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Fern: So what do you accept as payment, exactly? Please don't say something gross, like bile.
Crooked Spine: For a limited time only, all of our products are as low as a meager 5600cc! Any type or combination of types accepted!
Fern: Oh. Blood. Super.
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Thanks to modern minting technology, most places have familiar currencies such as printed bills, coins, or even digitally stored currency such as credit cards. However, what happens when something goes wrong or that technology never developed?

Weird currency is when currency takes a form other than digital or minted currency. This item has a recognized social value and is exchanged for goods or services, much like regular currency is, it just comes in an unusual form.

This is not a barter system. In a barter system people trade for items directly: a goat for a cow, for example. In a monetary system, money is used as the intermediary: you sell your goat for 5 gold nuggets, and then use 4 of those nuggets to buy a cow. As a corollary, the above example is one of several reasons why monetary systems exist: trading a goat for a cow means that you're losing out on one "nugget" of valuenote , whereas with money, you sell the goat, get the money, and use only the money you need to buy the cow. Therefore a barter system is "inexact", and a monetary system is "exact".

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Can be an inversion of Worthless Yellow Rocks; that is when something that is usually valuable is considered trash by another culture/race/species, whereas this is when trash is held as holding value in the form of currency.

Supertrope to Practical Currency, Energy Economy, Clamshell Currency and Living Currency. Not to be confused with Ridiculous Exchange Rates. See also Fictional Currency, which may or may not be/overlap with this.


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Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Made in Abyss has the Village of Ilblu, where currency is measured in sentimental value and all exchanges are made through bartering. All exchanges must be perfectly matched in value, and any accidental damage or theft is met with the village itself forcably "balancing" the exchange. Anything that becomes useless in the process of the exchange like body parts that are no longer usable or that become unwanted are instead changed into tokens that act as low value currency, like pocket change. These can then be used in exchanges in place of more valuable objects. May have been inspired by the Doctor Who example below.
  • In Chapter 77 of Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun, Seo decides to start picking on all the boys instead of just Waka. They're not thrilled, and create a system of "love cards" where she gives them a stamp once she's bothered them once and won't for the rest of the day (the back says "I've had enough today" for when they really can't take it). However, the guys then start bartering their cards to each other in exchange for favors, like borrowing a textbook. The whole system collapses when Seo decides it's too complicated to "love" everyone equally and goes back to Waka.

    Comic Books 
  • In the Carl Barks story "Tralla La", Scrooge McDuck and his nephews travel to a utopia that operates on the barter system. But when Scrooge accidentally introduces bottle caps into the economy, the people fixate upon the novelty and start using it as currency, to the point of neglecting productive work. It gets worse when Scrooge tries to fix the problem by bringing in a billion bottle caps so that there are enough to go around.
  • The eponymous race in Orc Stain uses petrified slices of orc gronch as money.
  • In Y: The Last Man, after the partial collapse of civilization, money in theory still has validity, however barter is often used, and on several occasions we see cans of canned food being used as money.

    Comic Strips 
  • Parodied in Calvin and Hobbes, when Calvin tells space aliens he'll give them the Earth for 50 different kinds of alien tree leaves, he put off a school assignment, and wanted the alien tree leaves so that he could finish it in time, and the aliens thought it meant "these primitive fools" (Earthlings) "use leaves as currency."

    Fan Works 
  • Estee's Triptych Continuum has a slight variation. Equestria's original currencies (the sol and lune) were made of regular gold and silver. But that wasn't what gave them their value. What gave them their value was the inscription on the edge: "Good For Nearly All Princess Labor, Public And Private." A pony (who was an Equestrian citizen) could literally walk up to the palace, turn in these coins, and get the Princesses' labor on any of a wide range of tasks.
    • As the fic strongly implies in its explanations that no past or present world culture ever used scarce physical minerals or metals as money (probably because they're less scarce, mining is far safer and easier at low tech levels, and the only stuff with actual function at low tech levels is too intrinsically dangerous to stockpile), the only way to recognize the new government's currency was to link it to actual assistance. It's also noted that the sheer exploitability of this system made getting the government recognized and its currency accepted without this caveat a very high priority as soon as it was possible.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Rango, the town of Dirt uses water as currency, as they are in the middle of a desert.
  • Uglydolls has buttons for currency in Uglyville, fitting the "crafted together" aesthetic the town has.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the Elvis Presley film Jailhouse Rock, his prison mentor is the richest man in prison, having hundreds of cartons of cigarettes in his cell.
  • In In Time, all the world's currency is replaced with people's remaining lifespans, indicated by a timer on their forearm with transfers by grasping hands.
  • In Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, the sailors on The Flying Dutchman play Liar's Dice, betting the only thing they have to bargain, years of service to the ship.
  • The Flintstones uses weird wiggly-shaped rock things as currency, unlike the cartoon it was based on which used paper money.

