45

In Harry's first year on the train to Hogwarts, Ron doesn't have the money to buy something when the woman with the cart comes.

Ron’s ears went pink again and he muttered that he’d brought sand­wiches.

Harry bought, among other things, some Chocolate Frogs.

What are these?” Harry asked Ron, holding up a pack of Chocolate Frogs. ...

“Oh, of course, you wouldn’t know — Chocolate Frogs have cards inside them, you know, to collect — famous witches and wizards. I’ve got about five hundred, but I haven’t got Agrippa or Ptolemy.”

How did Ron get five hundred cards? Where did he get the money for them? Sweets with cards probably cost more than sweets without cards, and Ron doesn't have the money to buy any sweets.

  • 38
    He doesn't have any money on him right then, but that's not to say he never has any money. He's not Charlie Bucket, his family may not be rich but they're not penniless. – Daniel Roseman Oct 3 at 18:14
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    It's entirely possible that Ron is exaggerating the number of cards he has in order to make himself seem more impressive. Remember, Ron has just met Harry at this point (who is famous). Also, he's eleven years old. – Michael Seifert Oct 3 at 18:33
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    Do we know how expensive Chocolate Frogs actually are? If you can get five for a Knut then it wouldn't have been difficult even for Ron. If they're five Knuts each, that'd be a different matter entirely. – F1Krazy Oct 4 at 8:40
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    @j4nd3r53n So "five hundred" means "five lots"? – QuestionAuthority Oct 4 at 14:50
  • 2
    @QuestionAuthority Exactly! – j4nd3r53n Oct 4 at 14:53
89

This is a picture of my fridge's door:

fridge with a bunch of magnets

As you can guess, I collect department/counties magnets. I have been for four years. They come from a special brand of ham and cheese escalope, there's one magnet per pack of two escalopes. Now I will admit I eat a LOT of those "cordon bleus", but I also happen to have friends who know about my life goal to complete the map of France in magnets, and occasionally give me some.

The same could have happened to Ron. Friends, siblings, siblings's friends who know about his collection - probably a bunch were granted to him.


For the record, my freezer door has the remaining duplicate magnets.

  • 13
    I feel like you're dropping the lede by not stating at the beginning that it's probably gifts from friends. – FuzzyBoots Oct 3 at 18:32
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    @FuzzyBoots aaaw, and I thought it was an unusual enough introduction to grasp the reader's attention, by providing an unprecedented tidbit of personal anecdote. Should've known people preferred Harry Potter to my fridge, you're right, JKR made more money than I did :( – Jenayah Oct 3 at 18:42
  • Most probably from his brothers. – marcellothearcane Oct 5 at 19:54
57

We see evidence elsewhere that people give cards to each other, presumably when they themselves don’t collect them or when they already have a particular card. From Chapter Thirteen of Philosopher’s Stone:

Neville’s lips twitched in a weak smile as he unwrapped the frog.

“Thanks, Harry . . . I think I’ll go to bed. . . . D’you want the card, you collect them, don’t you?”

It would thus seem eminently reasonable that Ron acquired much of his collection without having to buy any frogs. If you hang out with enough other people who don’t care for the cards, or who already have a big collection, it shouldn’t be too difficult to amass a few hundred cards without paying for them.

  • 7
    Especially if grown-ups in your life know you collect them. It seems likely that Ron's Dad could have received a bulk card donation for Ron from co-workers, even if he is that odd co-worker who is always interested in muggle artifacts. – Wayne Werner Oct 4 at 16:42
30

I can't remember, it's quite a while. But I don't think this has ever been addressed. So, an educated guess: he had five older brothers. They might've lost interest in the cards they had and given them to Ron. With the Weasleys, everything is handed down.

Also, everything is shared. So, it might not be that he has 500 of these cards but they, as the brothers Fred, George and Ron, do have 500.

  • 4
    ‘I think he left it as a monument to Fred and George,’ said Ron, through a mouthful of chocolate. ‘They sent me all these, you know,’ he told Harry, pointing at the small mountain of Frogs beside him. ‘Must be doing all right out of that joke shop, eh?’ – Valorum Oct 3 at 21:20
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    He has five older brothers. – Lexible Oct 3 at 21:45
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    @Lexible Yeah, I somehow forgot about the others o,0 – Shade Oct 4 at 6:56
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    Although it's difficult to imagine Percy passing them on (or having collected them in the first place), so effectively four relevant older brothers :) – chepner Oct 4 at 13:20
23

His parents bought them.

Ron's family isn't wealthy in the way that the Malfoys or even the Potters are. But his parents aren't broke. They have enough money to afford small luxuries, such as chocolate with collectable cards for their youngest son.

