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The Toadstool Exchange: An Examination of 5 Video Game Currencies

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Most of us will spend a great deal of real money on video games, wherein we can spend a great deal of fictional money—only for much cooler things that are more likely to explode. Here are five video game currencies, a general appraisal of their respective economic outlooks, and an indexed exchange rate for aggressive interstellar and inter-dimensional travelers.

1. Coin (Mario)

The Mushroom Kingdom’s established currency is the gold coin. Despite permanent siege conditions brought upon by the Koopas, and the frequency with which the ruling monarch is kidnapped, the purchasing power of the coin has remained astonishingly consistent. One hundred (100) coins have purchased exactly one (1) resurrection since at least 1985. Still, it’s clear that the realm of Toadstool has endured much hardship since the start of the war. Consider the abundance of bricks throughout the kingdom. They are clearly of very poor quality and extremely fragile. (The punch of a fully grown adult can generally shatter most bricks into dust.) More importantly, the bricks suggest numerous abandoned construction projects. Infrastructure upgrades are essential to maintaining any modern state. Under the reign of HRH Peach, Princess of the Mushroom Kingdom, few if any such projects have been witnessed.

While Her Majesty has been preoccupied with the ongoing conflict with Lord Bowser, King of the Koopas, her dominion has begun to crumble around her. Such hazards as open pipes, gaping crevices filled with lava, and dilapidated, reportedly haunted mansions present ongoing challenges not only for residents of the Mushroom Kingdom, but also its Italian foot soldiers.

2. Rupee (Zelda)

Like the Mushroom Kingdom, Hyrule is plagued with conflict, here in the form of a sorcerer desperate for an ancient relic owned by the ruling family. Unlike the Mushroom Kingdom, Hyrule’s dominant currency is a gem, as opposed to a precious metal. The turbulence of life in the kingdom appears not to have unnerved its citizens. This is perhaps because of the rustic nature of Hyrule—the people are simply too far removed from the situation to worry. At any rate, swords and armor are a part of everyday life. A people comfortable with fighting octoroks while plowing the fields are hearty enough to handle attempted burglaries against its monarchy.

From the earliest recorded history (i.e., the forging of the Master Sword during the so-called Skyward Sword saga) through the telling of the Legend of Zelda, one crafted item has remained largely unchanged: the small wooden shield. Time has neither diminished its utility nor limited its availability in general goods stores. This gives us some idea of the state of Hyrule’s economy. The cost of one (1) wooden shield has increased more than 200% over the years, rising from 50 to an astonishing 160 rupees. Because of such items as magic ocarinas, time is a relative construct in Hyrule, and it is impossible to determine the actual age of the kingdom. As such, standard models fail us. But clearly the purchasing power of the rupee has diminished over time. Notably, a decade after the final slaying of Ganon—whereupon Link set off on his final adventure—there is no evidence of shops or rupees at all, suggesting ultimately a catastrophic economic collapse. Considering the stress put on Hyrule by external forces since its founding, this is hardly surprising. (The Mushroom Kingdom would do well to learn from this tragedy.)

If, in fact, the rupee collapses entirely, it would not be without precedent. In Hungary following World War II, for example, the Pengo to Forint exchange reached four hundred octillion to one (400,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 to 1).

3. Bottle Caps (Fallout)

Image credit: Etsy Shop Owner OXthell

Regardless of whether Hyrule suffered a devastating economic collapse, or the Mushroom Kingdom is ultimately conquered or destroyed by the Koopas, survivors can take some comfort that new currency and economies will rise. Post-war Europe is an obvious example (see: the Danzig gulden), but another notable case is the fallout-washed post-apocalyptic American wasteland. There, bottle caps became the successful, stable currency. Though crafts aren’t often negotiable currency but in the strictest of senses (i.e., bartering, but even then with little consistency—see: Craigslist), it’s not a wholly alien concept. In the early 20th century, one Congolese Katanga Cross would buy you six chickens. In West Africa in the 1880s, two Kissi pennies (six-inch, crafted iron rods) could buy a bunch of bananas; two thousand could score you a cow.