    Literature 
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:
    • In The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, a particularly stupid people tries to set up an economy with leaves as currency. It doesn't go well.
    • Other chapters have poems and elderly relatives as currency.
    • Another Hitchhiker's example is the Flanian pobble bead, which is apparently one of the three major Galactic currencies, despite only being exchangeable for other Flanian pobble beads.
    • Another currency is the Triangic Pu, which is divided into nine "Ningis" made up of planet-sized rubber triangles. Nobody owns enough Ningis for a Pu and the banks don't deal in petty change. Coupled with the collapse of the third currency the Guide mentions in-universe speculation about what it is the banks actually do.
  • In Cooking With Wild Game, the tribe of Forest's Edge- which subsists almost wholly on hunting kiba- uses kiba tusks and horns, which they carry on necklaces. (Non-hunters are also given these necklaces as compensation for work like weaving, foraging, or cooking celebratory banquets.) Since only the nearby town will treat these necklaces as currency, Asuta speculates it's a deliberate ploy to keep the tribe subservient.
  • Discworld:
    • Ankh-Morpork goes through a brief period of using stamps as currency between the transition from gold-plated coins to paper money.
    • In addition, the Thieves' Guild Diary guide has slang terms for money such as "a monkey = AM$500" includes "an oyster = an oyster".
    • In Mort, some Klatchian tribes are said to use sunlight (which on the Disc is slow and slightly heavy) as currency.
    • There's at least one passing reference to dwarf bread being used as a currency, as opposed to its more traditional usage as an offensive weapon.
  • In The Long Earth and its sequels, the standard unit of "currency" among stepwise communities is quite seriously described as the favour, as in "I do something for you, you need to do something for me in exchange". A "favour" can be owed, loaned, or swapped for another favour from somebody else. This only works because residents of stepwise communities all know each other, and passersby routinely pay a settlement a favour before receiving service in return.
  • The protagonist of Mogworld mentions that his home village uses turnips as money.
  • M.C.A. Hogarth's Tales of the Jokka:
    • Jokka use seashells as money, because they live in a landlocked wasteland separated from the nearest ocean by an impassable mountain range. Towards the end of The Worth of a Shell, the protagonists find a tunnel through the mountains and discover a beach covered with shells. Their initial thought is that they're rich, but then they realize that if they took all those shells back with them the economy would be ruined.
    • In Pearl in the Void, the Stone Moon Empire switches to square metal coins, though they spread shell around in unconquered towns that they got from the beach.
  • In Young Wizards, Carmela uses a Valrhona chocolate bar to bribe the Tawalf into giving up the information Skerret needs. Chocolate is either a collectible or controlled substance and is very valuable outside of Earth.
  • In Known Space, the Kzinti Patriarchy deals in strakh, a unitless system based on reputation and interactions. In economic terms it's far less efficient than money, but it probably produces better habits of thought.
  • In The Quantum Thief, Time is the currency of choice in Oubliette. When a person is born, they receive a specific amount of Time donated by their parents, which they can spend as they please as an idle Noble or earn through pseudo-capitalist enterprise. But custom dictates that everybody must eventually run out, at which point their body is placed in stasis and their mind is uploaded into a robotic Quiet, which take care of all the menial labour in the colony. After a set period they have once again earned enough to be returned to human form and begin the cycle anew.
  • In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, a Muggle attendant complains that one of the foreign wizards tried to pay his bill with a coin the size of a car's hub-cap. The British Witches and Wizards use Galleons, Sickles and Knut, in a manner similar to the pre-decimal British currency.
  • In The Stormlight Archive, the currency is "spheres": gemstones contained in glass spheres. This has a practical use, as gemstones are the catalyst for a magic known as Soulcasting, which is used to transmute material from one type to another. The value of a particular sphere is dependent on its size and usage in Soulcasting, with emeralds being the most valuable since they can be used to create food.
  • In The Saga of the Borderlands, by the argentine Liliana Bodoc, the inhabitants of The Fertile Lands use barter, however the Zitzahay, and surely also the Lords of the sun, use Oacal seeds (that is, Cacao ) as money.
  • The nation of Valka in Vigor Mortis uses chitin, due to metal being exceedingly rare.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the TV series Love & War, waitress Nadine is an aging socialite whose husband is in prison from the Savings & Loan scandal of the late '80s-early '90s. At one point she mentions she's going to visit him and bring two cartons of cigarettes in order to buy him his way out of his latest Noodle Incident.
  • Demons in Buffy the Vampire Slayer use kittens as currency. None of the humans can ever figure out why, especially since the whole "growing into adult cats" thing is frequently mentioned as a problem demons face.
  • The Golden Girls:
    • Sophia tells a story about her first job in Sicily. The story came up because her first paycheck, a brightly painted rock, was found under Dorothy's bed.
    • Another episode lampshades this trope. When the girls are dieting, they find a box of cookies on the kitchen shelf. Blanche starts to open them, and Rose asks her if she's going to eat them. Dorothy then says, "No, Rose, we're going to go to some dumb country and try to use them as money."
  • Doctor Who:
    • "The Rings of Akhaten" uses "objects with some personal value attached to them" as currency. The more personal value an object has, the more it's worth currency-wise.
    • Battlefield has a bit where the Doctor pulls some loose change from his pocket, and one "coin" is a mechanical bug-thing which is moving.
    • In the comedy special The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot, it's revealed that the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff will accept John Barrowman CDs and DVDs as entry payment.
  • An unproduced episode of Red Dwarf that would have been titled "Identity Within"note  involved the Dwarfers at a GELF trading post that used something resembling mushy peas as currency. As a consequence the "pot" in a card game Lister plays is quite literal.
  • In The Black Adder, set in The Late Middle Ages, narration claims that "In 1486, the egg replaced the worm as the lowest form of currency..."
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine: Jake is surprised to learn that following the rise of anti-smoking regulations and the fall of smoking in general, prisons have stopped using cigarettes as currency. Instead they use "soups," freeze-dried ramen packs. The ones you can get from the prison commissary are cheap change, but rarer flavors from outside can buy a lot.
  • Parks and Recreation: According to the Pawnee town charter, buffalo meat is acceptable currency.

    Pinballs 
  • In Shaq Attaq, the player can collect Game Balls, then trade them in at various times for extra points, additional features, or to start game modes.

    Podcasts 
  • In Midst, The Trust uses Valor, not money. You can get more Valor just by walking the neighbor's dog, as long as your local Notary knows about it. Of course, that also means the worth of your good deed depends on who you know, when you joined the Trust, and the stock value of Valor on that day.

