1 Galleon = $25. 1 Sickle = $1.50. 1 Knut = $0.05.
February 18, 2016 12:06 PM   Subscribe

A Reddit thread recently broke down the exchange rate between Wizard and Muggle money, and in doing so shed some interesting light on the financial disparity between many of the characters in the Harry Potter universe.

Some infographics for the more visually inclined: The Reddit thread also links to an excellent Google Doc which provides a side by side look at the probable inflation and exchange rates for some of the most mentioned items in the series. (It also takes into consideration what J.K. Rowling herself once stated in an interview regarding the estimated value of a Galleon in both USD and GBP, which remains somewhat incorrect for a variety of reasons.)
posted by Hermione Granger (43 comments total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
 
I was going to post this but I am so, so glad you did, Hermione Granger.

Have a Weasley clock replica in return.
posted by jeather at 12:11 PM on February 18, 2016 [21 favorites]


There is also this thread where they estimated how much money Harry has by the size of his gold pile in his vault.
posted by phunniemee at 12:13 PM on February 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


I love the Harry Potter books but don't generally get into stuff like this, so I wonder what it says that I correctly identified the least expensive wizarding world item before clicking on the link. Not even in a "Ooh! I know this!" way, I just clicked on it and realized that a scoop of beetle eyes was exactly what I had been expecting to see.

I wonder what the most expensive actual item (i.e. not a bounty) is?

Getting het up about apostrophes is a sure sign that I'm posting during the workday, but in the "Haves vs the Have Nots" infographic, do they mean "Weasleys' savings," i.e. the entire Weasley family? I don't remember the scene they're talking about.
posted by sunset in snow country at 12:16 PM on February 18, 2016


I guess I should have just read the second link
posted by sunset in snow country at 12:18 PM on February 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


Sweet criminy, how I dig this kind of nerdery.
posted by Kitteh at 12:19 PM on February 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


I wonder what the most expensive actual item (i.e. not a bounty) is?
The Cursed Necklace was the most expensive object mentioned in the Harry Potter series, at 1,500 galleons (>$35,000).
I'm assuming that's right -- I believe it's the opal necklace in B&B which Draco eventually uses to accidentally curse Katie.
posted by jeather at 12:19 PM on February 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yes, I think they mean the entire family. When the Weasleys entered it in the summer of 1992, the vault contained only a small pile of Sickles and a single Galleon, all of which Molly Weasley took out to pay for each of her children's school things that year. (CoS, Chapter 4).
posted by Hermione Granger at 12:19 PM on February 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


This is something I've definitely thought about too much as a person who enjoys both Harry Potter and personal finance to an almost obsessive degree, and mostly it's disappointing. JK is really wonderful at tying together stories, but the economics of the wizarding world don't really line up too well.

Re-reading the first book for the several'th time a while back I did hatch a plan about unicorn hair arbitrage, and got kind of excited about it. You can buy a magic wand for what, 11 galleons? with a unicorn tail hair sealed inside it, and right there in the Diagon Alley chapter Harry walks by a display of unicorn hairs going for 25g a pop. I had a wonderful image of someone like Mundungus cracking open a pile of wands to get at the high value hairs inside...until I realized I was misreading and it was a bin of unicorn horns, not hairs, going for that high price. Plans. Ruined.
posted by phunniemee at 12:24 PM on February 18, 2016 [23 favorites]


But phunniemee, we know you can exchange muggle money and wizard money, so you can arbitrage there -- certainly the gold in a Galleon is worth more than that on the open market. Unless the goblins somehow prevent people from melting down wizard gold, or that it is somehow not the same as the elements we know.
posted by jeather at 12:26 PM on February 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


Random thought: maybe wands are so cheap because, as a necessary implement for pretty much any wizard, they're subsidized in some way by the Ministry?
posted by Itaxpica at 12:33 PM on February 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


Okay that Weasley clock is amazing. I especially like how they each got to decide their own definition of "mortal peril."
posted by gerstle at 12:34 PM on February 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


Look, I don't mind subsidizing wands for people like the Weasleys, but why the hell should my wizard tax dollars go toward wands for elites like Draco Malfoy?
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:39 PM on February 18, 2016 [21 favorites]


I'm always here for excessively detailed HP nerdery, but any HP fan should just accept that JKR Is Not Good at Maths, and thus anything involving numbers in the HP world should just be taken on faith. How many students are in Hogwarts? DON'T WORRY ABOUT IT. What is the actual wizarding population of the UK, and how is it sustainable? REALLY, DON'T THINK ABOUT IT. The economics, and the currency, how do they--SHH. SHHHHHHHHHH.