Under the circumstances of a thermonuclear apocalypse, bottle caps are as good a currency as any. They are plentiful but limited, geographically well-dispersed, culturally acceptable, difficult to counterfeit, and sufficiently durable. Just as gold is valuable because we’ve all decided to agree that gold is valuable, so too might a cap rush sweep the irradiated post-industrial-pre-industrial continent. When the first dweller of underground Vault 13 emerged in the mid-22nd century, 20 caps could buy one (1) Iguana-on-a-stick. A century later, travelers from Vault 101 would report that iguanas-on-a-stick cost a mere 5 caps. As no living iguana was ever actually seen in the wild during that era, there’s no evidence of a population increase. The price should more or less reflect the performance of the cap, which is pretty good considering the mutants, zombies, and slavers. And there is reason for optimism: President John Henry Eden has promised to devote his administration to rebuilding American infrastructure. And when John Henry Eden builds a country, he builds it to last.

4. UAC Credit (Doom)

Weapons manufacturer Union Aerospace Corporation initially showed great promise as an economic savior to war-torn 22nd-century Earth. A working, stable system of teleportation would have physically connected humanity in much the same way that the Internet virtually connected us. All barriers to trade and social interaction would have been annihilated. Misuse of teleportation technology would have been deterred by a kind of mutually assured destruction (for example, send your army to my capital and I’ll send a nuclear bomb to yours). Likewise, UAC’s tremendous work in establishing self-sustaining colonies on Mars and various moons in the solar system seemed at first to diversify the human supply chain. Then its scientists accidentally opened a gate to hell and destroyed humanity and bunnies alike.

The sheer scale of UAC investments and enterprise, as well as the company’s reliability in volatile times, made it well suited to issuing its own currency, called the UAC Credit. This is not as unusual as it might sound. As matters of convenience, scrips (as private currencies are called) were once used extensively by companies whose activities were located in remote areas. Lumber and mining camps, for instance, would sometimes pay employees with private currency that could be redeemed at company-owned commissaries and exchanges. Similarly, even today, U.S. service members will be familiar with Pogs—small, printed cardboard disks used in combat zones in place of coinage (which is too heavy to transport overseas in meaningful supply). Pogs can be spent or exchanged on any U.S. military installation in the world.

5. Gold (World of Warcraft)

Immediately after the Fall of Stormwind, a strict feudal system seems to grip Azeroth, with lords and ladies providing everything his or her vassals might need. Whether this is an aberration is unclear, but the defeat of such an ancient civilization would clearly have dire economic consequences. Azeroth would soon see historic growth, however, brought upon by untapped and readily accessible veins of gold. Villages were constructed adjacent to gold mines, each of which produced up to 30,000 nuggets even under the less-than-ideal conditions of total warfare. The next two decades would parallel the California Gold Rush of 1848, which infused the global economy with renewed vigor. Twenty-five years after the Azeroth rush and the rebuilding of Stormwind City (later called New Stormwind), the economy reached equilibrium, backed by gold and protected by occasionally organized guilds and factions. The paucity of gold for new adventurers would suggest that the supply was either seized by hostile invaders during the First and Second Wars, or surreptitiously hoarded by the ruling class. As evidenced by the recently remodeled Stormwind Keep, to ask the question is to answer it.

The Toadstool Exchange

The tremendous number of portals, teleportation devices, spells, atomic anomalies, and magic flutes means that truly aggressive adventurers might find themselves in strange lands. For this reason, it might be useful to build a rudimentary exchange, so that a Koopa Troopa knows what to expect, at least monetarily, on Mars. Ideally, we could build an index from the price of an identical item in every world, and thus determine the purchase power parity of the various currencies. One famous example of this is the Big Mac Index, calculated annually by The Economist. (The Big Mac is well suited to such purposes because of its practical nature, and because of the cross-section of industries that go into its creation, from dairy farming to intermodal freight transport.)

