The second movie in the Harry Potter prequel series, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald premieres in the U.S. tomorrow! With this new release fans are learning more about the magical wizarding world imagined up by author J.K. Rowling. It seems Rowling has thought up everything, from a wizarding judicial system, their own version of SAT’s, and even their own magical currency. In celebration of the new movie release, we are going to explore the coinage of the wizarding world. (For the purposes of this post, all references to specific coins are to replica coins based on the series.)
The most well known wizarding currency is the wizarding currency of the United Kingdom, which consists of three different coins; in decreasing order of value, they are: Galleon, Sickle and Knut. They are gold, silver, and bronze, respectively. According to Rubeus Hagrid, there are 17 Sickles in a Galleon, and 29 Knuts in a Sickle, meaning there are 493 Knuts to a Galleon.
Around the edge of each coin is a series of numerals which represent a serial number belonging to the Goblin that cast the coin. The three denominations of wizarding currency were sometimes represented with the following set of symbols (shown in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince):
According to Rowling, the approximate value of a Galleon is “About five Great British pounds, though the exchange rate varies!”. This is consistent with the “textbooks” Rowling wrote for charity (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Quidditch Through the Ages), which states that GB£174 million/US$250 million is equivalent to 34 million Galleons (or 34,000,872 Galleons, 14 Sickles, 7 Knuts to be exact) and works out as approximately £5.12/$7.35 per Galleon.
Note that the Galleon/Pound rate cited by Rowling is probably that offered by Gringotts
bank and bears no relation to the precious-metal value of wizarding coins. The “gold coins the size of hubcaps” mentioned in reference to the Quidditch World Cup would be much larger than the British five-pound Quintuple Sovereign today sold for its bullion value of hundreds of pounds sterling (though this hubcap reference may have been an exaggeration). However, it is unclear whether the coins were Galleons, or the currency of some other Wizard community.
It should be noted that money in itself is one of the five exceptions to Gamp’s Law of Elemental Transfiguration, meaning it cannot be created from nothing. Aside from the Philosopher’s Stone which can convert other metals into gold there seems to be no other method of obtaining it. Attempting to duplicate money with the Geminio spell is also ineffective, as duplicates created from Geminio are worthless.
One of the most ancient forms of wizarding money, used by primitive wizards is Niffler’s Fancy. Niffler’s Fancy is a plant whose leaves gleam like copper. The plant is named after the creature, the Niffler, because they have an affinity for shiny objects.
Other currencies that aren’t widely circulated include leprechaun gold and various other enchanted coins. Galleons made of Leprechaun gold were common at Quidditch games where Leprechauns are the mascots for the Irish team. These Galleons are occasionally in temporary circulation (they vanish a few hours after appearing), but goblin experts at Gringotts Bank can differentiate them from real ones.
A particularly important enchanted coin was enchanted by Hermione Granger for the use of Dumbledore’s Army. The Dumbledore’s Army coin was a fake Galleon created by Hermione Granger in 1995 to inform members of Dumbledore’s Army when the next meeting would take place. The coins would come in quite handy throughout the Second Wizarding War and after the war were kept as badges of honour.
As it became more suspicious for members to keep meeting each other in groups in the halls to set up the time for Dumbledore’s Army to meet, Hermione fabricated fake Galleons, on which she then placed a Protean Charm. Around the edge of each coin was a series of numerals which, on genuine galleons, represented a serial number belonging to the Goblin that cast the coin. The Protean Charm allowed these numerals to change into the time and date of the next meeting of the D.A. whenever the master coin (owned by Harry Potter) was changed. The coin would also warm up to alert the holder to the change.
Hermione stated that she got the idea from Voldemort pressing the Dark Mark on the arm of his Death Eaters, summoning them. However, Hermione chose to engrave the date on the coins, rather than on the members’ forearms. Harry agreed that this way was preferable.
In 1998, Neville Longbottom used the coins to summon former members of Dumbledore’s Army to Hogwarts to fight the Death Eaters and reclaim the school. The former members alerted many others, including the Order of the Phoenix, and set the scene for the Battle of Hogwarts.
Through wizarding coinage we can get a peek into the fantastical world of magic created by J.K. Rowling. The fictional currency is just one small detail that brings to life the wizarding world.