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Weights, Measures and Gorean Monetary System

Author: unknown

Filed in: gorean information



  In any civilization, one of the most important aspects of societal interaction occurs in the area of commerce, or the business of conducting business. The exchange of trade goods is a vital part of any healthy society, and encourages the distribution of a wide range of materials over a much broader area than would be possible if such practices were disallowed. In order to effectively accomplish this, it is necessary for any society to standardize a set of weights and measures whereby such trade goods can be assessed and assigned value. The Goreans are no exception.

     There are obstacles, however. The Sardar-imposed limitations on communications technology, and the resulting isolationism which exists because of those limitations, makes swift communication between the High Cities virtually impossible. In addition, the cultural and religious restrictions against advanced means of mechanized travel also hinder the attempt to maintain a world-wide weight and measurement system. The Goreans, however, are capable of great ingenuity in working around those limitations, and in keeping the standardized values of such measuring systems relatively intact, at least in the more civilized areas upon the Counter-Earth.

     The system of weights and measures which the craftsmen and guildsmen of Gor have adopted is officially verified four times annually at the great Sardar Fairs. Each fair season, trusted agents of the Merchant League make their way to the foot of the Sardar mountains, bearing with them the official weights of their city. Each of these weights is then carefully measured against the "Great Weights," which are said to have originally come from the mighty Priest-Kings themselves, to make certain that the individual city weights have not been tampered with or altered. The official "ah-il," is measured, and so is the Gorean "foot," the Gorean "stone," the Gorean "weight," and numerous other objects designed to simulate the countless measuring devices in use by merchants throughout all of Gor. The merchants take great pains to watch one another as this is done, to ensure that the merchants of other cities are complying with the will of the Priest-Kings; indeed, wars have been fought over the accusation that one city has tampered with its measures, seeking an unfair advantage over its competitors.

     Once this has been done, and all are satisfied that the official weights and measurements have been upheld, the various envoys return to the city or settlement of their origin and restore their home weights and measures to a place of safekeeping. Soon after, the merchants and city officials of the various settlements begin the arduous task of measuring the countless other sets of weights and measures in their locality against the official versions which have been verified against those of the Sardar. Smaller settlements and villages then check their own sets against those of the ruling polis in their area, each set then being used to check the sets of even smaller hamlets and merchant houses, until everyone is assured that the Sardarian standard is being universally upheld. Since this process occurs four times during the course of the standard Gorean year, and since it is quite obviously time consuming to complete, it is a relatively safe assumption that such comparative measuring is an ongoing process, and is constantly occurring to some extent everywhere on Gor, as the merchants fulfill their obligations to the Sardar and see to it that the correct measures are maintained. When a particular product or item for sale is checked and found to be in abeyance with the official weights and measures, it is commonly marked with a variation of the seal of the city of its origin, certifying that it has passed inspection. The Goreans take these matters quite seriously; those who are proven guilty of tampering with such seals, or worse, a set of weights and measures, are sometimes even impaled for the offense.

     Due to this painstaking (but necessary) process, the planet of Gor, widely known for the individuality and xenophobia which exists in its numerous cities and settlements, nevertheless manages to maintain a somewhat standardized system of measurement.

Below is a listing of common Gorean measurements, along with their Earth equivalents:

DISTANCE


GOREAN                                EARTH (U.S.)                          EARTH (METRIC)


1 HORT                                1 and 1/4 inches                      3.2 centimeters

1 GOREAN FOOT (10 horts)     12 and 1/2 inches                    32 centimeters

1 AH-IL *                              18 inches                               46.15 centimeters

1 AH-RAL (10 ah-il)                180 inches                              461.5 centimeters

1 PASANG                             7/10ths (.7) of a mile               1.2 kilometers

* An "ah-il" is the distance from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger, analogous to the Earth "cubit." It is typically standarized in Gorean measure as being 18 U.S inches in length, as described above.


