LOTR Hobbiton with jewels and treasure Travel New Zealand Rings of Power inspired blog Travel Money

You are here

LORD OF THE COINS | Everything Money in Middle-earth

31st August 2022

Tolkien fan? Step on through...


As you might have heard, Amazon Prime is releasing the new Lord of the Rings series The Rings of Power on September 2nd, 2022. Set in the Second Age of Tolkien’s mythopoeic universe, this series is a prequel about how the One Ring was created, taking place a couple thousand years before Frodo’s journey to Mordor to destroy it. As massive nerds, we’re celebrating with a trilogy of blogs on everything travel and money in Middle-earth.

Rings of Power promotional image by Amazon Prime.

Before we begin...

Listen, I just wanted to preface this with the fact that I’m no die-hard Tolkien aficionado.

Now don’t get me wrong - I think he’s brilliant beyond measure and his imagination almost unparalleled. But you should just know that I’m an amateur. My relationship with LOTR lore is more of a casual fling than passionate love affair.

And truthfully? I hadn’t really thought twice about Lord of the Rings until my partner decided we should cover every square inch of Tolkien’s Middle-earth ever documented in cinema before the new Rings of Power series came out.
In “crispy 4K - actually, technically it’s 4K Ultra HD.” Extended edition, of course.

Personally… I’m of the belief that 15 disks for three movies might be a little excessive. The idea that I’ll have to endure a marathon of 222+223+263 minutes for the LOTR series, then another 532 minutes for the Hobbit, has me just about ready to throw myself into the fiery pits of Mount Doom.

But the thing is, the new billion-dollar series does look… well, exceptional.
And I do love burrowing deep into a rabbit (dare I say hobbit) hole.
So, I figured if I’m going to embark upon this quest, then I should go all in.

And now you have it – a breakdown of everything money in Middle-earth.

Money in Middle-earth

Film still from The Hobbit: Bilbo Baggins among treasure.

One of the reasons J.R.R Tolkien is so beloved is for his exceptional world-building.

His works, you might know, were born for his love of languages. He was a philologist before he was a High Fantasy writer, and the reason why Lord of the Rings came about in the first place was because he had created several Elvish languages for fun.
Then of course, one needs persons to speak said languages, and so the Elves were born. He wrote Elvish myths, discovered accidental success with The Hobbit, then along came Lord of the Rings – with all his works merging into one beautiful, intricately detailed world.

Over the course of his works, Tolkien created 15 different Elvish dialects, as well as languages for Orcs, Hobbits, Ents and Dwarves – including a separate sign language for Dwarves as the metalsmiths couldn’t hear over the loud forges. The genius is immeasurable, and he thought of nearly everything.

However… there is one *minor* detail missing in Tolkien’s extensive appendices.

Though all the motivations for each race of Middle Earth is known; from their history, lineage, geography, and even meta-literature (I speak of course of There and Back Again: A Hobbit’s Tale, by Bilbo Baggins); we know almost nothing of their currency.

Now, the journalist in me wants scholarly, cited articles on Middle-earth finance. Unfortunately, my quest proved fruitless, so I turned to the most trusted peer-reviewed site of our world: Reddit.

Currency of Man

Film still from Lord of the Rings: Aragorn.

Tolkien, meticulous as he is, had comprehensive and detailed appendices; and even then, much of his material never made the cut. One of the excluded passages was published in The Peoples of Middle-earth, and it’s one of the few publications that mentions currency.

From this excluded passage, it’s inferred that the people of Gondor used two coins: tharni – a silver coin, which is the fourth part of a castar – the chief coin. In Elvish, or to be technical, Sindarin, (and this is the point that I realised I am way too deep in Tolkien lore), the tharni is known as canath which has roots in Tolkien’s lingo for ‘four,’ and the castar is known as mírian which is derived from ‘jewel’ or ‘precious thing.’

Fans theorise that this could mean the Elves also used this currency to trade, but also acknowledge that the Sindarin language is commonly spoken in Gondor, so that might not be the case.

Fans also speculate on what these coins might look like, as it’s never explicitly described.

To cite a Reddit thread from eight years ago (to my many professors’ lament), Reddit user Ambarenya likens the coin system of Gondor to coins from history: presuming that the castar/mírian might be a gold coin similar to Romano-Byzantine solidus/nomisma coins, while the tharni/canath could be similar to the Romano-Byzantine miliaresion.

Other coins in the world of man have even less detail. The people of Eriador are thought to use silver pennies as the equivalent for Gondor’s tharni. And there isn’t any mention of what currency the people of Rohan might use (so please don’t hold your breath if that’s what you came here for).

Currency of Elves

Film still from Lord of the Rings: Legolas.


Aside from possibly using the mírian and canath coins, not much is known about elvish currency. Presumably, these immortal beings have accumulated wealth over millennia through trade and barter.

For the primary elvish characters of LOTR, they live in breathtakingly beautiful, self-sustaining sanctuaries. The Three Elven Rings of Power meant that the realms of Rivendell and Lothlórien were able to be preserved and flourish under the power of their respective rings, so aside from attaining mithril from the dwarves and other jewelled exchanges (white gems of pure starlight, anyone?), they don’t seem to have too much need for money.

The Mirkwood-Elves however, might have needed silver coins to trade with the Northmen and other neighbouring societies.

Currency of Dwarves

Film still from Lord of the Rings: Gimli

'What?' cried Gimli, startled out of his silence. 'A corslet of Moria-silver? That was a kingly gift!' 'Yes,' said Gandalf. 'I never told him, but its worth was greater than the value of the whole Shire and everything in it.'

I probably mined harder for this info than the dwarves did for mithril; digging deeper into niche Reddit threads than any sun-loving human ought to.

To be fair, I’m genuinely very impressed by the intensity of fan theories. They really cover everything: from the macroeconomics of Middle-earth after several ongoing wars; monarchy in the dwarf kingdom; why the size and scale of Middle-earth means the dwarves avoided the gold inflation endured by us humans in the Spanish Price Revolution of the 15th to 17th centuries... it really is quite remarkable.

To summarise these fan theories:

The dwarves likely traded with nearby kingdoms for food (as they did not and could not grow their own) in exchange for their masterful craftsmanship (and perhaps they also minted some coins, however skilled production is likely to have been the main trade).

Most of the kingdoms in Middle-earth use a barter system, and one Reddit user suggests that because the Seven Dwarven Rings drove the dwarves to greed, they most likely hoarded their riches – meaning precious metals might have been mined but never forged or circulated. This supports the theory that dwarves likely traded skill and labour in place of gold, jewels, and mithril.

This, combined with the fact that:
(A) the dwarf population was dwindling after battles with orcs and dragons, and
(B) most races have been too busy defending themselves from invasion to form a planned, central economy
… implies that the supply of gold into the greater Middle-earth economy would have been small enough to prevent hyperinflation.Or so the fans theorise. Without any extrapolation from Tolkien, it’s a concept I’m happy to accept.

Currency of Hobbits

Film still from Lord of the Rings: Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin.

The most confusing economy in all of Middle-earth is, in my opinion, the Shire.

Little is known about the history of hobbits. Tolkien left their origins intentionally ambiguous, because as he put it: “the world being after all full of strange creatures beyond count, these little people seemed of very little importance.”

What we can gather though is that hobbits are a rather agrarian bunch, so much of their time is spent cultivating food, and the other half is spent eating it (six meals a day is definitely something I can get around).

To be brief, here is a list of things we currently know about hobbits:

>>  They have hardly any government – hobbit families are pretty much self-sustained – and they are contented with a simple way of life. They do, however, have a postal service (which is how Bilbo managed to get everyone invitations to his eleventy-first birthday of course).

>>  There is discourse on a potential class system – for only the very wealthy and very poor Hobbits lived in burrows, and Samwise Gamgee is employed as the Baggins’ gardener. Bilbo himself is described as "very rich and very peculiar," with Tolkien also mentioning that the "riches he had brought back from his travels had now become a local legend."

>>  There is also, of course, the export of pipeweed, which is how the Sackville-Baggins family made their fortune. Given how much everyone in the Shire (and visitors, such as Gandalf) loves pipeweed, it makes sense that it’s the biggest (if only) export hobbits have. But how people (and wizards) pay for it is quite uncertain.

When it comes to money, we know about as much about hobbit currency as we do about hobbit history.

There is definite mention of money, because in the very first chapter Bilbo is described as wealthy yet "generous with his money." Tolkien also talks of pennies (such as a pony being bought for twelve silver pennies), as well as gold pieces (mentioned a few times – once when Bilbo gives “a little bag of gold” to Sam, and when Gandalf refers to news on the hobbits as “worth a gold piece at the least”). These gold pieces might be measured in weight, rather than denominations, as in most fantasy settings.

However, aside from these little mentions, currency seems as unimportant as hobbits are described as being at the beginning of the story.

Hobbit Coins

Official Hobbit Coins issued by New Zealand Post.

In our world however, Hobbit Coins exist!

New Zealand released commemorative Hobbit Coins, worth thousands of dollars, for the release of the Hobbit Trilogy in cinemas in 2012.

The coins featured characters such as Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf, and were genuine legal tender in NZ – though the actual value of the coin is not correlated to its denomination.
The most expensive coin was made from 28.3 grams of pure gold, and cost $3695 NZD to buy – while its face value was $10 NZD. The cheapest coin was a $1N ZD coin, which cost $29.90 NZD for collectors to buy.

You might still be able to find some of these limited-edition collector’s coins floating around, but they’d be rather precious to their Tolkien-enthusiast owners.


Turns out, there are more LOTR coins you can purchase in the real world - you can also find officially licensed Middle-earth coinage produced by The Shire Post Mint!

What began as a single coin press and a love for Tolkien's works, became a coin collection of more than sixty unique pieces - and they really thought of everything. The attention to detail is nothing short of remarkable. Even though Tolkien didn't give much detail in the way of currency, The Shire Post Mint has meticulously and lovingly crafted entire currency systems for their favourite places in Middle-earth. And, I mean this is just my personal opinion, but I can't think of a better tribute to someone whose claim to fame is creating entire language systems.

Sourced from The Shire Post Mint website: Shire Shilling.


Movie Money of Middle-earth

Film still from new Amazon Rings of Power series promo

“With a record-setting price tag of $1 billion (USD), it will be the most expensive show ever made.” - Time Magazine

The most expensive show ever made. That’s what Time Magazine has dubbed Amazon’s new series The Rings of Power. Amazon is reportedly spending upwards of $465 million USD (about $640 million AUD) for the first season alone, which is about $58 million USD (approx $72 million AUD) per episode.

To put this into perspective (in USD), Stranger Things costs about $30 million per ep, Marvel TV shows are at about the $25 million mark, and Game of Thrones costs about $10 million per episode toward the finale.

For Rings of Power, like The Hobbit, much of this cost will be to build infrastructure to be used throughout the series.  The TV rights to Tolkien’s works were another huge investment – after a bidding war, Amazon won with a price tag of $250 million USD.

Sir Peter Jackson’s entire trilogy of LOTR films cost a total of $281 million USD (approx. $412M AUD)  – nearly half the cost of the first season of Rings of Power.


Tourism Money of Middle-earth

Hobbiton Movie Set in New Zealand.

Lord of the Rings brought NZ to the main stage when it comes to tourism.

The General Manager of Tourism New Zealand, Sarah Handley, told Matador Network that in 2019, 18% of people who visited New Zealand for a holiday were initially inspired by Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films, and that the LOTR franchise contributes an estimated $630 million NZD (approx. $428M USD or 564M AUD) annually to the NZ economy.

One of the coolest examples of this is Hobbiton itself.

The story goes that, in 1998, Sir Peter Jackson’s team was flying over New Zealand, scouting for somewhere to film that was as lush and idyllic as The Shire. In the heart of Waikato, they stumbled upon Alexander Farm – a 500-hectare sheep farm with rolling hills, the perfect Party Tree, and no powerlines or modern structures in sight. The NZ Army helped bring it to life with 39 temporary Hobbit Holes secretly constructed. It was all very hush-hush. After demolition, there were 17 facades remaining, with the owners giving guided tours in 2002 after the success of Fellowship of the Ring in 2001. Then in 2009, when Peter Jackson returned to film The Hobbit trilogy, he created 44 permanent Hobbit Holes and The Green Dragon Inn, which are major tourist attractions to this day.

Travel Money You'll Need to Visit Middle-earth


That’s a wrap on everything money in Middle-earth.

But if you want to experience Middle-earth first-hand, you’ll need money from our world.

Travelling New Zealand, you’ll want a blend of cash and card in New Zealand Dollars ($NZD).


You’ll want to take cash with you, especially if travelling to rural areas where the wifi might be spotty. Cash is accepted pretty much everywhere, and is good to have on hand just-in-case.


New Zealand is one of the most card-friendly countries in the world. It’s pretty similar to Australia, and you’ll find it easy travelling with a prepaid travel card (like our Travel Money Oz Currency Pass)!

However, surprisingly, tap-and-go isn’t really used there – in fact, fees are passed on to the customer. So remember to always insert your card when paying.

LEARN MORE about budgeting for your NZ holiday!

A comprehensive guide to how much it costs to travel New Zealand, with our very clever budget planner to help you prep for your journey.

Want to adventure around NZ like a Hobbit with Took blood?


Read Part II and Part III of our Lord of the Rings inspired blog trilogy.

>> LORD OF THE COINS: Where To Travel Based On Your LOTR Archetype 
>> LORD OF THE COINS: A Hobbit's Guide to New Zealand


Like Tolkien, I have things I want to say that couldn’t be said within the manuscript. Unlike Tolkien, I’ll be brief and concise about it. I’d like to apologise to all Lord of the Rings fans for any blunders I might have made along the way – I am flawed, but I tried my best, just like Frodo (though I identify more with that Gollum energy). If you've made it this far, thanks so much for reading! Also, very sorry, I have no idea what kind of money Tom Bombadil would have used (or, for that matter, what Tom Bombadil is). Peace! 



100% Pure New Zealand. About the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. https://www.newzealand.com/au/feature/about-the-lord-of-the-rings-trilogy/ 
ABC News. (2012). New Zealand makes Hobbit coins legal tender. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-10-10/an-new-zealand-makes-hobbit-coins...
Andrew, Scottie. (2022). Amazon’s Lord of the Rings TV prequel series will be called ‘The Rings of Power’. 7 News. https://7news.com.au/technology/amazon/amazons-lord-of-the-rings-tv-preq...
Biggin, Matthew. (2022). LOTR: The Rings of Power Show Budget: Will Cost More Than $1 Billion. Screen Rant. https://screenrant.com/lotr-rings-power-show-budget-billion-amazon-details/
Ciriello, Dario. (2019). The Invisible Economy of Middle Earth, and Why Readers Don’t Care. Dario Speaks Blog. https://dariospeaks.wordpress.com/2019/06/25/the-invisible-economy-of-mi...
Diskin, Eben. (2021). 20 Years Later, Here’s How ‘The Lord of the Rings’ Has Changed New Zealand. Matador Network. https://matadornetwork.com/read/lord-rings-changed-new-zealand/
Dockterman, Eliana. (2022). The Secretive, Extravagant, Bighearted World of The Rings of Power, the Most Expensive Show Ever Made. Time Magazine. https://time.com/6205837/the-rings-of-power-amazon-most-expensive/
Elsden, Jethro. (2019). JRR Tolkien and the economics of Middle Earth. CapX Blog. https://capx.co/jrr-tolkien-and-the-economics-of-middle-earth/
Everitt, Louise. (2022). Just How Big is 'The Rings of Power' Budget?. Startefacts. https://startefacts.com/news/fans-fume-over-the-last-of-us-ellie-casting...
Hobbiton Tours. (2016). Our Story. https://www.hobbitontours.com/en/our-story/
Huffpost. (2012). Hobbit Currency To Be Legal Tender In 'Lord Of The Rings'-Obsessed New Zealand. Huffpost. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/hobbit-currency-legal-tender-in-lord-of-t...
Kelly, Steven. (2016). Breaking the Dragon’s Gaze: Commodity Fetishism in Tolkien’s Middle-earth. Mythopoeic Society – Kansas State University. Volume 34. https://dc.swosu.edu/mythlore/vol34/iss2/8/
Lacon, R. (1994). The Economy and Economic History of Gondor. Mallorn: The Journal of the Tolkien Society, 31, 37–44. http://www.jstor.org/stable/45320381
LaToya Ferguson, Tyler Hersko, Samantha Bergeson (2022). ‘The Lord of the Rings’: Everything You Need to Know About Amazon’s Big Money Adaptation. Indie Wire. https://www.indiewire.com/gallery/amazons-lord-of-the-rings-explained-pl...
Levine, Nick. (2012). ‘Hobbit’ coins to become legal tender in New Zealand. NME News. https://www.nme.com/news/film/hobbit-coins-to-become-legal-tender-in-new...
Martinez, Michael. (2011). The Merchants of Middle Earth. Middle Earth Blog. https://middle-earth.xenite.org/the-merchants-of-middle-earth/
Mildenstein, Samuel. (2018). Lord of the Rings Viewed as Moral Philosophy. Medium. https://medium.com/@sam_77941/lord-of-the-rings-viewed-as-moral-philosophy-3c1c763102f8
Mumford, Tracy. (2015). Literary mysteries: Did Tolkien really create entire languages for his books? MPR News. https://www.mprnews.org/story/2015/03/31/books-bcst-question-tolkien-lan...
Nerdist. (2022). EVERYTHING WE KNOW ABOUT LOTR: THE RINGS OF POWER. Nerdist. https://nerdist.com/article/lord-of-the-rings-tv-series-rings-of-power-e...
Ross, James Clark. (2020). The Philosophy of Lord of the Rings. The Human Front. https://www.thehumanfront.com/philosophy-of-the-lord-of-the-rings/
Shire Post Mint. (2022). The Lord of the Rings TM Collection. www.shirepost.com/collections/the-lord-of-the-rings
Tareque Laskar and Jayanth Nanjappa. (2014). MIDDLE EARTH ECONOMICS 101. It’s the Market, Stupid Blog. https://itsthemarket.wordpress.com/2014/09/29/middle-earth-economics-101-2/
Westenfeld, Adrienne. (2022). Rings of Power Is Clarifying Its Tolkien Connection. Esquire. https://www.esquire.com/entertainment/tv/a13529805/lord-of-the-rings-ser...
Woolley, Frances. (2012).The Macroeconomics of Middle Earth. Worthwhile Canadian Initiative Blog. https://worthwhile.typepad.com/worthwhile_canadian_initi/2012/12/the-mac...

Tolkien Gateway. (2019). Money. https://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/Money
The Tolkien Forum. (2009). Middle Earth Economy. https://www.thetolkienforum.com/threads/middle-earth-economy.19715/
The One Wiki to Rule Them All. (Date Unknown). Languages. LOTR Fandom Wiki. Accessed August 2022. https://lotr.fandom.com/wiki/Languages
Blog: Arwen Undomiel. (2013). Useful Elvish Phrases. http://www.arwen-undomiel.com/elvish/phrases.html
Notion Club Archives. Money. https://notionclubarchives.fandom.com/wiki/Money
Reddit Thread /r/tolkienfans: (2014). Middle Earth Currency. Reddit. Accessed August 2022. https://www.reddit.com/r/tolkienfans/comments/2b66og/middle_earth_currency/
Reddit Thread /r/tolkienfans: (2014). Currency in Middle Earth. Reddit. Accessed August 2022. https://www.reddit.com/r/tolkienfans/comments/2uchsv/currency_in_middle_...
Reddit Thread /r/lotr: (2014). Are there banks in Middle Earth? Who puts the money into circulation?. Reddit. Accessed August 2022. https://www.reddit.com/r/lotr/comments/88u1ly/are_there_banks_in_middle_...
Reddit Thread /r/AskScienceFiction: (2021). [Middle Earth] How does the Hobbit economy work?. Reddit. Accessed August 2022. https://www.reddit.com/r/AskScienceFiction/comments/q2x327/middle_earth_...
Reddit Thread /r/LOTR: Reddit Thread /r/AskScienceFiction: (2021). [Lord of the Rings] How does the economy in Middle Earth work if the Dwarves mine most of the gold?. Reddit. Accessed August 2022. https://www.reddit.com/r/AskScienceFiction/comments/lufp5m/lord_of_the_r...
Reddit Thread /r/LOTR: (2017). Where did the Hobbits come from? Reddit. Accessed August 2022. https://www.reddit.com/r/lotr/comments/5w4o3m/where_did_the_hobbits_come...
Martinez, Michael. (2015). What was the currency and currency system in Middle Earth? Reddit. Accessed August 2022. https://www.reddit.com/r/lotr/comments/46b85h/what_was_the_currency_and_...
Tumblr: Ask Middle Earth. (Date Unknown). Middle Earth and Money. Ask Middle Earth Tumblr Post. https://askmiddlearth.tumblr.com/post/44636998399/middle-earth-and-money
Quora Thread. (2015). How did the economy of Middle Earth work? Was it actually a realistically functional economy? Quora Thread. Accessed August 2022. https://www.quora.com/How-did-the-economy-of-Middle-Earth-work-Was-it-ac...
Quora Thread. (2015). How does currency work in Middle-Earth? Bilbo is said to have a chest of gold and his mithril vest is worth more than the whole Shire but what are each of the individual Dwarf coins work? Also, do other races use currency? Quora Thread. Accessed August 2022. https://www.quora.com/How-does-currency-work-in-Middle-Earth-Bilbo-is-sa...