However they are too frugal to send Ron to school with a pocketful of galleons. Ron doesn't have money on the train to buy sweets. But no doubt he nagged his parents for chocolate frogs every time they went shopping. Molly and Arthur have plenty enough money to afford a sickle to appease their 10-year-old. His claim of "500" should be treated with some scepticism. Boys tend to exaggerate such things in order to impress others.

  • 7
    A description of the Weasleys' bank vault in the second book: There was a very small pile of silver Sickles inside, and just one gold Galleon. – Alex Oct 4 at 0:45
  • 3
    Quick maths check: Ron is 11 years old. 1 frog per week as a treat means 500 frogs is 9 years, 7½ months. Add other frogs as presents from friends/family - call it 60 frogs a year instead, that's 8 years, 4 months. Plus any cards his is given without frogs, by people who don't collect them, or know that he does (e.g. if Bill eats his frog and gives Ron the card). This seems reasonably manageable, depending on how much a 6-pack for frogs for the children costs. – Chronocidal Oct 4 at 9:08
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    Though honestly, in a world where magic is a thing, how would anyone be poor? Aren't there like a dozen different ways of magically duplicating things? Do these not work on cash? Or just not on magical cash? Maybe they can replicate pounds and dollars and euros all day but knuts and sickles and galleons are specially enchanted to prevent forgery... – Darrel Hoffman Oct 4 at 14:03
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    @DarrelHoffman You're thinking about this much more than the author did. It is shown that Mrs. Weasley, a witch with an ordinary amount of talent, can create food from nothing. Conceivably she can also create clothing, building materials, and other mundane things. With all mundane necessities of life being 100% free, the only things left to spend money on are luxuries, magical devices (ie. wands), and maybe rent, if they don't own their own home. Mr. Weasley has a decent paying high level government job. There is no conceivable way for the Weasleys to be poor unless they are awful with money. – GreySage Oct 4 at 15:25
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    @DarrelHoffman if you read HPMOR you'll see that there are some very, very easy ways to produce real magically-accepted currency for very little effort. Neither math nor economics was a strong suit of the author. – Wayne Werner Oct 4 at 16:45
15

Chocolate frogs exist

More correctly speaking, chocolate frogs are a cultural allusion in the UK to Freddo's, a non magical, frog shaped chocolate sweet. The key thing to know about them if you're not British is that they're famous for being cheap, at the time the first book was written they were something like 10 or 15 pence each, like 30¢ American, and are used as basically a cultural shorthand for price inflation, as they cost so little that it's very noticeable that they've increased in price over time.

Basically, apart from his parents buying them for him, and having some of his brother's hand-me-downs, and likely trading them, as trading collectable cards is also a hobby in British schools, as I assume it is in the US as well. He just bought them himself. Even poor kids can afford 20 pence once a week, he's not destitute.

  • 3
    Whilst a nice analogy do you have any evidence at all that chocolate frogs in the Harry Potter universe are just as cheap as Freddo's were at the time in the UK? If not then this analogy doesn't really have any substantial backing to it. – TheLethalCarrot Oct 4 at 13:05
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    I don't recall Freddos ever coming with a collectable cards - that would have been a reference to Panini football stickers (50p for a pack of 5, at the time!) – Chronocidal Oct 4 at 14:26
  • 1
    I wonder if they're similar to the US Bazooka Joe – Wayne Werner Oct 4 at 16:46
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    @Chronocidal, candy sticks came with one collectable card per box of sweets. – Peter Taylor Oct 5 at 8:06
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    By the way, it's obvious that Ron is not in contact with other wizard children until Hogwarts, therefore it will be difficult for him to get cards by trading. – Sulthan Oct 5 at 14:44
1

Won by gambling

I don't know how it is in the UK, but it's quite common in my country to play small gambling games with collectable cards like football players, Pokémon etc. among primary and middle schoolers.

These cards often have a ranking system or numbers on them to allow a few combinations of playing style like highest/odds/evens wins. Maybe this is a familiar custom to wizarding world childhood.

  • Whilst a nice theory it would be better if you could try and track down evidence that this was indeed the case in Harry Potter and with the chocolate frog cards. If so you can then edit it into your answer! – TheLethalCarrot Oct 4 at 14:42
  • Aren't pre-Hogwarts kids homeschooled? – Jenayah Oct 4 at 14:44
  • 1
    @TheLethalCarrot thanks for editing my grammatically disastrous answer. I did track an answer but there is no canon answer to this on a valid source. Closest thing I can get to support my case is; Frog Cards are enumerated and also have ranking series as bronze, silver and gold. – e-zeki Oct 5 at 11:03

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