WEIGHT/MASS


GOREAN                                     EARTH (U.S.)                    EARTH (METRIC)


1 GOREAN STONE                        4 U.S pounds                    1.8 kilograms (approx)


1 GOREAN WEIGHT (10 stone)      40 U.S pounds                  18.14 kilograms (approx)

LIQUID VOLUME
GOREAN            EARTH (U.S.)            EARTH (METRIC)
1 TALU              2 U.S gallons           7.5 liters (approx)


SOLID VOLUME

The following measurements are "trade weights," meaning that they are, like the ah-il, variable according to the hand size of the measurer. Nevertheless, due to their ease of use, they are retained by the Goreans as practical ways to measure solid volume in a distributory environment, particularly in trade-based Gorean settings where standardized measurements are not available for handy measurement :

1 TEF= a closed handful of whatever produce (such as dates) is being weighed. 6 tefs equals one "tefa."

1 TEFA= 6 tefs (or closed handfuls), or roughly the amount of merchandise it would take to fill a small basket. 5 tefas equal 1 "huda."

1 HUDA= 5 tefa, or small baskets full.

In addition, it only stands to reason that Goreans would also rely upon the "squared measure" of their distance units in measuring solid mass as well as space. The use of the Gorean "square foot" is highly likely, as is the "square hort," the "square ah-il" and "square ah-ral," and the "square pasang."

CURRENCY

     In any society, one of the defining factors which determines its stability and economic fortitude is its system of currency. A weak or unstable monetary system can, if improperly managed, result in incredible hardships among the general populace of an area, or areas, within a society, and if left untended can cause the delicate framework of its economic base to collapse into a mass of financial ruin. In such a case, where hard currency is no longer in general use and all monetary valuations are based on implied equivalency (such as paper money and the assumed worth of promisary notes such as stocks and bonds), that framework can be fragile indeed. In such a system, vast deficits and sudden fluctuations of currency value are possible, which can wreak havoc upon that society's economy.

     Not so upon Gor. The Goreans are a highly practical and pragmatic people. Whereas such institutions as banks, leagues of professional money-lenders, and practices such as the usage of promisary notes in place of hard currency certainly exist upon that planet, for the most part Goreans do not put their faith in such things. Goreans tend to be naturally suspicious in regard to money matters. This is possibly a byproduct of their communicentric worldview. More likely it comes as the logical result of the day to day necessity of dealing with members of the huge caste of Merchants, a caste which is known and accepted throughout Gor.

     The Merchant caste codes, to which every member of that caste is sworn, virtually guarantee that the act of buying and selling legitimate Gorean trade goods will be done in as scrupulously fair and as equitable a manner as possible. At the same time, those codes allow for a certain amount of leeway in the area of barter, which is the very heart of the bargaining process which encompasses almost every business transaction conducted on the surface of Gor.

     In addition, the Merchant caste (and their numerous sub-castes, which include the caste of money-lenders) are required by their caste codes to actively pursue the best possible deal they can obtain. To a Gorean Merchant, this is not an indication of personal greed; rather it is proof positive of their supreme devotion to the codes which they have sworn to obey, codes which command them to obtain the best possible price for their goods and services.

     This having been said, it only stands to reason that the currency in use upon the surface of Gor, particularly in the High Cities, would be strictly regulated to the extent that their technological limitations allow. In addition, rather extreme penalties are applied against any who would attempt to circumvent this system. Counterfeiters are rare on Gor, and when they are caught they are typically summarily executed. Another offense worthy of punishment is the practice of "coin-shaving," in which minute quantities of precious metal are "clipped," removed from coins currently in circulation; when one has salvaged enough precious metal in this way, it is even possible to mint entirely new coins from the stolen shavings. Those who are caught shaving coins are usually sentenced to slavery, paying their literal "debt to society" through a life of enforced labor for the public good.

     In order to maintain the integrity of the Gorean monetary system, it is therefore of vital importance that all Goreans measure their precious metals, which upon Gor are commonly copper, silver, and gold, in precisely the same way. This is not always possible, however, since the process by which coins are minted, and the styles and shapes of coins, vary from city to city. This is allowed due to the traditional Gorean tolerance for the license of artisans, who are often allowed to craft objects of extraordinary beauty at the expense of practicality. Also, it should be mentioned that the value of Gorean coinage can fluctuate considerably depending upon the quality and purity of the precious metal used for coining. The gold of both Ar and Turia is highly prized for its purity, thus gold coins from those cities command greater value than gold coins produced in other cities from lesser metal. The same can be said of the silver of Tharna and Argentum, two of the famous "Silver Cities" of the Gorean north. In the end, it is the merchants who decide the buying power of particular brands of currency, and professional usury, as well as speculation in coinage, is not uncommon.