My insatiable desire for more HP worldbuilding has always centered on the many, many secondary and tertiary characters scattered throughout the series whose life stories seem wildly interesting based on the, like, one sentence of pagetime they get. My kingdom for a novel about Regulus Black's final weeks of life, or about Andromeda Black's romance with Ted Tonks, or about what the deal was with Dean Thomas's biological dad, or about Remus Lupin's sad lonely wandering werewolf years.
posted by yasaman at 12:42 PM on February 18, 2016 [37 favorites]


they're subsidized in some way by the Ministry

Or more simply there's government price fixing, thus keeping down the price but preventing wand makers from making huge (or any) profits.

At the same time wands seem to be highly non-fungible thus there really isn't a liquid market for them so there isn't competition among buyers for wands which is what you would expect would drive the price up.
posted by GuyZero at 12:43 PM on February 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


So it turns out that when you can casually break thermodynamics and create free-energy from nothing, you can also make yourself pretty rich.

The best use of at least SOME wizard's skills in the muggle world would be to just use their wand/magic to turn water into steam at every power plant. There is probably a more efficient way to go about it but that part, at least, it totally plausible based on we've seen them do in the movies.

Wizards are a-holes holding the solutions to several MAJOR world problems but they appear to simply keep it to themselves for some reason that's never really explained (or maybe it was and I missed it but I doubt that).
posted by VTX at 12:43 PM on February 18, 2016 [9 favorites]


I have a soft spot for the notion I've seen mentioned in fanfic that much of the wizard economy involves unimaginably byzantine debt obligations. For instance, this delicious passage:
A Squib who's a chartered accountant knows the questions to ask, it would appear; as well, it seems that he knows the twisty ins and outs of the so-called Pureblood mind, particularly as regards matters arithmetical and fiscal. His interrogation was both thorough and culturally specific.
There is no second set of books, and the Malfoy school of accountancy is a branch of the Dark Arts. "A mass of indirection writhing about a void." Apparently, I saw correctly. There is nothing more. I am glad I wasn't present at the discovery, because on hearing the results of the interrogation, I would have found the animus to perform a Killing Curse on the unspeakable bastard right there. There are crimes against humanity, and then there's serious financial malfeasance. Very serious.
There is no wealth to seize, at least not on the scale everyone was assuming. There is the Manor, and gold in a Gringotts vault, and various physical property, but the bulk of the so-called Malfoy fortune is a mass of promissory notes cantilevered out over the void, and it has been so for generations. Once they call it in, we are looking at the fiscal equivalent of gravitational collapse, because the notes have passed from hand to hand, and there are holders standing at five removes from Lucius himself, not to mention the many-times-removed holders of notes originally issued by Abraxas and Apollonius. It's not clear how much of the British wizarding economy will fall into the resulting black hole. At least they don't have a Stock Exchange or Bourse, or Lucius could have made even more trouble. Mercifully, wizarding debt instruments, at least in hard-line Pureblood circles, are as medieval as their clothes and their view of life.
From chapter 49 of Amends, or Truth and Reconciliation by Vera Rozalsky
posted by Wretch729 at 12:44 PM on February 18, 2016 [28 favorites]


And, at the same time, while wands have premium components (dragons! unicorns! rare wood!) they don't seem to contain a lot of materials so the input costs seem like they'd be low.
posted by GuyZero at 12:45 PM on February 18, 2016


I sent this to a HP-obsessed friend who opined that it's a miracle Universal Studios doesn't make you visit a bureau de change before you enter the Wizarding World, Itchy-and-Scratchy style.
posted by uncleozzy at 12:45 PM on February 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


I consolidate my mental anguish by headcanoning that Harry Potter and The Hunger Games take place in the same universe where the laws of economics don't exist
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:47 PM on February 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


The best use of at least SOME wizard's skills in the muggle world would be to just use their wand/magic to turn water into steam at every power plant.

