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Bottle cap

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For a overview of currency in all Fallout games, see Currency.
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This is an overview article which contains background information and cross-game comparisons. For game-specific information and stats, see the articles linked on the right.
Gameplay articles
FalloutBottle cap
Fallout 2Bottle cap
Fallout 3Bottle cap
FO: New VegasBottle cap
Counterfeit bottle cap
Sunset Sarsaparilla star bottle cap
Fallout: BoSBottle cap
Bawls bottle cap
 
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Bottle caps are the standard currency in Fallout, Fallout 3, Fallout: New Vegas and Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel.

Background[edit]

Bottle caps are one of the symbols of post-nuclear economy. While widely available, they are also in limited supply, as the technology necessary to manufacture them was largely lost to time and the Great War, and difficult to produce by hand. The paint used, machining, and metal type all have to be very specific in order for a bottle cap to be genuine.[1][2]

These factors led to their adoption by Hub merchants in New California as common unit of exchange, backed by water.[3] The adoption took place rapidly, as within ten years of Hub's founding in 2093,[4] caps became the standard currency of the wasteland.[5] For similar reasons, the merchants in the Capital Wasteland also adopted the caps, although it is unknown who backs their value.

In the 23rd century, the venerable western bottle caps were eventually supplanted by minted and printed currency, New California Republic (NCR) dollars, backed by gold, rather than water.[6] However, during the Brotherhood War the Republic's gold reserves were destroyed by Brotherhood raids to the point where new gold coins could not be minted and paper money could not be properly backed with gold. NCR citizens panicked and rushed to reclaim the listed face value of currency from NCR's remaining gold reserves. Since the NCR was unable to realize these withdrawals, particularly towards the frontier, faith in their currency considerably dropped. To protect against actual economic collapse, the NCR government abandoned the gold standard and established fiat currency, not payable in specie. Since then many wastelanders lost faith in it as a medium of worth, both as a result of it not being backed by anything but the government's word and the inevitable inflation. In response to the loss of faith, merchant consortiums of the Hub established their own currency, the veritable bottle cap, backing it with water (exchanging a standardized measure of water for caps).[7][8][9][10]

The actual process was very deliberate. Since Hub bridges the NCR core region with the Mojave and lands beyond, the merchants conspired to reintroduce the bottle cap as a currency out of frustration stemming from NCR's ineptitude in handling the currency crisis. The currency was meant to bridge the gap between NCR and Legion territories by providing a neutral form of money. In the time leading up to the introduction the merchants laid the foundations for bottle caps as a currency, establishing control of or destroying facilities that could fashion new bottle caps and seizing excessively large caches of old bottle caps (smaller ones in private hands were left alone, as their owners would readily embrace the returning bottle cap).[10]

To protect their monopoly on the currency, the merchant companies, particularly the Crimson Caravan Company, seek to control all bottle cap production and ensure that no one can mass produce them and inflate the currency. Controlling bottle cap presses also allows them to replace worn out and damaged bottle caps, keeping the pool of currency stable. Due to the challenges of the bottle cap production process, small scale counterfeiting is ignored, as it's impossible to manufacture enough caps by hand to truly upset the balance.[11][1][12]

Bottle caps, NCR dollars and Legion currency are all considered legal tender by the various caravan companies and on the New Vegas Strip. Mojave merchants also accept nonstandard variants, such as Sunset Sarsaparilla bottle caps.

Characteristics[edit]

Bottle caps seal the opening of a bottle and are typically colorfully decorated with the logo of the brand of beverage. Plastic caps are used for plastic bottles,[13] and metal with plastic backing is used for glass.

Variants[edit]

Nuka-Cola bottle cap[edit]

Botlcaps.gif

Standard Nuka-Cola bottle caps featuring 21 crimps and ridges, used as the basic form of currency throughout many of the American wastes. Their value differs throughout the game, as in Fallout: New Vegas they don't appear to be worth as much as in Fallout 3

Counterfeit Nuka-Cola bottle cap[edit]

Bottlecap.png
Gameplay article:

Physically they appear identical to standard Nuka-Cola bottle caps and are presumably intended to be used for trading in place of actual bottle caps. They are produced by unknown persons, have no trade value, and cannot be used for any monetary purpose.

