforming robots. For the primitive society these advanced alloys are incredibly useful for making weapons and tools and metal shards are a required ingredient for many of the ammo crafting recipes. Even then, the shards are largely supplemental to bartering; anything larger than a basic healing item will require additional machine parts to purchase. These are still Practical Currency, though, because skilled craftsmen can turn these advanced pieces of technology to good use.
  • In Immortal Cities: Children of the Nile the main currency is food, which your population naturally constantly consumes.
  • Island Saver: You can use fruits to barter with Kiwi for rare seeds needed to attract certain bankimals.
  • Kingdom of Loathing is some kind of an example, since its currency is Meat. You can't eat it, but you can make "meat paste" to combine items, and smith the Meat into weapons and armor. It is also used to explain the Money Spider trope.
  • In both King of Dragon Pass and its prequel Six Ages, the primary unit of barter is the cow. A clan's wealth is measured primarily by the size of its herds. Trade goods, including coins, are sometimes exchanged in lieu of cows, and are measured in terms of how many cows they can buy. One event features your clan crestfallen when they discover they have been paid in worthless silver coins instead of cows. Your advisors attempt to explain the concept of currency as "a small portable cow that does not moo."
  • In the The Last Sovereign, the world uses a currency known as sx which looks like crystals. When refined, these crystals have anti-monster properties, with the more humanoid succubi and orcs being the only exceptions. The currency even avoids inflation because being used in such a manner drains them of magical energy sustaining and destroys them thus justifying taxation. Sx even justifies the Money Spider trope by way of admitting that Sx is a naturally occuring substance in monsters.
  • In Lost Via Domus, the castaways rely on a barter system. You pick up stuff like fruit and water bottles, which are each worth some amount of "dollars", and trade them for what you need.
  • Mega Man (Classic) games after 7 use bolts, which either Auto or Roll use to manufacture upgrades for Mega Man. Mega Man X8 uses trangular Metals, which are similarly implied to be used for manufacturing upgrades.
  • In the Mega Man Legends series, while the currency is still called "zenny," money in this world is not real money, but quantum refractors, which are used to generate energy. Particularly large refractors are used to power machines, but smaller and weaker refractors are traded as money. Nobody knows how to make more refractors, but they were used to power all the Lost Technology left behind by the Ancients, including the Reaverbots. This explains why robotic enemies in ancient ruins drop money when they explode, and why there's a Global Currency (resources are scarce and everyone needs an extra refractor in case energy runs low).
  • In Metro 2033 and Metro: Last Light, the primary form of currency is pre-apocalyptic, military-grade bullets. When fired from a normal riflenote , the damage they deal is enormous compared to the "dirty" recycled ammo the Metro produces - though the skills and tools remain to make ammunition, They Don't Make Them Like They Used To. After the final shop of each game, you're free to use those rounds as they were meant to.
  • NieR: Automata has G, which is miscellaneous scrap metal obtained from slain machine lifeforms and found in treasure chests. With the Earth being inhabited almost entirely by androids and machine lifeforms, salvageable scrap metal is a precious commodity.
  • In Path of Exile, the economy is based on a barter system due to the fact that the continent of Wraeclast is a penal colony where gold is mostly useless. Rather than money, selling items to shopkeepers gets you scrolls to identify equipment and consumables that alter items. For exchanges between players the community has adopted chaos orbs (which reshuffle a rare item's modifiers) as the primary standard of exchange, being both abundant and having a broadly useful effect. More expensive items are sold for exalted orbs, which are rare and have more situational but potent applications. Items are also sometimes sold for relevant currency, such as maps being priced in cartographer's chisels (which improve the quality of maps).
  • Penguin Adventure: Penguins using fish as a medium of exchange.
  • Possibly in Ratchet & Clank. The series features all kind of technology, and the currency you collect is bolts. But we're never told for sure whether people use the bolts to create more machines, or whether there's a difference between bolts used in machinery and bolts used for money.
  • Rimworld: Trade caravans use silver as currency, which can also be used to build most items that are made of metal and sterile tiles (essential for hospitals, kitchens, and labs) require silver to build.
  • Shin Megami Tensei: Macca is represented as odd bronze coins, but in fact is a form of Pure Energy edible to demons and necessary when summoning them from the Compendium, and as such, is a hot commodity on world suffering from demonic invasions. In Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey, Macca is also used to power the Red Sprite's facilities, hence why you need to pony up Macca to heal, buy items, etc. even on the ship.
  • In some of the Sonic the Hedgehog games, rings are often used as a currency. Rings have had practical uses (such as protection) since the beginning of the series.
  • The Earth starbase in Star Control II used RU as a credit system representing raw materials that could be used to supply their replicators and build upgrades for your ship. Other factions had their own currencies, as well; the Druuge traded in slaves, while the Melnorme were information brokers.
  • Starbound uses pixels, which can be used in a pixel printer to create a wide variety of objects of any material.
  • Starmancer has Zypher, described as a "programmable matter", as the main form of currency.
  • System Shock 2: Nanite packs are a basic exchange unit. The vending machines you buy from take the nanites you carry and literally use them as raw material to build the product you're asking for. And "selling" items is simply the machines breaking them down into nanites and giving them back to you.
  • Zigzagged in the Player-Generated Economy of Team Fortress 2. The main currencies are various hats, specifically rare and/or limited-edition ones, such as the Earbuds (only released during the week or so when Team Fortress 2 was released for Apple computers) or Bill's Hat (a promotional item for the Left 4 Dead series). These are completely cosmetic, but are used as a form of "currency" when bartering doesn't quite work out. A straight version of this trope is Refined Metal, which can be used to craft almost any weapon in the game.
    • There's also crate keys — they can be used to open crates (which have items in them, including a 1% chance of getting an especially valuable "unusual" hat with a particle effect), or simply traded for other things.
    • The problem with the hat backed economy is that hats have no set value. When using earbuds, the demand for them kept their value high but when the demand fell the economy plummeted badly as things were tied to the value of buds. With keys, they have a set price and are backed with real currency and therefore they're less likely to lose value, which is partially why TF2's main trading site,, switched to them.
  • In Them's Fightin' Herds, the currency is salt crystals, as a pun on slang for making an opponent Rage Quit and in reference to the practice of giving salt licks to animals like deer and horses.
  • Wasteland 2 uses "scrap", presumably useful for building in a post-apocalyptic world — as its currency. Both its predecessor and its sequel avert this, though, and use conventional cash as currency.
  • XCOM 2 has the vaguely-defined "supplies" and "intel", things far more useful to a guerilla resistance in a Vichy Earth scenario than actual money. Supplies are primarily used to create new resources for XCOM like weapons and facilities, and is generally earned as mission rewards or occasionally scavenged in the field. Intel, intended as coordinates, passcodes, and other information that XCOM learns about the aliens, is spent to make contact with other resistance cells, gain information on upcoming enemy movements, or traded for supplies and other resources at the black market.

