If my information is off please correct me, but how do the Starks have and make all their money?

We are shown a few other houses that seem to be extremely rich, but we are also told a little bit about how they are so rich. For instance House Tyrell seems to have vast farmlands and crops to sell for their money and House Lannister has gold mines (which were producing huge amounts of gold until recently).

As far as I can see we are not shown much as to how the Starks are wealthy or how they make their money? We are told that the north is a huge place when Lord Bolton is talking to Ramsay, but how much of that is the Starks'? Do they get their money from taxes for people living on their land?

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    I have no idea, but I imagine the Starks being badass enough, that during war they capture and ransom enough enemy highborns, so that they have the money for a thousand years of piece and wealth. Jan 26, 2017 at 10:51
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    As a rule, aristocracies Take money, they don't Make money. (except, possibly, literally) e.g. they own the means by which everyone else earns their income, and take some as "their due".
    – Seeds
    Jan 26, 2017 at 15:43
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    Selling heads, one previous owner Jan 26, 2017 at 18:33
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    > "how much of that is the Starks'" - all of it (except for the bits within 150 miles of the wall). Everyone else who owns land in the North is technically subletting it from them.
    – Random832
    Jan 26, 2017 at 23:33
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    The North runs like a medieval feudal economy with most of the population working on the land. The aristocracy cream off a share of this for supposedly providing protection and enforcing the law. Jan 27, 2017 at 9:06

4 Answers 4


We are told that the north is a huge place when Lord Bolton is talking to Ramsay, but how much of that is the Starks'?

The North is indeed a huge place:

"The North is by far the largest of the Seven Kingdoms; it can fit the other six inside it."

– Jon Snow, in the bonus feature "Histories & Lore" on the Season 3 Blu-Ray

Now that the tag for the books has been added: The same claim is made in the books, although other sources there claim the North is merely one third of the Seven Kingdoms. Presumably measuring land area is not a perfect science in Westeros. Regardless, the North is big, albeit barren – and the Starks rule all of it (except for "the Gift", the region extending 150 miles southward from the Wall, which is under the authority of the Night's Watch).

Before Eddard's time, this large area was an independent kingdom ruled by the Starks as Kings in the North for thousands of years, before the Andals invaded Westeros 6000 years ago. The Northerners successfully fended off the Andals, who settled in the Southern regions. According to these legends they've ruled the North continuously for around 8000 years, which has made them very powerful and, yes, rich.

Do they get their money from taxes for people living on their land?

Eddard Stark represents the Iron Throne as Warden and Lord Paramount of the North, after the Seven Kingdoms were united into one under the Targaryens. With this comes, among other things such as military responsibilities, the responsibility of collecting taxes from the other Northeners.

We don't know how those taxes are budgeted and how much goes to the Iron Throne, but GRRM has confirmed that the Great Houses make their money from "taxes and customs duties". In the North's case it's probably mostly taxes, since there are few roads of import there. Northern citizens make their money (which they pay their taxes with) on wool, hides and smithing according to the books, as well as timber, which according to the Game of Thrones Telltale game includes the Ironwood of the wolfswood, exported to build ships all over Westeros.

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    Right, just like all the others, the Starks collect taxes. The Lannisters are particularly wealthy because they have a gold mine in their lands, but money in this sort of society fundamentally always comes from taxes and tolls.
    – Broklynite
    Jan 26, 2017 at 13:06
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    Just like modern government in out own world, by collecting taxes. Taxes seem to be quite universal.
    – user53970
    Jan 26, 2017 at 19:00
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    @SiXandSeven8ths And death. Taxes and death.
    – JAB
    Jan 26, 2017 at 19:26
  • @JAB well, only if you're not Beric Dondarrion...
    – Ti Strga
    Jan 26, 2017 at 20:46
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    "Presumably measuring land area is not a perfect science in Westeros." Is it possible one includes what's beyond the wall while the other does not?
    – Mast
    Jan 26, 2017 at 22:10

I'll give you a "makes sense" answer rather than an authoritative one, since I've read the wiki and watched the show but haven't read the books:

Basically the answer is taxes of various kinds, which translate also into indirect trade as well.

So, there's no separate currency for the North - all of Westeros uses Gold Dragons, Silver stags and so on; so the Starks don't issue their own money. That means the Starks don't make their own money, like the crown can.