    Radio 
  • Bleak Expectations: When Ripely is reduced to speaking cockney to get by, basic cockneying is in pre-decimalised currency (half a shilling for a glottal stop). The full rhyming slang is paid in ponies. As in the animal.
  • The Goon Show often uses weird substitutes for money, such as 3,000 pounds in bent NAAFI spoons, gramophone records of clinking coins, photographs of five-pound notes, or even piles of bricks (to be paid into any building societynote ). Rule of Funny, obviously.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Exalted, the maritime civilizations of the West use cowrie shells on string. Players are warned that such "strings" will probably not be considered valid in the other Directions.
  • In Deadlands: Hell on Earth uses bullets as the most commonly accepted currency, though technically HoE runs on a barter system (if players carry "cash", it's explicitly considered to be small items of no practical value to the character). It's just that bullet production is low or non-existent, and demand consistently high, meaning bullets are always valuable. There are conventional currencies as well, such as Junkyard widgets, which are backed by scavenged pre-war artifacts.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • The Orks use their teeth as currency. As orks continually grow and replace their "teef" throughout their lives, even the lowliest boy has a steady income. They also decay over time, preventing hoarding. The Bad Moons clan grow their teeth at a faster rate than other orks and are consequently known for their wealth; this isn't considered unfair because any other ork that wants that wealth for himself can just go and bash them out of their faces if he's strong enough. Ork bosses tend to be wealthy based on how many boys they have around to smash the teeth out of at any one time. Of course, every once in a while, some ork figures out how to stop teeth from degrading, but this doesn't cause Ork society to destabilize (due to massive inflation) because it's hard to imagine something more unstable than Ork society already is. These Orks also tend to lose interest pretty quickly, since other than a really flash gun and maybe a trukk there really isn't much to buy.
    • The main hive on the planet of Desoleum (described in the second edition of Dark Heresy) has an odd variation where virtually all members of the planetary population are held in intricate, interlocking systems of binding oaths which are repaid through service. For favors and goods not included in one's contract, bargains are made by extending an oath of service from individual to individual, or house to house. (Offworlders are kept in isolated parts of the hive where the more traditional Imperial currencies are traded.)
  • In Paleomythic from Osprey Publishing, it's set so far back in time that obsidian weapons are a major breakthrough! So no gold coins or paper dollars. The only currency is gems. The people of Ancient Mu don't have the distinction between precious and semi-precious gemstones, so every shiny rock is valued the same.
  • In Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies, the people of Sha Ka Ruq have a reputation and favor-trading economy based on their "face" or prestige in their society, and have a reputation currency of small talismans called tzushen to allow favors to be easily traded beyond one's immediate acquaintances. Tzushen are all weakly enchanted to feel like they weigh more based on the creator's prestige, allowing one to get an immediate feel for value.
  • In Gene Storm people before the apocalypse had implanted ID chips, and 150 years After the End their descendants use chips scavenged from old corpses as currency.
  • Red Markets: Driver's licenses have become a widespread currency in the Lossnote  as what's left of the government placed a bounty (usually paid in rations, rarely cashed in) on pre-Crash legal documents so they know whose assets they can seize.
  • Ironclaw: While Calebria is on the Gold-silver-bronze standard the Phelan tribes they share the island with use barter. Though the Phelan still have two standards of measuring value, silver earrings called "bunne-de-at" and Domesticated Dinosaurs known as cumalai.
  • Early editions of Dungeons & Dragons indicates that Larvae (Neutral Evil souls) are used as currency by the denizens of the lower planes, especially the Night Hags.
  • A fan site for Planescape includes some weird Outer Plains currencies, including Lodestone Bits (magnetic iron coins worth 10gp) Pine Coins (actual silvery pine cones, entirely worthless outside the Elven Realms of Arvandor) and Soul Prisms (a Lower Plains coin with an evil soul trapped inside, value dependent on the power of the soul) which are probably a nod to larvae as currency above.
  • Invisible Sun uses orbs as the main currency, which are solidified fragments of memories, dreams, and thoughts. The more complete or important the idea, the more the orb is worth.
  • Much like Metro 2033 before it, the Mutant: Year Zero tabletop game uses bullets as currency. Unlike Metro, they don't have the luxury of manufacturing new rounds at all, so they aren't picky with the quality. This can become a problem once the right Ark projects have been completed, as the ability to mass manufacture new rounds causes them to nosedive in value as a currency. The associated games of the setting each have their own weird and practical take on it, with the animal mutants of Genlab Alpha trading in food, the robots of Mechatron using their daily energy ration, and the people of Elysium using standardized credits and metal coins. Elysium also adds the "Currency" Ark/Settlement project, bringing the whole system back around.
  • Because of mass social upheavals, constant war, and the breakdown of communications via Comstar rendering the otherwise omnipresent C-Bill into little more than scrip, the post-Jihad BattleTech universe has some groups trading in stacks of missiles and crates of autocannon rounds instead. Because ammunition is constantly manufactured yet constantly expended, many savvy traders have realized that it holds value quite well, leading to a rather literal ammo economy.
  • Against The Dark Yogi: The base unit of Bhurlokan trade is the chicken. Ten chickens are worth one gold coin, and ten gold coins are worth one cow. For practical reasons, a lot of people just use the barter system instead.

    Toys 
  • Transformers: In some continuities, Cybertronians use energon, their primary fuel source, as currency. In some, mostly the comics, they use shannix, which is currency. Gets a Lampshade Hanging in one fan-club story, where two 'bots from a universe where energon is the currency arrive in a different universe, and are weirded out by people using currency which doesn't explode.

