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Worthless Yellow Rocks

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One man's treasure is another man's trash... But I can't see why someone would throw out that adorable kitty!note 

Quark: Someone's extracted all the latinum! There's nothing here but worthless gold!
Odo: And it's all yours.

The characters of a story run across something very valuable. But, due to ignorance, stupidity or Values Dissonance in its most literal application, they discard it as worthless junk. The audience groans in disbelief as earthly wealth beyond their wildest dreams is left lying on the floor (if not thoughtlessly trampled upon). Alternatively, while they might find some use for it that use is a mundane, insultingly boring utility that is far below its actual value and capability.

Finding gold is the most common example of this trope: Though it has industrial applications as a highly corrosion-resistant electrical conductor and potential as a cheaper alternative to platinum catalysts, almost all of gold's value is due to its rarity (the pretty shine doesn't hurt either). And, in a disaster situation, gold would quickly prove to be worthless after all. This can lead to an ironic Death by Materialism situation for someone who's "smart" enough to figure out what those funny yellow rocks really are and won't abandon them when they really should be running for the door. Compare All That Glitters.

A common Karmic Twist Ending is for Earthly characters to encounter a world or dimension where something like gold is so plentiful that it has little value, or where something common on earth, like aluminium or copper, takes the place of gold or platinum as the ultimately rare precious metal. (Ironically, aluminium actually was more valuable than gold once; see the Real Life section below.) Of course, given what science knows about the formation of elements, it is highly unlikely that there are any solid-gold planets out there, no matter how amazing it would be. On the other hand, there is a giant space-diamond. Probably a whole lot of them.

There is Truth in Television for the reasoning behind this trope. There is a law of economics where materials decrease in value as they become more abundant. (Refer to the above paragraph.) Trade in general, when done honestly, is fundamentally what happens when two people come together and agree that something the other guy has is more valuable to them than something they can afford to give away.

Also common is the devaluation of diamonds 20 Minutes into the Future after the invention of successful synthesis technology. Diamonds are not made of an intrinsically valuable or rare element, but common carbon, so advanced people from the future or space-faring aliens are likely to consider them somewhat common and utilitarian. For that matter, they aren't that rare now (about as common as rubies, which have a much lower market price); their perceived value is mostly a combination of enforced artificial scarcity and sucker-rearing by the distribution companies.

Using this with petroleum may constitute a research flub, if a writer assumes its only conceivable function is to fuel modern machines, ignoring its previous uses for waterproofing, oil lamps, etc. and other modern uses like chemical synthesis, including most polymers and numerous medications. Even in the mid-1800s at the heart of the industrial revolution, a chemist interviewed in Scientific American opined that burning oil and coal as fuel was this trope, given the array of uses for natural stockpiles of inefficient-to-manufacture complex hydrocarbons.

May be part of a Green Aesop on how foolishly humanity rushes for unnecessary luxuries and how money cannot be eaten. This trope is also a common trait of the humble Noble Savage.

Not to be confused with Green Rocks (though they can overlap). See also All That Glitters and Common Place Rare. Kids Prefer Boxes is the G-rated version. Sometimes the species in question has a reason to not care about the shiny yellow rocks... A counterpart is Only Electric Sheep Are Cheap; both can exist in the same work. When video game money is useless because there's nothing to buy with it, that's Money for Nothing.

Compare Grail in the Garbage, Simple, yet Opulent (in that some things are only opulent to some) and Money Is Not Power (when characters intend to bribe their way out of a situation, only to be told, or show, that their wealth won't save them this time).

Contrast Gold Fever (where people go nuts over amounts of gold or some other valuable), Gold Makes Everything Shiny, Gold-Colored Superiority, Mundane Object Amazement, My New Gift Is Lame. Not to be confused with Gold Is Yellow, although the two could overlap.

Also not to be confused with pyrite, also known as "fool's gold".

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Other examples:

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  • There is a Doritos commercial where a man tries to show us how to make Doritos, only to accidentally make gold. The commercial ends with him angrily yelling "WHAT AM I GONNA DO WITH ALL THIS GOLD?!"

    Anime & Manga 
  • In Delicious in Dungeon, Senshi sees little value in anything that isn't directly related to cooking. He tells Marcille and Chilchuck to throw out a bunch of "inedible treasure bugs," only mentioning offhand that they are actual pieces of treasure. Not long after that, Laius notes that treasure bugs in good condition can sell for a lot of money to insect collectors, which gets Marcille and Chilchuck very annoyed that he didn't tell them this before they ate them.
  • In Elfen Lied, Nana burns thousands of yen on the beach for warmth on a cold night due to never having experienced the world outside the laboratory where she was used as a test subject. She then has nightmares of being crucified while naked at the hands of vengeful money-people, thanks to Mayu.
  • Taken in all directions in the manga and anime One Piece:
    • During Sanji's flashback in the Baratie Arc, Sanji and Zeff end up stranded on a rock with no way off. Eventually, Sanji's food supply runs out, and he desperately goes to steal Zeff's. It's a gut-punch for the Straw Hats' future cook when he finds that Zeff doesn't have any food, just a sack of priceless jewels and such. In other words, Zeff spent two months without a bite to eat (In the manga, he ate his own leg to get by, but this clearly wasn't enough), all while sitting next to a fortune that was utterly worthless given their current crisis.
    • Hidden in the Skypiean island of Upperyard is an entire city of gold. The natives of Skypiea, where otherwise people live on clouds and there is no natural soil, find the dirt of the originally blue-sea island itself far more valuable than any gold. The arc's Big Bad, God Eneru, does have a use for the gold; however, it's of no monetary value to him, either. He instead uses its conductive properties to enhance his own lightning-based powers. Finally, our heroes, the Straw Hat Pirates, do value the gold for its monetary worth, and make plans to steal what Eneru didn't make off with. The Skypeians actually intend to let the Straw Hats have all the gold they want in gratitude of the Big Bad's defeat, but the Straw Hats (believing they were stealing the gold) misinterpret this as their being caught and run away with only what they were carrying, when they could have gotten far more just by waiting. Notably, this is the only time they've ever actually stolen something (as a crew, anyway; Nami is another story) before or after this point. The reverse is also seen: rubber doesn't exist in Skypiea, and after Luffy's rubber powers defeat Eneru, it becomes insanely valuable. Thus, Usopp is able to trade rubber bands for dials, which are common to Skypeia but don't exist on the Blue Sea.
  • In Juuni Senshi Bakuretsu Eto Ranger, the Novel World of The Honest Woodcutter was fractured to where there were entire deserts of gold. Bakumaru and Nyorori got too distracted by their newfound "wealth" to notice that it was completely valueless because of it, and because they realized too late, their teammates, who were turned into now-more-valuable wood, were stolen.
  • Hayate the Combat Butler: While it's not gold, when Hayate is told to spend a few (3) days away from the mansion because Nagi's embarrassed, he's given one million yen (~$11,000 US, £8,000). Which he promptly loses. It gets returned to the mansion and Maria counts it, stating that it's almost exactly what he was given for living expenses. Nagi passes by the table and asks what all the chump change is. The characters, especially Maria and Nagi, have continually shown disdain for the value of money. Such that it's a huge leap in Nagi's show of maturity when she's willing to give it up.
  • Episode 4 of Space Symphony Maetel has Captain Harlock land on a planet where gold is worthless yellow rocks, but cotton is very valuable. They trade a pile of underwear for the rights to use their dock and some yellow rocks.
  • In the Anime of the Game for Dante's Inferno, Lucifer promises Dante's father endless gold and 1,000 years free of torment if he will simply kill his own son. Outraged, Dante asks him where he expects to spend it in Hell. His father attacks him anyway.
  • In one episode of Mon Colle Knights, Prince Eccentro, esteemed, rich snob of a "Monster Item" hunter, went digging through piles of gold, jewels and treasure, lamenting that he couldn't find anything valuable. He does eventually find something that makes his doggy digging pals quote excited. It's a cookbook...
  • Dragon Ball:
    • Goku didn't understand money at first. When told you can trade it for things like food, he under or overestimates what things cost.
    • Buu makes this mistake in the epilogue as well: he wants to get ice cream, but is told he needs to pay for it. Buu accidentally wins some money in a street fight, and comes back to exchange it for his ice cream. The clerk tries to tell him it's way too much, but Buu ignores him, insisting "You keep money! Buu keep ice cream!"
  • Zig-zagged in an episode of Pokémon: The Series in which Jessie, James and Meowth, digging for water, find only oil. A Beat later, they're dancing for joy, but their dreams of wealth are shattered when Meowth points out that their pickaxe broke into an underground pipeline.
  • In Digimon Frontier, the kids find that their Japanese yen is not accepted in the digital world and the inhabitants consider it junk.
  • One episode of the second Lupin III series has Lupin and his gang enter a hidden kingdom that has not had contact with the outside world in over a thousand years. They find huge gold nuggets scattered all over the ground, just waiting to be picked up. While an elated Fujiko begins gathering sacks of it, the rest of the gang decides that if gold is just lying there, the legendary treasure in the palace must be worth so much more. After a dangerous adventure that results in the gang stealing the treasure but getting chased by an angry giant monkey king, they escape the kingdom, seal it off forever, and open the chest to examine their spoils. It turns out the chest is full of salt, which is rarer than gold and prized since the kingdom's food is so bland. To add insult to injury, the sacks of gold that Fujiko collected outside had be jettisoned during the chase since the weight slowed the carriage down.
  • Hetalia: Axis Powers: Russia gazes enviously at the other countries who are busy with the Industrial Revolution, saying he's too busy farming in a hard land which only produces shiny rocks, black mud, and gas which makes him nauseous. Of course, by the time the World Wars roll around the others want in on his diamond, oil, and natural gas resources.

