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Destiny has a number of different currencies available (vanguard marks, crucible marks, motes of light, strange coins), can someone provide a list of all of them, how they are earned, and which are most "effective" meaning high purchasing power versus time to earn.

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NOTE! This answer was accurate(-ish) when it was posted but recent patches have changed a lot of the things posted here. Please seek out updated sources of this information!


Glimmer

Earned by:

  • Killing majors or ultras (mobs with yellow health bars)
  • Dismantling gear (weapons or armor)
  • Reward from Cryptarch from turning in items you pick up during missions (House Banners from Fallen, etc.)
  • You can use an item corresponding to the type of mob you're killing and get extra glimmer from every mob killed for a short period of time (10 minutes)
    • Fallen - Ether Seeds
    • Hive - Black Wax Idol
    • Vex - Blue Polyphage
    • Cabal - Resupply Codes
    • These items stack with killing majors or ultras, in which case you will get both the bonus from killing the "yellow mob" and the bonus from having the corresponding item active
  • Completing missions
  • Completing PvP sessions
  • Opening random chests

Spent on:

  • Buying items from various vendors in the tower, including weapons and armor, replenishment items, emblems, etc.
  • Upgrading gear (some upgrade slots require glimmer, others require glimmer + items)

Destinypedia: Glimmer

Vanguard Marks

Note: You need to be level 18 or higher before you start earning these.

Earned by:

  • Completing public events
  • Completing strike missions
  • Completing your first public event each day (gives 2)

Spent on:

  • Buying gear from some vendors in the tower, level 20 legendaries, ground vehicles, etc.

Note: You can only earn a maximum of 100 between weekly resets (Tuesdays, 9am UTC if I'm not mistaken).

Destinypedia - Vanguard Marks

Crucible Marks

Note: You need to be level 18 or higher before you start earning these.

Earned by:

  • Completing PvP sessions

Spent on:

  • Buying gear from the crucible vendors in the tower, level 20 legendaries, ground vehicles, emblems, etc.

Note: You can only earn a maximum of 100 between weekly resets (Tuesdays, 9am UTC if I'm not mistaken).

Destinypedia - Crucible Marks

Strange Coins

Earned by:

  • Dismantling legendary or exotic gear (random)
  • Mission rewards (random)
  • PvP rewards (random)
  • Weekly heroic strike mission (minimum 3, maximum 9)
    • You can do it at level 22 (which gives 3 coins), level 26 (which gives 6), or level 28 which gives 9.
    • If you first complete it at a lower tier (level 22 or 26), and then complete it at a higher tier (26 or 29), you get awarded the difference. Example, you first complete it at level 22, giving you 3 coins. If you then complete it again at level 26 or 28, you will get 3 or 6 additional coins, respectively. If you first complete it at the highest level, you will not get strange coins from repeating it at any level the same week.
  • Weekly nightfall strike (random amount)
  • Opening chests (random)
  • Public events (random, but requires gold tier participation)
  • Decrypting engrams (random)

Spent on:

  • Buying exotic gear from Xûr

Destinypedia - Strange Coin

Motes of Light

Earned by:

  • You get one at level 20
  • When you earn experience after having already reached level 20, you earn xp towards a new mote of light. You can check the level tooltip in the game to see your XP progression towards the next mote of light
  • Opening chests (random)
  • Mission rewards (random)
  • PvP rewards (random)
  • Decrypting engrams (random)

Spent on:

  • Buying exotic gear from Xûr
  • Class items and emblems from the Speaker

Destinypedia - Mote of Light


As for "what is the best", at level 20 your main goal will be motes of light and strange goins as they will allow you to purchase exoting items with Xûr. Note that he only arrives during the weekend (Friday 9am UTC - Sunday 9am UTC, give or take a few minutes), and his inventory is random and doesn't refresh until next week, so you may or may not actually find anything useful on him

Second to that you have Vanguard or Crucible marks, which will allow you to purchase legendary items from the Vanguard and Crucible vendors.

These things are predictable in the sense that you can pick what to do depending on what kind of currency you want, to a certain degree.