    Web Animation 
  • Shrapnel takes place After the End, and a few things have been elevated to currency status:
    • Bullets are a valid and common form of currency, being quite valuable in a post-apocalyptic world where having enough ammunition to defend yourself with can mean life or death.
    • Toki says that she accepts gold in exchange for guns and ammo. While not elaborated on, gold is a useful material for electrical components.
    • Hydro (water) is another form of payment Toki says she accepts, and she lives in Candlesmoke, a city located in a dry, dusty wasteland.

  • Escape from Terra: The primary medium of exchange on Ceres is grams of gold, but paper backed by water, Coca-Cola, and shares in asteroid mines is also mentioned. [1]
  • Weapon Brown: Batteries and rations are universally accepted as currency. The numerical value is determined by "volts" and "calories".

    Western Animation 
  • Bananas in Pyjamas uses munch honey cakes as currency, which all the characters also eat and bake.
  • Recess: Regular money pops up every now and then, but for the most part, the kids at Third Street Elementary uses candy, trading cards and comic books for currency. Even Hustler Kid, a character who can procure damn near everything from his Coat Full of Contraband, accepts them as legal tender.
  • At least a couple Transformers continuities have Energon as a currency, food, blood, ammunition, and energy. Transformers can't really do anything without Energon, which is why they've fought wars over the stuff.