    Comic Books 
  • In Thirsty Mermaids, Pearl is genuinely surprised when she learns that a lot of the human junk she finds in the ocean are not only valuable, but that the humans want them back. Pearl manages to pay for her rent and then some by bringing home a jar full of gold dabloons.
  • One Yogi's Treasure Hunt comic has the cast go to a fictional middle-eastern country for the next treasure. There, oil wells are so commonplace that Augie Doggie and Doggie Daddy nearly die of thirst because they've run out of water rations and can't find a clean spring. Meanwhile, Dastardly and Muttley do find a water spring, and Dastardly is furious because he wanted oil, leaving the spring to be claimed by Yogi's gang. Dastardly later presents some oil to the local sheik, who is more interested in the water because in the desert, clean water is more valuable than oil.
  • In Asterix and the Black Gold, "rock oil" (petra oleum) is only valuable because Getafix uses it in its potion. And by the end of the story he discovers that a local plant extract works just as wellbeetroot juice. It also tastes better. The revelation actually puts Astérix (who just returned from a long, failed and unpleasant trip to the other end of the known world to get the oil) through a comical Heroic BSoD.
  • Brazilian comic book writer Mauricio de Sousa uses "worthless petroleum" twice: in stories of the caveman Pitheco and when hillbilly Chuck Billy (Chico Bento) is searching for water ("Damn dirty black water!").
  • Superman:
    • As seen in Superman's Return to Krypton, gold was plentiful on Pre-Crisis Krypton, and worth about as much as any other fairly common industrial metal.
      Kal-El: Great Scott! It's erupting... Gold!
      Jor-El: Unfortunate, isn't it, that gold is so common on Krypton! It's worthless!
    • In a flashback in "World of Krypton," the (pre-Heel) General Zod is astounded to see Jor-El building a rocket out of gold, one of the heaviest metals known. Jor-El counters "It's one of the cheapest, General — and the weight factor is irrelevant since we're dealing with anti-gravity rather than conventional thrust engines! And by using a cheap metal like gold, I've managed to cut costs by two-thirds!" (Of course, gold is not just heavy, but soft)...
    • In Superman: True Brit (wherein Superman is British), Superman attempts to pay off all of Britain's national debt by creating bags full of diamond gems from coal by squeezing it very hard. Of course, since, as is pointed out later by the villain of the story, diamond's value is based on its rarity, diamonds are now worthless and Superman's act was pointless, even counterproductive, because they now don't have all the coal he made into diamonds. We then get a panel where a poor family attempts to fuel their potbelly stove with diamonds. To add insult to injury, they proceed to tax Superman for the diamonds that he did create, at the value they were during the time he created them (before they became worthless). It bankrupted him.
  • In What If? #43, Conan the Barbarian gets stranded in present-day New York City and inadvertently mugs a New Yorker, who tosses all his money at Conan and runs. Conan ignores the hundreds of dollars in bills and keeps the 85 cents in change; he was familiar with coinage but had never seen paper money before and assumed it was some kind of worthless wrapping. Averted not too long after, with Conan learning the value of paper money after watching business transactions taking place.
  • In Transformers: Hearts of Steel, this exchange occurs when the Insecticons pull off a Train Job:
    Kickback: Sheets of pressed inert plant matter with pictures of humans on them? (Read: banknotes)
    Bombshell: What could these be worth to anyone?
  • Lucky Luke:
    • In the opening to the adventure "In the Shadow of the Derricks", the locals are severely upset about the overabundance of "worthless" oil deposits in the area, since it makes farming difficult and water undrinkable. Until it's revealed how much it's really worth...
    • "Ruée sur l'Oklahoma" has similar problems, with the added complication that the area is a desert and water actually is harder to get than oil at the time. Oil only becomes valuable enough after the land has been sold back to the Indians.
  • The Saga of Crystar, Crystal Warrior: The planet Crystallium is a Crystal Landscape up to its armpits in enormous gems and crystals. They're literally as common as rocks, and about as valuable. Buildings are made out of them. Then in one issue, the cast winds up magically transported to the home of Doctor Strange, on Earth, and they're awestruck at the incalculable wealth on display: wooden furniture everywhere and entire shelves full of paper books.
  • Element Lad's introduction in Legion of Super-Heroes features a Tromian mother chiding her child for turning a lamppost into gold, saying "Gold is soft and useless compared to other metals. Only use your powers for useful things." Fridge Brilliance: a gold lamppost couldn't support its own weight, which means it's ruined, which means the mother is going to have to replace it with something of actual value, if only the labor she has to invest in fixing it.
  • ElfQuest:
    • Trolls set great store by gold and jewels, possibly since it takes so much effort to mine and refine them. In the trolls' patriarchal society the more mineral wealth a guy has, the better his choice of bride. By contrast, the elves of Sorrow's End consider gold jewelry mere decoration, since it has no practical value.
    • Similarly, in a later issue, the Wolfriders experience a tribal crisis when they realize that, without trolls to trade with, the only metal they have access to is gold. One of their own has to learn mining and smithing from scratch so they can have "Bright Metal" (presumably steel), the only metal they have any use for. In the same issue, a group of trolls who've lost the knowledge of metalwork value the wolfrider smith's worked sword more than a whole pile of raw gold and gems.
  • In The Smurfs comic book story "The Finance Smurf", Miner comes across a pile of "worthless yellow rocks" in his mine that he doesn't know what to do with. The title character Smurf decides to use them for minting coins as part of the Smurf Village monetary system. Later on, when the Smurfs abandon that system and return to their old communal ways, it gets used for making musical instruments.
  • Disney Ducks Comic Universe:
    • Even Scrooge McDuck can't avoid this one. In one story, he rockets through space to claim a moon made entirely of gold (24 karats all the way through). There, he meets an alien who claims to be the moon's owner. Scrooge tries to haggle, and learns that the alien will trade the deed of ownership for the moon in exchange for a handful of dirt. After being floored by this unnaturally good bargain, Scrooge does so (Donald brought a shoebox full of dirt so he could "keep his feet on the ground") during the trip; the alien feeds the dirt into a machine that soon creates a rapidly-growing planet, with weather patterns and capable of supporting life. With that, the alien flies away on his new world, happy to have something other than gold to work with. In the end, Scrooge is left wondering who got the better end of the deal.
    • Another story has him and Donald lost in the Australian desert. Running low on rations, the two try to live off the land until they can find civilization. However, thanks to Scrooge's talent at finding riches, instead of food and water they keep digging up and stumbling upon priceless minerals and such, and nearly die of thirst and hunger until Huey, Dewey, and Louie can find them.
    • In another story, Scrooge finds a primitive civilization living in a cavern deep underground. The inhabitants complain about "gush," periodic upwellings of molten gold that they find inconvenient and annoying. Scrooge, of course, has a different point of view.
    • In an Italian story, Scrooge's emerald mines are raided by the trained condors of an isolated Inca tribe only interested in quartz gemstones.
    • Another story has Magica de Spell convince Scrooge and his family that they've been transported to an alternate, fantasy iron-age universe where gold is worthless due to being soft and unfit for weaponry, unlike iron, which is used as currency. It's a bid to convince Scrooge to sign a contract to sell her all the gold in his possession in exchange for an equivalent volume of iron.
    • Zig-zagged in the Carl Barks story "Land Beneath The Ground"; at the story's climax, the Terries and the Firmies proceed to send Scrooge's money back up to him, having inadvertently cracked open his moneybin with their last earthquake, because they think it's worthless. However, their reasoning as to why it's worthless is because all they know about the surface is gleaned from overheard radio talk shows; they've misunderstood the cash prizes offered on such shows as indicating that surfacers hold money in contempt.
    • In Return to Plain Awful, the square-obsessed people of Plain Awful do become interested in money, but only for aesthetics, wanting to put it display like art in a museum. To add insult to injury, they chop a stack of bills in half to make the money more square!
    • Another Don Rosa story about a trip to the Earth's core leaves Scrooge in possession of a huge stash of super-pure, super-dense diamonds and gushes about how valuable they are... except there's a wee snag. Super-dense diamonds are super-heavy, and no-one wants to buy jewelry they can't actually wear. Don't think too much about the actual science here...
  • Calamity James (a comic strip in The Beano) frequently features vast amounts of wealth as background gags but James never notices them because he was Born Unlucky.
  • An issue of Xenozoic Tales has one of the Terhune clan stealing a briefcase from a sealed pre-cataclysm vault, certain that anything the ancients had guarded so heavily must be valuable. He's killed in his attempts to protect his new acquisition from the local law enforcement, leaving his girlfriend to console herself with a box full of worthless paper money.
  • The Bogies in Fungus the Bogeyman regard gold as a base metal and use it to make spittoons.
  • In an early issue of Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics), Sonic finds a map to his Uncle Chuck's hidden treasure. The Freedom Fighters are initially uninterested, since money means nothing with Robotnik in charge, but when Sonic reminds them Uncle Chuck was an inventor, they go looking for it, hoping it's an invention of his. it turns out to be a bronzed pair of Sonic's baby shoes.
  • Tech Jacket has the Geldarians pay for their stay on earth in lumps of gold, which he refers as "trash metal".
  • One Alix story has the Roman antagonists negotiate with a Germanic tribe, the Germans paying with "that worthless yellow iron you Romans love so much".
    • ... are they paying in gold, or in fool's gold? (pyrite is an iron ore, after all)
  • A 1960 Ruff and Reddy story had the two pals accidentally destroying a man's brick wall and damaging one of the bricks. These are supposedly not ordinary bricks, but "hero" bricks issued by the king of a remote country which he gives out in lieu of currency. Ruff and Reddy go to this country to retrieve a new brick only to have a scoundrel there having to rescue them from a pinch time and again—the guy is trying to obtain more bricks than the guy for whom Ruff and Reddy are working.
  • The Transformers/G.I. Joe crossover miniseries by Dreamwave had Decepticon leader Megatron dismiss Cobra's search for treasure as pursuing worthless painted paper and yellow metal, stating that the Autobot Matrix is the only real treasure around.
  • In De Cape et de Crocs, gold and jewels literally grow on trees on the Moon. The Selenites, whose currency is poetry, consider them as annoying weeds and do not understand why Terrans are so fascinated by them.
  • Played with in a 2000 AD story where humans travel along with robots to a planet (or moon) which is supposed to be full of gold. Robots in this story are sentient slaves to humans and considered expendable which is important since the planet has a highly corrosive acid rain. The humans discover after they've arrived that most of the crates marked "foodstuffs" are actually full of... rubber ducks. They believe that a labelling robot made a mistake although the truth is obvious to the reader, and made explicit later. They are too far away from any supply base to get more food or get back before they starve to death. The robots find gold, but in very small quantities, and it becomes less and less important to the humans who are starving to death. Only after the last human dies is it revealed that the robots were finding lots of gold all along... and they used it to replace or coat their metal parts because gold is immune to the corrosion of the acid rain.

