Silver coinage is incredibly common. The caravan trade between the Holy Country and the Lunar Empire uses silver. The Lunars also dump a huge amount of silver into circulation to pay their army.
Rate of coinage replacement in the ancient world was very low. The Seleukid replacement rate is estimated to be less than 2 percent. Probably closer to 0.6 per cent.
So if you assume there are some 1.5 million silver lunars circulating around (the total amount in circulation in the Lunar Empire and Dragon Pass), much of this ends up back with the rulers through taxes, tolls, etc., and then gets reissued to pay for the court and the army (which are pretty much the main expenses). So you gather that tax – both the Lunars and the Sartarites monetize this – send the coins to a mint and mint enough to pay the soldiers there. You brand the coin not as a cultural thing with the occupied areas but to remind YOUR soldiers who is paying them. When the Dragonrise happens, there might have been hundreds of thousands of Lunars in Boldhome as part of the payroll treasury. Maybe more. Kallyr seized that when she seized Boldhome. She turned around and spent that very quickly – organizing a Stationary Lightbringers Quest with most of the tribes of Sartar participating doesn’t come cheap!
At any time, the Red Emperor can get his hands on about 30% of that through taxes, rents, tolls, you name it. About that. That fits with estimates for the 3rd century BCE in the Hellenestic and Aegean World.
So if we think about 1626, we have a lot of silver Lunars in circulation in the cities and tribes. Cities gave them out to the tribes to buy grain and livestock. Most still have the Red Emperor’s happy face on it.
No doubt Kallyr minted as many coins with her face as she could, but she was pretty pressed for time.
There is a certain irony there – Kallyr ruined her reign with her failed LBQ, but probably saved her people from the worst consequences of failing that LBQ that by throwing around money to get everyone on board. In 1625 there were some 15,000 professional soldiers in Dragon Pass, a New Lunar Temple to be consecrated, hundreds, maybe thousands, of priests, and so on. All of them needed to be paid regularly. You keep the coin in Boldhome because that is safest and easiest. If only the Lunar Army had taken Nochet in 1623. You could have seized the royal storehouses and treasuries, pillaged the temples, and paid off the last few years and still have something to show for it.
The Red Emperor has far more total resources than the Holy Country. But he also has far more expenses. The Esrolians find it cheaper to hire other people to do their dirty work.
This is basically what we see in the Near East and South Asia in the wake of Alexander and his Successors. But taxation is in coin, not in kind. That’s a Sartar thing. So the tribes have to take part of their harvest to the cities and exchange it for silver. That’s what Greg meant by the role of the cities during Sartar’s reign. The grain meant you could feed a population of crafters, scribes, etc.
This is the same thing that happened in the later Achaemenid period. Originally the taxes were all in kind, but they later started to switch to taxes being paid in silver (so the Persian king could hire Greek mercenaries). Alexander demanded all his taxes in silver (he had a LOT of costs), as did his Successors. You have a surprisingly high amount of monetization in the Near East that lasted until the later 3rd century where taxes became increasingly in kind. Which not surprisingly resulted in fewer and smaller city populations. Now it is unnecessary to go this far down in the weeds, but it is at least worth mentioning that we made some pretty big spreadsheets on all this to get a feel for scale, consequences of actions, and restraints on various actions.
This started back when we were running the Holy Country campaign and one of the players ended up becoming Queen. This started with Kiki playing a young Esrolian noblewoman and niece of the current queen, with Claudia playing her best friend and advisor. They had a Sartarite bodyguard, a LM tutor, and a Dormal cultist. They went on adventures to Teshnos and beyond, got involved with the Hendriki and then managed to stage a coup in Nochet. The game then became largely about politics and diplomacy, intermixed with heroquests. First game I’ve ever had players get to chat with Cragspider.
I used to do work with a lot of economic modeling back when I did public finance issuances, and that’s a dead end. The money economy is just not that sophisticated or speedy. And when there are shortfalls of silver, people find it mysterious. They might raise some prices, or might not and suffer in confusion. The only folk who have any idea of prices in other locations are the Issaries cultists.
In local markets, you can usually barter in kind. Go to the cities and the merchants want coin. And you need coin anyways. Not a lot but some.
Sartar, the Lunar Empire, and the Holy Country are all tightly linked in trade.
Remember, you don’t buy most of your goods or services. So most farmers are self-sufficient. They produce enough food to support them, pay the temple, and a little extra for the tribe and the Prince. There’s an estimate that in Mauryan India, half the harvest went to support the farmers, the other half went to taxes and rents. And I belong to a kinship group that redistributes stuff as needed within the kinship group. Our kinship group might have the services of a redsmith, who is supported by the rest of the group, but that’s a scarce resource. If I want to get something that the rest of the community might think spurious, I go to Wilmskirk or Jonstown, or even Boldhome. And there I get what I want, but I need to pay in silver. So we have plenty of cattle, but they are rarely needed for exchange. We sell them to the cities for silver, offer them to the gods for sacrifice, and sometimes trade for something big with them.