It is clear that spice was costly and that the Guild Navigators used large quantities of it:

Herbert notes in Children of Dune that the geriatric properties of melange had been "first noted by Yanshuph Ashkoko, royal chemist in reign of Shakkad the Wise." By the events of Dune, the spice is used all over the universe and is a sign of wealth; Duke Leto Atreides notes that of every valuable commodity known to mankind, "all fades before melange. A handful of spice will buy a home on Tupile." Due to the rarity and value of melange and its necessity as a catalyst for interstellar travel¹...

The spice being so costly, and by being such huge consumers of the spice can we gauge what the Guild charged for space transportation in return?

Can we say how costly was Guild based space travel?
Or is there an example of what space travel cost in the books?

The cost to someone in terms of spice or solari for transporting a described good or object. Obviously an exact number like an airfare is impossible. I'm looking for some indication from the novels, or even the movies.

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    Enormously expensive is the implication. Sufficient so that waging war was next to impossible for all but the richest houses and regular interstellar travel was beyond the wildest dreams of the average citizen
    – Valorum
    Dec 26, 2015 at 0:07
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    I don't understand the close votes. I don't see that this question is ill-formed. This is plainly asking how much it costs to use Guild space travel in Dune. Answers of the form "well, to travel from planet X to planet Y, as mentioned in the books, would cost Z" are acceptable. Everyone voting to close: stop being ridiculous and pretending an hiper-precise question is needed or even possible.
    – Andres F.
    Dec 26, 2015 at 22:20
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    @AndresF. - The problem is that the question is ill-defined. How much does it cost to ship 100,000 men to Europe to fight a war? How much does it cost for 100,000 tourists to fly to France for their holidays? I'd be willing to bet that the difference runs into the tens of millions of dollars.
    – Valorum
    Dec 27, 2015 at 20:55
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    For crying out loud why are you being so pedantic? If it's so bad just close it. Dec 28, 2015 at 12:01
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    @AthenaWidget I feel your pain. I have written what I thought were well written questions and answers only to have then shot down, and yes it seems like a popularity contest now and again. If comments are helpful, I'll try to accommodate, but if they aren't helpful and I believe I have a good question or answer, I leave it and stand by it. You'd be surprised how many upvotes I have gotten by sticking to my guns and just keeping quiet about it.
    – Escoce
    Dec 28, 2015 at 20:36

2 Answers 2


There is a clear empirical answer (at the least an estimate) of the enormous cost of such travel.

The Baron sighed. "I give you different instructions about Arrakis this time, Nephew. When last you ruled this place, I held you in strong rein. This time, I have only one requirement."
"Have you any idea, Rabban, how much we spent to bring such military force to bear on the Atreides? Do you have even the first inkling of how much the Guild charges for military transport?"
"Expensive, eh?"
The Baron shot a fat arm toward Rabban. "If you squeeze Arrakis for every cent it can give us for sixty years, you'll just barely repay us!"
Rabban opened his mouth, closed it without speaking.
"Expensive," the Baron sneered. "The damnable Guild monopoly on space would've ruined us if I hadn't planned for this expense long ago. You should know, Rabban, that we bore the entire brunt of it. We even paid for transport of the Sardaukar."
Dune pg. 237

First note the use of the common term cent above, Mr. Herbert appears to have carried this into the Dune-universe. There is another piece of evidence in Heretics of Dune to get a gauge of the worth of a solari, consider the conversation between Lucilla and Sirafa.

"That is not a concern. You must never act as though you recognize such distinctions. Your first concern is to make sure of your pay. You, I think, should ask fifty solari."
Sirafa produced a small pouch from her bodice and passed it to Lucilla, who hefted it in one hand. "That contains two hundred and eighty-three solari. If someone identifying himself as a divine... You remember that? Divine?"
"Very well. If a divine interrupts, I return one hundred solari to Skar and -" "Fifty!" "I think not, Sirafa." Lucilla shook her head slowly from side to side. "After being entertained by me, the divine will know that fifty solari is too small a sum."

This analysis gives the rough estimate 1 solari = 1 USD (at least in 1960-70's currency) when the books were written.

Let us couple this with the fact that Melange is easily the most expensive commodity in history. And the fact that, that commodity has to be harvested for sixty years to repay the cost of a single military expedition.
Further than this we will be in speculation. But if we know the GDP of Arrakis in USD circa 1970's it's simple arithmetic to estimate the cost of that one ill-fated expedition to Arrakis. Let

Global GDP (1970) rounded down = $12 trillion multiply by 60 = $720 trillion (solari).

