I just had to put this title in all caps, as this subject has been bugging me for a while. I have done some research, but I am stuck at a fundamental barrier.
WARNING: This post is very long, and poses a lot of questions with a lot of research. While some(me) may find it interesting, it is quite long.
What it’s really asking is for how many souls/brilliant souls your player currently owns, how many they’ve bought and sold through the bazaar, how many they’ve spent on storylets/conversions, or how many they’ve handled over their time in FL.
All I need is the number of souls they have currently, but other information above helps. Feel free to comment on anything else I say.
Feel free to read the explanation behind this below. If you’re interested but not that interested, just skip to the ‘to get to the point’ part.

The question…

My question cannot be phrased as a question, but rather as a nagging feeling in the back of my head. It started with the ‘eleven per cent?’ sidebar. So less than a tenth of the city have lost their souls, yet players may have thousands stockpiled at one time, and may have had a grand total in the tens, or even hundred, thousands.

This nagging returned with the storyline for selling your own soul, and references to it throughout the game. You wouldn’t sell your own soul for a cheap price: fair enough. Heart’s Desire involves you gambling your soul to win a great prize. These all send the message that souls are innately valuable. Yet souls sell for only 1 penny! Even if you count as ‘someone exceptional’ and your soul is ‘brilliant’, it’s only worth 50 pence. That’s a fifth of the price of your identity(uncovered)! It’s the same as a scrap of incendiary gossip.
So what is a soul worth? How are they so cheap, yet so much at the same time?
Yes, I know Discernment probably answers these questions. I’m desperate to get it, but I want to spend Fate on getting my ship first. And I’m not asking for content from Discernment. I’ve simply been scraping together information I’ve found online.

The background…

I’ve done some research and found that a high, but reasonable, estimate for population of Fallen London should be around 7 million humans(no soulless clay men, devils, rubbery men, etc). I’ve found this by taking the statistics from here. I took the population of London in 1893(our current FL year, according to the paper about Hallowmas): roughly 4.3 million; then compensated for the rarity of death in Fallen London(by multiplying the death rate of 90,000 that year by the 30 years since the Fall, then adding that to the population.). I figured that the few permanent deaths would be balanced by the arrival of the Masters, inhabitants of other lands moving to Fallen London, immigrants from the surface, and holdovers from previous cities. You’ll see in a moment why Tomb Colonists don’t particularly matter.
Now, I took the ‘eleven per cent’ sidebar. Assuming that 11 per cent is too high, we can assume that 10% is our upper limit. This number allows us to include any Tomb Colonists who might have lost their souls(assuming the percentage was similar in the years after the Fall), as we didn’t remove them from the population estimate. This number also compensates for any underestimating of the population(not compensating enough for surface immigrants: I don’t know the number, so I didn’t adjust it).
So while the Masters forbid the publication of the real number, we can come close.

Multiplying our population of 7 million by our 10% population limit gives us… an estimate that their is a maximum of 700,00 souls in Fallen London.

To get to the point…
No more than 700,000 Londoners have lost their souls(see section above). This means that between souls being delivered to Hell, souls held by spirifers and the Bazaar, and the population of Fallen London their should not be more than 700,000 souls.
So are there more than 700,000 souls out there?
We should assume that Hell takes a large portion. And(according to the ‘Track down a Spirifer’ and the soul option of Unfinished Business, plus rounding), I’m assuming spirifers hold an average of 30 souls each in their stock before passing it to Hell. We should take that their are multiple players(social actions, the unraveling arson opportunity card), we allow that each player of Fallen London owns some souls. The question is, how many souls are owned by players?
When figuring this out
This information can help us figure out just how many souls Hell gets, how many spirifers there are in the city, and how many souls urchins/bohemians/society/church/rubbery men?/zailors/smugglers/and other NPC characters in Fallen London have horded. And if we find out that the players own more than our number is…

For the price: Devils seem to want the souls more for the chase than actually having the souls. So they’ll offer a high price, but don’t really care once they have it, allowing the massive price drop and the soul to reenter the London trade.

Beyond that, they also have the souls of people since what, at least the second city? The soul trade has been going on for a long time. That will probably add on a large number to the souls in circulation. (Unless souls have an expiration date). Either way, without population statistics from those cities, the number of souls will be hard to calculate.

