Also, some of the prices don't make any sense.
Memory Alpha provides this discussion of the currency with examples of prices mentioned during the series. I'm going to convert some of these prices to dollar values by using a very lucky mention--wages. "Quark pays his Bajoran employees one slip of latinum a day during the Cardassian Occupation." We can probably assume that these are low-skilled wages, and we can use what we know about low-skill wages in dollars to build exchange rates.
We're also given a set of conversion rates between latinum denominations: 1 bar = 20 strips = 2000 slips.
I don't know what sort of labor market is supposed to have existed during the Cardassian Occupation; maybe all employers had monopsony power in labor markets, or maybe labor was scarce. I'll try three different specifications:
- Low wage conversion assumption: $1/hour or $8/day
- Minimum wage conversion assumption: $7.25/hour or $58/day
- High wage conversion assumption: $20/hour or $160/day
Of course, they may not be working 8-hour days, but I think these specifications cover reasonable scenarios. Now consider a few of the mentions of latinum and how they convert to dollars:
|Slips||Low wage conversion ($)||Minimum wage conversion ($)||High wage conversion ($)|
|Crate of root beer||10||80||580||1,600|
|Wreckage of a ship||6,000||48,000||348,000||960,000|
|Nog's life savings||10,000||80,000||580,000||1,600,000|
|Quark's wager on Sisko vs. Q fight||10,000||80,000||580,000||1,600,000|
|A day's revenue at Quark's||10,000||80,000||580,000||1,600,000|
|Morica Bilby, shipping consultant, weekly wages||10,000||80,000||580,000||1,600,000|
|Someone's bar tab at Quark's||44,000||352,000||2,552,000||7,040,000|
|2,000 tons of Kohlanese barley||378,000||3,024,000||21,924,000||60,480,000|
|Quark's evacuation stash||1,200,000||9,600,000||69,600,000||192,000,000|
|Offer to buy Quark's bar||10,000,000||80,000,000||580,000,000||1,600,000,000|
These are some pretty startling numbers. A cadet's uniform costs between $4,000 and $80,000. A dress is between $13,600 and $272,000. Quark is a very wealthy man (or else has a serious gambling problem); he wagers half a million dollars on a fight and keeps tens of millions in cash under his bed for emergencies.
I would say that these prices are pretty inconsistent. Note that this observation does not depend on my dollar conversion choices; just look at the "Slips" column and observe that pajamas cost 300 days of wages in the food service industry. Maybe the post-scarcity economy leads to strange preferences and relative prices. Or maybe the writers didn't think very hard about latinum mentions.
It almost makes Star Trek seem unrealistic!