We need you to crank this magnet as fast as possible.
posted by BungaDunga at 12:48 PM on February 18, 2016 [9 favorites]


VTX - It's been linked here before but the best ever illustration of your point is Boulet's hilarious Harry Potter comic.
posted by Wretch729 at 12:53 PM on February 18, 2016 [18 favorites]


The bit in the first book where Hagrid reveals to Harry that his parents left him a big pile of gold seems to be in there to hit a kind of note like 'Harry finding out that his parents were much better people than he had been told and looked out for him and he has a place in this new wizarding world'. Which is good and _sortof_ fits into the book. But its always struck me as a bit odd. Like maybe JK overdid that a bit? He's basically a multi-millionaire schoolkid which seems to shift the centre-of-gravity of what we know about him. Multi-millionaire doesn't sit well with underdog misunderstood brave orphan messiah.

And then in the rest of the books it barely gets mentioned, other than he can afford to buy textbooks and he gifts that money to the weasley twins.
posted by memebake at 1:03 PM on February 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


There is no second set of books, and the Malfoy school of accountancy is a branch of the Dark Arts. "A mass of indirection writhing about a void." Apparently, I saw correctly. There is nothing more. I am glad I wasn't present at the discovery, because on hearing the results of the interrogation, I would have found the animus to perform a Killing Curse on the unspeakable bastard right there. There are crimes against humanity, and then there's serious financial malfeasance. Very serious.

Ooh, I am going to read this when I get home, even though it seems to have a million chapters. (Naturally, one cannot check fanfiction.net at work.)

I have a great deal of resentment of the wizarding world because of its unexamined class system, so this is right up my alley. (That is, the books think they're writing about class, just as they think they are writing about race and gender, but they...oh, I don't even know, there should be a word for having so many biases and inconsistencies and betises in your work that it ends up being actively prejudiced while you're still convinced that you're on the side of light.)

That said, I was thinking about the Harry Potter books last night, since I'm interested in what makes them resonate so strongly with so many people, and it occurred to me that one thing they do well is the sheer blankness of political trauma and the way it persists through subsequent generations. Like, I was thinking about what a huge, huge percentage of the people of the parents' generation die - many very young, and the rest still pretty young, and how that's just....a reality that persists. It's not wished away and there's no real justice or accounting. The books start out pretty standard, with the "Harry Potter is an orphan, so conveniently he doesn't have to deal with the tangle of love, obligation and coercion that real kids deal with" - like any fairy tale with an orphaned protagonist. And then the books progress, and there's just more and more loss until there's almost no one left to stand in as parent figures. The older I get, the darker that seems, and the more persuasive.
posted by Frowner at 1:04 PM on February 18, 2016 [15 favorites]


I was trying to figure out why the title of this post was making my skin crawl, and then I realized that currency conversions in fantasy make me superimpose Rothfuss over whatever world is actually under discussion.
posted by Sternmeyer at 1:19 PM on February 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


Remus Lupin's sad lonely wandering werewolf years

At home, where I can scour the internets unimpeded, I should be able to hook you up with a rather long fanfic about Remus Lupin in Eastern Europe before the collapse of communism! I did not write it, read it many years ago and IIRC there's a Snape/Lupin romance subplot, but also IIRC it's written by a woman from Eastern Europe and has a great deal of regional interest.

I myself want a book about the Knight Bus guy. In fact, I want a whole book about the wizarding working class, preferably one where they're all "neither Washington nor Moscow" about this Voldemort/Ministry business and stage a bloody revolution. My personal headcannon is that as 2000s Britain deteriorates into V for Vendetta, 2000s wizarding Britain becomes a socialist paradise.
posted by Frowner at 1:45 PM on February 18, 2016 [11 favorites]


Frowner this fic has a cool setup for what I suspect might have been a socialist revolution but got distracted by vampires and then abandoned before it really got going, sadly.
posted by Wretch729 at 2:19 PM on February 18, 2016


Definitely my favorite fanfics are always the "I reject the whole premise of this series" ones, where the characters flee the scene before there's any resolution to the canon plot or overthrow its ruling order. (Although I also like gritty police procedurals, preferably set somewhere unfamiliar enough to me that I can believe they're actually gritty.)

(Maybe the most famous one of this type is the Stargate Atlantis one, "Written By The Victors"...have I actually ever even seen an episode of Stargate Atlantis? No, I have not. I am also partial to any fic in which Snape just leaves - Hogwarts, and preferably England - around 1978, and has a totally different life that doesn't involve any of those awful, awful people.)
posted by Frowner at 2:27 PM on February 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


I always tried to figure out the conversion, but i generally file those details under "suspension of disbelief."