    Video Games 

  • Asterix & Obelix XXL uses Roman helmets as currency. The Spy wants them as proof of how many Romans you've defeated, but there's no explanation for what the Merchant wants them for.
  • Bertie Bott's Every-Flavored Beans served as money in the EA Harry Potter video games despite there already being a currency system in the original novels (Galleons, Sickles, and Knuts). The Beans were hidden all over Hogwarts and you could trade them with Fred and George for Wizard Cards and other stuff.
  • In Kingdom of Loathing and West of Loathing, the currency is meat, which justifies its use of Money Spider.
  • Fallout:
    • Bottle caps are used, most prominently Nuka-Cola caps (though folks in the Mojave Wasteland accept Sunset Sarsaparilla caps), which can even be taken off of sealed bottles of soda when you drink them; effectively, anyone who buys a bottle of Nuka-Cola gets a 1 cap discount. Actually quite clever when you think about it, because not only are they harder to counterfeit than any coin or banknote that could be made in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, they're backed by the most valuable commodity in the region: clean drinking water. Fallout 2 made a temporary switch to gold coins minted by the New California Republic, but after the Brotherhood of Steel destroyed their gold reserves, everyone switched back to caps and new NCR paper fiat dollars are often worth less than half their face value in caps, at least in regions outside of the NCR's grasp such as the independent city-state of New Vegas (and the tribes around it).
    • Fallout: New Vegas not only has a bottle cap counterfeiting shack in the middle of the Mojave Wastelands, but the head of the Crimson Caravan company sends you on a quest to the Sunset Sarsaparilla plant to shut down a bottle cap machine. There's been an influx of newly-minted bottlecaps, which means someone has the technology to make them. Making new caps is a common practice, since old ones get worn out and even used for explosive devices, but having too many new ones enter the economy is bad for inflation.
    • In Fallout Tactics, which is of questionable canonicity, locals around Chicago use the ring pulls off of soda cans instead. This can be problematic, as Brotherhood of Steel vendors only accept Brotherhood scrips and wasters only accept ring pulls. Both have identical value for gameplay reasons, but players need to be careful about who they sell items to, lest they find themselves needing to trade with someone who finds all of your money worthless.
    • In Wasteland 2, a close relation to the Fallout series, currency as you used to know it has vanished entirely. People now use 'scrap', which is exactly what it sounds like, since the picture for scrap is... a pile of scrap. You'll buy weapons, armour and medicine (and food and drink and drugs) with scrap. You'll sell your junk and weapon parts for scrap. You'll bribe and pay your taxes in scrap. Never mind bottle-caps; people are just looking for raw materials.
    • In-Universe, there's pre-War money, primarily American dollars. Selling it gets a pittance of caps most of the time, but some automated pre-War vending systems will accept them in place of caps. The only places it's really useful are the Sierra Madre casino, where it can be exchanged for chips to gamble with, and the Nuka-Cade, where they can be exchanged for tokens which are worth 1 cap each. Otherwise, it's only good for either kindling or crafting material.
  • Many virtual pet sites with a currency bought for real-life money have one of these.
  • Parasite Eve has trading cards used to buy upgrades. Justified in-game by the person that's doing the upgrades, Wayne, being a card collector. He's also a member of the police force, like the main character, and while regular procedure has more or less fallen apart in the face of the crisis presented, he still needs to allocate limited resources and uses the cards to do so.
    • The second game has Bounty Points, or BP, which you get for every monster you kill. While it makes sense for your group to limit allocation of resources to those that need them (i.e. if you're getting a lot of BP, you probably need heavier firepower), once you get to the town that serves as the main setting for most of the game, the FBI MIST division negotiates with the local gun collector to allow you to use BP to buy weapons from him. The final area of the game has vending machines that ALSO accept BP, which is one of many signs that something is very, very wrong.
  • Brütal Legend has Fire Tributes, which are signs of the approval of the Gods of Metal and appear as 2D hands holding lighters whenever you do something awesome like jumping over a canyon in your hot rod or beating a mission. They're closer to upgrade coupons than actual money, since nobody else accepts them.
  • Metro 2033 uses pristine pre-war 5.45x39mm cartridges (as opposed to the homemade and less effective ones normally used for combat) as currency. The ammo can still be fired— and indeed, does considerably more damage than common 5.45mm cartridges— but you're literally blowing up cash with every shot.
  • Transformice uses cheese as currency.
  • Devil May Cry uses crystallized demon blood.
  • Prehistoria in Secret of Evermore uses talons as currency; oddly enough, these can be exchanged for one of the more conventional currencies (gems, coins or credits) in the other areas of the game which makes sense considering the entirety of Evermore is a Constructed World.
  • Fallen London has a ton of these:
    • The Bazaar itself uses echoes. This may or may not be a metaphor. According to the Numinastrix, this is because these coins are "echoes" of the very first currency used in the Bazaar, before it even thought of taking cities. What that actually means, however, is unclear, as in the Neath, that could be either a metaphor for replicas, or actual coin echoes. Either way, the only thing the devs have cleared on the matter is that, in the end, the Masters are still bats, and bats love echoes.
    • While echoes are the currency of the Bazaar, several other forms of currency are in use among the citizenry, and at least a few of the common ones (never mind the uncommon ones) would probably qualify. For instance, glim, which falls periodically from the roof of the Neath and may be either a type of gemstone or shards of phosphorescent insect chitin (either way, it's useful for lighting if you don't mind the smell, and sailors love it). Or nevercold brass slivers, which are what devils pay their purchases with, and never, ever cools, making it useful for heating. Also jade, since Neath-jade is made out of either the blood of the newly dead or fossilized souls depending on who you ask. And moon-pearls, which don't seem to have a particularly odd source but for some reason follow the phases of the moon, which is a useful trick when you're Beneath the Earth and can't actually see it. They can also power pocket watches pretty decently.
