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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20 Fictional Dystopian Currencies and What They Buy Transcript

Source Money type and what you can buy with it
Warhammer 40,000, 1987, Set far in the grim future, humankind is plagued by war, corruption, and violence., TG Throne gelt (tg), Power Sword (2,500 tg)
Chrono Trigger, 1995, An alien parasite devours the future world, creating a post-apocalyptic wasteland., VG Gold (g), Demon Edge (65,000 g)
Final Fantasy VII, 1997, A powerful megacorporation uses the planet’s life essence as an energy source, threatening to destroy it., VG Gil, Force Stealer (2200 gil)
Cowboy Bebop, 1998, In the year 2017, an accident with a hyperspace gateway renders Earth almost uninhabitable. Humanity colonizes other planets, and crime skyrockets., TV Woolong (₩), Watermelon (1,000 ₩)
Trigun, 1998, The primary setting is a desolate, ruined planet with a mysterious past known as Gunsmoke., TV Double Dollars ($$), Bag of doughnuts ($$30)
Mega Man Zero, 2002, A worldwide energy crisis triggers war between humans and Reploids (self-aware robots)., VG Zenny (Ƶ), Z-Saber (2,000,000 Ƶ)
Firefly, 2002, In the year 2517, Earth is spent and humans have scattered across the solar system to carve out an existence. Animalistic humans called Reavers plague the outer planets., TV Credits, Old cow for food (125 credits)
Battlestar Galactica, 2004, Humankind struggles for survival against a cybernetic race known as Cylons. The only surviving human space fleet searches for the fabled “Earth.”, TV + VG Cubit (cb), Rhino (36,000 cubits)
Metro 2033, 2010, In the ruins of Moscow after nuclear war, survivors are forced to live in underground Metro tunnels., VG Military-Grade Rounds, Kalash 2012 (Scope, Silencer, and Red Dot) (237 MGR)
Fallout: New Vegas, 2010, In the year 2281, three major powers wrestle for control over the apocalyptic wasteland of New Vegas., VG Bottle caps, Nuka Breaker (7,800 bottle caps)
BioShock 2, 2010, The underwater city of Rapture was meant to be a utopia free of tyranny, but greed and chaos corrupted it., VG ADAM, Walking Inferno (40 ADAM)
Mirror’s Edge, 2010, A utopian city is controlled by a totalitarian military regime that monitors all communication and runs a sham democracy., VG Scrip (digital currency, vulnerable to cyber attacks)
Deus Ex: Human Revolution, 2011, In the year 2027, megacorporations hold more power than government. Cybernetics create a rift between normal and augmented humans., VG Credits (), Longsword 202 ERASER (3000 credits)
In Time, 2011, People stop aging at age 25 — time becomes the universal currency, and the rich can live forever., M Time, 6-pack Brevit Beer (1 hour)
“Fifteen Million Merits” (Black Mirror), 2011, Society must cycle on exercise bikes to earn Merits to buy goods and services., TV Merits, Hot Shot entry ticket (15 million Merits)
Dishonored, 2012, In an industrial city governed by an oppressive regime, the population is controlled by a plague spread by rats., VG Coin, Sokolov’s paintings (300 coins)
Warframe, 2013, A race of ancient warriors is awoken from cryosleep. They must use biomechanical suits called Warframes to wage war with sinister forces., VG Credits, Boltace blueprints (20,000 credits)
Horizon Zero Dawn, 2017, In the 31st century, humans have regressed to tribal societies while robots dominate the world., VG Metal shards, Banuk Ice Hunter (230 shards)
Fortnite, 2017, Suddenly, 98% of Earth’s population disappears. Those who remain struggle with storms that spawn zombie-like creatures., VG Vinder-Bucks (v), Super Hero Llama (1000 v),  
Altered Carbon, 2018, In the year 2384, a person’s memories are stored in an alien device that can be implanted in human or synthetic bodies called “sleeves.”, TV UN credits, Takeshi Kovacs’ freedom (50 million credits)

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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