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timerover51 April 25th, 2019 12:47 AM

Trade Goods
 
I have been looking at the information on trade goods in the Cepheus Engine this week, along with playing with the die roll modifiers for purchase and sale. I still need to work on those a bit more. However, in looking at trade goods, I have been looking at stowage factors of various items in the Real World, circa 1918-19. Some stowage factors would have changed, but a fair number would not, and there were some interesting items that showed up.

First, to define Stowage Factor. The Stowage Factor is the volume in cubic feet that one long ton of 2240 pounds occupies when ready for shipment. The long ton is slightly larger than the metric ton of approximately 2205 pounds (2204.6226 pounds if you want to get picky), but I am figuring them as equivalent to simplify things.

Now, CE has a trade category of "Gambling Devices & Equipment" and in one of the cargo stowage handbooks, Slot Machines appear. A ton of Slot Machines will occupy 230 cubic feet of space, or 2 tons per Traveller dTon. I am assuming that ton of slot machines represents somewhere between 10 and 20 machines. The base price of 4000 Credits per ton looks like it might just be a "little" low. Personally, I would multiply it by a factor of 10 to get it closer to reality. That would also make Slot Machines a Tech Level 5 item, and based on what I have seen of the current versions, I would not drop the price one bit.

Then there is the category of "Household Appliances". That has a price of 12,000 Credits a ton. The Stowage Factor for Sewing Machines (manual) is 81, the factor of Typewriters (manual) is 110, and for Washing Machines is 200. Thinking back to the treadle sewing machine my Mom used while I was growing up, that would equal about 20 sewing machines by volume, but not weight, so those might be powered industrial machines weighing a bit more, and costing a lot more. Looking at my wife's current machine, the 81 cubic feet seems to be a bit low by about 2.5, based on weight, figuring about 80 machines per ton, with the price in credits at least doubled. The factor for washing machines again seems a bit low, as that would probably equal 10 or so machines, unless the outer packaging was heavy, as it could well be. Double it for more modern machines, and figure 20 per ton, or 600 Credits per machine.

There are a lot of textiles and animal products, as well as food mentioned in the stowage tables, and those volumes are not going to change a lot. One interesting one was Caviar, at 50 cubic feet per ton, which would very likely be bulk. That would probably come under luxury goods rather than animal products, as a ton of Caviar would more likely be a lot closer to 150,000 Credits per ton, than 1,500 Credits. The following is a current quote for 12 oz (339 Gr) - $ 185.10 of Caspian Beluga Caviar. Your price may vary depending on your view of exchange rates, but 500 Credits a kilo does sound about right.

And for the curious, the Stowage Factor of Feathers is 510 cubic feet per ton bundled, and 400 cubic feet per ton pressed.

Xerxeskingofking April 25th, 2019 03:55 AM

Quick question: are you basing your real world pricing on the retail value of these goods or the wholesale value?

Obviously the players aren't selling their ton of caviar direct to a restaurant or some hungry customers, but to a planetside merchant who sells it on. I don't know how much the difference is but it is generally enough to support said local merchant. It won't make up all the difference, but it might account for some of it.

Just some food for thought

kilemall April 25th, 2019 05:08 PM

I would also argue that there are TL differences in prices because the commodities are produced more cheaply through new processes or have qualities that are better or more commercially viable then older versions.

timerover51 April 25th, 2019 07:20 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Xerxeskingofking (Post 601120)
Quick question: are you basing your real world pricing on the retail value of these goods or the wholesale value?

Obviously the players aren't selling their ton of caviar direct to a restaurant or some hungry customers, but to a planetside merchant who sells it on. I don't know how much the difference is but it is generally enough to support said local merchant. It won't make up all the difference, but it might account for some of it.

Just some food for thought

The caviar price that I quoted was one of the lowest that I found online. The highest was about $18,500 per kilo. That is not a typo. As for the rest of them, I was pricing about 40 to 60 per cent of retail. For prices for grain and meat animals, those would be the current prices paid to the producer. When you look prices up online, you can generally get the wholesale prices of the goods if they are raw materials.

timerover51 April 25th, 2019 07:33 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by kilemall (Post 601126)
I would also argue that there are TL differences in prices because the commodities are produced more cheaply through new processes or have qualities that are better or more commercially viable then older versions.

You might have Tech Level differences in prices for commodities, but not necessarily making them cheaper. Adjusted for inflation, wheat is cheaper now that in 1919, where wheat was about at an all-time high because of the food shortage at the end of World War One. However, meat prices adjusted for inflation are higher as much more of the meat you buy is being feed grain in addition to grass, and about all of your hogs and poultry are grain-fed. Furs are higher because of past trapping reducing the number of fur-bearing animals. Fish prices are higher as the cost of fishing has gone up so much.