    • Blood is also what Rostygold note  appears to be made out of. Or it may just be a symbolism for the fact it's what you get paid in for dangerous jobs that involve hunting dangerous creatures, or beating the hell out of someone, AKA shedding blood. Either way, the actual currency looks like plain copper rings.
    • Yet another kind of currency: Secrets. As in actual secrets you overhear, or read somewhere, or acquire through other secretive or persuasive (literally or otherwise) means, write down (in code if they're particularly valuable), and trade for stuff. Gossiping can be very lucrative in the Neath if you know who to listen to.
    • Hinterland Scrip, the only currency used as such West of London, is initially one of the least bizarre of the lot; it appears to be issued as paper money, and each piece is backed up by land development rights in the Hinterlands, though you can buy more than just land and its development with it. Then you start noticing they all have little pieces of map in them that never match up to one another, and aren't actually portraying any place in particular. And if you handle it for too long, you start wanting to buy Upper River estate. Direct conversion between Scrip and Echoes is entirely unavailable, for reasons unknown; at best you can buy in London and sell in the West, and that only works scrip-to-echoes.
    • Spin-off game Sunless Sea primarily uses echoes as currency, but some stores only accept payment in the form of zee stories, secrets, extraordinary implications, and so on.
  • In Shin Megami Tensei, demons use Macca, which is a double subversion - they look like coins, but they're actually some form of candied Pure Energy the demons can eat. Averted in Persona 3 and Persona 4, which use Japanese yen instead, and Digital Devil Saga 2, which uses dollars.
  • As anyone will tell you, the economy of Team Fortress 2 is basically made of hats. Hats are the main commodity, but the three basic units of currency are (from smallest to largest) piles of scrap metal, keys, and Apple earbuds.
  • In Anachronox, the standard currency in use all across the galaxy, by countless alien cultures, is... the Canadian dollar. Specifically the one-dollar coin, the Loonie. The fluff in the game says there's a really interesting story around why that happened, but never actually explains it.
  • In Path of Exile, you buy gear by using consumable items, such as town portal scrolls. You can also sell gear for such items. Though In-Universe this is a sort of bartering system (since everything is being traded by exiled survivors) in practice it is a hard currency system since you'll always get the same thing for the same combination of items.
  • Prior to the introduction of their ability of Apples and Cocoa Beans to be grown, Cookies and Apples were used as currency on many Minecraft servers because their extreme rarity outweighed their usefulness as food items. Slimeballs, which were renewable but still difficult to obtain, were also sometimes used as currency simply because they had no other use until the introduction of Sticky Pistons. Currently, Emeralds are used as currency for trading with Villagers.
  • FTL: Faster Than Light uses scrap metal. The same scrap metal can be used to upgrade your systems and your reactor. It's implied that this is an abstraction of scavenging useful components from wrecked ships and selling what you don't need to repair or upgrade your own; since The Federation is in the middle of all-out civil war that the vaguely-described but legitimate government is losing rather badly you might well be straight-up bartering rather than using prewar currency.
  • Spacestation #59-C in Linus Spacehead's Cosmic Crusade is a Global Currency Exception where Linus's gold Lino dollars are worthless because the service station requires something called Spacebucks. It turns out "10 Spacebucks" is a small creature running around a room, and it must be caught in a box before it can be used.
  • In Icarus Needs, if you want a piece of rope, you better be prepared to ride a hot air balloon to the top of a tree and collect five apples.
  • The currency used in the virtual reality simulation in Saints Row IV is cache (which is a pun on "cash" and is presumably pronounced identically), which seems to work identically to real-world currency, though it appears in-game as a three-dimensional, purple currency symbol.
  • Demon's Souls and the Dark Souls series use souls both as currency (with stronger souls being worth more) and as XP for leveling up your character. The first Dark Souls even has bronze, silver and gold coins that can be collected, with their descriptions flat out telling you that they're worthless in Lordran.
    • In Bloodborne the currency of choice is Blood Echoes, which are still functionally the same as souls in Dark Souls. Likewise, you can come across some coins, and the game once again warns you they're pretty much worthless; their only practical use is as markers.
  • Hatfall uses the hats collected during the game as currency for buying upgrades. To top it off, there's even a minigame where the player controls a banker bear whose salary is paid in pine cones, which will be converted to hats at the end of it.
  • LISA, taking place in a post-apocalyptic world with no women, uses porn magazines as currency. Garth, the "pornographer" artist party member, in particular, asks for 150, not particularly as a hiring fee, but as "inspiration".
  • In the Six Ages series and its predecessor, the setting's primeval tribes use cows as their main currency unit. Everything is measured in cows: how much a good is worth, the value of a powerful treasure, and so on. Obtaining a large quantity of cows is a sign of wealth, and most tribes consider a large herd to be a sign of a wealthy tribe, while a large amount of generic "goods" is not as optimal.
  • Zombidle:
    • The main currency in the game is skulls that are obtained when Bob the Necromancer and his undead horde destroy houses, or kill any burning villagers that escape said destroyed houses.