    Comic Strips 
  • Dilbert:
    • In one strip, the following conversation takes place:
      Dilbert: Isn't it odd? Despite how advanced we are, we still rely on rocks for currency.
      Dogbert: What's even dumber is that it's a rock that's hard to find.
    • There's also a comic where Dogbert goes into a jewelry store and points out how utterly arbitrary the diamond market is, and convinces the seller to give him a sack of diamonds just to keep the secret from getting out.
  • One Thimble Theater arc had Popeye and friends go on a treasure hunt. After braving many dangers, including an encounter with Bluto's crew, they end up in the land of Dooma. There, gold is so common that its used as building material. The local ruler allows Popeye's pack to take an unneeded pile with them, which is more than enough to solve a country's financial crisis.

    Fairy Tales 
  • In one French tale, a man helps the Small Folk gather their crops and livestock (which they are allowed to do during a single night in the year), and later, to spread out their gold on the ground so it will see daylight and won't get spoilt. A large amount doesn't (luckily, the man isn't blamed for this), and the Small Folk throw it out, considering it mere trash or poison. Since the "spoiling" is merely the gold turning red, the guy becomes very rich.
  • “The Cock and the Jewel”, one of Aesop's Fables, has a cockerel find a precious jewel amongst the straw of the farmyard. While he’s fully aware of how valuable humans would find it, he himself would much rather have found corn to eat, which is worth more to him:
    “No doubt you are very costly and he who lost you would give a great deal to find you. But as for me, I would choose a single grain of barleycorn before all the jewels in the world.”