Sunset Sarsaparilla bottle cap[edit]

SunsetSarsaparillaBottlecap.png
Gameplay article:

This nonstandard variant, taken off Sunset Sarsaparilla bottles, is used in the Mojave Wasteland alongside Nuka-Cola caps.

Sunset Sarsaparilla star bottle caps bottle cap[edit]

Starbottlecap.png
Gameplay article:

A rare variant of the Sunset Sarsaparilla bottle cap, featuring a blue star on the underside of the cap. These can be traded in to Festus at the Sunset Sarsaparilla Headquarters for a reward.

Bawls bottle cap[edit]

FOBoSLogo.pngThe following is based on Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel and has not been confirmed by canon sources.

Bawls is a real-world energy drink with a guarana flavor that replaced Nuka-Cola as the main post-nuclear soft drink of choice in Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel. This special type of bottle cap are valued as 50 times that of a Nuka-Cola bottle cap.

Behind the scenes[edit]

How do they account for the fact that they have no control over the number of caps in circulation and any one can come in from outside the area with a huge stock of caps and screw everything up?
Hub merchants like the Crimson Caravan hire people like the Courier to deal with it. Also, there's not a big difference between someone finding a bunch of caps and finding a big chunk of gold. Loss and inflation are only a concern if the difference is large and there's a rush on the reserves. Even when US currency was gold-backed, the government continued to inflate currency numbers. This inherently devalued every previously-extant dollar relative to its backed resource, but they did it anyway because the volume change was usually small.

The reason why the Hub chose to use caps instead of a new currency is largely the same reason why the game universe uses caps: nostalgia. Remember caps? Before NCR hosed everything up? You may even have some caps still sitting around from dad's old stash. Well, that's money again. Hell, if you want to come down and turn 'em in, we'll give you water for them right now. Yessiree, the good ol' days are back again.

— J.E. Sawyer

I remember my fellow Fallout designer, Brian Freyermuth, asking how much something will cost in a shop. I remember thinking, “cost what?” What was our game currency? We went through a few ideas:

  • A pure bartering system? Nah, that would be difficult for the player to understand the worth of anything. (Two molerat pelts for a cup of coffee? Is that good?)
  • Bullets as the currency? I gotta admit, bullets are definitely useful in the wasteland. But that idea was shot down (sorry) when we realized that people would be very hesitant to use things like machineguns, since every trigger-pull would directly lower their bank accounts! That level of financial restraint wouldn’t be enjoyable.
  • Credit cards ? – just the hard plastic cards, of course - but most would have probably been melted in the nuclear firestorms.

So, I thought, what shiny token-sized thing would you find strewn around the trash piles? Something common, but not so common as to be everywhere? Bottlecaps, of course! (That, and I liked the idea of a string of caps on a chord that jingled when people pulled them out.)