    • Events each add their own unique currency, which are turned into orbs or the next kind of money when the event ends. Of note is the event currency during the Toss the Turtle crossover, which is... cash. Actual money. Since Bob and co. use Skulls to buy stuff, regular money counts as a Weird Currency for them, and the tooltip for the cash even calls it "this 'cash' stuff".
  • In the Ratchet & Clank series, bolts, nuts, springs, and gears (only referred to as "bolts" in-game) are the primary currency.
  • RuneScape:
    • The Tzhaar use a currency called Tokkul, which are coins made from the bodies of dead Tzhaar. It is revealed in a quest that Tzhaar are still conscious and in agonizing pain when turned into Tokkul. This is because the Tzhaar were never intended to die or reproduce by their creator, and are supposed to be melted down and reforged in the elder kiln.
    • The village of Tai Bwo Wanai use sticks as currency.
  • This War of Mine operates on a barter economy, but the easiest item to create or use for currency is alcohol: moonshine requires very little in the way of ingredients to produce, is worth a lot in trade, and has no other value to your survivorsnote .
  • In Horizon Zero Dawn, metal shards harvested from destroyed machines function as the primary unit of trade, as well as the primary resource for crafting. More expensive items typically require extra machine parts, like eyes or hearts from specific machines.
  • Final Fantasy XIV have friendly beastmen tribes where you earn their brand of currencies upon completion of their daily quests and exchange them for items. The currencies range from oaknots to kobans and other types. There's also the Allagan Tomestones that players collect upon doing endgame content and exchange those for stronger gear or other items.
  • Crusader Kings II: Lunatic rulers may randomly declare turnips the new currency of the land. This does nothing other than annoy one's vassals to the tune of -10 opinion.
  • Trade throughout RAD is handed with media formats. Cassette tapes are the standard nomination, C Ds are worth more than cassettes, while Floppy discs are used to unlock chests and doors. Makes some sense as it's a post-apocalypse world where such things would be rarer and hard to replicate.
  • Much like Wasteland 2, Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden uses "Scrap" found out in the Zone. It also has a secondary currency in the form of "Artifacts," ancient gadgets and trinkets that can be traded into the Ark's bartender, in exchange for valuable training and "favors."
  • In the Soulslike Unworthy, the local dosh is sins. As in, the spiritual stain immoral deeds cause on a mortal soul. It has something to do with the local religeon making you stronger the more sins are cleansed from you (which sounds like a recipie for encouraging immoral behaviour, if you ask us).
  • In Pillars of Eternity, some societies use this instead of the Gold–Silver–Copper Standard. Atypical currencies include scrimshaw fish bones, gears from the legendary White Forge, and carved discs of adra. The sequel introduces shells, pearls, and worked obsidian.
  • In Grim Dawn currency is made of iron, since gold is useless in the After the End Dark Fantasy setting.
  • In Enter the Gungeon spent casings are used as currency.
  • WASTED, being an Affectionate Parody of the Fallout series, uses a completely mundane item as a currency in the wasteland: toilet paper. It doubles as a Practical Currency as the hub's shopkeeper states "radiarrhea" vastly increased the value of TP.
  • In Animal Crossing, turnips operate as an equivalent to stock (because turnip and stocks are homophones in Japanese, while in the English version it allowed for the rather clever pun of "playing the stalk market"). On Sunday morning the turnip seller will arrive in town and sell bundles of ten turnips for a price of between 100-200 Bells per turnip and an unlimited quantity. Between Monday and Saturday you can then sell the turnips to the town shop, but the price fluctuates widely throughout the week (twice per day) from as low as 15 Bells to as high as 800 (although generally hovering around 50-200), although there are a few, very rough, price fluctuation patterns. By next Sunday the turnips will rot and become worthless.
  • In Grow Maze, you buy objects after collecting hearts. This is a kid-friendly game so this is the symbolic kind of hearts, not the organic ones.
  • The money of Void Bastards is the Merit, which is a yellow ticket with an "m" in the middle. It seems to be based partially on Social Credit, since elite starship crews are given one each.
  • For the first several months of its operation THE iDOLM@STER: Cinderella Girls allowed unrestricted trading of items and cards. As described in this article (in Japanese) this spawned a market where players would use stamina drinks and energy drinks as a de facto currency not only for the game itself but for items in other mobile games, even leading to arbitrage and day trading. This eventually ended in August 2012 when restrictions on trading items were implemented.
  • Similarly, Diablo II players use Rings of Jasper as an ersatz Premium currency for Auction House deals. Gold is effectively worthless for anything but NPC merchants, since it can be found simply by killing monsters. ROJ's have to be ground for.
  • Bug Fables has berries as the currency of Bugaria. They're noted to be a very bitter type of berry that usually isn't eaten, but at least one character (Diana the miner ant) does eat them in order to boost her energy for her mining duties. There are also totally inedible "Crystal Berries" that can only be exchanged at an underground Den of Iniquity.
  • In Remnant: From the Ashes, scrap is the universal currency. So post-apocalyptic Earth and alien worlds on other dimensions will eagerly trade for the bits of wood and metal you get from smashing apart a chair.
  • In Planet Explorers, the initial currency of choice is meat. Chunks of meat, which are apparently of standardized weight and type, and can be cooked or rendered into fat for crafting if you prefer. (The more specialized "wing meat" and "lizard ribs" and such are cooking items and worth multiple meats - presumably they're better quality than base-standard meat.) Justified because the player and associates are stranded on an alien planet, with the colony ship holding all their colony-building stuff crashing on a different continent, so they don't have anything supporting a proper economy - meat is at least desirable and allows you to avoid basic barter. Also, once you do establish a base and community for your people, you can switch over to a proper fiat currency. Which is still valued equal to the meat, but still.