Simply saying that higher Tech Level material will be cheaper depends on what you are looking at. The higher Tech Level item may have a lot of bells and whistles on it which increase the price. Do you really need power windows in your car? Do you really need cruise control, or lights that automatically come on and go off? How about power steering and power brakes? All of those add to the cost of the vehicle, but are not necessarily crucial to the operation of it. Then labor prices are no longer a Dollar a day or an hour, like in World War 1 or World War 2. Using robots simply means that you are no longer paying all of the benefits for a human, but then you also have to maintain the robot. Robots come in when human labor gets sufficiently expensive to justify the robot. Check with the fast-food restaurants putting in ordering kiosks rather than human order takers, and it happens when wages hit a certain level.

Condottiere April 26th, 2019 12:36 AM

For farming, automation would remove labour costs, and hydroponics can control nutrient intake amd environmental exposure, and make land usage three dimensional.

Though that may argue more for local production.

timerover51 April 26th, 2019 02:21 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Condottiere (Post 601138)
For farming, automation would remove labour costs, and hydroponics can control nutrient intake amd environmental exposure, and make land usage three dimensional.

All you are doing there is substituting capital costs for labor costs, and you still need to monitor the automation. Hydroponics is not cheap, and if you have enough land, three-dimensional land usage is non-competitive. If you are in the Sahara or Arabian Desert, it might be, as long as you have a lot of natural gas to use to desalinate the water. That would be the case on asteroids for plant growth. Livestock are going to be a bigger issue, in many ways.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Condottiere (Post 601138)
Though that may argue more for local production.

It depends on how much local production can supply. Coffee taste varies based on where it is grown, as does tea. Would you like to try and duplicate all of the various environments and varieties of grapes for wine?

The biggest complaint about the C-ration of World War 2 was the monotony of having only 3 menus, and even when they expanded the selection, some of the same meals were served as part of the B-ration. People like variety in what they eat, and trade is going to supply the variety. On an Arid planet, seafood is going to be a luxury food, while on a Water World, beef and pork are going to be the luxuries.

Then you have the problem of manufactured goods. How large a population will you need to support a Tech Level 10 to 15 society? Several hundred million, a billion, or a few billions?

Condottiere April 26th, 2019 04:30 AM

Depends on that complicated mix of society, culture and economics.

Consumerism might be a lot less prevalent on a world where products aren't normally disposable.

Status indicators might be wearing complex Rolex relics rather than the latest new smartwatches.

kilemall April 26th, 2019 10:27 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Condottiere (Post 601142)
Depends on that complicated mix of society, culture and economics.

Consumerism might be a lot less prevalent on a world where products aren't normally disposable.

Status indicators might be wearing complex Rolex relics rather than the latest new smartwatches.


Sounds suspiciously RL,,,,,,,,;)

kilemall April 26th, 2019 10:49 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by timerover51 (Post 601139)
Then you have the problem of manufactured goods. How large a population will you need to support a Tech Level 10 to 15 society? Several hundred million, a billion, or a few billions?




On this last point, given the Traveller transport cost structure, I would say IND worlds probably create half if not more of all 'stuff' and can ship them at distance.


A VERY conservative rule of thumb would be 10% of shipping cost to goods value available for distance. I use the Cr1000 per parsec model, but under some interpretations of CT that Cr1000 can go a lot further. So a Cr100000 per ton item can go 10 parsecs and shipping is a rounding error.

As I'm sure you know, plenty of money made where shipping costs were 40-50% of the total.

Factor in the minus 30-50% base cost of the price at the IND world and that same Cr100000 item could travel 20-40 parsecs and still undercut the locals for 10%.


Then you have megacorps that offstage likely are building a lot of fast J-4 ships that cost more to operate but are self-funded and thus undercut the base Cr1000/parsec structure.

Their perspective is not to make money shipping but to save immense credits having less product capital wrapped up in the pipeline, respond to market situations much more quickly, and offer strategic advantage to their friends and crushing market by market domination vs. their competitors, particularly locals.

I haven't done the full math, but I think that at least doubles the 10%/parsec figure, if not more, plus intangibles not really factored into the game-oriented trade systems. So that 20-40 parsec figure might go up to 40-80 parsecs pretty easily, and a wide range of production is viable at six figures.

Much cheaper low end items won't travel as well, of course. Ag for the most part is going to be very much a local subsector affair, with exceptions for rare/luxury items.



So I think a lot of the question of where the industrial base is viable is already answered by the trade codes and shipping.


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