The secretive grain market

You probably think grain is bought and sold in public at prices set by the free market. But no! Such transactions actually take place in the shadows at prices set by tradition and superstition.

Consider this history of modern art doodle. It depicts a Shemsworth Scale, the going method of determining grain prices. At the beginning of the market day, grain buyers weigh a nearby sea creature, in this case a shrimp, against a nearby inanimate object, in this case a desk globe. Whichever one is heavier is used to determine the 10-pence weight of one smallbarrow of grain. On occasion, barley traders like to send in a prankstrel, shown here balancing on the globe, to shift the balance in their favor.

This method might seem convoluted and primitive, but it is quite the improvement over the previous method of grainbuyers just stealing farmers’ crops and buying more paintings with it.

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