Realistically, there’s no precise overlap in goods available for purchase in both Hyrule and Azeroth. However, there is one item of general equivalence found almost everywhere: the simple explosive. Using the least-expensive non-magical explosive available in general goods stores across the board, we can estimate the relative value of currencies. (Added in this index, but not discussed at length, are the Gil, used on Gaia, and the Simoleon, the currency of SimNation.)

In Seaside Town in the Mushroom Kingdom, one (1) Fire Bomb can be purchased for 200 coins (200MK).
*
A shop on the eastern coast in Hyrule sells one (1) bomb for 20 rupees (20HR).
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One (1) Rough Copper Bomb can be purchased in Azeroth for 2 silver, 40 copper (0.024AG).
*
The going rate for one (1) grenade in the Sector 7 Slums of Midgar in Gaia is 80 Gils (80GG).
*
UAC vending machines on Mars sell three (3) rockets for 10 credits (3.33UC).
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Shops in Pleasantview will sell one (1) Sky Scorcher rocket for 90 Simoleons (90SS). (N.B.: While not a weapon per se, like everything else in Pleasantview it’s likely to destroy property and/or kill someone upon usage.)
*
One (1) fragmentation grenade from Fort Independence in the Capital Wasteland sells for 25 bottle caps (25CW).
*
In the United States today, one (1) hand grenade costs the U.S. Army $27.64 (27.64US).**

Constructed:

200MK = 20HR = .024AG = 80GG = 3.33UC = 90SS = 25CW = 27.64US

Reduced, valuation based on the cap:

8MK = .8HR = .000096AG = 3.2GG = .1332UC = 3.6SS = 1CW = 1.1056

**(N.B.: As such grenades are purchased in bulk and not available for general purchase, this is a poor indicator of value, which would be much greater on the street. It’s staggering, however, to see how closely the price compares with the bottle cap. We can extrapolate from this that once the radioactive dust settles following total thermonuclear war, the tens of thousands of grenades presently in the property of the U.S. Army will flood the market and drive down prices. If this is correct (and it’s very difficult to say, obviously), we can also deduce that the government is therefore getting a pretty fair value.)

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Courtesy of Crumbs & Whiskers
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Animals
Inside Crumbs & Whiskers, the Bicoastal Cat Cafe That's Saving Kitties' Lives
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Courtesy of Crumbs & Whiskers

It took a backpacking trip to Thailand and a bit of serendipity for Kanchan Singh to realize her life goal of saving cats while serving lattes. “I met these two guys on the road [in 2014], and we became friends,” Singh tells Mental Floss about Crumbs & Whiskers, the bicoastal cat cafe she founded in Washington, D.C. in 2015 which, in addition to selling coffee and snacks, fosters adoptable felines from shelters. “They soon noticed that I was feeding every stray dog and cat in sight," and quickly picked up on the fact that their traveling companion was crazy about all things furry and fluffy.

On Singh’s final day in Thailand, which happened to be her birthday, her friends surprised her with a celebratory trip to a cat cafe in the city of Chiang Mai. “I remember walking in there being like, ‘This is the coolest, most amazing, weirdest thing I’ve ever done,'” Singh recalls. “I just connected with it so much on a spiritual level.”

Singh informed her friends that she planned to return to the U.S., quit her corporate consulting job, and open up her own cat cafe in the nation’s capital. They thought she was joking. But three years and two storefronts later, the joke is on everyone except for Singh—and the kitties she and her team have helped to rescue.

A customer pets cats while drinking coffee at the flagship Washington, D.C. location of cat cafe Crumbs & Whiskers.
A customer pets cats while drinking coffee at the flagship Washington, D.C. location of cat cafe Crumbs & Whiskers.
Courtesy of Crumbs & Whiskers

Washington, D.C. customers stroke a furry feline while enjoying coffee at cat cafe Crumbs & Whiskers.
Washington, D.C. customers stroke a furry feline while enjoying coffee at Crumbs & Whiskers.
Courtesy of Crumbs & Whiskers

Crumbs & Whiskers—which, in addition to its flagship D.C. location, also has a Los Angeles outpost—keeps a running count of the cats they've saved from risk of euthanasia and those who have been adopted. At press time, those numbers were 776 and 388, respectively, between the brand’s two locations.

