“It Isn’t Counterfit If You Believe Hard Enough” or “Making Coins for Deadlands”

I love Deadlands more than Boomtown loves his wife…

If you’ve paid attention to this little game blog, you’ve seen where I’ve made stuff over the years. I’ve made projector rigs and proxies and all sorts of stuff. I like to have a lot of simple feel at the table, you know?

My games rely on proxies instead of minis–for instance. Clay, weighted tokens to represent stuff and people. I prefer it over miniatures by and large because they have a nicer “feel”.

This is some of my third and most recent set of proxies. I’ll have to post that build sometime.

I want people to play with paper and pencils and tokens and have that visceral and tactile feel for the bits of the game. That isn’t everyone’s speed, but as anything in TTRPG’s–your mileage may vary.

So, my current D&D game (levels right now between 11 and 14–starting to get High Adventure) is coming up on a chapter close, giving me a chance to run a new game for a bit to “recharge”. It couldn’t come at a better time given that Pinnacle is dropping a new and fresh Deadlands for the Adventure Edition of Savage Worlds.

I adore Savage Worlds. I won’t go on too much about it here–there are better reviewers than I’ll ever be that can tell you about it if you haven’t gotten to play it. The short version is that it feels like a well fitting set of your favorite “play in the playground” clothes, rather than a costume. It’s easy and quick and nimble and fun.

I decided the new Deadlands would be my jam. My real life players have only ever played D&D (many of them, this has been their first game ever), with a break to try the new Vampire 5th edition in the winter (which went great). Savage Worlds will be new. And to that end? I wanted to give them the easiest glide path to fun play: visually interesting decks of cards, heavy 15g clay poker chips, all the little status tokens and templates from Pinnacle’s new edition, the new Adventure Deck, etc.

BUT… and I finally get to the point, here, I want the game to lean heavily on the wonderful feel of needing to do things to earn money and spend money wisely in the Weird West. Infernal machines are expensive and gear is precious and El Cheapo stuff is fun… there’s such a great dimension to the game, bringing survival in the harsh West to bear, using the Edges and guidelines for gear and goods–it would be a shame to ignore it.

D&D kind of doesn’t care about money–which is to say, if you run it by the book (and I do) the players often just have a glut of funds and easy decisions to make with them. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I want to tell some new stories.

So, I went looking for play money. I wanted the players to have something–tokens, something–that would make their money “in hand” and make the relationship with funds more “real”. What I found? Two things that don’t go well together…

First–most important–it’s hard to find money that isn’t tied to now. Examples? You can get blank play dollars, but most are in the modern format. You can find play coins, but a half dollar has Kennedy on it. It’s a real challenge to find play money on the cheap that can be divorced from modern trappings.

Second–also important–while we can ignore the paper money of Deseret and handle that in other ways or the challenges of highly localized coinage out of the Confederacy, Deadlands tells us that the most popular and normal money is their version of US coinage. Found everywhere. The normal medium of business. What’s wrong with that, you say?

There are eight denominations of coinage–most of which you can’t find play money to represent.

Pennies, half-dimes, dimes, half-dollars, silver dollars, quarter eagles, half eagles, gold eagles.

At a stretch, you could find play pennies or nickles or dimes… but then it’s just a bear. Mix and match? Ugh.

So, as I usually do (and did when I made my own clay proxies after being frustrated at there not being any out there), I decided to make some myself.

FIRST–I ignored the pennies. None of the gear or goods use pennies, all rounding to 5 cent increments. So we eliminated that one. That left seven denominations of coinage. I wanted to do this on the cheap, but still have it work–so while I can envision ways to have made them better? That would have raised the costs to something I don’t think matter.

I found some good bulk wooden circles:

  • 1 inch for the half dimes and dimes ($11)
  • 1.5 inches for the half dollars and dollars; and ($14)
  • 2 inches for the quarter-, half-, and gold eagles ($15)

Then I decided that I need to visually distinguish between values of the same size–so the half dime and dime should LOOK different even if they’re the same size. For that matter, the three kinds of eagle need to be distinct. And, let’s face it, the “silver dollar” and “gold eagle” need to be silver and gold, respectively.

I decided to get some quality metallic spray paint–a brand and type I’ve used for some of my normal woodworking projects.

Really good quality stuff. It went on cleanly, dried very fast, and looked fantastic. I can’t recommend these enough.

After the sorting and spraying–I ended up with a bunch of gorgeous looking wooden coins ready for the next steps.

Better lighting.

All that was left was writing the denominations on them. I tried a Sharpie–just basic black normal Sharpie… but while it went onto the copper just fine, the silver and gold paint kinda diluted the look and made a ghostly line. Not good enough. I decided I needed a proper paint pen.

So, I got a Sharpie black paint pen–medium point. It came in a three pack, but honestly? I only used about half of one ($4).

After a bunch of writing (maybe, what? 2 hours of work, 3 with all the writing? For 300 coins?), ended up with visually pleasing and discernable coinage for my Deadlands game.

Total cost? About $60. Total count? About 300 coins. Plenty for a four person game. More than enough, really. At the point you’re “holding” hundreds of dollars or thousands? You need to represent that differently than coins anyway. This should make “walking around money” for food and gambling and bribery and bullets and smokes and a old pony and all that just a flick into the center of the table like they’d do with their poker chip bennies.

Kinda satisfying.


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