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Bottlecap Mines, the Economy, and You

Tags: #Valentine Detective Agency Article 
  • Member
    May 25

     

                Bottle caps. The jingly, clinky currency used throughout the wasteland has more utility than it appears on first glance. One might be surprised to discover that they're a necessary ingredient to one of the most devastating post-war weapons known to man: the Bottlecap Mine. But just how necessary are they?

                Bottlecap Mines made their first appearance in the Capital Wasteland as a popular jury-rigged explosive named for their unique and devastating use of bottle caps in their construction. Their abundance throughout the wasteland attests to their popularity -- fully constructed mines sit ready to pilfer from most workbenches, many lie armed in wait of the inattentive adventurer, and four schematics are known to exist. Anyone who has ever had the pleasure of using one knows exactly why they are so highly sought after.

                But why use money in an explosive device? Is the destructive potential of cap shrapnel truly worth the cost, or are the people who make use of Bottlecap Mines truly the idiots that some make them out to be? The evidence is sparse and the case remains open, though I have been able to infer some conclusions. First, let’s look at what goes into these mines.

     

    Crafting 

                The components needed to create a Bottlecap Mine vary by region but all have the same result of deadening whatever crosses paths with it. Because of their destructive potential, they take slightly longer to arm than the average fragmentation mine.  

                Fallout 3: Lunchbox, cherry bomb, sensor module, bottle caps (10) [1]

                Fallout New Vegas: Lunchbox, cherry bomb (5), sensor module, bottle caps (10) [2]

                Fallout 4: Adhesive (2), Fertilizer (2), Oil (2), Steel (2), Lunchbox [3]

                Because the Fallout 4 version of the Bottlecap Mine does not use caps in its construction, yet provides them upon detonation, it might be reasonably assumed that the “steel” component of the mine consists of caps. Unlike in previous games where the caps could be heard jingling upon detonation but not found, one may actually retrieve a number caps post-detonation in Fallout 4. Whether the number of caps found is function of one’s Luck and/or Fortune Finder is still unknown.

    History and Economy of Caps

     

    Image result for ncr soldier new vegas portrait

               To understand the use of currency in explosives, one must understand the history of bottle caps and the West Coast’s role in their value.Bottle caps were first adopted in the 22nd century by Hub merchants in New California due to their limited quantity and the inability to effectively produce more, which was to help prevent counterfeiting efforts and reduce inflation. The abundance of Caps in the first place is thanks Nuka-Cola, which was the most popular soft drink in the world before the Great War.

                Bottle Caps came under threat in the mid-23rd century when the New California Republic (NCR) introduced NCR Dollars, which were backed by gold. That is, before the Brotherhood destroyed the NCR’s gold reserves and forced them back to using caps.

                The value of the Bottle Cap was further affected by the growing presence of Caesar’s Legion in the west, which used its own currency, yet was accepted as legal tender by the New Vegas Strip and various Mojave caravan companies alongside both NCR Dollars and the Mojave’s unique Sunset Sarsaparilla Bottle Caps [4].

                Alice McLafferty, executive manager of the Crimson Caravan Company HQ at the Hub, and manager of the New Vegas branch, gives players a quest in which they must disable a new bottle cap press that has been set up in an old Sunset Sarsaparilla bottling plant. As a prolific businesswoman, McLafferty has a lot to say about bottle caps as currency. In response to what makes them genuine, McLafferty says [5]:

     

     

     

     

    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.

     

    A bottle cap press is a whole other threat. We can't have anyone devaluing our currency by mass producing new bottle caps.

     

    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.    

    Image result for ncr soldier new vegas portrait

                Because Caps are so consistently under threat on the West Coast, merchants must lower their costs to compete with other currencies, and respond to threats of counterfeiting and devaluation. The East Coast is largely devoid of these problems, meaning there are more caps to go around, which results in higher prices. McLafferty’s incredulity as to why some people insist on using Bottle Caps in explosive devices is a sentiment as valid on the West Coast as it is on the East.

     

    Role of the Adventurer 

                One of the most important factors in the value of Caps and their use in mines has to do with the player. The player is inseparable from the greater world and is almost always by definition, an “Adventurer.” Now what does this mean? Simply put, it means that adventurers of all stripes largely determine the health of the wasteland’s economy.

    Image result for bottlecap mine wallpaper

                Consider the dead adventurers you encounter on your own adventures. These people are, by all rights, just like you; but they’re playing on Dead is Dead (DiD). And so for the purposes of this case, it will be assumed that all player-created characters are also playing on DiD. Consider one of the core mechanics of Fallout – exploration. Exploration often yields Caps and Fallout even provides associated perks to increase the number of Caps found. The fact that caps can be found at all in the quantities they are found has devastating implications to the wasteland’s economy.

                It is extremely dangerous for one to venture outside the protection afforded by the wasteland’s various communities, which naturally makes the adventurer lifestyle lucrative. By scavenging rare and valuable items, the adventurer introduces commodities into the market, often bartering for items that keep them adventuring, such as food, water, and ammo. But the rapid introduction of additional currency into the economy will, over time, sharply lower the value of the Bottle Cap. However, it will not lower it infinitely as long as no new caps are produced. The principle that Bottle Caps make for an appropriate currency due to their limited nature still stands.