... except that's not quite true, since we're not talking about debt-based bank-invented money like we have today (yes, most money today is created out of thin air by banks when they lend out money, except for a fraction which they must actually have; look it up or watch this interview) - but rather metal-backed, or actually, metal-proper money. So the money's exchange value corresponds to a great extent to the amount and kind of the precious metal in it. I'm not sure how much GRRM has fleshed this out, but the point is that even if you don't have your own mint (and customary coinage which is accepted by many), you can still get money by arranging for minting of coin in exchange for the raw metal. The crown will probably take some fraction for itself, but that's not very far from making your own money.

Now, it's not clear to me that the Starks do much of that, since the metal-rich area of the 7 Kingdoms are the Westerlands, the Lannisters' domain - and that's where they get their money mostly. Still, since the North is so large, there's bound to be some kind of mining of precious metals going on.

Which brings us to taxation. The crown can collect taxes in its own money, which is really neat, because instead of you having to chase people and take their stuff, they know they'll be in trouble if they don't get you (= the crown, which has the mint) to give them money, for them to pay you as the tax. Why would you give them money? Because they provided goods or services of some kind. So they'll essentially come asking to service your needs... ain't sovereignity great? You can really mess with'em :-) Now, I don't know if that works on the sub-kingdom level (i.e. Crownlands vs the Reach or vs the North), but it very likely does to some extent, since the other sub-kingdoms need the crown's money to run the money-based part of their own economies. So in exchange for whatever services and goods the North renders the crown, it gets money (and probably goods produced in the South); it may then need to also pay some of that money back as tax.

Internally, a (sub-)kingdom like the North is more likely to tax in kind - take usable goods or require rendering services. The requirement is either directly from individuals or by taxing lords of different regions/castles/towns etc; or maybe both. I guess the taxes are probably partly in crown coin and partly in goods/services, since both are necessary to the Starks in different contexts. There might also be taxes on individuals in cities, or on roads, and those are more likely to be monetary. Thinking about the character of the Stark rule I would guess that's less likely, and maybe houses like, say, the Manderleys and others get money through taxation of individuals, or of commercial activities, the the Starks get more money, as opposed to goods, from these houses.

Sorry for this being a bit vague and inspecific, but likely I said, it's what is almost certainly the case upto some details.


My understanding is this:

The other great houses hold power because they have bought their influence. They DO have money.

The Starks hold power because they've earned respect. The different holdings are given to their respective holders by the crown. The Stark family was entrusted their keeping a long time ago.

They do generate money from other trades like hunting & trapping, farming, and other like trades, but they don't have near the same wealth as the other great houses.

So I guess to answer your question, they make money the same way any of the other houses do. Through businesses. Their businesses just aren't as prosperous as the other houses.


It's the North, and it's loosely based on Britain, so look at how northern Britain worked. Lancashire, Yorkshire, Cumbria, Northumberland and the lowlands of Scotland would be broadly similar in this respect; also perhaps south Wales. Basically anywhere with a lot of hills and moorland. Places like the Scottish Highlands and Snowdonia (Wales) are more like the land north of the wall (except with less snow and ice) in that they're mostly mountainous.

With all the hills and moorland, arable farming is pretty much out. Mostly you either have permanent pasture or actual hillside. Of course there's some crops grown, anywhere that's flat enough, but they're purely to feed yourself and not for export. For the rest, you're mostly looking at animals and animal products. Cattle do well on permanent pasture. On the hills, sheep and goats are turned loose, and shepherds keep an eye on the flocks. So the North will mostly be making a living from sale of those animals, wool and leather.

This doesn't mean that the North is poor. Wool was a major source of income for farmers in medieval times, and wool merchants were very well off indeed. Also animals can take themselves to market, so you can export them anywhere in the country at the cost of a few weeks' travel. This is actually something that GRRM has got a bit wrong - it's nice to be able to produce so much grain, but unless you can export then you can't do anything with it. With medieval technology, it was very difficult to export perishable goods any distance. So the North and the Lannisters will be doing nicely, but the Tyrells will probably not be anything like as well off.

  • the fact that the Tyrells are very close to King's Landing and Oldtownis a nice bonus, where there is a lot of people to feed there might not be enough food grown. That means they have at least two large markets to send their crops too, they money also mainly come from their wine which is quite easy to export, then again, the big cities near them help a bit
    – LamaDelRay
    May 14, 2019 at 15:36

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