Scott Campbell

Gallery[edit]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 The Courier: "What makes a bottle cap genuine?"
    Alice McLafferty: "Lots of little things - the paint on the label, the machining, the type of metal it's made from. I know there's counterfeit caps floating around, of course. Fortunately, they're very time-consuming to make, so the numbers are small."
    (Alice McLafferty's dialogue)
  2. Pressing Matters
  3. The Vault Dweller: "{134}{}{Tell me more about bartering.}"
    Katrina: "{139}{}{Bartering is the exchange of goods. You give me some items, and I give you items in trade. Since you initiated the barter, I will let you pick and choose what you want. But the deal must be one that I think I will like, so you will probably want to give me more valuable goods that you don't need in exchange for less expensive things that you want. And if you don't have enough items to trade, there are always caps. Bottle caps are the only common money found out here. The caps are backed by the merchants of the Hub, so you can trade them anywhere.}"
    (SSGUIDE.MSG)
  4. Fallout Bible 0: "2093 The Hub is founded by a man named Angus, who sets up camp around a filthy oasis in the desert, and he proceeds to begin trading with other settlements."
  5. Fallout Bible 0: "2102 May 22 Increasing mutant attacks on Harold's caravans cause Harold to get so pissed he finances one of the first adventuring parties of Fallout to try and find out where these dagnab mutants are coming from. Consulting with a scientist and doctor at the Hub, a man by the name of Grey, the two of them decide to join forces."
    "2102 June 23 Richard Grey's Expedition [including Harold] finds the Mariposa Military Base and the Expedition is scattered and defeated by mutants at the base. Grey is knocked into one of the vats of FEV by a robotic arm, and Harold is knocked unconscious, only to awaken later out in the wasteland."
    "2102 June 27 Harold, already mutating, is found by traders and taken back to the Hub. His former caravan partners and employees, horrified by his condition, abandon him and he is soon left without even two bottlecaps to rub together."
  6. Fallout 2
  7. J.E. Sawyer src: "And this is discussed in-game: BoS raided NCR's gold reserves until NCR could no longer generate gold coinage nor back their paper money. They abandoned the gold standard and established fiat currency, which is why its value is inflated over both caps and (especially) Legion coinage. (...) People in eastern NCR and the Mojave Wasteland lost faith in the NCR government's a) ability to back the listed value of paper money and b) stability overall. If you're living in Bakersfield, staring at a piece of paper that says "redeemable for value in gold" and you have no faith in the government's ability or willingness to do that -- or if you see that the government has changed the currency to say that it is not able to be exchanged for a backed good -- you may very well listen to the strong consortium of local merchants offering to exchange that paper note for currency backed by water."
  8. J.E. Sawyer, src: "Traders from the Mojave travel the Short Loop into NCR, which means that they have to go through a few hundred miles of solid desert. Carrying enough water to travel from New Vegas to the Boneyard (or vice versa) would undercut cargo capacity significantly. Even the communities around the Mojave Wasteland (other than New Vegas itself) have water brought in and stored in local towers. Of course, the Colorado River is nearby as long as you don't mind walking through an active war zone."
  9. "How does the Hub 'back' caps? Can you exchange a certain number of caps for a standard measure of water? Yes." J.E. Sawyer src
  10. 10.0 10.1 J.E. Sawyer src: "It happened during the BoS-NCR war. I believe Alice McLafferty mentions it, but I'm not positive. She doesn't detail the events in this much detail, but here they are:
    The attacks caused NCR citizens (and others who held NCR currency) to panic, resulting in a rush to reclaim the listed face value of currency from NCR's gold reserves. Inability to do this at several locations (especially near the periphery of NCR territory where reserves were normally low) caused a loss of faith in NCR's ability to back their currency.
    Though NCR eventually stopped the BoS attacks, they decided to protect against future problems by switching to fiat currency. While this meant that BoS could no longer attack a) reserves or b) the source of production (all NCR bills are made in the Boneyard), some people felt more uneasy about their money not having any "real" (backed) value. This loss of confidence increased with NCR inflation, an ever-looming spectre of fiat currency.
    Because the Hub links NCR with the Mojave Wasteland and beyond, the merchants there grew frustrated with NCR's handling of the currency crisis. They conspired to re-introduce the bottle cap as a water-backed currency that could "bridge the gap" between NCR and Legion territory. In the time leading up to the re-introduction, they did the footwork to position themselves properly. If some old-timer had a chest full of caps, they didn't care (in fact, they thought that was great, since the old-timers would enthusiastically embrace the return of the cap), but they did seek to control or destroy production facilities and truly large volumes of caps (e.g. Typhon's treasure) whenever possible."
  11. The Courier: "Are new bottle caps ever made?"
    Alice McLafferty: "Certainly. Bottle caps do wear out or get damaged. Some people even insist on using bottle caps in explosive devices for some reason. We make it a point to scour Pre-War bottling plants and recover or disable the bottle cap presses. It seems we missed one."
    (Alice McLafferty's dialogue)
  12. Pressing Matters
  13. Water