As I type at 2000 local UK time on 13th January 02020, the following sums of money are worth approximately the same:
GBP 10.00 (10.00 British Pounds)
EUR 11.67 (11.67 Euros)
USD 13.00 (13.00 US Dollars)
AUD 18.82 (18.82 Australian Dollars)
CAD 16.96 (16.96 Canadian Dollars)
INR 919.9 (919.9 Indian Rupees)
AED 47.74 (47.74 Emirati Dirhams)
ZAR 187.2 (187.2 South African Rand)
THB 392.3 (392.3 Thai Baht)
NZD 19.60 (19.60 New Zealand Dollars)
Which three of these are, on average, going to be worth the most on 13th January 02030? You don't have to use just those ten; you can use GBP 10.00 worth of any other reasonably major currency instead, if you prefer, including (but not limited to) Swiss Francs, Japanese Yen, Chinese Yuan Remnimbi, Russian Roubles, CFA Francs and so on.
You name the reasonably major currency, I'll establish the starting value (you don't need to work it out yourself!) and I'll come back and work out the 02030 value in ten years' time. Submissions must be entered within two weeks of me making this post. You don't need any sort of account to play, but do identify yourself so that I can award you a prize in 02030 if you win.
As you may already know, the name refers to a sketch within The Day Today; the rules are presented under a CC BY-SA 4.0 licence, so you can run your own Currency Cat game if you like, remixing it as you see fit.
This game is at least somewhat interesting because it's at least a little fun to think about currency. The meaning of "worth the most" will be determined by nominal mid-market Interbank rates, or the closest equivalent available, rather than local purchasing power parity valuations. I additionally will be using the geometric average rather than the arithmetic average, calculated by the cube root of the product of the then GBP equivalents of the three currencies' valuations.
What this means is that if you pick three currencies that each rise by 10% relative to the GBP, I consider that to be pretty good for the purposes of this game, whereas picking one currency that triples in value relative to the GBP and two currencies that halve in value relative to the GBP is less good. (Arithmetically, the second option would be worth more, but I wish to reward consistency.)
It's also worth thinking a little about the meaning of "reasonably major currency", where the slightly weaselly definition of "reasonably major" adds to the (arguable) fun, and there are some interesting borderline cases.
- Anything mentioned in the Bank for International Settlements' Triennial Central Bank Survey certainly qualifies, and plenty of others surely do as well.
- It feels reasonable to me to permit famous precious metals; your GBP 10 currently gets you XAG 0.7223 (0.7223 ounces of silver). Similarly, you could have XAU 0.008387 (0.008387 ounces of gold - nearly a quarter of a gram) or XPT 0.01333 (0.01333 ounces of platinum). Base metal value only, no matter how collectable particular coins are.
- Arbitrarily, I will not consider other commodities such as palladium or osmium to be reasonably major; I could probably pick up an investment grade chunk of hallmarked jewellery metal and sock it away more easily than I could pick up, say, a bundle of Lao Kip, but I wouldn't have a clue where to start with anything more exotic than that.
- Similarly, I will not permit a fraction of a barrel of oil, or a fraction of a machine gun, or a few Big Macs, or a few Special Drawing Rights, as it feels less plausible to me that an amateur speculator might hold them as currency for the long term. Company stocks may be good picks, but not in this game. Imperial Credits, Gold Galleons, quatloos, Latinum and Gold Dragons are impermissible at the moment, though they may well be mainstream by 02030. It should not be surprising that you many not pick a Black Lotus, a gold Nintendo World Championship cartridge or your totally sweet mint condition autographed Mike Trout rookie card.
- Cryptocurrencies are also somewhat interesting, but there are so many of them and you've got to stop somewhere; looking at a current chart of coin market capitalisation, I will arbitrarily declare the top three to be reasonably major and the rest not to be, so you can have BTC 0.001600 (0.001600 Bitcoin), ETH 0.09034 (0.09034 Etherum) or XRP 61.66 (61.66 Ripple). No Litecoin, no ChrisMDicksonCoin (hot ICO coming in 02028) and definitely no Dogecoin. Such sad, so banned, many tough. Wow.
- Yes, I am setting myself up to be a hostage to fortune in ten years' time with these arbitrary decisions of "reasonable major" status or otherwise, as well as the cultural references. That's part of the fun.
- Anything metaphysical or otherwise indeterminate like some multiple of the value of a smile, a kind word, a favour or a human life is, regrettably, right out.
The other fun thing about currencies is that they change, man. Suppose I had started to run Currency Cat in early 1993; you might well have picked the German Mark or the French Franc, not knowing whether or not they would meet the convergence criteria established in the Maastricht Treaty and whether the then-mooted Euro currency would come into existence, in practice, within the coming ten years. I would have assessed it by converting your Marks or Francs into Euros at the eventual exchange rate. Should something similar happen with any currencies you select, I would do the same again. Potential case in point: the West African Eco.
However, currency changes can - could? - happen in the other direction. It's possible to imagine that not all of 02020's Eurozone countries will continue to use the Euro in 02030. Accordingly, I'd be happy if you were to specify "the currency used in Germany", which is Euro now and might be Euro in another ten years or might not. Similarly, an independent Scotland might use its own currency and thus the GBP might be succeeded by an English Pound and a Scottish one. Heck, perhaps Madrid and Barcelona might use different currencies, or perhaps even Oklahoma City and San Francisco. (You know I'm not referring to distinctly non-major local community currencies like Bay Bucks here.) If someone picks something that later splits and subsequent disambiguation be required, I'll use my discretion and attempt to follow established global practice rather than a strict pedantic definition.
If I'm still alive in 02030 and can determine a winner, I will endeavour to award them a prize, though I won't go trying to chase people's estates and might end up giving it to a charity to be announced instead if they cannot be contacted. The most appropriate prize would seem to be the quantities of currencies they selected now - but if someone picks something that balloons in value by a factor of a thousand between now and then, I'm not making any promises!
Please redirect any comments here, using OpenID or (identified, ideally) anonymous posting; there are comments to the post already. Thank you!