Prices and services vary between establishments, but customers can typically expect to shell out anywhere from $6.50 to $35 to enjoy coffee time with cats (food and drinks are prepared off-site for health and safety reasons), activities like cat yoga sessions, or, in D.C., an entire day of coworking with—you guessed it—cats. Patrons can also participate in the occasional promotion or campaign, ranging from Black Friday fundraisers for shelter kitties to writing an ex-flame's name inside a litter box around Valentine's Day (where the cats will then do their business).

Cat cafes have existed in Asia for nearly 20 years, with the world’s first known one, Cat Flower Garden, opening in Taipei, Taiwan in 1998. The trend gained traction in Japan during the mid 2000s, and quickly spread across Asia. But when Singh visited Chiang Mai, the cat cafe craze—while alive and thriving in Thailand—had not yet hit the U.S. "Why does Thailand get this, but not the U.S.?" Singh remembers thinking.

Once she arrived back home in D.C., Singh set her sights on founding the nation’s first official cat cafe, launching a successful Kickstarter campaign that helped her secure a two-story space in the city’s Georgetown neighborhood. Ultimately, though, she was beat to the punch by the Cat Town Cafe in Oakland, California, which opened to the public in 2014, followed shortly after by establishments like New York City’s Meow Parlour.

LA customers at cat cafe Crumbs & Whiskers
LA customers at cat cafe Crumbs & Whiskers
Courtesy of Crumbs & Whiskers

Still, Crumbs & Whiskers—which officially launched in D.C. in the summer of 2015—was among the nation’s first wave of businesses (and the District's first) to offer customers the chance to enjoy feline companionship with a side of java, along with the opportunity to maybe even save a tiny life. Ultimately, the altruistic concept proved to be so successful that Singh, sensing a market for a similar storefront in Los Angeles, opened up a second location there in the fall of 2016. "I always felt like what L.A. is, culturally, just fits with the type of person that would go to a cat café," she says.

Someday, Singh hopes to bring Crumbs & Whiskers to Chicago and New York, and “for cat cafes as a concept, as an industry, to grow,” she says. “I think that it would be great for this to be the future of adoptions and animal rescues.” Until then, you can learn more about Crumbs & Whiskers (and the animals they rescue) by stopping by if you're in D.C. and LA, or by visiting their website.

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entertainment
15 Inconceivable Facts About The Princess Bride
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MGM

It's no wonder The Princess Bride is such a beloved film: It's action-packed but still lighthearted, sweet but not saccharine, silly but still smart—and, of course, endlessly quotable. Fortunately, in 2012, the movie's leading man Cary Elwes was inspired to write a behind-the-scenes book about the making of the movie in honor of its 25th anniversary, for which he interviewed nearly all of the key cast and crew (sadly, André the Giant, who played Fezzik, passed away in 1993).

Pulling from the impressively detailed text of As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride and various interviews Elwes and others have given over the years, we rounded up a series of fun facts and anecdotes sure to delight any fan of the film, which was released 30 years ago today.

1. IT WAS WRITTEN FOR THE AUTHOR'S DAUGHTERS.

William Goldman, who wrote the novel The Princess Bride in 1973 and penned the screenplay, told Entertainment Weekly that, "I had two little daughters, I think they were 7 and 4 at the time, and I said, 'I’ll write you a story. What do you want it to be about?' One of them said 'a princess' and the other one said 'a bride.' I said, 'That’ll be the title.'"

2. BOTH THE DIRECTOR AND THE LEADING MAN ALREADY KNEW AND LOVED THE STORY BEFORE FILMING EVEN BEGAN.

Cary Elwes' stepfather had given him Goldman's book in 1975, when the future actor was just 13 years old. Rob Reiner, who directed the movie, first read the book in his 20s when Goldman gave it to his father. It quickly became Reiner's favorite book of all time, and he had long wanted to turn it into a movie—but he had no idea that many before him had tried and failed.