                The adventurer is financially, the most “high-risk, high-reward” occupation in the wasteland. They hold the economy by the short hairs. And what are ten caps to someone with thousands? Bottlecap Mines are among the most lethal of all mines, and for the low, low cost of ten caps, an adventurer can live to scavenge another day.

     

     

    Conclusions and Further Sleuthing 

                Truly, the use of currency in explosives remains a mystery. No one seems to know why people use them and no single reason seems to prevail over others, but based on the given evidence, a few potential conclusions may be drawn as to the appeal of Bottle Caps and their eponymous mines.

                1: As the primary manufacturers and operators of Bottlecap Mines, adventurers rely on their destructive power to aid in their survival, while preventing a total economic collapse through the rapid introduction of new caps. The use of Bottlecap Mines accelerates the rate at which the value of the Bottlecap will stabilize.

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                2: It is not clear if the use of Caps is what gives the mine its explosive power or if it simply a novelty of the moderately-insane adventurer who has taken a few too many rads. Because of the known explosive potential of Nuka-Cola Quantum [6], it is possible that the caps used in Bottlecap Mines are Quantum Caps that contain traces of the radioactive strontium isotope [7] that give Quantum its unique color and kick.  

                Unfortunately, this detective was not able to close the case on Bottlecap Mines with any definitive answer. It is clear they work, and their effects are felt in more than just the shaking ground, but the “how” and “why” of their operation seems to be a safeguarded secret by the brave adventurers of the wastes.

                But of course, any additional research or advice to improve this case is greatly appreciated.

    For a deeper delve into the economics of bottlecaps, check out these videos. A big thanks to David for recommending them:

    Game Theory: Fallout Bottle Caps are Worth HOW MUCH?!?

    Why are bottlecaps REALLY used as money? - Rethinking Fallout 4 

     

    Sources:

    [1] Fallout 3 BCM

    [2] Fallout: New Vegas BCM

    [3] Fallout 4 BCM

    [4] Bottle cap

    [5] Alice McLafferty’s Dialogue

    [6] Nuka Grenade (FO3)

    [7] Nuka-Cola Quantum (FO4)

     

  • Member
    May 25

    This. THIS is what I'm talkin about! Excellent presentation, tons of info I didn't previously know about, and even left open ended to other opinions or insights. I personally loved that you used a quote to fuel your inferences and I think the possibility of using Quantum Caps for their radioactive properties to aid in the explosion is genius as well. Really great job Legion, this is a prime example of what some extra digging can uncover for Fallout

  • Member
    May 25

    Why thank you, Madd, I'm glad you got something out of it. It was a good deal of fun to put together too. I think this is the first project I've actually completed in...so long. 

  • Member
    May 25

    Legion said:

    Why thank you, Madd, I'm glad you got something out of it. It was a good deal of fun to put together too. I think this is the first project I've actually completed in...so long. 

    Well I appreciate you taking the time to do it; every contribution to the Hub makes my heart happy

  • Member
    May 25

    Wow Footnotes! Someone's an over achiever :)

    JK - that was an awesome article.

  • Member
    May 25

    Hah, thanks Motty. I can't not cite my sources, it's embedded in me forever now. Even if the sources are just various wikis. 

  • Member
    May 25

    This is brilliant stuff, I reckon the role of caps in the eonomy is fully covered and makes perfect sense, especially:  "The principle that Bottle Caps make for an appropriate currency due to their limited nature still stands."

    The role they play in the explosive is more nebulous, as you say. If they act as frags, is 10 enough for them to act as shrapnel? I think I could buy into this:  "...Because of the known explosive potential of Nuka-Cola Quantum, it is possible that the caps used in Bottlecap Mines are Quantum Caps that contain traces of the radioactive strontium isotope." That would make a degree of sense, enough to satisfy me on a tech level, although presumably one can make loads of mines without ever finding a single bottle of Quantum.

    All that said, I will always prefer interpretation over definition and so your conclusion that "...the “how” and “why” of their operation seems to be a safeguarded secret by the brave adventurers of the wastes" is as perfect an answer as I could wish for :)

  • Member
    May 25

    There are two good videos and a post on reddit where an economics major goes into detail about the usage fo Bottlecaps as currency, and I will gladly link them if needed to further stretch this out, but I am not so sure about the reddit post. This presentation is nice and gives a better insight on the bottlecap mines, so good job.

  • Member
    May 25

    Sure! I'd love to see those. Depending on what they all go into, I may just link them straight in the post as a "further reading" sort of thing. 

  • Member
    May 25

    Legion said:

    Sure! I'd love to see those. Depending on what they all go into, I may just link them straight in the post as a "further reading" sort of thing. 

    Video 1 and Video 2 there you. They may not be the best, but I think i give some good insight. I also couldn't find the Reddit post, which is sad.