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My partner recently listened to the Mistborn Trilogy on tape, and I missed most of it, so forgive me if this question has an obvious answer.

Most nobles carry as little metal as possible out of fear of the powers that the Mistborn/Mistlings have. Why then would you make money out of metal? I know that it can be useful to carry for those who can use it (see Vin using coins to jump around) but it seems to me that the risks outweigh the benefits.

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    Same reason as in the real world? Wood being too easily destroyed, stone being either easy to break or hard to carve, etc.? – Rand al'Thor Aug 15 '15 at 14:31
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    It would appear that the ability to influence metal is astonishingly rare. “I see that you already think like one of them,” Marsh said. “Not everyone is Mistborn, girl—in fact, very, very few people are. And, despite what your kind likes to think, normal Mistings can kill people too. Knowing that the man attacking you is a Thug rather than a Coinshot could very easily save your life.” Banning metal coins because a few people can influence them would be like banning playing cards because a few people in the world have the ability to use them as weapons. – Valorum Aug 15 '15 at 15:01
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    Practically, most likely. There was simply no other ancient form of money that worked in ancient earth. You need something hard to forge. Wood is readily available to everyone, such that anyone with a good knife and nimble hands could create his own money. Ink smudged and was not the same stuff we have know. It would of been easy to forge or accidentally destroy. – Jonathon Aug 15 '15 at 16:15
  • @Richard: I think the Lord Ruler would be in favour of keeping metallic money, to give his inquisitors a leg up. So the person who could have changed policy has little incentive to do so. It's the nobles who were personally negatively impacted, but they didn't have the power. – Peter Cordes Aug 15 '15 at 21:51
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tl;dr: By the time Allomancers were populous enough to be a threat to other people's coin pouches, the economy was too well established for the Lord Ruler to disrupt it. It was a basic risk/reward decision that fell on the side of status-quo.


I could not find an official answer on this from Brandon, though I may try to ask him if I can. However, I think I can speculate based on what we know about Allomancy and how it came about. This is going to involve stuff you don't find out until very late in the trilogy, so spoiler warning if you're still reading.

Pre-Allomantic Society

Based on what Brandon has said about Alendi (the earliest known allomancer), Allomancy as it's currently known didn't exist before the Lord Ruler created Mistborns. We know that allomancers existed, because Alendi was one, but it's not clear where his power came from, or if it worked the same way. It also seems like Allomancy wasn't very well known back then:

Piercings, and Hemalurgy, were part of the world before the coming of Allomancy in its modern form. Then, they were seen as a means of communicating with deity--which, indeed, they were. Ruin manipulated this to make sure any Hero of Ages who came would be under his influence. src - Quote from: VegasDev on October 16, 2008, 01:12:53 AM

This quote implies that people were aware of Hemalurgy -- the form of magic that involves driving metal spikes into people -- but not aware that it gave them powers. We know that Feruchemy was also known, at least among the Terrismen, but they were a very isolated group. It doesn't sound like Allomancy was generally known about at the time.

That means that society would have developed without any threat of Coinshots taking your gold coins and using them for nefarious purposes. The economy would have developed currency for much the same reason it developed on Earth -- gold was rare enough to be valuable, but not so rare as to make it impractical. It was also easy to work with, and didn't rust or corrode or otherwise change it's mass naturally very much.

Early Allomancy

When the Lord Ruler made his friends Mistborn, he never intended to allow lots of people to gain those powers. There was a limited supply of Lerasium found at the well, and he burned away the mists that like gave early Mistings gained their powers prior to Lerasium's discovery.

Since everyone he made a Mistborn he also made into the noble class, at first the only people with Allomantic powers were the same people who had all the gold. Thus, it probably didn't seem like a big deal, and indeed their ability to use their vast coin reserves for attack/defense was probably a bonus.

As the nobles interbred with the skaa over the years and spread the Allomantic potential to their offspring, more and more lower- and middle-class children were born with Pushing/Pulling ability. By the time that number got high enough to be a problem, though, the "new" economy under the Lord Ruler was well in place. It would probably have been way too disruptive for him to try and replace gold with some other currency.

Metals are Cheap

While I couldn't find anything specifically about currency, Brandon has been asked about a post-Final Empire world where Mistings were more prominent, and what that would mean for society:

Q: 5) A modern world update for a future mistborn trilogy prolly wouldn't involve as much metal, unless mistings were rare, which apparently will not be the case. I'm thinking more like plastics, ceramics, fiberglass, and silicon. I mean for cars and guns and all that.

A: Yes and no. For the rich, this would be an option. But much like using metal weapons in the Mistborn world, it isn't always an option for everyone. You will see both. src - Quote from: Qarlin on October 16, 2008, 02:10:23 AM

The implication here is that the pervasive use of metal all over the place, even when people know better, is simply a matter of expedience. It's easier to make swords -- and money -- out of metal than anything else. If you are very rich, your wealth is in atium anyway, which can't be pushed and pulled; if you're poor, you have to deal with what you have.

So, in the end, the risk of Allomancers using other people's coins was probably just deemed an acceptable risk, compared to trying to impose any of the alternatives.

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    The Lord Ruler didn't create Lerasium, Lerasium is a god-metal, specifically Preservation. Named after Leras, the original shardholder for preservation. :) – Stormie Aug 15 '15 at 17:24
  • I couldn't remember if Lerasium existed naturally at the Well or if TLR used the power of the well to create it; either way, there were only 10 beads known to exist and none of them had been used prior to TLR's ascension. – KutuluMike Aug 15 '15 at 17:30
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Money has to be both valuable and hard to duplicate.

There are many things you can get plenty of to act as a currency, but whatever you make money out of has to tread a fine line between being easy enough to get to make enough of it and being rare enough that not everyone can duplicate it. In most places, metals fit that bill. Metals also require a fair amount of effort to shape, so while counterfeits are inevitable, they will at least not be popping up on every corner.

Lords high in society rarely deal with money directly.

Call it a perk of being too important, or too rich. Lords of certain stature have enough loyalty, or enough payroll, that the middle men have to carry out the orders and purchases. Most of what a lord would do is the negotiation, not carrying the purse.

Lords are typically the only one with the protections or the ammunition.

Mistings and Mistborn are not only typically only affordable by lords, if they're not already tied to a house - they are most commonly born to those houses. Skaa with powers are terribly rare (as far as they know). The training to protect against Mistings and Mistborn are similarly expensive and only affordable by those in the know. Even if the coinage were somehow changed into a different substance, bits of metal to use as magic shrapnel would not be hard to come by for those with powers to use them.

And this last piece may be a bit more speculation than the rest, but...

The Lords don't dictate how society works. The Lord Ruler does.

If there were someone who would eliminate metal coinage, it would be him. And the Lord Ruler, while elevating his lords, seems to prefer keeping them in a relative state of tension and danger, rather than letting them get too entitled or full of themselves. Keeping plenty of metal in the market for enemies to use against themselves would be just his style, while he regulates the real sources of power.

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I would say the most obvious reason was Ruin's inability to influence metal. Think of all the documents scratched into metal. Many kinds of currency usually rely on some kind of inscription. Since Ruin was able to change written words he could have turned any money not minted in metal worthless.

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    That sounds like a good theory. – Bellatrix Jul 28 '18 at 16:28

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