     In some parts of Gor, notably in the Tahari districts, the local coinage is pierced through the center, a modification which enables its user to thread a series of such coins on a leather thong or string for ease of carrying. In addition, some Gorean coins (the stater, for instance) are rectangular in shape and resemble small flat ingots of precious metal rather traditional round coins.

THE GOREAN COIN

     Gorean coins are not struck from machine-engraved dies, nor are they minted through the usage of such devices as automated coin-presses. Typically the Gorean coin is struck by hand. This is done in the following manner: the planchet, or coin-blank, is warmed, to soften the metal. It is then placed between the dies and the die cap is then struck with a hammer, simultaneously impressing designs on both sides of the coin. This technique enables Gorean coins, which are not designed to be stacked or rolled, to carry a design which is much deeper and intricately sculpted than a typical coin of modern Earth.

     The average Gorean coin is about 1 1/2 inches in diameter and about three-eighths of an inch thick. Designs vary depending upon the city where they are minted, though typically they will bear, upon one side, the likeness of the creature which they are named for; i.e, a tarn disk will display the image of a tarn, a tarsk disk will display the image of a tarsk, etc. The opposite side is often adorned with the symbol or seal of the coin's city of origin.

COPPER "TARSK BIT:" A copper coin worth from 1/4 to 1/10th of a copper tarsk, depending upon the original value of the coin and how that coin has been segmented. The usual number of tarsk-bits in a copper tarsk tends to be eight. When copper tarsks are struck, they are typically pre-segmented with deep grooves which enable a user to snap the coin into smaller pieces, like the wedges of a pie. Half of a standard copper tarsk would therefore be worth "four bits;" one-quarter of the whole coin, or one-half of one-half, would therefore be worth "two bits," and so on. This replicates a similar antique coining practice which existed on Earth.

COPPER TARSK DISK: A copper coin that is the whole coin of least value, equalling up to ten tarsk bits, though more typically, eight. The copper tarsks of Ar, for instance, are designed to be separated into eight sections.

COPPER TARN DISK: A copper coin of slightly greater value than the copper tarsk disk. Once common in certain cities, now widely discontinued due to a move toward standardization of Gorean coinage to emulate that of the city of Ar, which most probably no longer uses it.

SILVER TARSK DISK: The primary silver coin in use upon Gor, worth 100 copper tarsks. The silver tarsk is probably the single most-used denomination of Gorean coinage, owing to its medial value.

SILVER STATER: In use in several Gorean cities, notably Brundisium and Argentum. It is probably roughly equivalent in value to a standard Gorean silver tarsk disk.

GOLD TARN DISK: A common unit of currency, with a rather high monetary value owing to the metal from which it is made, and worth 10 silver tarsks. It is also minted in double-weight; as described below. Several cities mint their own gold tarn disks, but the Gorean standard is typically the gold tarn disk of Ar, which is highly valued for its consistant quality and and purity.

GOLD STATER: In common usage in the city of Brundisium, and presumably elsewhere. The gold stater of Brundisium is known to be of excellent quality and good weight, and is probably of slightly higher value than a traditional gold tarn disk.

DOUBLE-WEIGHT GOLD TARN DISK: A gold tarn disk, minted at double thickness to be twice the weight of a standard gold tarn disk. It is otherwise similar to a regular gold tarn disk in all respects, and is, due to its increased weight and bullion value, the highest denomination of coinage in use upon Gor.

GEM STONES

     In addition to metal-based currency, there is a lively Gorean trade based upon the mining, cutting and polishing of precious and semi-precious gem stones of the Counter-Earth, though the value of such items is entirely relative, owing greatly to the quality of the stones, their rarity in various parts of Gor, and, when they are set into jewelry, the quality and composition of their fixtures and settings.

     The sapphires of Schendi, for instance, are widely prized throughout all of Gor and are even used as a limited form of currency upon occasion.

THE GOREAN MONETARY DRAFT

     Gorean often make use of paper "monetary drafts" or "promisary notes" which may be drawn on the various banking institutions and money-lenders against the credit of the draftee. The Caste of Merchants and especially the Caste of Money-Lenders oversee all such practices, typically from the city money-houses which reside on The Street of Coins, which is traditionally the name for the financial districts of most Gorean cities.


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