  • 2
    One addition on motes of light is that they can also be spent at the speaker for class items and emblems. Not as practical a use as Xur but for completeness... :) – Chris Oct 20 '14 at 13:00
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    Added it as well. – Lasse Vågsæther Karlsen Oct 20 '14 at 17:27
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    Another one, although it is sort of covered, for the first public event you get a gold tier rating on each day, you get 2 Vanguard marks from the postmaster with your ascendant reward. Also the weekly heroic is a guaranteed 9 strange coins if you complete it set to level 28. You can also get a random amount (I've seen 8, 10, 15) of strange coins from the weekly nightfall. – turbo Oct 20 '14 at 20:53
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    Perhaps also include the items for weapon and armor upgrades? You can buy rep with them through turn ins, and obtaining ascendent materials is essential to leveling. – Travis J Oct 21 '14 at 10:07
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    I assume things like spinmetal, etc. from the reference to obtaining rep with them. You can use them at a vendor which makes them sort of rep. I wouldn't have thought that ascendant X or parts would be counted as currencies since you can't use them at vendors for anything (though I can see how info on them could be useful but not quite as a response to this question). – Chris Oct 21 '14 at 12:24
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Players can earn Glimmer in many ways, including defeating Majors and Ultras in all game modes, for each completed mission and PvP win, dismantling weapons and equipment, and for exchanging items found in the field with vendors.[2][3][4] Glimmer can also be found in various chests hidden across the map in caves and rooms.

Ref: http://destiny.wikia.com/wiki/Glimmer

Vanguard Marks are the currency used to purchase Vanguard weapons and armor from Vanguard vendors.[1] A Guardian can earn Vanguard Marks beginning at level 18, but they are limited to earning a maximum of 100 per week and an inventory cap at 200. Vanguard Marks are rewarded for completing Strikes in the Strike playlist, completing Public Events, and exchanging materials with Roni 55-30.

Ref: http://destiny.wikia.com/wiki/Vanguard_Mark#Vanguard_Marks

Crucible Marks are an exchange currency that can be used to purchase items from from Arcite 99-40 and Lord Shaxx.[5][6] Once a Guardian reaches level 18, he or she will earn 3 Crucible Marks for each win and 2 Crucible Marks for each loss in the Crucible up to a maximum of 100 Crucible Marks in a week.[7] Crucible Marks can also be earned by trading in 50 materials to Arcite 99-40.

Ref: http://destiny.wikia.com/wiki/Crucible_Mark#Crucible_Marks

Motes of Light may be acquired by various means. Every Guardian receives a Mote of Light from Kadi 55-30 once they reach level 20. Once a Guardian reaches level 20, any experience earned goes to acquiring a Mote of Light. They can also be awarded randomly for completing Crucible matches, completing Vanguard Strikes, in loot chests, or in any type of engram.

Ref: http://destiny.wikia.com/wiki/Mote_of_Light

Strange Coins can be obtained through numerous means. Completing a weekly Heroic Strike mission will grant the player three (level 22), six (Level 26), or nine (Level 28) Strange Coins. Completing a weekly Heroic Strike mission at a higher level after already completing it at a lower level the same week will award the difference in coins. So the maximum number of Strange Coins that can be won per week from this method is always nine. Strange Coins can also be randomly awarded for completing Public Events with a Gold Rating, completing Crucible matches, completing Weekly Nightfall Strikes, completing raid phases, decrypting decoherent engrams, or opening loot chests.

Ref: http://destiny.wikia.com/wiki/Strange_Coin


As for purchasing power, I would say that Strange Coins are the one to aim for, as this will allow you to buy exotic items from Xûr when he is in the Tower. None of the other currencies allow this. The Vanguard and Crucible marks will allow purchase of legendaries, but they take time to earn.