Finally, Doesn’t hell have inter-dimensional nonsense going on? That should add about infinite souls to the pile.
edited by suinicide on 5/3/2016

40% of imported &quotsouls&quot are made from spun sugar and the light from prayer candles. Parliament is expected to recommend a stiff tariff to combat this introduction of illegitimate goods. The Masters are expected to ignore it.
edited by TheThirdPolice on 5/4/2016

I don’t know if we can round out the population to a specific number, but 7 million isn’t a bad educated guess. Though I’d personally think that the population would be potentially higher. For starters, infant and maternal death during birth becomes almost 0. Unless the little scamp spontaneously combusts into flames and turns to ash in perma-death, any child that would unfortunately pass after being born would eventually return. Mothers would also return from death should the process be too much on their body, thus making the idea of giving birth more favorable due to the lack of a threat of actual death and the result of more women alive to have kids. This would cause a huge increase in living London citizens, which also means plenty more souls to fill the market. There’s also the factor of immigration to London from the Surface that adds to the city’s populace. Heck, all player characters are canonically from the Surface and I doubt they’re the only ones coming down. That’s not to mention the possible immigration of people from across the Zee and Fourth City residents that survived the Fifth City’s fall and assimilated into the Londoner population. With the death rate down below being so slim that we still have plenty of people from previous cities still with potential souls, it’s needless to say that the population is, um, probably fairly big.

Despite such a large population, it’s still hard to fathom that all the souls in the game come from the 10%. This is most likely due to the fact that they probably aren’t. There are storylets where large caches of souls from previous cities are found. It isn’t that wide of a stretch to assume that many of the souls on the market do not belong to living London citizens. Considering that devils enjoy the the chase for human souls and have a sort of ecstasy from the emotions and experiences they absorb, it makes sense that they would keep both new and old souls in circulation to be either abstracted from a host once more or to savor their “flavor” even when the original owner has long passed or is far far faaaaaaar away.

Needless to say, all the souls owned, used, and sold by players is certainly not equivalent to the 10% of Londoners without souls. Players can even destroy souls with lacre, so that alone would offset the balance.

What happens to a person who has sold their soul, and then the soul is destroyed with lacre? Does the body experience true death?

Two things: try not to assume that players all share one single universe (too many mutually exclusive events) or take item quantity too literally.

The quantity of in inventory goods have always been vague and sometimes represent quality as well - sometimes cleaning a whole den reward you with like 30 Drops of Honey ingame while &quotluxury honey&quot is represented by 300 Drops. Sometimes the game claims that you &quotcarry a choice bottle of wine home&quot but gives you 24 Greyfields and some such.

The soul and the life of the original owner do not go hand in hand. Someone can continue life without a soul and are not effected by its destruction. It just means that they can’t regain their original soul anymore.

In the kickstarter reward Great-Aunt Beatrice’s Legacy, it’s possible to collect some souls from the Fourth City, so the soul count wouldn’t be limited to just the Fifth City, but as long as Devils keep souls, which might be as long as since the first humans. Or even before that, if anything else has souls.

“… we built our hives on the edge of dream,” she slurs, “while men were monkeys still. Monkey-souls are poor unripe things - like this wine of yours - but they serve as consolation.”

Yes, PJ’s point. The Wistful Deviless makes it very clear that Devils want souls just as souls, that it is not just the chase or abstraction that they desire.

Also the Fidgeting Writer storyline, when you succeed in finding conjoined twin’s souls, gives the impression that Devils have quite an appetite for souls.
Which actually made me come down to the forums to ask, what do you think is the devil’s purpose for souls? As the sommelier makes for the conjoined twin’s souls as soon as you turn to leave I feel there’s some kind of lust involved, though I don’t think the souls are consumed, as the Sommelier would be an official middlemen for the import of high class souls, and I guess would refrain from wasting them with himself.

edit: Also, I don’t think it’s impossible that souls from the older cities are still circulating.
edited by Henrique Brito on 5/4/2016
edited by Henrique Brito on 5/4/2016

I feel that the estimations on London’s population seem to be too optimistic. I mean, I recall an opp card which mentions the fact that many London neighbourhoods emptied after the fall, and that this is a trend - people are leaving the city, that becomes more and more empty.

I think that the estimations forgot to take into account that loads and loads of people simply decided that living in the dark with devils wasn’t their piece of cake and went right back to the Surface, and I doubt that it stopped. Lots of characters go back to the Surface at the end of their storylines. It seems that, despite the game tagline, only the weirdest people (player characters included) really got used to the quiet life down the Neath.

This should bring the actual population down to their 19th century equivalent (possibly already including the non-humans and fourth city people).
edited by Professor Strix on 5/5/2016

Actually if you have a key to the brass embassy guest room you can have a conversation with the devils about the soulless. If you fail the challenge they tell you that 42% of London’s population has lost their soul. This is presented as a joke. If you succeed they tell you the actual figure is 8-9%. I suspect that the 11% presented by that certain anarchist pamphlet is unreliable.
edited by IgnatuStone on 5/5/2016

Take it with a grain of salt but I think it’s been mentioned there’s no actual eating of souls with devils. And I’ve heard mention of huge warehouses full of souls which is unverifiable due to it being in a story only one person could play.

Also, in regard to the first post, the Marvellous doesn’t bet you your actual soul. It bets something more substantial, like your mind.