    Webcomics 
  • In Awful Hospital, the Crooked Spine trades for blood and used bandages, while the preferred currency in the Inert Biovessel is keratin. As for the Hospital itself, term deposits in its organ bank mature in a very literal sense. The Parliament uses crystals extracted from sewage. Their toilets are 1/3 commode, 1/3 ATM, and 1/3 shop.
  • In Paranatural, the currency used among the Mayview Middle School student body is Starchman Stars, gold stars handed out by the English teacher Mr. Starchman.

    Other Websites 
  • 4chan has references to "Good Boy Points," a sort of monetization of Wants a Prize for Basic Decency as a way to control man-children. A number of GBP are earned for such things as cleaning one's (invariably disgusting) room or making boom-boom in the potty instead of on the floor. Once enough are collected, they can be traded for a reward, usually chicken strips (affectionately referred to as "Chicken Tendies"). These are often depicted as ineffectual, since the parents using Good Boy Points missed the critical second step of punishing bad behaviour. Plenty of audacious stories have been written on the concept of Good Boy Points and Tendies, and have become quite popular among narrators on YouTube.

    Western Animation 
  • A season 1 episode of American Dragon: Jake Long showed giants using fish as currency.
  • Aaahh!!! Real Monsters had human toenails as the monster currency.
  • The characters in Crash Canyon use golf tees as currency. It's never explained why.
  • In Brandy & Mr. Whiskers, Brandy establishes an economy in the jungle based on the exchange of shiny rocks as a way to be on top.
  • The penguins in Spike use fish as currency. They even have a high-tech bank to keep them in!
  • An episode of Mike, Lu & Og has the islanders use pigs and crabs as currency before Mike introduces them to paper money.
  • An episode of Teen Titans Go! had Beast Boy establishing live bees as a currency and it quickly catches on, allowing him to make a massive bee farm and become incredibly wealthy.
  • In Blinky Bill, the residents of Greenpatch use gumnuts as currency. At one point, this results in Mr. Wombat telling Blinky that "Gumnuts don't grow on trees, you know... not at this time of the year."
  • In The Simpsons, Milhouse claims that in juvenile hall, kids like him are used as currency.
  • Kaeloo:
    • Parodied on an episode where Mr. Cat is serving Stumpy and Quack Quack at a restaurant. Stumpy pays him money, but he refuses and tells Stumpy that he only accepts ducks as payment. He then cuts Quack Quack in half and takes one half as payment.
    • In another episode, due to a pun being used, Mr. Cat pays for something using live sheep as currency, and the store somehow accepts this.
  • Scrooge McDuck and Money, a short from 1967, has Scrooge explain to Huey, Dewey, and Louie about the history of money and currency-based economics. This includes a brief discussion of some of the weird forms money has taken over the years including huge stones, small stones, and even salt.
  • Chilly Beach mocks the real-life use of Canadian Tire money (actually store coupons given at a 4% exchange rate to real money, see the Real Life section below) and Loonies (Canada doesn't have $1 bills) by having Canadian money have bills for cents and coins for dollar amounts - $100 CAD is represented by a gold coin the size of a belt buckle.
  • In the Bakshi Mighty Mouse episode "This Island Mouseville," the alien cat—the Grand Ruler—seems to think that his squid-like currency, a Norloc, has more value than the currency we use.
  • Disenchantment:
    • Elfland has candy, which is used to buy more candy. One of Elfo's first on-screen acts is pointing out how little sense this makes.
    • The Lost City of Cremorrah had a thriving snake economy. People's pockets were bursting with snakes, though they didn't get on with their next door neighbours, the Empire of Maru, who had a mouse-based economy which was under constant peril (presumably, from being eaten).
  • Star vs. the Forces of Evil: Kelly's world has a violence-based economy. A bus ticket is worth a punch, a hamburger is a kick and a jab, and buying a yacht will require an extended hospital visit afterwards. The only known exception is the overdue fee for a library book, which is getting one's head shaved (which means getting rid of the Woolett's primary means of protection (and storage), their super tough, knee-to-ankle-length, body-encompassing hair). Fortunately for Kelly, Marco opted to team up and fight the librarian instead.
  • The Midnight Gospel: In "Hunters Without a Home", Steve the Junkboat Fish accepts cats as currency. After Darryl gives him four cats in exchange for some equipment, Steve happily pets the cats.
  • Pinky and the Brain: In "Brainania", Brain poses as the leader of the eponymous country and tries to get a foreign aid loan to finance his latest world domination scheme. Brain claims that he'll take the check in US dollars because on Brainania, they use 30-pound asphalt coins called queebs as currency.
    Pinky: All Brainania has ripped pockets.

