As most of you know, I spend an enormous amount of time researching the economics of how things should work in a fantasy environment. Because I love treasure, I spend much of that time on treasures of the past and how things would probably work out. But sometimes, this doesn’t work.
Case in point - elephant tusks. Now it may seem contradictory, but I do believe that we should avoid killing elephants or any other endangered animal. The poaching of elephants and the likely driving of these magnificent creatures into extinction is morally wrong and needs to stop. But in a fantasy game where no real elephants are harmed, I absolutely use ivory as treasure.
But here’s the issue. Elephant experts have noticed that the average elephant’s tusks are half the weight now as they were 100-150 years ago. Why? Because the poachers are killing the elephants with the biggest tusks. Let’s be clear - Poaching an elephant today is a risky job (a criminal job, but ... you know what I mean). So if they are going to risk shooting an elephant for his tusks, they’re going to get the biggest tusks they can find. Well, the biggest elephants have the biggest tusks. If you kill all the big tusked elephants, then what is left in the genetic pool is the elephants with smaller tusks, or even no tusks.
Is this real? Yes! Imagine that beavers were naturally white, but there was a mutant beaver (an anti-albino) that was brown. If everyone wanted the white beavers and specifically killed them, then the formerly extremely rare brown beavers would begin to increase in population percentage until what had been a rare and unseen thing, became the majority. That is what is happening with tusk-less elephants. They aren’t the majority yet, but they are moving up in percentages.
Why do you care? Because if you only do a little research, you will be told that an elephant’s tusks weigh 100lbs. Yeah, today they do, but that is half what they were before we perfected firearms. You will also see some incredibly higher dollar values for ivory today - but those are black market prices. What I am saying is that unless you do even more research to get to the bottom of these types of things, you will be misled as to what fantasy era elephant tusks should weigh and what their value in a fantasy “historical” culture would be.
This is just more of the reasoning behind not trying to equate modern economics with fantasy economics, but it is exactly the type of thing that should matter when you’re figuring out your loot economics.