Mercantylers are involved in the trading of goods at a profit, acting either as buyers and/or sellers of merchandise, or only as agents. Most mercantylers are simple merchants, buying and selling any/all goods in one locale or another. The more adventuresome masters engage in foreign trade, either in the caravan or maritime trade, and some specialize in an exclusive trade such as furs, slaves, or wines.
While enforcing a monopoly over all trading activity would be impossible, this guild is one of the most powerful. No guildsman will sell his product outside his own settlement without involving a mercantyler, giving them a de-facto stranglehold in the buying and selling of goods. All major towns have a Mercantylers’ Hall for guild members only. Non-guild members can participate in this private market only by hiring a mercantyler as agent or factor, usually for a commission of 5-10%.
The guild also has a monopoly on usury – the loaning of money for interest. While any mercantyler has this right, most usury is practised by specialists from fixed locations. They are mostly involved in the financing of trade, but will, with proper incentive, finance the ambitions and comforts of kings and others. Interest rates can be high, ranging from 2% to 10% per month, compounded, based on collateral and risk.
Usurers also exchange foreign coinage for a negotiable discount, 20% being normal, and they issue promissory notes. There are not nearly enough coins in circulation to cover the value of goods traded so nearly all large payments are made by way of these notes. A usurer’s note may circulate from one mercantyler to another (effectively paper money) but can (theoretically) be redeemed in full when presented back to the issuer. Usurers in other cities may also redeem their colleagues’ notes, at a discount of 5-20%, but higher discounts apply to foreign notes.