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This related question on prop coins inspired me to revisit an old problem we're having at a fantasy LARP I'm co-organizing.

So far we have not yet found a currency which we can use throughout the LARP and which is cheap enough to be able to get our hands on a fairly large amount of coins.

We are around 100 players - enjoying many quests, treasures, bribes, merchant dealings, etc. There should be plenty of it - we need more than a couple of dozen coins.

But all I was able to find up to now seem to be some really nice high-quality manufacturers: the prices are just right out - normally in the order of magnitude of ~$1 per coin, which is ridiculous. The coins will be handed out to many players, they'll get lost, etc. - essentially we need to almost treat them as disposable.

Does somebody know of a way to create (possibly fantasy-looking) prop coins in large quantities (let's say some 300-500 at least) without spending a similar amount of real life money?

Wishlist: I was asked to specify further requirements - I realize some of these might clash hard with the low price I asked for, but still:

  • Made from metal - Metal coins are just so much cooler than plastic ones. Also more durable.
  • Some sort of denomination on the coin would be really sweet, that way we wouldn't have to explain this to players over and over every year (this is probably unrealistic given the low price we'd like to find).
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Do you have any material requirements? Are cardboard, plastic and other things that won't have the same heft as a metal coin acceptable? (I figure protection from the elements, such as moisture, will be important.) – doppelgreener Mar 17 at 0:12
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Gentle reminder that users should advocate general solutions over recommending specific products. The later is a shopping recommendation which is very problematic because of local availability, advertisement (aka spam), etc - unless you have one particular superb product which is just over and above flat-out the best option. Are you recommending a plastic coin brand? Please recommend plastic coins as the solution and offer that brand as a particular recommendation, not the solution in and of itself. – doppelgreener Mar 17 at 2:41

10 Answers 10

Fantasy Coins

You've probably already seen the various fantasy coin vendors around the internet. They sell interesting fantasy coins, some do custom jobs. The problem is that these are far beyond the price you specified - if you want.

Some people produce plastic coins, these could be an alternative. Oriental Trading sells inexpensive, mass produced plastic coins.

Real Coins

Have you considered using real money? My bank allows me to purchase foreign currencies. About a year ago I purchased Icelandic krona, which are available as coins. For $10 (USD) I purchase about 1,000 krona (ISK). For reference, the smallest coin (1 KR) is slightly larger than a penny.

As an extra plus, ISK also fit a maritime realm perfectly: enter image description here

Purchasing Foreign Currency

You can purchase foreign currencies at any bank that offers a foreign currency exchange. There are also a number of online companies that offer currency exchange services without being a bank.

My experience is limited to using a bank. You should check with your bank regarding their policies on currency exchange. Credit unions or smaller banks might not offer this service. My bank is a large, national company with a location in Kansas City, is capable of getting many foreign currencies within a couple weeks. Common currencies (Mexican pesos, Euros) can be purchased in the branch.

Travelex is an online foreign exchange others have recommended to me for international travel. They deliver, and the minimum order is only $50. You can find many other similar services by searching for "currency exchange".

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@HeyICanChan That would be 1000 kr, so a thousand of the little 1 kr coins in the bottom left, or ten of the 100 kr coins in the bottom right. – doppelgreener Mar 17 at 0:50
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Does your neighborhood bank have 1000 x 1kr coins readily available, or is there some kind of ordering system? – Dougal Mar 18 at 4:28
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For $10 USD, I can get 1000 US cents. So I'm not really sure this saves any money... – Michael Hampton Mar 19 at 6:39
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I'm not sure why was my comment about Armenian drams deleted. I definitely would recommend them - their generic beautiful designs, and indecipherable Armenian alphabet that is recognizably writing but doesn't look like anything familiar to a typical LARPer, makes them pretty much perfect for any fantasy setting. Here's a picture. The exchange rate is about 500 drams/dollar, so the smaller denominations would be cheap. Of course you can use another foreign currency for a different LARP setting (see last comment in OP). – January First-of-May Mar 19 at 19:45
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The cheapest by straight face value will probably be Russian 10 kopek coins (and 5 and 1 kopek if you can find any), but they are very small (cent size or smaller). Ukrainian 5 kopek coins might be worth it (big and low value), but I doubt you could find enough of these. And I still repeat (also was in deleted comment) - regardless of your bank, check out your local coin store; they might have a great variety of foreign coins for cheap money (and they might even decide to give you a discount if you're willing to buy several hundred of a common type that sells poorly). – January First-of-May Mar 19 at 19:59

In my mind, a good LARP coin should have the following characteristics :

  • Heavy : it should at least feel like metal coins in your pouch
  • Metal : it should sound like coins
  • Cheap : LARPs are costly enough to run as it is...
  • Easily replaceable : you'll lose some eventually, and if they are custom order and take 6-8 weeks to arrive, you might not be able to procure more before the end of the LARP season
  • Long lived : If they're not lost, they should last a few years

Over the years, we've used many different things for LARP coins. In the end, we settled on good old washers.

Metallic Washers

The flat ones, especially, can be found in many different colours and sizes that are more than adequate for fantasy coinage. In most hardware stores, you should be able to buy them in bulk for a reasonable price.

If the colours don't match your idea of what gold/silver/copper should look like, you can use metallic spray paint to enhance the visual appeal of your coinage.

enter image description here

Personally, I'd recommend painting them anyways, as it becomes a lot more trouble for people to mint "counterfeit" money before coming to your LARP, since they can't just buy them at Home Depot without additional effort. It's never been an issue for us, however.