    Fan Works 
  • Chamber Girl: Professor Snape is initially astounded to hear that Ginny considers most of what she found in the Chamber of Secrets — necklaces, ancient currencies, crowns — to be useless. He apologises after she rather irritably points out that, being trapped there for years, she had no need to play dress-up, and would have much preferred to find a bucket.
    Ginny: Do you have any idea how much use I could have gotten out of a bucket?
  • In the Ben 10 fanfiction Hero High: Earth Style, Ren has a solid gold picture frame. She laments the fact that she was surprised how valuable the material was on earth, as it was quite common on her planet.
  • In Petty's take on the Nuzlocke Pokémon Challenge, Barb the Nidoran/rina/queen collects pieces of paper that she finds. After trainer Locke has a nervous breakdown, Barb offers to share her "paper collection" to cheer her up, and Locke discovers that it contains the SS Anne ticket and the Bike Voucher, which are valuable Key Items in the games and to Locke, but just paper to Barb, who happily lets Locke have them. It's a twofer with Grail in the Garbage since the rest of Barb's collection appears to be just paper trash, like receipts and old greeting cards.
  • In one chapter of Ellen Brand's Personality Conflicts series, Ignatz Hills, proprietor of the "Old As The Hills" antique store, sells a glass statue, priced at thirty dollars, to a customer on Christmas Eve. The stranger, who wears a trench coat and fedora (and is actually Ecliptor, buying a present for Astronoma), pays with a "perfect clear emerald, the size of a fingernail, without flaws". When Hill protests that perfect emeralds are incredibly rare (and far more valuable than the statue he just sold), Ecliptor replies that "Where I come from, they're as common as grains of sand."
  • In Turnabout Storm, Phoenix is rewarded for his work on the case with a huge haul of money. He quickly finds out that the money is in bits, the Equestrian currency, and he has no way to convert it to any Earth currency. In other words, it'd be completely worthless should he take it with him.
  • In The Old Fairy, Maleficent reveals that the "gift" the fairies got, seven sets of golden plates and utensils, were useless to them beyond being metal that wouldn't burn them. In fact, they were left in a pile in the woods somewhere afterwards.
  • Naruto in Trolling the League regards a large emerald as an "ugly green paperweight" and thinks the cushion it's on is far more interesting. Of course, given that he's a Physical God who can effortlessly create matter, something as simple as an emerald is rather boring.
  • In King Lightning Harry is raised by a snake in the Forbidden Forest. As "king" of the snakes he receives tributes which occasionally include gems and wizarding currency, which he disregards due to snakes not having any idea how a monetary system works.
  • In RainbowDoubleDash's Lunaverse, gold is universally shunned after Celestia's transformation into Corona. In fact, minting gold coins is now apparently a borderline treasonous act. Subverted a bit in that it's only gold that's shunned, silver retains its value and is the basis of the new post-Corona monetary system.
  • The aluminium examples, as seen elsewhere in Real Life, tend to abound in many My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfics, particular those where a human lands in Equestria. One particularly notable case is in The Memoirs of a Reality Jumper, where the main character notes that he has in his interdimensional pocket a bit of gold, some silver, a decent quantity of platinum, and oh, about 250kg of aluminium. It took a moment for the others to pick their jaws up off the floor. Meanwhile, the protagonist finds that his carefully hoarded supply of tiny gemstones is utterly worthless in a land where a fist-sized rock is considered barely more than dross.
  • Similarly Painite is zig-zagged in If Wishes Were Ponies in that it is used as a Power Crystal in enhancing the Magical properties of Armor for both the Wizarding World and Equestria, however on Earth it is classified as being extremely rare that the Goblins of Gringotts were willing to haggle the price for a fist-sized rock of Painite in the THOUSANDS just to keep it from being sold to a Muggle Jeweler instead, and as a result made the sellers of the Gemstone note  the 10th-richest depositors at Gringotts. While in Equestria, Painite is much more commonly found even around Ponyville.
    Rarity: I usually ignore them when I find them as my customers don’t like the way those gems interfere with their spell-casting if there are any sewn into their clothes.
  • In the Triptych Continuum, gold does have its value, as it's the established metal for the currency of the realm. What's really considered expensive, however, are silver bits, as they were discontinued some centuries ago. Even then, though, it's not even the metal which qualifies as expensive: it's the fact that the ancient coins are A. extremely rare, and B. contain a note on them reading, 'Good for nearly all Princess labor, Public or Private'.
  • In Reverti Ad Praeteritum, Edward and Alphonse give one of Van Hohenheim’s journals to the Chang clan and since it was written by someone who’s ancient and revered in Xing, many of the clans attempt to steal it and it’s highly coveted. To the Elric’s themselves, though, it’s one of dozens they own and their father can always just write more.
  • Rocketship Voyager
    • B'Elanna Torres tells of how her mother, a Venerian Warrior Princess, had bragged of the fortune in Terran diamonds she had acquired through intertribal war and slave trading, not knowing that Terrans were buying up land on the cheap with synthetic diamonds. It's implied that diamonds aren't even used as jewelry on Earth anymore—Chakotay only knows them as an abrasive used for Asteroid Miner tools.
    • When Captain Janeway tries to buy Voyager's passage back to Earth she's told that gold only has value for electrical conduction, steel and tungsten have been superseded by molecular-bonded alloys, and nuclear fusion has reduced the demand for uranium. However their contraterrene has value, as does a certain other item they're carrying...
  • Heroic Myth: The Xenos say they don't really understand money, asking why the surface dwellers trade pieces of metal for useful things like food.
  • Boldores and Boomsticks: Downplayed. Used Evolution Stones are seen as having no further use on Earth, primarily being kept as mementos. When Weiss sees one she identifies it as relatively high-quality Dust.
  • By the Sea: In a variation, the merfolk understand the value of precious metals and gemstones just like surface-world cultures, enough that marriage traditions mandate the gifting of pieces of jewelry during engagement, but it's implied that they don't have the technology underwater to work raw gold (or any raw metals), hence why Eyayah doesn't see anything special or valuable about gold nuggets that he found buried on the seafloor.
  • The Emperor's attempts in Everqueen to replicate Isha's Dreamstones produce marvellous, near priceless jewels. Without the soul-protecting aspect, however, they are trash as far as he cares.
  • The Defensive Space Force Ship Requirement: As the ship's replicator grants them access to any kind of wealth in unlimited amounts, the Crew doesn't care about throwing gold at problems and many of them actually consider money a hindrance, to Josephine Edgecombe's utter horror. Having literally tons of gold available as their only form of spendable currency is starting to become a problem since using it to pay people or make purchases for stuff they can't make using the replicator is starting to depress gold prices.
  • Goldfur's Stories About Ponies: As is so common with MLP:FiM crossovers, Equestria and its ability to produce gemstones as common as gravel, yet highly valuable in human worlds...
    Violet: "You don’t know her like we do. I’ll bet ten flawless rubies to your one that she’s been up all night researching all the implications of what her son told her."
    Tigerbright: ... "I’ve known you for two weeks and I already know better than to take you up on that bet. Also, stop trying to bankrupt me with your common Equestrian gravel. Rubies don’t grow on trees or rock farms or whatever like they do in this magical place."
  • Downplayed in I Woke Up As a Dungeon, Now What?. Gold coins are used for currency but they're also very commonly used for rituals. Even an extremely poor village on the verge of dying out has entire crates of gold coins lying around. While pearls are generally considered rare, one sailor remarks they're "as common as gold trinkets" where he comes from.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Princess Mononoke, there's a scene where a merchant throws a hissy fit when Ashitaka pays for his bag of rice with a small, yellow rock... At least until a passing monk notices and points out that it's a solid gold nugget, and that it's probably worth three times what she gave him.
  • Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa: when the waterhole dries up, the animals start digging for water, but all they can find is worthless gold and jewels. Subverted by the end; while the African animals don't care about the pile of treasure (and even if they did, you can't drink gold), the penguins certainly do. The sequel starts with the penguins leaving for a European casino, hoping to make even more money with the treasure.
  • In WALL•E, the eponymous robot finds a diamond ring in a box, then throws it away and keeps the box. Further spoofed in an Oscar montage where he finds an Oscar statue and a videotape; he tosses the gold statue and watches the tape. Which, of course, is made even funnier since he did win the BAF award in 2009.
  • In Penguins of Madagascar, the Penguins are in the cargo hold of an airplane, and when discussing a plan, Skipper impulsively hits the eject button, launching them and the cargo into the air. While looking for a way to save themselves amongst the cargo, Private comes across a package of parachutes, while Skipper tells him to "stop playing with those backpacks".
  • Fantastic Mr. Fox, the eponymous fox and his wife have a conversation next to a mineral deposit that appears to be diamonds (or some other equally shiny gemstones). The foxes ignore this because, well, they're animals.
  • During the song "Heigh-Ho!" from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, we see the dwarfs' gem mine, which yields so many large, perfectly-cut gems that anything that doesn't live up to their high standards just goes into the trash, including smaller or imperfectly-shaped diamonds and a huge ruby that goes "clunk" instead of "ding" when tapped.