I'm not a huge Potterhead, but I did accept Pottermore sorting me into Slytherin. Every house needs a Luna. ;)
posted by luckynerd at 2:42 PM on February 18, 2016


Look, I don't mind subsidizing wands for people like the Weasleys, but why the hell should my wizard tax dollars go toward wands for elites like Draco Malfoy?

Part of the argument for a universal basic income is that means testing is not only demeaning but also inefficient. Why spend untold galleons asking every wizarding family about their income under veratiserum? It's cheaper just to buy wands for every kid.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 2:51 PM on February 18, 2016 [12 favorites]


Let's be real, Snape fleeing the UK and starting over is the only way he'd ever have a chance of becoming a less miserable person. Staying in the toxic-for-him stew of Wizarding England was a bad life choice, dude. Anyway, I'd take you up on that offer of Remus Lupin in Eastern Europe fic, but I am Remus/Sirius FOR LIFE so. Snupin is a no-go. (Harry Potter ship preferences are, and always will be, serious business.)

Also, slight derail, but Stargate Atlantis fandom was the BEST for constantly undercutting its canon's supposed premise. While the show never let itself fully commit to its lost and cut off colony of space explorers premise, and tried to convince us of hilarious untruths like how John Sheppard is a Cool Hero who is Totally 100% Heterosexual, fandom knew what was up. Fandom knew where the actually interesting stories were.

I don't think HP fandom has had the same "toss and subvert the premise" glee. It's always been more about "WE HAVE TO GO DEEPER" and really sinking into the worldbuilding to create/explore new nooks and crannies. Plus, what JKR lacks in math skills, she more than makes up for in character-based worldbuilding, where populating her world with swiftly and cleverly sketched out characters helps to build a very enduring fictional playground for fans.
posted by yasaman at 2:59 PM on February 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


JK is really wonderful at tying together stories, but the economics of the wizarding world don't really line up too well.

They're good enough stories, but every single thing in the Potterverse dissolves on the slightest application of thought like candyfloss in a warm bath.
posted by Sebmojo at 3:00 PM on February 18, 2016 [7 favorites]


Surely the universal basic income will be supported by expropriating the Malfoys, the Blacks, the Potters, etc? At least I hope it will be.

Honestly, you'd think there would have been revolutions in the wizarding world all the time, because you have a situation where money and political power are concentrated in the hands of the upper class....but the lower class has magic, and there's no reason why the lower class wouldn't throw a few sports every generation - wizards naturally as powerful as anyone in the upper classes. Either there ought to be a lot more intermarriage (to bring the most powerful of the working class and Muggleborn in the elite) or there ought to be constant political turmoil.

Surely somewhere there's an AU where Voldemort actually isn't fascist, that's just the Ministry/upper class perspective?

Years ago, I wrote a little fic (now lost to time) where the Death Eaters started out as a sort of Captain Swing-crossed-with-the-Red-Army-Fraktion, but that's not the same thing.
posted by Frowner at 3:03 PM on February 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


Stargate Atlantis fanfic you say?
Sounds like another case where the fans do better than the actual show. (which is how I feel about tbbt fan fic.)

posted by sio42 at 3:14 PM on February 18, 2016


Stargate Atlantis fandom was the BEST for constantly undercutting its canon's supposed premise.

I still think Written by the Victors is overrated, but Your Cowboy Days Are Over holds up well, and does a much better job of challenging the colonialism inherent in the premise than WBTV does. (Any story that ends with John Sheppard as King of Atlantis is not, to my mind, anti-colonial.)

And there was a surprising amount of decent gen written in that fandom, as well.
posted by suelac at 3:32 PM on February 18, 2016


We don't know that Galleons are made of pure solid gold. They might be like US nickels, with something else inside.
posted by Anne Neville at 3:51 PM on February 18, 2016


As far as I was told the whole thing was a dig at systems of measurement like the old British pound or the imperial system, which might have been reasonable when started but look arcane now.
posted by solarion at 4:03 PM on February 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


(Any story that ends with John Sheppard as King of Atlantis is not, to my mind, anti-colonial.)

