Sunday, January 08, 2017

Money and trade in Itza

As you probably guessed by now the currency is cacao beans. So yes, your character pays for things with chocolate.

Cacao beans is the common everyday currency with which things are paid for in Itza. Things from basic items like corn, chile, avocado and beans, to services like farm hand and porter. The average fee for a porter to carry goods to a neighboring kingdom is in the order of 20 to 30 cacao beans.

There are other currencies as well. Currencies which allow for the carry of higher sums of "money" in a more compact form. These are the quachtli, or cotton mantle or cape, copper axe head and gold filled quill.
There were various qualities of quachtli, ranging from poor at 65 cacao beans per mantle, good at 100 cacao beans per mangle (this is the standard game exchange rate) and then exceptional quality at 300 beans per mantle. As a reference the average yearly income of a commoner is 20 good quality quachtli. The following table gives a reference of exchange values. It is important to note that these values are not "written in stone" and fluctuate from city to city, market to market and even week to week.

Cacao Bean
Copper axe head
Gold powder quill
Cacao Bean 1 1/100 1/1000 1/5000
Quachtli 100 1 1/10 1/50
Copper axe head 1000 10 1 1/5
Gold powder quill 5000 50 5 1

Alongside quachtli, copper axe heads and gold powder filled quills are also used as currency. Jewelry and common gold items found in other cultures are an exclusive right of the noble class in Itza and getting caught with such items can mean imperial punishment to the transgresor.
This has lead to the rise the pochteca, a social class specialized in trade, commerce and spying, the later performed by a group close to the tlatoani (emperor or king) know as the naualoztomeca. These traders lead caravans of tamemes (porters  who carried goods on their backs ) to distant lands to bring exotic goods and items desired by the nobility. Except for Coamixtitlan, the cloud city and home of the a feathered lizard race, no city state has burden animals such as horses, mules or donkeys. They simply do not exist.

The pochteca trade in huge markets known as tianguis. A tianguis in a large city can have as much as 60,000 people doing business on any given day. Large cities usually have a tianguis move across town day after day. Moving from district to district depending on the day of the 13 day week called trecena.

Modern day tianguis in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Image sources
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