  • Referenced in The Prince of Egypt, when Jethro is singing to Moses about true value.
    A lake of gold in the desert sand is less than a cool, fresh spring! And to one lost sheep, a shepherd boy is greater than the richest king!
  • In Home (2015), the Boov gather all the articles they consider useless in spherical piles floating in the sky. Among the items given this treatment are cars, bicycles, trashcans, toilets and in Paris, statues and monuments.
  • My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Friendship Games: In a deleted scene, Princess Twilight Sparkle tries to pay for food in the human world using bits, but naturally that isn't considered legal tender in the human world.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • A Deadly Secret is a martial arts movie concerning a hidden treasure, in the form of a gigantic statue filled with hundreds and hundreds of pearls, with various warriors, assassins and fighters seeking said statue (and killing each other to get it). The Big Bad and his goons eventually uncovers said statue in the final act and breaks it, spilling pearls all over the floor where everyone present starts grabbing and shoving in their pockets. Alas, it turns out the pearls are coated with a deadly poison - everyone starts dying seconds after pocketing the pearls.
  • The African Wachati tribe from Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls worship bats and live near a giant bat cave. Their most sacred bat gets stolen so Ace is on the case. The stuffy British guy who hired Ace stole the bat to provoke tribal war. Once both tribes are wiped out, his mining company will move in and take over their lands which are rich in guano (highly valuable as a crop fertilizer, but useless to the Wachati). This whole thing was about bat shit.
  • In The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Vulcan is shown to crush coal into diamonds for Venus. But while she plays along, she also has a fairly large pile of diamonds, so in reality they aren't worth that much to her.
  • In Almost Heroes, Hunt must find an eagle egg which is an ingredient for the cure to Edwards' illness. Hunt twice gets an egg but he can't help eating it. Finally he gets back with an egg, and their Indian guide breaks it because she only needs the shell.
  • In Avatar, the Unobtainium is a room-temperature superconductor, which makes it absurdly valuable to the humans. To the Na'vi, it's worthless rock.
  • From The Cat from Outer Space, gold is so plentiful on Jake's planet, it's used as fuel. Getting the money he needs for it on Earth becomes a major point of the plot.
  • In The Dark Knight, Alfred uses an example of this to illustrate to Bruce Wayne why The Joker won't back down. Specifically, Alfred tells a story about his time in an unspecified army, when they found a bandit who had been stealing precious stones. Alfred says they tried finding the bandit by looking for anyone who had bought the stolen stones but never found anyone. Later on Alfred found a child playing with one of the stones: the bandit had been throwing them away, after stealing them For the Evulz. The scene foreshadowed by Alfred's story is The Joker setting fire to an absurdly large pile of cash, which also counts. The Joker points out he has no interest in it as he can acquire things like homemade explosives and gasoline cheaply. Gasoline seems like an odd thing to say is cheap, considering its ever-rising price, until you realise it's unlikely he's going to pay for it.
  • From The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), Klaatu goes around with a pocketful of cut diamonds which function as small change on his planet; he tries to buy things with them on Earth, attracting the attention of the authorities.
  • Forbidden Planet. Robby the Do-Anything Robot has no problem manufacturing a dress with diamonds or emeralds for his mistress overnight, his only proviso is that she'll have to wait a week if she wants star sapphires as they need time to crystalize. He also uses his Matter Replicator to make 60 gallons of bourbon for a very grateful cook, bottles included!
  • In The Good, The Bad, The Weird, the so-called treasure map actually led to an oil well, which is of no value to the protagonists. This kind of seems to evoke The Treasure of the Sierra Madre especially in the version of the film where all three protagonists die needlessly. In other versions, there's a consolation in that Tae-goo and possibly Do-won as well are implied to have left with some of the loot Chang-yi brought with him.
  • Greed. Sure, you got the gold. Too bad you're in the middle of a desert without any water.
  • Taken to horrifying conclusions in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. If you drink from one of the many beautiful chalices of life, created with gold, diamonds, and other precious metals, your age is sped up to the point of death. The only true chalice that will grant you immortality is made of wood or clay, because that's all a carpenter like Jesus would have used.
  • In the 1965 Godzilla film Invasion of Astro-Monster, gold is shown to be so common on Planet X that it's seen as a junk material and generally discarded. Water, on the other hand, is rare and extremely valuable, and the natives of Planet X attempt to invade the Earth for it.
  • In The Island, the pirates find a fortune in cocaine onboard the schooner, and throw it overboard because they have no idea what it is.
  • In the Soviet movie Kin-Dza-Dza!, the aliens regard matches as a highly valuable form of currency, entitling their owner to special privileges like wearing yellow or purple pants and having commoners curtsey to them. On the other hand, the only use Earth money has is that you can use it to buy even MORE matches.
  • One of the plot threads in Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels involves the eponymous shotguns getting written off as useless and old by almost everyone who comes into their possession. At the end of the movie, they wind up in the hands of the four main characters, who also deem them completely worthless and order Tom to dispose of them. Shortly after Tom leaves, they're handed a book that reveals the true worth of the guns to be up to £300,000 before ending on one of the best Cliffhanger endings out there.
  • In Men in Black, diamonds are regarded by aliens like the Arquilians and The Bug as mere trinkets.
  • Operation Condor:
    • In the opening sequence, Jackie Chan sneaks into a small cave where diamonds line the walls and litter the floor and begins stuffing them in his bags. When found by a couple of the local tribesmen, they just shrug and wave him on, but when he tries to refill his canteen from the nearby stream...
    • Occurs again near the end. The two villains who have been bothering Jackie and his companions throughout the movie finally catch up with them after being stranded in the desert. Jackie tells them that the stockpile of gold that everyone in the movie has been seeking is lost and offers them the few bars that are left. They are so thirsty that they don't care about the gold anymore and they just want water.
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Inverted in the first film, The Lightning Thief. When the party needs to cross the River Styx to enter the Underworld, Grover attempts to pay Charon the Ferryman with a handful of hundred dollar bills. Charon contemptuously sets the money on fire and demands gold. Annabeth hands some gold over and he lets them on his boat while Grover mourns the wasted money.
  • In Resident Evil: Afterlife, Alice has a large collection of quarters. Luther gets annoyed and points out money is worthless in the Zombie Apocalypse. However, she later reveals she uses them as Abnormal Ammo for her shotguns.
  • Stepsister from Planet Weird. A father-daughter alien duo arrive on Earth, and being aliens, the girl believes diamonds to be useless (due to their alien biology, which makes diamonds on their planet outright lethal and frustrating to mine, yet stuck to everything), but her dad proceeds to sell his hoard of alien gravel online with bubbly glee.
  • In one of the Weissmuller Tarzan films, Boy brings up some shiny yellow rocks from the bottom of a lake. Jane dismisses it with an, "Oh, that's gold," before throwing it away over her shoulder.
    • Subverted in that Jane knows the worth of gold, but the family has no need for it in the jungle. Later, after Boy is kidnapped and taken to America, Jane has Tarzan bring a coconut full of gold with them to New York to pay for clothes, a hotel room, etc.
  • Texas Across The River (set in American frontier days) has a running joke about how finding oil on land makes it worthless. Can't raise cattle on ground poisoned with the stuff!
  • In Threads, nuclear war renders nearly everything worthless: food becomes the only post-war currency, given as reward for work or withheld as punishment.
  • At the end of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, the Mexican bandits - having killed Fred C. Dobbs and taken the gold that he had lusted for throughout the film - mistake the stuff for worthless sand and dump it on the ground, where it's subsequently scattered in a windstorm. Ironically, before they even start prospecting, Howard, the old prospector, explains that the only value in gold is the hundreds of years of wasted effort by thousands of men trying to find it. Gold itself isn't good for anything he says but jewelry and gold teeth. He is, however, obsessed with searching for it and has made and lost fortunes all over the world.
  • In the John Wayne film The War Wagon, Wayne's character makes a deal with a band of Indians to attack the titular wagon in order to steal the gold it carries. Part of the plan is to conceal the gold in a shipment of flour to carry it away. But at the end of the successful theft, the Indians double-cross Wayne and steal the flour since it's enough to feed their band for months. In the process, they toss the gold, much of which is in the form of dust and gets scattered. What's left has to be hidden because the thieves can't be caught openly carrying it in the wake of the theft. The "civilized" Indian working with Wayne thinks they're stupid for choosing flour over gold but in the end, they're the only ones who really come out ahead.
  • White Shadows in the South Seas: Lloyd the white man has washed up on a South Pacific island. He is dumbstruck when a native, fashioning a fishhook out of an oyster shell, casually tosses away the priceless pearl he finds inside.