No, and I think that's an almost irreducible problem - the only way for SA stories to really be anti-colonial would be the total dissolution of the Atlantis project. There's a couple of stories by....uh...someone whose name escapes me but there was this one where there were the mobile floating islands where people hid from the Wraith, and the writer was fiftyish when she was writing these, well that person wrote some where people basically just left Atlantis and made whatever peace they could with various local people and lived ordinary lives of obscurity without maintaining much of an identity as Earth people. I just like Written By The Victors because it is anti-US-militarism, and because Speranza writes perfectly decent prose.

I think that even the total-dissolution-of-the-Atlantis-project ones have a politically problematic element, in that there's this fantasy of just leaving, leaving the fucked up and evil world of American militarism with the only consequences being the things you lose when you leave. (SA is very, very pre-Obama, actually.)

Sadder fanfic, where really terrible things happen and then people have to go home to Earth and just live in the aftermath - that's more serious and real, but I can only deal with the real reality; I personally go to fanfic for the whole "Snape moved to Italy in 1979, where his nose was considered distinguished and his career and romantic successes slowly allowed him to forget his horrible youth and he only ever heard rumors of Voldemort" thing. (Like, there's this one where the Earth people are back on Earth and they're never, ever going back to Atlantis, and we learn that something unspecified and terrible happened before they left and Teyla died, and it's just really, really depressing.)
posted by Frowner at 4:11 PM on February 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


It is cheaper to buy the whole unicorn than it is to assemble it at home by yourself.
posted by Nanukthedog at 5:17 PM on February 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


That said, I was thinking about the Harry Potter books last night, since I'm interested in what makes them resonate so strongly with so many people --

To me the Harry Potter books aren't primarily about magic at all, they're about our world. There's wizard equivalents of standardized exams (O-levels and A-levels), good teachers and bad teachers, career counselling, driving exams, school dances, student exchanges; wealth and poverty, celebrity and obscurity, journalism and scandals, depression, hospitals, government offices, international sporting events.

Rowling's inventive use of magic and humor makes the books fun to read, of course. But they also serve to illustrate institutions in our world, and the ways that people need to deal with them.

In particular, it's not really logical that there would be poverty in the wizarding world (can't you use magic to produce stuff and sell it to people who can't do magic?). But it's there in the Harry Potter books because the wizarding world is a reflection of our world, and poverty and inequality are part of our world. Ron has to live with the fact that his family is less well-off (I'm not sure I'd call them "poor", more "struggling") than his friends. And it makes the world feel more realistic -- or at least more reflective of our world -- than one in which inequality doesn't exist at all.

People complained a lot about the last book being an extended camping trip, but what I found most interesting was Rowling's description of having to deal with hunger, and the connection between hunger and quarrelsomeness. It's hard to forget Rowling's own experience as a single mother.
posted by russilwvong at 6:16 PM on February 18, 2016 [9 favorites]




I freely admit that I loved about the first half of Harry Potter And The Methods Of Rationality. The author's politics are terrible, yes, his other stories are dismaying, much of his rationality fanbase makes me cry....but damn, that is a funny, funny story in places.
posted by Frowner at 6:08 AM on February 19, 2016


I was involved in a long-running (7 year!) alternate universe Harry Potter creative project, and one of the things we kept hitting was the 'how do we make this world-building thing actually make sense', modified for our particular form of dystopia.

At one point, I worked out what the likely base salary of a professor at Hogwarts was, using a combination of canon costs, things we'd already mentioned in our project, and a lot of bits of applied logic from real world teaching. (This last helped by the fact I'd gotten far enough in the interview process the year before for a remote Swiss boarding school who'd sent me a really detailed breakdown of salary, benefits, and what was and wasn't covered other ways than salary.)

I came up with a number of about 1500 galleons, which using the Galleon = $10 figure, came out to about $15,000, and using the galleon = $25 comes out to $37,500. (and bearing in mind we're talking 1990s money, so I think the Galleon = $10 might be closer to then-cost)

Which is not a great salary for the amount of effort and time involved at first glance, but gets a lot better if you realise that all your basic living expenses for much of the year are already covered, plus there are house elves.

(For people who want more about lots of minor characters, the project also did a lot with that, and also lots of other random things like Christmas presents and books, and so on.)
posted by modernhypatia at 6:11 AM on February 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


Wow!! That looks amazing.

Jeezum crow, just when I was trying to do more serious reading of actual books in my subject area instead of reading the internet.
posted by Frowner at 6:26 AM on February 19, 2016


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