Coin Rolling Scams are a form of Confidence Game involving a prop, that being a roll of coins. The scams vary quite a bit, but are fairly simple. You put the wrong type of coin in a roll, or the wrong number of coins in a roll. Then you pay via use of a such a roll, or exchange it for more common currency, to make a profit. The most common victims in such a crime are large busy stores and banks. The more obscure / less circulated the coin, the easier it is to pull the trick, as those accepting it will be less likely to notice that the roll doesn't seem quite right.
Often, the scammer will simultaneously carry one or more rolls that have the opposite problem. This way, if caught, they can claim it was an innocent mistake made while loading the rolls. They may also rely upon the seeming rarity of junk coins to fool the victim into not caring - you might not mind being 50 cents short if you get some weird foreign coin you've never seen before.
This can also be done quite easily with outright counterfeit currency - especially fake banknotes which can be salted into a roll of genuine ones … very few people will check all of them.
Game and Story Use
- This could be used as a way to characterize a petty hoodlum or short-sighted thief. Coin rolling is a pretty low-profit crime, making at best a dollar per roll (in the US at least), and possibly not being worth the time spent shorting rolls. Not the sort of thing you picture the Gentleman Thief or Shadowy Master of the Thieves Guild spending a lot of time to do.
- In a setting with high-value or less standardized coins, such as many fantasy settings, this has more potential.
- If an unscrupulous adventurer has found a treasure chest of platinum coins from an ancient empire, what's to keep him from splitting the horde in half, and filling the bottom part of the chests with less valuable coinage? If he acts quickly, and skips town as soon as he closes the sale on that new suit of full plate, he could get away before the armorsmith has time to fully count or dig to the bottom.
- If the dwarves and gnomes both use golden coins of similar size, but one society uses purer metal (or has a more stable economy, or enchants the coins for luck), mixing the coins in rolls or purses could turn a larger profit.
- This raises the question about all those times when the PCs buy a horse and wagon, magic item, or other large purchase. Who really wants to spend the time counting out over 1,000 silver pieces?1 If you value verisimilitude over ease of play, every large transaction could involve some sort of roll to randomly determine how many coins actually change hands. Above a certain scale (or amongst the orcs) prices might not be set as a three- or four-digit number of coins, but rather as "two large sacks" of gold.
- Of course, some rather bloody tales of vengeance could start with a chest of gold pieces that turns out short-stuffed or gold bricked.
- Where bullion coins are involved, 1,000 silver pieces might instead be specified by mass (about 1 stone, 5&13 by D&D standards) - counterfeit coins may be heavier or lighter and so complicate matters.
- A minor thug buys a lot of discontinued coins for cheap at an auction or online, and uses them to fill rolls in a scam. Later, he learns that the victim (that he just made a few bucks off) just struck it rich because of a very valuable old coin (that might have come from one of those rolls). The thug now decides the coin (or rather, the profit from it) belongs to him, and so he goes after the victim again, this time in a far more overt (and possibly violent) way.
- This might be quite a good way to catch the scammer - spread rumours that "some idiot tried to coin roll me and managed to pass me off a (rare coin) worth (a lot)" … when he tries for a cut, you get a chance to identify him and take appropriate action.
- A possibility if your goal is to ruin your mark or a large number of people instead of to make a quick buck is to use coins that are fake, cursed, painted with slow-acting contact poison, or otherwise harmful to handle.