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I was going to suggest spraypaint as well. – CatLord Mar 17 at 2:07
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You can do really interesting things with money with a hole in it, too. You can put it on a string instead of in a pouch, for instance. Then you can wear it as a necklace and literally flaunt your wealth. – Bobson Mar 17 at 11:28
    
Washers are IMO the best deal available, and look and feel right. If you're so inclined, you can even try stamping something into the copper ones, such as the denomination. – Mike L. Mar 17 at 15:14
    
As an added benefit to inconsistent sizes you can make the weight of the coin important - such as trade between multiple countries etc - not so good if there's not a strong trade part to the larp - but it can also make for interesting finger / portable balance scales ;-) For a little extra cost you can often find washer manufacturers who stamp rather than cut and can impress simple patterns onto them... – Rycochet Mar 17 at 16:52
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@Bobson I don't know about necklaces, but stringing coins to create higher denominations is an actual historical practice (and probably in other regions/periods; this was just the first that came to mind). – Jeffrey Bosboom Mar 19 at 5:33

I've used these prop coins in my tabletop role-playing games. They're lightweight and disposable but nonetheless durable and have held up for years albeit with some wear (the paint tends to flake a little when abused). They're even about the correct size (a little larger than a quarter but smaller than a half-dollar).

enter image description here

144 cost $5.95 from this supplier.

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You're probably looking for "Mardi Gras coins". They cost less than $5/gross. Here's one of the first Google results I got, though you may want to look around for different æsthetic options.

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They are not durable (choc does melt). And they don't feel like proper coins at all. – Angelo Fuchs Mar 20 at 12:57
    
@AngeloFuchs wrong answer :) – fectin Mar 20 at 13:07
    
Nope. The one I meant. Mardi Gras Coins (at least the ones I ever saw) were tinfoil over chocolate. Could you provide more details on what you actually mean? The ones you linked are made from plastic, but that is by no means the only way. – Angelo Fuchs Mar 20 at 13:14
    
The chocolate coins are Hannukah gelt. Mardi Gras coins are generally plastic. You can find metal ones instead, but probably not as cheaply. – fectin Mar 20 at 13:17

I use plastic coins that came from Pirate playsets from a $2 store. The kits came with (if I recall correctly) some coins, some gems, an eyepatch and a hook.

While doing a web search to find pictures for this answer, I came across a couple of links that might help.

I've also played in games where we used old coins. For example, New Zealand got rid of 1c and 2c coins many years ago, so we used those in a LARP game. It was surprising how many of us had old coins squirreled away in our houses and cars.

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I've actually been thinking about this exact thing for a while now (my daughter wanted a pirate themed birthday party). One option I found was game tokens, and I found a pretty decent online supplier: http://www.tokensdirect.com/.

Standard quality, several metals to choose from, and reasonable prices. You can even do custom designs for cheaper than I had expected (though still more expensive than you probably want). Only drawback is the quantities are in 1000's. So, the cheapest stock design I could find at $0.152/coin comes to $152 for 1000. Still not bad, and higher volume orders get cheaper per piece.

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Do you have an arcade, mini-golf, or bowling alley nearby? Video game tokens are usually available for 5¢ to 25¢ apiece, depending on the location. They tend to be excellent quality, made of real metal, with size and weight like a quarter. As long as the arcade in question does not close, you will be able to replenish your supply at the same price.

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Well, if you're in the United States, the easiest and cheapest option for coppers and silvers would be to use pennies and nickels. .50–$2 a roll and available at any bank (or even the supermarket).

For goldtone, in real metal, search Ebay for "pachislo (coins,tokens)" (the goldtone ones) or "vintage Mardi Gras doubloons" (aluminum, not plastic, and bulk lots are generally all sorts of colors). They're lightweight but clink satisfactorily.

I recommend you tell players to bring their own pennies and nickels, while you supply the "gold" —that way it'll be even more special!

The PCs, after all, will only be carrying their spending cash around— the rest goes to customary expenses and should be stashed in a bank, or perhaps in the character's stronghold if s/he's powerful enough.

Don't forget, the henchmen will squawk 'til they're paid, the government will demand taxes, and thieves and grifters are everywhere!

If you don't mind a stringing-hole at the top of the coin, you can also look for +coins (bellydance,"belly dance") or coin charms or even +stampings +coin.

Gasparillabeads.com has 50 Mardi Gras doubloons for around $6 plus shipping. You can do better on Ebay, though, just by waiting for the right auction. This would also give you the option to designate certain colors as even more esoteric in-game currency (purple is platinum?).

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+1 for mardis gras doubloons; they come in varieties of colors, and are cheap enough to throw away at crowds in parades. Oriental Trading Company is selling packs of 144 for $5 – Gus May 27 at 1:56
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OT's are plastic. Real ones are aluminum. – btsauthor May 27 at 2:50

This site is advertising ten pounds of Mardi Gras doubloons for $29.99 plus shipping:

http://www.mardigrasdoubloons.com/

Around $42 including shipping if you're in the United States. They also note that it should be around 1,000 coins.

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Just discovered a site called The Broken Token today. The site carries a few different styles, which means it can fit different themes or even just be different money for different areas. I have not purchased any of these, but they appear to be a decent scale, and the reviews seem happy with the quality. The primary downfall is the price, paying roughly a dollar a coin can build up quickly.

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