u/Aradanftw on Reddit put together a post converting Roshar's spheres to US Dollars. So this is 99% their work and not my own! But I thought it was interesting and something that I might want to reference more often down the road. Perhaps I'll remember to add more things to it.
My main "contribution" was a push to reduce the values by an order of magnitude. The diamond chip was originally set at $2, based on the price of a loaf of bread. I'm not sure Aradanftw was entirely on board with this opinion, but the prices I've posted below are 1/10th of that. I'll admit that I'm not great with economics and inflation values, so I'm happy to be corrected on this. But it seems to me like we should compare the prices to Earth prices at a similar level of technological development? So I'm thinking we should look more at 19th century (-ish) US dollars rather than 21st century US dollars? The price of bread in early/pre-industrial society is different than modern society. Even now you can go to non-Western developing countries where a bit of bread is going to be a lot less than $2. And, admittedly, part of the drive for this is that $2 as you SMALLEST denomination of currency seems off to me.
Aside from that price shift, I've also reorganized everything from lowest value to highest, and reworked some of the details. So assuming 1 diamond chip = a loaf of bread = $0.20, we've got the following prices:
Rosharan spheres to US Dollars:
- 1 diamond chip (smallest denomination) - $0.20
- Apothecary bandages, per armlength (1 diamond chip) - $0.20
- Candied fruit (1 diamond chip) - $0.20
Shallan's trip to the Palanaeum (2 diamond chips) - $0.40
- Bridgeman slave daily wages (1 diamond mark) - $1
- Bridgeman daily wages (2 diamond marks) - $2
- Tozbek's sailors' daily wages (1 ruby chip) - $2
- Shallan's slaves' daily wages (1 ruby chip + 5 ruby chips toward slave debt) - $2 + $10 toward slave debt
- Apothecary needle and thread (2 diamond marks) - $2
- Soldier's daily wages (5 diamond marks) - $5
Bowl of firemoss, each (1 garnet broam for three bowls)- $6.60 per bowl
- Adolin's tip to Kaladin (1 emerald chip) - $10
- Apothecary larmic mucus (2 ruby marks) - $20
- Mraize tips Mem for getting the aether from his suit (3 ruby marks) - $30
- Apothecary lister's oil (2 sapphire marks) - $50
- Shallan's mistaken offer for candied fruit (1 emerald mark) - $50
Apothecary knobweed sap, per bottle (2 sapphire marks) $50
- Copy of Words of Radiance, found by Gaz (2 sapphire broams) - $200
- 1 emerald broam (largest denomination) - $200
- Palanaeum alcove rental (2 sapphire marks) - $500
- Shallan's weekly stipend (3 emerald broams) - $600
Renegotiated price for Shallan's books (2 emerald broams and 3 sapphire broams) - $700
- Tvlakv's trade wagon and 5 slaves (5 emerald broams) - $1,000
- Artmyrn's initial offer for Shallan's books (10 emerald broams) - $2,000
- Shallan's aluminum necklass (10 emerald broams) - $2,000
- Gaz's debt (80 ruby broams) - $3,200
Wikim and Balat's knives, each (20 emerald broams) - $4,000
Dalanar's offered price to purchase Sadaes's bridgemen, each (60 emerald broams) - $12,000
- Palanaeum chit of admittance (1,000 sapphire broams) - $100,000
Sadaes would reject even if Dalinar this much for bridgemen, each (1,000 emerald broams) - $200,000
Again, I'm not ecoomist or historian, but I think these sound somewhat reasonable? Could be shifted around a little one way or the other, but I think the order of magnitude feels right.
There are people (in extreme poverty) in our world who live on $2 per day. The wages for the sailors does seem a bit low, but both they and the bridgemen also essentially have free housing and (presumably) meals. So that's more of a stipend than a wage. Seems like a very reasonable wage for what is essentially a pre-industrial indentured servant?
The minimum pricepoint of $0.20 STILL seems weirdly high, but I don't think we can go much lower. The bread doesn't seem bad, though it's odd to me candied fruit costs the same. What do you charge for a non-candied piece of fruit? Do people just not do that? They'd buy more than one piece? Perhaps the people at the bottom of society tend to just barter goods directly instead of using spheres.
Books costing a few hundred dollars apiece seems somewhat reasonable? I expect books cost even more, prior to the printing press. But then Roshar is a bit more culturally developed despite that technology, so demand is probably bringing that price down.
Dalinar's offer to buy the bridgemen is crazy. There were about 1,000 bridgemen I believe, which puts the total cost (if Sadeas had agreed) at $12 million. Apparently Dalinar could afford that (if only barely) while Sadeas's counter-offer of $200 million was going too far. So that's interesting.