  • Then there's the old joke about the rich man who died, and an angel was sent to bring him to Heaven. He bargains with the angel, and its superiors in Heaven, to allow him to bring all his riches with him, which they are against. Eventually, they cave in and allow him one single suitcase and whatever he can fit into it, which after agonized deliberation, he fills with solid gold ingots. After he arrives in heaven, Saint Peter asks what he brought, and the man opens the suitcase. Saint Peter looks at him with a confused expression on his face and asks "You brought PAVEMENT?"note 
  • A standard old-timey joke involves someone offering his dim-witted friend a choice between "a shiny coin" or "a straggly bit of paper" (usually a £1 coin and a £5 note respectively). The idiot takes the coin of course; if they're feeling subversive, he'll also take the paper "to wrap it up in".
    • There's also a version of the joke where a bystander takes pity on the dim-wit and points out to him that the piece of paper is worth more than the coin — to which the supposed dim-wit replies that one piece of paper is worth more than one coin, but that as long as he keeps picking the coin, his friend will keep offering him more.
  • One more joke/urban legend that's been used multiple times in various media. An elderly man passes away, and his widow begins to wonder how she'll be able to afford to keep their house. Someone comes to help her sort through her husband's things and sees some scraps of paper that the widow is using as bookmarks or wrapping paper otherwise seen as useless. Upon looking a little closer, they realize that those scraps of paper were stock certificates, and the late husband bought a few hundred shares in some start-up way back in the Seventies that has since turned into IBM or Microsoft, or some other newly blossomed company.

