How do you put a price on a dragon?

That’s 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 14. Yes, it’s 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.

There’s no shortage of material. Five novels by George R.R. Martin have been expanded into more than 60 hours of television drama that’s 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 Martin’s world and received public accolades from the author.

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 Targaryen’s dragons prove essential once they’ve 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.

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. What’s 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 don’t hatch or cannot be taught—or, in the case of the show, are captured by a zombie warlord.

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