    Real Life 
  • Many ancient "coins" were some other kind of good that was/were spontaneously promoted to this role by the barter economy just because they are compact, common, and valuable. Knife billets or small furs come to mind. Precious metals became universal the same way, but mostly for decorative value.
  • Deer pelts were sometimes used as currency, since they were very useful in making tent walls, blankets, and clothing. This may be the origin of a "buck", the American slang word for a dollar. Squirrel pelts were also often used as the smallest form of currency, and the price of larger skins was counted in terms of how their size compared to them.
  • Some countries use cell phone minutes as currency. This is most notable in Africa, where cell phones are the go-to method of developing communications infrastructure (towers are easier and cheaper to construct than landlines).
  • Medieval Japan used rice as currency (the Koku, or ~150 liters, being defined as the standard ration of rice for a soldier for a year). They ran headlong into an economic crisis when advances in agriculture and increased wealth (and thus bargaining power) of the city merchants led to the collapse of rice prices; the country-based daimyos and the samurai class, who were traditionally paid in rice, became practically penniless.
  • Colonial Virginia (at least) used tobacco as a form of currency, and the certificates issued for delivering tobacco to warehouses were the first truly American currency.
  • In the British American Colonies and the early United States; whiskey was also used as currency, being a popular product and easier to transport than the heavier corn it was fermented & distilled from. Tax collection sometimes became difficult.
  • Real life Mayans and Aztecs used cocoa beans as currency. Therefore, the rich could afford drinks like xocolātl (from which we get the word Chocolate) more often. And just to prove that people have always been the same, archaeologists have found forged cocoa beans, made from (among other things) clay.
  • Cigarettes are a common form of currency in prisons, prisoner camps, or occupied areas.
  • In some prisons prisoners use postage stamps instead, since they're not only legal but are small, easy to carry, and have a small round price.
  • During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, unused postage stamps were used as currency substitutes in many countries for low-value distance commerce, as it was easy to send them in the post, especially when all of the sums of money represented by banknotes were inconveniently large. How tolerated this was varied between countries (the US Postal Service explicitly denouncing the practice) as people and businesses hoarding postage stamps to use as currency led to unpredictable variations in post offices' cashflow.
  • Vodka was often used as money in Russia during the Nineties crisis. Sometimes still used, mostly in remote areas.
    • This was also invoked in the Seventies when Pepsi wanted to break into the Soviet market. The Ruble, being non-convertible, was worthless the moment it left the borders of the USSR (which would have been illegal anyway), and there were very few things the USSR produced that the west would want. One of those few things was Stolichnaya Vodka. Pepsi accepted payment for syrup and bottling plants with an exclusive distribution license for Stoli (actually through a shell company, as soft drink companies at the time were legally forbidden from selling alcohol in the US). However, by the late '80s, this arrangement was not going to cover a $3,000,000,000 expansion deal. To cover much of the deal, the USSR paid Pepsi in an even odder Practical Currency— decommissioned warshipsnote  that Pepsi sold off for scrap, as well as a number of Soviet merchantmen that Pepsi hired out for shipping.
    • Actually the use of vodka as currency pre-dates the Nineties, as it was used in the USSR due to the government's (unsuccessful) attempts to restrict the sale of alcohol via such clever measures as destroying the vineyards (despite the country's drunks never being interested in wine), restricting the sales of alcohol only to that time of the day everyone must be working, and even rationing vodka. Which led to vodka becoming this trope.
    • People would also often receive small change in the form of matchboxes at some stores.
  • It is popularly claimed that Roman soldiers were paid in salt, but there's no evidence supporting this. The word "salarium" (salary) derives from "sal" (salt), but why is an open question, although it most likely refers to money to buy needed salt, or something along those lines.
  • During parts of history, rum has been used a currency in Europe and Australia. The New South Wales Corps, one of the first European military forces, was also known as the Rum Corps because of the corps' major use of rum as a currency, as there wasn't a feasible alternative (shipping currency in would take up room that could be used for more useful things, and local infrastructure wasn't developed enough to make their own). When William Bligh (of Bounty mutiny fame) tried to restrict the trade, it led to a rebellion suitably called the Rum Rebellion. Armed rebels temporarily took over the government, the only time this has ever happened in Australian history.
  • Given the low worth of the Italian Lira, it wasn't really economic to make small value coins, even out of plastic, so sweets were often used instead. 21st century Mexico has reached this point also, with smaller coins than the 50-centavo piece being replaced by gum and the US dollar accepted in a lot of border regions.
  • Inverted with the giant Rai stones of Yap, as documented on the Weird Currency page, being currency that cannot be moved or used for anything else.
  • All too common during times of hyperinflation. German history textbooks contain both pictures of ridiculous amount of currency being worthless (at one point in 1923 one Dollar was worth 4.2 Trillion Mark) and signs specifying "prices" like "One piece of coal" for the cheapest seat in a theater.
    • Interestingly, some of the German states started to issue their own (formally) unofficial currency during the crisis. Almost all of these were practical currency in some way, such as coins made out of wood or even coal so they could be burned for warmth, which indeed many people did when the economic crisis ended.
  • In the coca-growing areas of rural Colombia, cocaine is sometimes used as currency.

Alternative Title(s): Commodity Money