  • In one episode of The Lives of Harry Lime, Harry manages to find the lost treasure of Barbarossa. He is captured by bandits who get drunk on the wine stored there. They open the bags of gold dust, not realising what it is, and allow it to spill onto the beach and be washed away by the tide.
  • X Minus One: In "Project Mastodon", an adaptation of Clifford Simak's "Project Mastodon", the protagonist got mixed up in a time-traveling get-rich-quick scheme by going to the past and investing in stocks that would rise and property loaded with a type of mineral that the seller told him had interesting scientific qualities but was basically worthless—uranium.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • In the Dragonlance campaign setting, the value of gold dropped sharply after the Cataclysm; steel pieces are used where gold pieces would be used in other campaign settings. This made very little sense. Only a creative GM would stop you from getting rich by buying swords and melting them down. (Long Sword cost: 15 steel pieces. Weight: ~4 lbs. Coin weight: 1/10 lb.)
    • In Dark Sun, you can't melt down your swords for (insanely valuable) steel, because of course only the god-kings (and their trusted lieutenants and so on) can afford a steel sword; most weapons are made of obsidian. The primary currency is ceramic, and is backed by the God-Kings' say-so, not by any inherent value of its material (although more valuable silver, gold, and platinum pieces do exist, they are so valuable that they are almost never used; and nobody would waste what little steel there is on currency, since it is essentially priceless).
    • In the Midnight setting, gold and gems became useless trinkets after the Dark Lord Izrador conquered the world. Surviving humans and humanoids have reverted to a barter system. The only people who use coins as currency at all are the "Traitor Princes", those who surrendered without a fight; they will commonly give peasants a worthless gold coin when they commandeer goods and services, under the pretense they're "buying" them.
  • Warhammer:
    • The Lizardmen don't understand why humans (and elves and dwarves) are so greedy for gold and jewels. They value gold, not for its beauty or rarity but for its long-lasting nature — gold is almost completely rust-proof and good to store information on. The ancient tablets of the Old Ones are all written on gold, which they will do anything to recover. They make their armor out of the stuff, or at least the Temple Guard and high-ranking Saurus do. And they don't even give a damn about most of what the other races steal from them; the only stuff they really put any effort into retrieving are their sacred plaques and the relics of the Old Ones. As it was best put by a Skink Priest:
      "Why do they always want gold? What do they do with it? Do they eat it?"
    • Ogres consider gold innately worthless because it doesn't make good eating and isn't sturdy enough to make weapons or useful tools out of. Between a pile of iron and a pile of gold, they'd take the iron and then use it to club the guy that took the gold and rob him. They do hoard it... but only because they can "con" other races into giving them "valuable" food and weapons in exchange for "worthless" gold. Greasus Goldtooth (an ogre smart enough to tax the Silk Road and thus is the richest person in Warhammer), however, seems to have found another use; paying people on the other side to suffer a spontaneous outbreak of incompetence.
    • Skaven, similarly, have an economy based almost entirely on warpstone, food and slaves. Skaven only value gold in that it can be used to bribe man-things.
    • The Tomb Kings, similar to the Lizardmen, value gold because most of the surviving artefacts of their realms and dynasties are made of it. Tomb Kings will launch full-scale invasions on anyone who so much as takes a single gold coin from them, but it's because they dared stealing from them: The theft is more important to them than whatever was actually stolen. One instance has a dwarf hammer that has a Nekaharan coin on it and has been the cause of multiple wars for more than two thousand years. The dwarfs want the hammer because it was made by a dwarf, the Tomb King wants the coin because it's his. The person who suggests removing the (strictly decorative) coin and returning it to the king is looked at like he's an idiot.
  • Ars Magica: In Fifth Edition, some magi (and new players) are distressed to discover that gold is not worth much: since they can make as much as they want, the Order prohibits creating enough precious metal to devalue local currency. Magi tend to use an Energy Economy of Vis, condensed Mana that's tremendously useful for magic and that has to be harvested rather than magically produced.
  • Magic: The Gathering
    • The underworld of Theros has so much gold that it proves to be effectively worthless. Returned (basically zombies with no memories) fashion masks out of gold; returned merchants don't accept gold currency, favoring coins made from the clay funeral masks. The underworld god, Erebos, is the god of greed and wealth as well as the dead.
    • The dwarves of Kaldheim have a giant chasm in their city constantly bubbling with liquid gold. As such, the metal is too common to have any real value for them — their coins are made from iron — and they only value gold for aesthetic purposes.
  • Exalted: A certain island had silkworms aplenty, but no sources of cotton or leather. The island had been cut off from the rest of Creation for a while; when traders finally recontacted them, the residents eagerly traded fine silk clothes — which become uncomfortable when doing a day's labor in the field in them — for more practical cotton.
  • Numenera is set in the Ninth World, Earth a billion years in the future in the ruins of eight great, impossibly advanced civilizations that then disappeared. The Earth has been so completely processed and rebuilt (perhaps literally) that there's not even meaningfully "natural" soil anymore. The ancients either transmuted or imported so many previously-rare materials from other worlds that the concept of intrinsic value doesn't exist. If a currency is in gold, then it's because the minting authority decided it was the most economical material to use at the time.

  • Beast Wars: Uprising: In an early battle on Earth in the 80s, Sky Warp gets a stone lodged in his chest when fighting Autobots in a museum. He keeps the stone as a paperweight, and hundreds of years later it's kept in a museum of Decepticon history on Cybertron as The Stone of Sky Warp. Or as humans know it, the Rosetta Stone.

    Web Animation 
  • In the Camp Camp episode "The Fun-Raiser", David and Gwen are trying to raise money to keep the camp afloat, but end up even further in the red with every attempt. Meanwhile, Nikki at one point is digging for buried treasure and is disappointed when she strikes oil.
  • Overly Sarcastic Productions: Discussed in the episode covering the Myth of El Dorado, where Red recounts that Spain dumped their entire stock of platinum— a material far rarer and more valuable than gold— into the sea, partly because it was being used to counterfeit actual gold coins, partly because it was thought of as inferior to other precious metals (the word "platinum" comes from a term meaning "unripe silver"). Red goes on to say that it's such an apt metaphor for the problems within the colonial system and the Conquistadores being unable to see the value of the New World they were conquering that if she read it in a book, she would have called the author at hack.