There is a subtle flaw in this argument, it assume a constant linear GDP of $12 trillion over the entire 60 year period. This is typically not the case, assuming a nominal 1% annual GDP increase leads to the horrendous cost of $4,069 trillion that's four quadrillion solari. (I used an Excel sheet and multiplied successive cells by 1.01)
On the surface this would seem a error on Mr. Herbert's part, perhaps he simply picked sixty out of thin air, except for two things.

  1. Piter describing the computational ability of the Barron:

    "They were toys compared to me," Piter snarled. "You yourself, Baron, could outperform those machines."
    Dune pg. 18

  2. Mr. Herbert describes his very careful sentence construction:

    Well, this was done deliberately to control that oral pace by the length of sentence, by the variety of sentence, by the words in the sentence, whether long convoluted words or short chopping words…
    Frank Herbert and his wife, Beverly (3 February 1969) interview with Professor Willis E. McNelly

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    +1 Good answer. Just one detail about the Baron's quote: it's very likely he is lying or at least misleading his nephew Rabban. He wants the "Beast Rabban" to rule Arrakis with an iron hand, so that the people will hate him and welcome the Baron's preferred nephew, Feyd-Rautha, as their savior. Of course this doesn't rule out space travel as extremely expensive, just that the Baron's word in this case cannot be trusted 100%. I think he is overstating his case, and Rabban is too dumb to notice.
    – Andres F.
    Dec 26, 2015 at 22:26
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    A few lines above the Barron says The Baron suddenly wondered at himself. Why did I do that? Why did I boast to this fool nephew of mine--the nephew I must use and discard? to himself. It appears that he was a bit scared that he was telling Rabban these details, that makes it unlikely he was lying. Thx! Dec 26, 2015 at 22:41
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    You're assuming that the guild charge per kilo rather than escalating the price to discourage interventionist warfare.
    – Valorum
    Dec 27, 2015 at 22:42
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    Negative. At no time do I make an assertion on weight etc, this was an in-universe and logical estimate. I think you are making an assumption regarding the Guild's military stance. Consider that 1. They knew controlling spice production would lead to a nexus 2. Despite that they allowed the emperor and Harkonnens to take military action on Arrakis. Instead of discouraging it, they aided and abetted in the intervention. Aside: What they feared and much more came to pass. Dec 28, 2015 at 0:29
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    Why does this answer assume that we know the GDP of Arrakis in USD circa 1970's? There's no reason to assume that Arrakis is our Earth. Nov 25, 2021 at 13:28

There are two relevant quotes:

"The Harkonnens took ten billion solaris out of here every three hundred and thirty Standard days."


"If you squeeze Arrakis for every cent it can give us for sixty years, you'll just barely repay us!"

This lets us establish lower bound of 600b for the invasion, likely more given the "squeeze for every cent" part. Similarly, Hawat thought:

"The entire spice income of Arrakis for fifty years might just cover the cost of such a venture. It might."

This puts the estimate of costs at 500b+, in line with the previous estimate.

On the other hand, we also know Harkonnens ruled the planet for 80 years. Assuming same 10b/year and saving this complete money stream for this invasion, the upper bound is 800b.

In total, we are looking at several hundred billions for the whole invasion, both the lower and the upper bound are fairly close actually. It is heavily implied that the invasion costs are dominated by the transport costs, but I don't know breakdown - therefore I guess transport costs are between 50% and 100%. This was for 10 legions + more than 2000 ships (Hawat's estimation from the same part as the quote above).

Therefore, I estimate that a ship plus approximately 150 people (1/200 of a legion) costs somewhere between 150M and 400M for transport costs.

There are some assumptions, the obvious one is that nobody lies or is completely mistaken. Then 330 days vs 1 year isn't sure to be the same, even though it looks plausible to be at least close. Finally, Harkonnens had another planet to extract money from. However, 10b/year sounds a very high number to people listening to the exchange. Therefore, other planets seem to bring less, or the number wouldn't seem nearly as impressive. I guess the total upper bound including home planet might be on the order of 1500b at most, while ~1000b is more likely.

  • 4
    Hi, welcome to SF&F. The extra quotes are nice, especially the yearly value of Arrakis, but it doesn't quite get to an answer. You should add a source for the 2000 transports, and provide some reasonable estimates of the relative costs of the troops+equipment+supplies versus the transports themselves and arrive at an estimated cost per Guild transport.
    – DavidW
    Feb 22 at 15:37
  • @DavidW I don't have that quote at hand, but it is next to the Hawat's thought of how much this is going to cost. I don't have any estimates of troops/ships/... cost compared to the transport cost, but everyone is always thinking or saying about Guild transport being the big expense for the operation, so a conservative guess puts it between 50% and 100% of the whole invasion cost. Feb 22 at 22:25

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