The worth of ore
We like exploring mines here in D&D – mines that sometimes have carts filled with ore and refined metals. How much is that stuff worth?
Copper
The intrinsic value of a copper coin is equal to its extrinsic value. The DMG confirms as much, given the weight of coins and the price of copper as a trade good. According to that, one pound of copper makes 50 cp. That gets us the price of an ingot as well since that’s just a pure hunk of copper in a cool shape. A chunky ½ ft. long one (half as wide) weighs around 20 pounds and is worth 10 gp.
That leaves us ore. According to the internet, the typical yield for ore is 1%. So our 10 gp ingot comes from 2000 pounds worth of ore. However, refining ore into copper is a complicated process and adds a good chunk to the price. In our modern, industrialized, times, the overhead is at least 30%. In a D&D economy, who knows? Let’s wave our magic wands and go with the same number. Our 2000 pounds of ore is now only worth 7 gp.
Which brings us to the next question: what if you fill a minecart? A cubic foot of copper ore weighs 140 lb, so our 2000 pounds fill up 14.3 cubic feet: a 2.5’ x 2.5’ x 2.5’ block. For comparison, an oil barrel is about half at 5.6 cubic feet, which would go for 3 gp. How many of those in a cart? Your guess is as good as mine. Six seems fair?
Putting all of this together we get:
item | size | weight | value |
---|---|---|---|
1 lb. of copper | ½ inch cube | 1 lb. | 0.5 gp |
Copper ingot | ½ foot (¼ ft. wide) | 20 lb. | 10 gp |
Copper ore | barrel | 800 lb. | 3 gp |
Minecart filled with copper ore | 6 barrels? | 5000 lb. | 20 gp |
Other precious metals
In real life, the yields for gold and platinum are much worse than copper. Like 0.001% for high yield gold ore and a tenth of that for platinum. That means that a minecart filled with gold or platinum ore is worth maybe 3 pieces of gold. It’s up to you if you want your world to work like that, or if you feel that silver, gold, and platinum ore should just follow the regular value progression.
Also note that gold and platinum weigh over twice as much as silver and copper, so ingots and coins are smaller.
item | size | weight | value |
---|---|---|---|
1 lb. of copper | ½ inch cube | 1 lb. | 0.5 gp |
1 lb. of silver | ½ inch cube | 1 lb. | 5 gp |
1 lb. of gold | 0.4-inch cube | 1 lb. | 50 gp |
1 lb. of platinum | 0.4-inch cube | 1 lb. | 500 gp |
Copper ingot | 6×3 inch | 20 lb. | 10 gp |
Silver ingot | 6×3 inch | 20 lb. | 100 gp |
Gold ingot | 3×3 inch | 20 lb. | 1000 gp |
Platinum ingot | 3×3 inch | 20 lb. | 10,000 gp |
Copper ore | barrel | 800 lb. | 3 gp |
Silver ore | barrel | 800 lb. | 1 sp “realistic” 30 gp “fantasy” |
Gold ore | barrel | 800 lb. | 3 sp “realistic” 300 gp “fantasy” |
Platinum ore | barrel | 800 lb. | 3 sp “realistic” 3000 gp “fantasy” |
How much can I carry?
Now of course you’ll want to know how much ore a typical barbarian can carry around. The answer is here (it’s 3 barbarians per barrel).
Do you happen to have costs per pound of things that would end up being mind (not currently listed)?
Salt, Limestone, Sand, Zinc, Tin, etc? I’m completely fascinated with the mining aspect of D&D and am whipping up a spreadsheet. I’m eager to know what the costs are from cheapest to most expensive.
There isn’t much talk about minerals or other spell components being exhumed from mining or what that might look like. Guess I’m a nerd. LOL.