Fading Suns and Flaming Heresies
The basic unit of commerce since Alexius took the throne is the “Firebird” (so called because it bears his phoenix crest on one side and his portrait on the other). This unit is broken into quarters (“Wings”) and halves (“Crests”).
Firebirds are minted only on Byzantium Secundus using a unique metal called prismium requiring Second Republic tech to forge (this tech is heavily protected by the Imperial Eye, making it extremely hard to counterfeit). Its value is actually equal to the coin it represents — one coin holds about one firebird in value in its metal alone.
Costs for items are given in Firebirds (1/4, 1/2 or whole). When converting from modern, twentieth century US currency, figure that one Firebird is worth roughly ten dollars. A crest is worth about five dollars, and a wing is worth about one dollar.
There is no central stock exchange for the Known Worlds. The Empire tries to set a fixed Firebird rate for certain items, such as military construction contracts, but outside of Byzantium Secundus or Tethys, merchants and manufacturers can charge whatever they think they can get away with.
The advantage the League has over local guilds is that they can set their own fixed rates across the Known Worlds, providing interstellar travelers some stable spending base — as long as they trade with League merchants. On certain worlds, they will even lower their prices somewhat to compete with local prices. However, since they are interstellar and depend on repeat business, they rely instead on more expensive but dependable goods. Travelers cannot be sure what they are buying when they buy local.
The cost listed for items in most Fading Suns sourcebooks represents this fixed rate set by the League, although costs will fluctuate somewhat with local supply and demand.
The farther one gets from Byzantium Secundus, the more varied the coinage one encounters. While, strictly speaking, alternate coinage to the firebird is illegal (Alexius has declared his Firebirds to be the only legal tender throughout the empire), they are often accepted anyway. However, the value of these rogue coins varies radically. While the guilds are under strict watch on valuation of the Firebird, few can keep track of black markets.
While rogue coinages vary, their uses are usually very similar. They can be broken down into two different types: Talons (purely local lucre, from a single fief or city) and house coins (usable only within that house’s fiefs).
Talons come in many varieties, from the Madoc Coral (made of rare coral found only on that world, requiring special skills to carve properly) to the Tethys Matriarch (gold coins with the profile of Baroness Felicity Hawkwood, found only in one fief in the distant Grampas Mountains). While their value varies radically, they are considered the lowest class of coinage acceptable for trade. The Reeves call these coins “Talons,” since you can usually exchange one Firebird for eight of them (the Firebird depicts a phoenix with eight Talons). One Wing will yield two Talons and one Crest will yield four Talons.
Among the varied house coinages are “Mantises” (House Decados coins, with its crest stamped upon them), “Claws” (the Hazat), “Crosses” (Li Halan) and “Sparklers” (al-Malik). “Black lions” were once minted by House Hawkwood, but they now support Alexius’ demand for one Firebird. Most house coins are now valued similarly to Talons (eight house coins are equal in value to one Firebird).
|1 Firebird||=||2 Crests||=||4 Wings||=||8 Talons/House Coin|