    Real Life 
  • The Rai stones from Yap in Micronesia above are less Weird Currency than Weird Accounting. Individual carved stones may be over two meters across and were backed, in essence, by whoever was able to muster the manpower to make one in the first place. Ownership of the stones was carefully tracked, making them a banking system operating on cultural memory. One of the stones is currently at the bottom of the ocean, but it's still legal tender.
  • Tea bricks were used as currency in some parts of ancient China. Also, some ancient Chinese coinage was shaped like valuable objects they represented, such as knives, and as mentioned above, the Chinese traded using cowrie shells. One of their characters for money, "貝", is derived from a pictogram of such.
  • As in B.C. and The Flintstones, many extremely early civilizations used seashells as currency. This is probably the most historically accurate part of both series. Even fairly developed civilizations used seashells because they were absolutely impossible to forge. Their only problem was that the wealth tended to focus near the coastline.
  • Some extremely early records of civilization have divulged that some of the earliest Babylonian-area currency were clay figures of livestock, representing the values of their respective models.
  • In Colonial Virginia, tobacco leaves were official currency. Ministers' salaries were set in pounds of tobacco. The Parson's Cause happened when the government altered the exchange rate. (Note that Virginia's use of tobacco was simply one of the more consistent and reliable currency substitutes in colonial America; mercantilist British trade policy meant that the Colonies had a chronic shortage of hard currency, and relied on all kinds of things as alternative media of exchange.)
    • Similarly, part of the reason the Whiskey Rebellion occurred was because whiskey (and other inherently valuable goods) was commonly used as a substitute currency in cash-poor rural areas. Liquor is always valuable and lasts essentially forever if stored properly, so whiskey could be traded directly in rural communities for goods and services. Farmer-distillers who owned stills would regularly distill grain for other farmers nearby, keeping a portion of the whiskey as payment. When the tax on whiskey seemed to be designed to put farmer-distillers out of businessnote , a rebellion began and eventually led to the tax being overturned.
  • The ancient Aztecs used cocoa beans and lengths of woven cloth, alongside more familiar (to modern readers) hammered copper pieces. People even made counterfeit cocoa beans out of clay. Incidentally, chocolate drinks (made out of cocoa, cornmeal, chili pepper, and cold water; the Aztecs had no milk and no sweeteners besides fruit juice and a sort of thin honey, so they drank their chocolate as a bitter/savory stimulating drink in the vein of the Old World's unsweetened tea or coffee, but cold) started as their variant on Money to Burn.
  • In places with bad economies, cigarettes are a common form of ersatz currency. They're easy to carry, fungible (one cigarette is much like another), demand is consistently high, and deals can easily be made for one or a million of them. This is common in prison, refugee camps, and POW camps throughout history. Other commodity currencies (as the phenomena is called) have and will exist in these types of environments. Here is a harsh tale from a Nazi POW camp covered by Finance Watch on the topic. As smoking bans are more heavily-enforced and non-smokers become more common even in prison, cookies have become a de facto secondary currency among inmates. Which isn't surprising, as Food as Bribe is a near-universal phenomenon.
  • Decades after the end of the Gold Standard, Utah brought into legislation a law which brought it back!... kind of. Basically, a 2011 law stipulates that precious metal coins and bullion can be used to pay for goods at the cost of the metal value of the coins/bullion, rather than just their face value. To make matters even more interesting, an organisation called the United Precious Metals Association has brought out the ‘Goldback’, a piece of voluntary currency which is allowed to circulate thanks to this law. The Goldback, which comes in multiple denominations, is a sheet of polyester, coated with exactly one one thousandth of a Troy ounce of gold, then coated with a sheet of plastic for durability.
  • Guerima, a remote village in Colombia, uses cocaine (well, coca) as currency.
  • During the Weimar Republic's hyperinflation crisis, various cities and other subdivisions of Germany issued their own "notgeld" (emergency money) coins which lacked official standing but would be accepted anyway within the area. Most were made of metal like ordinary coins, though sometimes with ludicrous denominations as high as 1 billion marks. There were also stranger ones, such as various porcelain coins and Rothenbach's coins made of coal. The latter are now quite rare, because after the notgeld era ended Germans often tossed them in the fireplace. However, plenty of notgeld banknotes were also made, and survived into collections, where viewers often marvel over the wide variety of designs. In both Germany and Austria, Notgeld banknotes tended to be produced on a very local scale, and were often quite lavishly decorated. While this had the side effect of making them circulate less than intended, since people would just collect the cash for its appearance, it also means that a good number of the different designs have been preserved, offering a look into the early days of the Weimar Republic's attempts at stabilising the economy, before Hyperinflation crashed its way in.
  • In any scenario where an economy gets destabilised by hyperinflation, currency tends to get weird in denomination, even if its form doesn't change. Perhaps the most famous example of the last 20 years is Zimbabwe's disastrous hyperinflation crisis perpetuated by land reforms; for a short time in 2008, banknotes were being printed with a monumental one hundred trillion dollars (100,000,000,000,000) as the denomination (worth about $30 at the time in 2009, or $36 in 2020); by the time the notes were demonetised, calling them worthless was an understatement. By year three of the crisis in 2009, the original Zimbabwean dollar was worth a 10 septillionth of its original value. In other words, you would need 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 Zimbabwean dollars from 2006 to equal one Zimbabwean dollar from 2009. This has had the side effect of these notes now being worth many trillions of times more as collector's items, now that they're no longer legal tender, and some people in Zimbabwe have managed to find a way to make quite a bit of cash in less inflated currencies selling the seemingly-worthless notes to foreign collectors!
  • While not quite made of coal, similar unofficial currencies were issued by various communities in US for local use during The Great Depression.
  • During World War I, French towns occupied by Germans used monnaies de nécessité issued by City Halls, Houses of Trade and even some shops; this concept was used until the end of the Twenties.
  • Porcelain gambling tokens from Chinese casinos were used as "small change" for decades in parts of Southeast Asia.
  • In New France, cards were used as currency.
  • In Canada:
    • There's a chain of tire and auto part stores called Canadian Tire. They issue coupons that look like currency (kind of) called Canadian Tire Money at a rate of 0.4% of what you spent (or 4% if you have a Canadian Tire credit card). Those coupons can be used like cash in the store. Pretty mundane, right? Well, some people use Canadian Tire Money like regular currency in the areas where the chain is located - including at other local businesses. This is at the business owner's discretion, since they're only store coupons, not legal tender. Some places even outright won't take it.
    • In Gaspésie, Quebec, locals use the "demi": official currency that's been cut in half. This is done as a form of protest against globalization as it ensures that these halved bills will only be circulated within the town among the people and stores that agree to accept and use them. In theory, it means money will stay within the local economy rather than being siphoned into the corporate coffers of major chains like Wal-Mart. For what it's worth, the idea came about after a few rounds at a pub.
  • Some historical records suggest that classical Sparta had a largely cashless economy, but would occasionally use iron bars as currency. Like most reports about the inner workings of notoriously secretive Sparta, these records were written by outsiders, sometimes centuries after the fact, so their validity is questionable.
  • Supposedly, Roman soldiers were paid partially in salt, which is where the word "salary" comes from (sal being Latin for "salt"). However, modern research suggests this is a myth.
  • Pretty much every generation of children is likely to come up with their own informal "currency" related to hobbies. Depending on the era, the standard unit of exchange could be the baseball card, comic book, action figure or Pokemon Go critter.
  • Gift cards are a recurring currency amongst tech support and refund scammers due to their anonymity, making them easy to launder.
  • The post-Soviet Ukrainian government, issued out meal vouchers when the Soviet Union's currency became worthless. Unsurprisingly people began to use these vouchers as currency themselves. Which is exactly what the Ukrainian government wanted. These karbovanets eventually became official currency, until being replaced (again as intended from the very beginning) by the modern Ukrainina hryvnia.
  • In 2005, a team of scientists taught monkeys how to use tokens to buy various treats from the researchers. They changed the prices of each item, to see if monkeys would go for the best deal (they did). They also taught them to gamble, and the monkeys made the same irrational decisions as a human gambler. The monkeys also invented stealing and prostitution all on their own.

 
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Harry Potter - Weasley's Wares

For God knows what reason, the Harry Potter video games use Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans as money at Hogwarts instead of the standard wizarding currency Knuts, Sickles, and Galleons.

How well does it match the trope?

4.43 (7 votes)

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