3. FOR A LONG TIME, NO ONE WAS ABLE TO MAKE THE MOVIE.

At one point or another, Robert Redford, Norman Jewison, John Boorman, and François Truffaut all tried to get the book made into a movie, but due to a series of unrelated incidents—"green-lighters" getting fired, production houses closing—it languished for years. (In one of these proto-Princess Brides, a then-unknown Arnold Schwarzenegger was supposed to play Fezzik.) 

After several false starts, Goldman bought back the rights to the book. The movie only got made because Reiner had built up so much good will with movies like This is Spinal Tap and The Sure Thing that the studio, 20th Century Foxoffered to make any project of his choice.

4. MANDY PATINKIN FELT A PERSONAL CONNECTION TO THE CHARACTER OF INIGO MONTOYA.

Andre the Giant, Mandy Patinkin and Wallace Shawn in The Princess Bride (1987).
MGM

"The moment I read the script, I loved the part of Inigo Montoya," Patinkin told Entertainment Weekly. "That character just spoke to me profoundly. I had lost my own father—he died at 53 years old from pancreatic cancer in 1972. I didn’t think about it consciously, but I think that there was a part of me that thought, If I get that man in black, my father will come back. I talked to my dad all the time during filming, and it was very healing for me."

5. ANDRÉ THE GIANT COULD REALLY, REALLY DRINK.

Three bottles of cognac and 12 bottles of wine reportedly made him just a little tipsy. When the cast would go out for dinner, André—who, according to Robin Wright, ordered four appetizers and five entrees—would drink out of a 40-ounce beer pitcher filled with a mix of liquors, a concoction he called "The American."

6. ANDRÉ HAD AN UNCONVENTIONAL METHOD FOR LEARNING HIS LINES.

Reiner and Goldman met André, then a famous wrestler, at a bar in Paris. "I brought him up to the hotel room to audition him. He read this three-page scene, and I couldn’t understand one word he said," Reiner recalled. "I go, ‘Oh my God, what am I going to do? He’s perfect physically for the part, but I can’t understand him!’ So I recorded his entire part on tape, exactly how I wanted him to do it, and he studied the tape. He got pretty good!"

7. WILLIAM GOLDMAN WAS INCREDIBLY NERVOUS ON THE SET.

Of all the projects he’d written and worked on—which included the Academy Award-winning Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid—Goldman loved The Princess Bride best of all. This manifested itself as extreme nervousness about the project. Reiner invited Goldman to be on set for the duration of the filming—which Goldman did not want to do, saying, “I don’t like being on set. If you’re a screenwriter, it’s boring”—but on the first day, he proved to be a slight nuisance. The first couple takes were plagued by a barely-audible chanting, which turned out to be Goldman praying things would go well. And when Wright's character's dress caught on fire, he panicked, yelling, "Oh my god! Her dress is on fire!"—even though Goldman himself had written that into the script.

8. WALLACE SHAWN WAS BRILLIANT, BUT ALWAYS ON EDGE.

Wallace Shawn and Robin Wright in The Princess Bride (1987)
MGM

Shawn, who played Vizzini the Sicilian, really is, like his character, a man of "dizzying intellect." He has a history degree from Harvard and studied philosophy and economics at Oxford. In fact, on a day off from filming The Princess Bride, Shawn went to Oxford to give a guest lecture on British and American literature. But Shawn was inconsolably nervous for the entirety of filming.

After learning from his agent that Reiner had originally wanted Danny DeVito for the part, Shawn was wracked with insecurity, perpetually convinced that he was going to be fired after every bad take. "Danny is inimitable," Shawn said. "Each scene we did, I pictured how he would have done it and I knew I could never possibly have done it the way he could have done it," he said.

9. THE DUEL BETWEEN WESTLEY AND INIGO WAS EXCRUCIATINGLY RESEARCHED AND REHEARSED.

Goldman spent months researching 17th-century swordfighting manuals to craft Westley and Inigo's duel; all the references the characters make to specific moves and styles are completely accurate. Then Elwes and Patinkin, neither of whom had much (if any) fencing experience, spent more months training to perfect it—right- and left-handed.