    Web Comics 
  • In Freefall it’s a Running Gag that precious minerals are brought up and then dismissed as worthless.
    • Diamonds and other gems are so easily synthesized that they're used in barbecues. When Sam scams two supporting characters with shares in a "meat mine", his loot is 50kg of diamonds that were the waste product of someone using CO2 to test a fusion reactor's mag bottle.
    Sam: That grill surface is one big slab of diamond. Back home, I could buy a kingdom with it. Here? It's so cheap that people throw them away. It's organics like wood that are expensive here. On my planet, the garbage dumps are full of wood and old tree bits. If interstellar travel wasn't so expensive, we could make a good living selling garbage from one planet to another.
    • Florence meets a group of robot student tailors that use gold cloth, silver thread, and lots of gems. Since the planet Jean is still being Terraformed, organic materials are a Mundane Luxury while mineral resources are literally dirt cheap.
  • In The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!, aliens can synthesize gold very easily. This is sometimes used to pay for repairs to Bob's repeatedly destroyed roof.
  • The Order of the Stick: This strip shows Haley dividing up the party's treasure equally to everyone else, but only taking worthless rocks for herself. Roy catches on and demands the rocks to be split between everyone else with Haley getting none (but a double share of the rest of the treasure). The trick is, they were actually ordinary, valueless grey rocks, and Haley just duped the party into giving her more treasure.
  • X in A Magical Roommate exploits this trope by paying her entrance into a magical university with aluminium. She also apparently plans to profit off platinum...
  • Mentioned in 8-Bit Theater, comic 1191. Even with the threat of Chaos ending the world, Thief is still determined to hoard as much cash as possible. Red Mage and Black Mage point out that when Chaos does rampage, money wouldn't be worth the act of picking it up, as day to day survival will be the only thing anyone cares about. A farmer would be rich because he could make his own food. Thief is naturally horrified.
    Thief: Wealth that belongs to those who can make it? Great Elf in the sky... We must stop this horrible future no matter the cost! So long as cost remains on the backs of the poor.
  • Dragon Mango: The goblin king refuses a sack of gold and demands something useful like a chicken or a box of donuts, saying that they have literally whole walls made of the that "worthless gold". War is averted with a happy ending when the true worth of gold is explained to him (and almost immediately goblins are reclassified from monsters to people by surrounding nations)
  • In Homestuck, currency in the form of "Boondollars" are awarded to the players (the children and the trolls) for advancing on their echeladder and doing sidequests. It is regarded as worthless and considered "useless bullshit money" by Dave.
    • TG: alright well its not like i even have a problem parting with this useless bullshit money
    • This may not be entirely true — both Aradia and Terezi state, and John later confirms, that the Boonbucks are used to purchase 'fraymotifs' which are likely styles of combat. The trolls have apparently all bought the best ones they could, and Dave apparently bought a few offscreen. It's just that Dave used his time-travel abilities to manipulate the game economy.
    • Jane has an item that converts whatever she wants into grist, at the price of a few boonbucks. However, since she has no idea what grist is supposed to be used for, she considers the item completely useless. Similarly, she already has a fortune in boondollars and a fetch modus which lists the alchemy components of items, but she has no idea that they'll have something of a use in the near future.
  • Discussed in Dubious Company. Sal and Leeroy win a presumably large fortune at the Festival of Veils. While excited about their winnings, they decide to give it up as the Elvish currency would be worthless in whatever dimension they would end up in next.
  • Drow Tales: Gold is worthless to Drow for two logical reasons: Drow living underground come across gold way more often than anyone else, making it a very common metal. It also cannot be used for weapons and armor due to its physical properties, and can not hold mana, so its only purpose is decoration. Fossilized tree sap on the other hand (which are literally worthless yellow rocks for people on the surface), appears to be extremely valuable due to its ability to hold mana quite well due to being organic, and the fact that with very few exceptions trees are not able to survive in the underworld means that it has to be imported.
  • In Deverish Also, Rekkoran originally got rich by buying aluminium on Earth, where it's a common industrial metal, and selling the "litesilver" for obscene amounts of gold in the other world.
  • Commander Quinn from Quentyn Quinn, Space Ranger explains that in a society with replicators, robot labor, and zero-point energy, very few physical objects are worth any great amount of money, gold and jewels most certainly not among them. What is worth money is ideas, such as art and literature or new replicator templates, and work that a robot can't do, such as Quinn's own job.
    • Therefore, one should be re-e-eally careful not to let intellectual property laws get out of hand, as the RIAA Wars prove.
    • In the prequel comic Tales of the Questor Quentyn's species, the Rac Cona Daimh, considered bauxite a worthless ore as no furnace could extract metal from it, and in fact a toxin as an entire village became uninhabitable when the water supply became contaminated with it. Then a young biomancer developed a plant that siphoned bauxite out of the ground and it produced "berries" made of solid aluminium (see real life, below) or rubies and sapphires.
      • Oh, and in QQSR they've got a 30-km worldship covered in a geodesic sphere of solid sapphire plates.
  • Flipside: Gold is used as money, but it is cheaper than silver, and platinum is even cheaper.
  • In Deverish Also the protagonist is transported to a medieval fantasy universe where aluminum, or "litesteel", is more valuable than gold. Later it turns out that the villain toppled a kingdom by using aluminium from the protagonist's homeworld to get insanely wealthy.
  • Played with in Kill Six Billion Demons; the numerous treasures in Mammon's Dragon Hoard are massively valuable, but Mammon himself has become so senile that he no longer remembers how or why he got it all. He spends his days counting it all, figuring it was important to him once, but otherwise doesn't really care about it anymore. When Allison reaches his vault, Mammon casually tells her that she's free to take whatever she wants if she lets him finish counting first. His followers are so inured to the endless fields of gold that they literally treat it as dirt; they walk on it and build crops in it.
  • In Latchkey Kingdom, Bridget comes from an alternate dimension which is apparently post-scarcity, and pays for her clothes with small cards of solid gold, which also helps the shopkeeper overlook Svana's insistence that she's a dangerous fairy here to kidnap people.
  • In League of Super Redundant Heroes, after being transported to another world and discovering Josie has deposed the legitimate ruler and installed herself as queen (though she prefers to believe she created the world with magic), Buckaress points out how the vault filled with gold coins makes her rich.
    Josie: This isn't real money, it's fantasy money and banks don't have an exchange rate for that.
    Buckaress: ... but it's still gold. Just melt it down to bars and you can sell it for millions of dollars.
    Josie: ... Oh. My. God. I'm rich!
  • In Flaky Pastry, during a multi-race peace conference, Nitrine (as the Goblin representative, "The Shortstraw") presents the Human rep, Athena, with an "object d'art" from Goblin territory: An artfully-arranged pile of rocks. After noting that the rocks were "surprisingly heavy", she has her assistant scan the "sculpture". It's uranium ore.
    Athena: I think we may have one more matter of import to discuss.
  • Port Sherry: In "But not gold" a court alchemist is fired for not being able to turn lead i240301254nto gold. He is, however, able to turn lead into precious gemstones, but does not realize their worth.
  • Real Life Comics: Mae is about to sell her beloved handmade warp core lamp when a Federation rep appears and asks her not to, for matters of Federation security. She offers Mae five bars of gold-pressed latinum as compensation and ports out. Mae is left wondering how she's supposed to cash the stuff in. Double subverted when Tony breaks down that the amount of latinum in the bars would work out to about $4000, but the bars themselves (considered worthless packaging the Federation and their contemporaries) would go for $100K total.

    Web Videos 
  • In Noob: La Quête Légendaire, one of the extremely rare materials Gaea needs was stolen from its original owners by thieves who think it's just a random gem. For this reason, they are willing to give it away as part of a bet on the outcome of a Fictional Sport game and are baffled Gaea is willing to bet her whole party's equipment for a chance of getting it.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Worthless Gold



G, O, L and D find a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. They tip out all the gold and keep the pot.

How well does it match the trope?

3.67 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / WorthlessYellowRocks

Media sources: