The Summer Heroes
Currency in the Penwith Islands
The Penwith Islands completely lack deposits of gold and platinum; prior to the discovery of silver in the hills outside Brightwater in 404 BR, the primary currencies of Penwith were composed of copper. The low-level-value nature of pre-silver Penwithan currency inhibited some economic development among the cities of the archipelago, though imported currencies and gems could sometimes serve as substitutes for official, government-issued currency. The discovery of silver led to the immediate development of the silver coins known as Brightwater Angels, which proliferated quickly and widely across the islands.
The annexation of the archipelago by the Sorian Empire resulted in a simultaneous importation of Imperial currency, including the gold-based Imperial Osella, which rapidly superseded the Brightwater Angel as the standard currency of the islands. As the civil war in the Empire raged on in the 9th century BR, importation of new gold coinage slowed, and in 837 BR, the Empire’s withdrawal was accompanied by a collapse in the availability of new gold.
As gold slowly increased in scarcity, the Silver Palace began reclaiming the Imperial Osellae, melting them down, and re-issuing them as a new type of coinage, the electrum Noble. The Noble is worth only half the Osella’s value, but it has extended the usefulness and availability of the gold supply in the islands. The slow revival of long-distance trade with Soren has also helped to re-introduce Osellae into the monetary supply of the Islands, but generally the Angel is the standard currency.
Although the imported Imperial Osella became the standard currency of the Islands following the annexation by the Sorian Empire, there was a brief window of time wherein the Empire issued coinage (out of necessity) using silver. These are generally called “Silver Osellae”, as they mirror normal Imperial Osellae in every way except their material. Silver Osellae were minted only in 435 and 436 BR (though they use the Sorian calendar, and so bear the dates 1491 and 1492 YC) and, aside from necessity, were minted to assert the Empire’s superiority over Penwith. Following Queen Auria’s execution, General Tortos also proclaimed that he had had her silver crown melted and turned into currency, so that the people of Penwith would have a continual reminder of their failed insurrection. Silver Osellae are scarce and hard to come by, and so are valued highly as collector’s items and objects of historical import.
Following the introduction of Imperial Osellae to Penwith, the production of silver-based Brightwater Angels resumed (as they served a useful intermediate step between Osellae and copper-based currency). These coins mirrored the original Brightwater Angels in appearance, but instead of Queen Auria’s picture, they bore the Imperial portrait. These are usually referred to now as “Empire Angels” and are relatively rare, as most of them were reclaimed by the Silver Palace following the Empire’s withdrawal and subsequently melted and re-issued as “proper” Angels (with the Brighwater monarch’s portrait). These Empire Angels were issued from about 436 BR to 837 BR, but are immediately identifiable because they bear the Sorian dating system, and so have dates ranging from 1492 to 1893 YC.
Copper-based currencies are generally less valuable as collector’s items (though they may still have historical import, of course), but Brightwater Pence and the like that pre-date Queen Auria are generally worth a little. Currencies that pre-date the Age of Kingdoms are very difficult to come by, and the most valuable of copper currencies are those that pre-date the Resettling. Pre-Resettling copper coins come in a wide and un-standardized variety, not least because they reflect the period in Penwith before the introduction of more sophisticated Elven smithing techniques.
Coins from the ruined cities of Starll and Tintern are also valuable as collector’s items, though Tintern’s coins are more popular among collectors because of the city’s holy/religious nature. These are difficult to come by in Penwith, as most of the wealth of the two cities was plundered by Sorian soldiers during the Scourge of Penwith and most of those soldiers eventually returned to Soren, thereby removing a significant amount of coinage from circulation permanently. As a consequence, it is actually easier to find coins from Starll and Tintern as historical curiosities in Soren than in the archipelago.