20 Fictional Dystopian Currencies

What Would Money Look Like If the world ended, as we know it today?

Written by Carly Hallman

The world has ended. It’s time to rebuild. But how can we trade, besides bartering? What sort of future money will we be dealing in, and how can we get the important items we need? Never fear! The brilliant science fiction writers of top video games, TV shows, movies, and tabletop games have already imagined what currency might look like in a dystopian world. Here’s some of the most fantastic fictional currency in fiction for when humankind has survived an alien invasion, nuclear war, or the fall of megacorporations.

What Dystopian Money Might Look Like

In the future, what would we use for money? Paper currency based on gold stores has remained a consistent fact of human existence for hundreds of years, but that hasn’t always been the case. Before paper, the currency of the realm was coinage, and far before that was jewelry, stones, and valuable items like cowrie shells. Humanity has been using barter systems far longer than it has been using money, and yet, a distant future without money is hard to imagine. Many people have been arguing about the future of currency: Is it Bitcoin? Is it another cryptocurrency? If you stretch the imagination with the fantasy and sci-fi genres, you come across not only fake money names but different ways money could potentially work in the far-flung future.

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Different Types of Science Fiction and Fantasy Currency

So how will money work in the future? Here’s a list of different types of currency in video games, movies, and TV shows after the apocalypse:

  • Bullets/Weapons: Just how bloody will your apocalypse be? If it’s very violent, the risk of running out of bullets might make it worth more than money, as in Metro 2033, where military-grade rounds are the primary currency.
  • Something Currently Worthless: From bottle caps to metal shards, this type of fictional currency is for worlds that have gone to pot. Showing us how all money is inherently valueless, games like Fallout: New Vegas prioritize a currency that’s simple to find and easy to carry around.
  • Gold Coins: The Final Fantasy currency called Gil is a prime example of a coin-based future currency. Since that game combines fantasy and sci-fi elements into a unique blend that’s not clearly one or the other, like the Warhammer 40,000, Chrono Trigger, and Dishonored franchises, it mixes the ancient-seeming coins with modern things like lasers and gun swords to buy. Is that in our future, or is that fancy worldbuilding?
  • Modern Paper Money: Imaginary money like double dollars in Trigun, the Battlestar Galactica money called cubits, or paper credits in dozens of other fantasy worlds might seem uncreative, but what’s interesting about them is that usually, the entire world uses just one thing for money; you don’t have to trade euros for dollars, for example. Usually, this is because there’s one super-government or humanity has changed in some major way. Will future money be just one currency across continents or space?
  • Digital Currency: Many think that cryptocurrencies like the scrip from Mirror’s Edge might more closely resemble our future currency. But will it be based on gold, like our current banking systems, or will it work differently?
  • Energy: Merits from Black Mirror are earned by cycling on exercise bikes. Will our future money be based on energy output?
  • Genetic Material: In the underwater city of Rapture, anything goes. Staying safe and sane requires being the strongest, which usually includes having superpowers fueled by the genetic soup-stuff called Adam. If suddenly, human beings could re-write their genetic code to resemble X-Men, wouldn’t that be the top currency of the realm?
  • Time: The film In Time proposed an interesting idea: that future currency is time itself. Time before death is what’s being dealt out to buy beer and groceries. In this society, people have found out how to stop aging: The rich live forever.

Check out our list of fictional currency names to see what you think is the most likely in a potential upcoming dystopia!

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