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    An excellent answer. One slight modification to the last paragraph is that motes of light are used to buy the exotic engram from Xur. Strange coins are still better but motes of light are a slightly more random route to exotics. – Chris Oct 20 '14 at 9:12
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    To add to @Chris's comment, engrams from Xur usually give exotics with better stats than buying directly. Sometimes it's worth trying to buy engram before buying gear, it could drop same item, but a little bit better (and you save coins!). – icebat Oct 20 '14 at 14:53
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    @Chris, I base that on two sources of data: one is me getting Armamentarium with around 10 more Dis, and other is PlanetDestiny: Exotic engrams will generally provide better stats for an item. – icebat Oct 20 '14 at 16:50
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    @Chris, just don't forget to gamble before buying armor, or you can end up with two of the same piece like I did >_< – icebat Oct 20 '14 at 18:06
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    Note that you can only hold a maximum of 200 Crucible Marks in your inventory, the same as the Vanguard Marks' maximum. This isn't noted on the wiki. Friend of mine found that out the hard way. – FAE Oct 20 '14 at 18:21
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The Taken King simplified the Destiny economy by removing some currencies, adding others, and changing how they are earned.

Glimmer

Earned by:

  • Finishing quests and missions
  • Dismantling weapons and armor
  • Some ghosts have a perk that gives glimmer when killing a certain enemy type
  • You can find or purchase a consumable that gives glimmer when killing a certain enemy type for 10 minutes when used (such as Ether Seeds for Fallen)
  • Enemies can drop an item that gives 200 glimmer when turned in to the Cryptarch (such as House Banners or Silken Codex)
  • Some House of Wolves missions give an item that gives you 2,500 or 5,000 glimmer when turned in to the Cryptarch the first time you complete them per character

Glimmer is used throughout the game, generally in addition to another currency. Infusing a legendary item costs glimmer along with legendary marks and weapon parts, for example.

You can hold a maximum of 25,000 glimmer at one time. These are shared across all characters on your account.

Legendary Marks

Earned by:

  • Finishing the Daily Quest and Daily PvP Playlist (15 marks, once per account per day)
  • Completing quests in the Vanguard Heroic playlist (10 marks, 3 times per account per week)
  • Winning games in the Featured PvP Playlist (10 marks, 3 wins per account per week)
  • Some quests give Legendary Marks as a reward the first time you complete them per character
  • Dismantling legendary weapons and armor (3-5 marks, depending on how much XP has been applied to the item)
  • Completing the weekly Iron Banner bounties (25 marks)
  • Completing some of the Trials of Osiris bounties (25 marks)

Legendary Marks are used to buy weapons and armor from the various vendors in the tower (including Lord Saladin when he is in the tower for the Iron Banner). They are also used to infuse legendary weapons and armor.

You can hold up to 200 Legendary Marks at a time. These are shared across all characters on your account. There is no limit to how many you can earn in a week.

Strange Coins

Earned by:

  • Doing most anything in the game - quest/mission rewards, turning in bounties, dismantling engrams, faction packages, etc.

Strange Coins are used to buy items from Xûr, who appears in the Tower or the Reef from Friday reset until the Sunday reset. He sells 1 Exotic armor for each class, along with an Exotic weapon or armor engram among other things.

Silver

Silver can only be obtained by spending real money in the store of the console you play on. You get approximately 100 silver for $1, but can only be bought in certain bundles (such as 500 silver for $4.99). Buying more silver gives you additional bonus silver as well.

Silver is only used to buy items from the Eververse Trading Company in the Tower. Currently only emotes are available here.

  • +1, good update to an old question. You can also earn legendary marks from a decent number of TTK missions, the first time you do them per character. I believe you can also still earn the glimmer items from the HoW expansions (the pink crystal ones, can't recall their name atm) from PoE and quests that you may not have done. – turbo Oct 26 '15 at 13:46
  • Minor nitpick - the Iron Banner weekly bounties gave 25 legendary marks each. – two bugs Oct 26 '15 at 14:16
  • @twobugs fixed. Couldn't remember the right amount. Thanks! – Adeese Oct 26 '15 at 18:33
  • @turbo I added the HoW crystal items. I already had an entry for some missions giving legendary marks - should something else be added there? – Adeese Oct 26 '15 at 18:33
  • @Adeese no I think you covered everything. Unless you want to edit in the Halloween event thing that Tess is selling for silver as of today, but I don't think it's necessary as it's a time-limited event. – turbo Oct 26 '15 at 18:50

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