• Editorial: Currency in Equestria - An Extrapolation

    Equestria is hardly the utopian society that many would like to paint it as. In just three short seasons spanning maybe a year or two in the life of Twilight Sparkle after her exodus to Ponyville, we’ve seen the land come under attack from demigods made of six different animals possessing powers beyond mortal comprehension, demon creatures from the gates of hell itself, and a mad, fallen alicorn princess determined to shroud the entire world in eternal night. Just to name a few.

    If Equestria were, in fact, the happy perfect world that we’d all like it to be, then perhaps the denizens within would have found a way to barter goods and services without making use of an intermediary substance to mediate value- currency. There are indeed some science fiction universes that postulate the death and irrelevancy of such a device (most notably Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek universe, but such a thing is so un-Googleable that I couldn’t tell you if any others exist; I suspect they do), but for now the necessity of such a mediator is apparent to anyone: it just makes life easier for everyone if everyone agrees as to what things are worth.

    As a result, Equestria has money, and it takes the form of bits and gems. How much is a bit worth? How much is a gem worth?

    I’ve done my best to find out.

    To extrapolate how much a gem is worth, we have to extrapolate how much a bit is worth first. Bits have been used a handful of times as currency in the show, and the actual monetary value associated with them has always been vague- this is, indeed, done on purpose, as the show’s writers have stated many times. If you think a little thing like that is going to stop me, you don’t know me very well.

    For the sake of consistency I will be starting from one reference point and working my way out from there. The values I will be using are from the grocery scene in Putting Your Hoof Down.

    In this scene it’s established that a tomato can either be one or two bits worth of value. For the ease of calculation and to eliminate the possibility that the shopkeeper is simply ripping Fluttershy off, we will assume that one tomato is worth one bit.

    Current monetary values for a single tomato on Earth are harder to calculate, since prices can fluctuate wildly. The most recent data I could find came from an article on The Hindu Business Line, quoting the fact that, “...different varieties of tomato arrived at the Karnal vegetable market and were quoted Rs 350-1,850 a quintal.”

    The symbol ‘Rs’ stands for an Indian Rupee, and a quintal is, “a historical unit of mass in many countries which is usually defined as 100 base units of either pounds or kilograms”, per Wikipedia. In our case, since the article uses kilograms, so will we. We will assume an average value for these tomatoes at 1000 rupees per quintal, or 1000 rupees per 100 kilograms of tomatoes- or, for simplicity, 10 rupees per kilogram of fruit. Per Wolfram Alpha, the average weight of a tomato is 85 grams, and the current exchange rate for rupees to United States Dollars is $00.18 per 10 rupees. Using these values, we can put the average value of a single tomato at one and one half cents. *

    That puts our Equestrian bit at one and a half cents as well. I think it’s safe to say that my previous estimate at the bit conversion rate was a little optimistic.

    Let’s take that value and go a little further with it to estimate the value of a gem. The only gem that we’ve seen being exchanged for anything we can quantify came in the episode Just For Sidekicks, where the Cutie Mark Crusaders traded Rarity’s donated gem for an industrial-strength pet dryer, seen here:

    That’s a lot of hardware. As we can only make reasonable assumptions as to what this machine is made out of, I have taken what I deem reasonable values of all the components of the device and found prices for them. This does not take into account manufacturer markups or miscellaneous items required to make the device work.

    Industrial-strength fan/blower: $429.00
    Three large metal oxygen tanks: $323.19 x 3
    Ten feet of tubing: $18.49
    Sheet metal: Varies, assume $20
    Twenty gallons concrete mixture (for base): $23.77 x 20

    Total: $1912.46

    Applebloom states in this scene that they spent the entire gem on this device, so we know that the gem is worth at most this much money. That puts the value of Rarity’s gem, as best we can measure from our limited information, at approximately 127,497 bits. 

    Even if we assume the red gem we’ve been calculating on is the most expensive gem on Rarity’s outfit by twice as much as the others, her entire ensemble is still worth over a million bits.

    Maybe she can buy me lunch sometime.

    * As an aside to the armchair economists who I expect to appear in the comments section, while I was doing this calculation my friends Atlur and Lunar Apologist did a separate calculation based on United States standards for tomatoes (53lbs to a bushel, and an average of $22.00 per bushel) and came out to about eight cents per tomato. This goes to show how difficult it is to pin down a concrete number. For comedy's sake, I used my number.