"I knew that my job was to become the world’s greatest sword fighter," Patinkin recalled in Elwes's book. "I trained for about two months in New York and then we went to London and Cary and I trained every day that we weren’t shooting for four months. There were no stuntmen involved in any of the sword fights, except for one flip in the air.” Even after months of pre-shooting training, the fencing instructors came to set and, when there were a few free minutes, would pull Elwes and Patinkin aside to work on the choreography for the scene, which was intentionally one of the last to be shot.

10. IT WAS ELWES'S IDEA TO DIVE HEADFIRST INTO THE "QUICKSAND."

That particular Fire Swamp stunt was accomplished by having a trap door underneath a layer of sand, below which there was foam padding for the actors to fall onto. Originally, the direction called for Westley to jump in feet-first after Buttercup, but Elwes argued this wasn't particularly heroic. Switching up the direction was a risky move—if the trap door wasn't opened at exactly the right instant, Elwes risked banging his head—or even breaking his neck. After the stunt double successfully executed the dive, Elwes himself tried it, and nailed it perfectly on the first take.

11. MIRACLE MAX REALLY WAS THAT FUNNY—AND YOU'RE NOT EVEN SEEING HIS BEST STUFF.

Billy Crystal brought two photos for his makeup artist, Peter Montagna, to draw inspiration from when creating Miracle Max: Crystal’s grandmother and Casey Stengel. As for the acting, Elwes wrote in his book, "For three days straight and 10 hours a day, Billy improvised 13th-century period jokes, never saying the same thing or the same line twice." Unfortunately for viewers, many of the improvised jokes were not fit for a family-friendly film. Only the cast and crew knows how funny his more crude Miracle Max takes were, but judging from the fact that Patinkin bruised a rib trying to stifle his laughter, as he recounts in the book, they were probably pretty good.

12. BILLY CRYSTAL AND CAROL KANE, WHO PLAYED HIS WIFE, INVENTED AN ENTIRE BACKSTORY.

Carol Kane and Billy Crystal in The Princess Bride (1987)
MGM

"Billy came over to my apartment in Los Angeles and we took the book and underlined things and made up a little more backstory for ourselves," Kane said. "We added our own twists and turns and stuff that would amuse us, because there’s supposed to be a long history—who knows how many hundreds of years Max and Valerie have been together?" How has that pair not gotten a spin-off film yet? 

13. ELWES FILMED MANY OF HIS SCENES WITH A BROKEN TOE.

Six weeks into production, André convinced Elwes to go for a spin on the ATV that was used to transport the larger man to and from filming locations because he didn’t fit in the van. Almost immediately, the vehicle hit a rocky patch and Elwes got his foot stuck between two mechanisms in the vehicle, breaking his big toe. The young actor tried to hide the injury from his director, but, of course, Reiner quickly found out. He didn't find a new Westley, as Elwes feared he might, but they did have to work some movie magic to allow Elwes to limp around in many of the scenes undetected.

14. ONE PARTICULAR ON-SCREEN INJURY WASN'T FAKED.

As soon as Westley recognizes Count Rugen as the six-fingered man, the script calls for the Count to knock our hero unconscious with the butt of his sword. In filming, Christopher Guest, who played Rugen, was naturally reluctant to really hit Elwes for fear of hurting him. Unfortunately, this reticence was reading on screen and take after take failed to look convincing. Finally, Elwes suggested Guest just go for, at least tap him on the head to get the reaction timing right. The tap came a little too hard, however, and Elwes was knocked legitimately unconscious; he later awoke in the hospital emergency room. It's that take, with Elwes actually passing out, that appears in the film.

15. ONE OF THE FINAL SCENES NEVER MADE IT INTO THE FINAL FILM.

In an alternate ending that was eventually cut, Fred Savage—who plays the initially reluctant audience to Peter Falk's reading of The Princess Bride—goes to his window after his grandfather has left and sees Fezzik, Inigo, Westley, and Buttercup all on their white horses.

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