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Game of Thrones returns for its final season on April 15.

How do you put a price on a dragon?

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Thats the most vexing question facing anyone who wants to assess the dynastic fortunes that drive the plot of Game of Thrones, the epic TV series returning to HBO on April 15. Yes, its a fantasy saga that mixes medieval knights and castles with sorcery, zombies, and dragons. But at its core, Game of Thrones is a contest involving nine very wealthy families—and Bloomberg News knows how to measure the holdings of real-world billionaires. So we set out to rank the wealthiest of Westeros, comparing their fortunes at the beginning of the series and where they stand before the eighth and final season.

Theres no shortage of material. Five novels by George R.R. Martin have been expanded into more than 60 hours of television drama thats gone significantly beyond—and, in some cases, departed from—the books. Using this information to track the wealth of the ruling houses from the start of the series to the final episodes is more difficult than using wills, corporate earnings, or trusts to unmask billionaires.

“The books go into a lot of details about the economics of each family,” only some of which show up in the show, says Adam Whitehead, a fantasy critic who has written about the economics of Martins world and received public accolades from the author.

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Ultimately, experts on Game of Thrones and finance who agreed to help us measure the relative assets of the Starks, Lannisters, and the other noble houses brought the puzzle back to the question of what a dragon is worth.

Three dragon eggs reverse the fortune of the penniless heir presumptive of the once-ruling House Targaryen. In the fantasy world of Game of Thrones, dragons are thought to have existed in not-too-distant history before going extinct in recent generations. Daenerys Targaryens dragons prove essential once theyve matured, becoming a source of almost incomparable power.

There are methods that can help put a value on a dragon. Comparing the winged beasts to a fighting force of humans is one way to approximate their worth, says Michael Whitmire, chief executive officer of cloud-based accounting company FloQast. He created financial statements for House Lannister and published his results online.

“How many people would it be required for you to choose the group of people instead of the dragon?” Whitmire asks. There are few battles in the show that pit dragons directly against human soldiers. When they do fight, dragons almost always smoke the competition. Literally.

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“If you have dragons, you would have most of the economic benefit in the world”

At one point, a transaction between Daenerys and moneyed merchants comes close to establishing a market price. She agrees to exchange one of her then-baby dragons for 8,000 enslaved troops and roughly 5,000 trainees, although it quickly becomes clear that the exchange, and the price that goes with it, is a ruse. Instead, Daenerys commands her dragon to burn the merchants and then frees the slaves.

For such difficult-to-sell assets as dragons, with no comparables on the market, financial experts would likely scrutinize them in one of two ways, says Steve Schuetz, a managing director for Valuation Research Corporation and Game of Thrones enthusiast. One is by evaluating the cost of dragon ownership. Whats the value of the time and money that it would cost to acquire an egg, incubate it, and then raise and train a baby dragon? Adjust that estimate for any dragons that dont hatch or cannot be taught—or, in the case of the show, are captured by a zombie warlord.

Another method, the income approach, would estimate the potential plunder a dragon could generate on its owners behalf, or the potential destruction it could defend against, adjusted for its remaining useful life.

When rivals discover the existence of House Targaryens dragons, it triggers an arms race that adds a further wrinkle. House Lannister, the other clear candidate for wealthiest, develops a weapon that can harm a dragon, but its inaccurate and easily destroyed. Schuetz says emerging threats can help determine how much of a risk factor—and how much of a discount—should apply to the dragons value.

The Lannisters have access to capital the other noble families dont. Their ancestral home is famed for its gold mines, a source of capital creation thats easier to benchmark. “The Lannisters just control more territory. Theyve got more cities, theyve got more lands under their control in the wealthier and more populated part of Westeros,” Whitehead says.

And thats before you consider House Lannisters strength in global trade and capital markets. “Whoever can control trade with the Free Cities can become quite wealthy,” says Whitehead. In the show, the dominant Iron Bank of Braavos is located offshore. Whitehead compares the fictional bank to the Medicis in 15th century Europe—both financiers wield more power than kings. “Thats why I think theyve got the edge, going into the final season.”

So which is it: the bankers or the dragons?

To determine which family comes out ahead in wealth, we conveniently ignored the existential threat the zombie-like White Walkers pose to life on the continent. The rankings below rely heavily on Whiteheads work, although Bloomberg sided with other experts who argued that dragons trump all other holdings. Theres nothing stopping Daenerys from using her dragons to make a very compelling case that the Iron Bankers should give her all the gold she wants, at very favorable rates.

“If you have dragons, you would have most of the economic benefit in the world at that moment in time,” Schuetz points out. “You have an ability to not only protect yourself but to be aggressive and take anything you want.”

Anyone who plays the game of wealth would probably choose to own the dragons.

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House Targaryen

Current Rank: 1

Starting Rank: 9

At the beginning of the saga, this former ruling family of Westeros is homeless, subject to repeated assassination attempts, and in possession of little more than a famous name—and three dragon eggs. The eggs are thought to be worthless curios. Then the poorest of the major Game of Thrones families sees its fortunes dramatically change.

In addition to the dragons, the most valuable assets in the world, Daenerys Targaryen enters the concluding chapter of the story in control of House Lannisters Casterly Rock and the cities of Slavers Bay. She has a large fighting force. While not necessarily relevant to our final valuation, Daenerys also controls the island fortress of Dragonstone, which sits atop a potentially valuable commodity: dragonglass.

House Lannister

Also Read | Road to Game of Thrones Season 8: Tyrion Lannisters journey so far

Current Rank: 2

Starting Rank: 1

The familys slogan about debt repayment owes at least part of its origin to the substantial gold reserves at Casterly Rock, although by Season 8 its been revealed that the Lannister mines havent been producing gold in years. Still, the familys vast wealth can be quantified by the 3 million gold dragons in loans made to King Robert Baratheon, as well as what appear to be the best-equipped armies and ready access to commerce with the free cities such as Braavos. Its clear that the Lannisters start out on top of the pack.

Access to the global financial system helps keep the Lannisters in control of the Iron Throne. Cersei makes good on promises to pay back debt owed to the Iron Bank, depicted as far and away the most powerful financial institution, and uses a new loan to hire a 20,000-strong mercenary army. The Game of Thrones section of Fandom.com disputes this figure, which Cersei provides at the end of Season 7. Should the poverty of Kings Landing, from which the Lannisters rule, be counted against the familys wealth? The shortage of food and supplies must be weighed against control of a significant port and commercial hub which, together with access to borrowed capital, can open up trade and imports from relatively fertile lands elsewhere.

House Arryn

Current Rank: 3

Starting Rank: 3

The mountainous natural defenses of the Vale region are a key asset for its ruling family, freeing up common people to farm and pursue other commercial activities without the ravages of the continent-wide warfare. The Eyrie, home of the Arryns, is thought of as impregnable for anyone without a dragon. The Vale is also home to Gulltown, the closest major port to the free city of Braavos.

The mounted Knights of the Vale are worth far more than the average foot soldier. Its unclear, though, exactly how many knights House Arryn can supply at full mobilization. We see that these forces are large enough to turn the tide of a battle for Winterfell and are relatively fresh at the end of Season 7, having sat out prior battles.

Also Read | Game of Thrones stars reflect on their favourite scenes ahead of the final season premiere

House Stark

Current Rank: 4

Starting Rank: 4

The Starks and their vassal houses may control more land than anyone, but its sparsely populated and difficult to traverse. Natural resources such as timber, iron, and silver speak to the opportunity for development, but limited manpower and Read More – Source

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