I find this question fascinating!
The British pound sterling is still backed by the gold standard in 1891. This means that there is likely an Echo to Pound ratio for surface trading. It is unknown if there would be a Fallen London representative at the International Monetary Conferences to establish an exchange rate, but with the amount of sheer capital exchange happening in the capitol, it’s inconceivable that they wouldn’t. London, Fallen or no, is at the height of it’s capital exportation, so even if the Master’s specifically have no interest in surface monetary policy, surely the Palace and various other captains of industry would.
No small amount of nations at the time were adopting the gold standard to have access to European markets, so it might be possible that surface powers, attempting to capitalize on Fallen markets, might adopt a bimetalic currency standard not of silver and gold, but of gold and "underlying fundamental Coins." Meaning that currencies on the Surface could be backed with greater certainty than gold.
This is what the great economists of the world are likely discussing in the salons of the Neath, but the truth of the matter is that the Echo is backed by the Masters as much as the 2013 dollar is backed by the US Treasury; which is to say stronger and more stable than gold. The Bazaar is the issuer of her own currency and is backed by the full faith and credit of the Masters. The Masters can control the Echo the way the Fed does, and probably easier, and no one of any importance in the Neath is likely to want to back out of the Echo standard and invest all their capital in First City coins or some-such. It’s even less likely that they will refuse to acknowledge the listed value of the Echo. The Bazaar is unlikely to default on anything and The Masters don’t take kindly to you undervaluing their currency.
The Echo doesn’t really need to be backed by anything, but claiming it’s backed by something unseen and ancient is as good a notion as saying it’s backed by shiny metal to keep markets from panicking.
I like to think of the life of a well-to-do Fallen Londoner interested in such things like so:
The inhabitant of London could order by bat, sipping his morning tea in bed, the various products of the whole earth, in such quantity as he might see fit, and reasonably expect their early delivery upon his doorstep; he could at the same moment and by the same means adventure his wealth in the natural resources and new enterprises of any quarter of the world, and share, without exertion or even trouble, in their prospective fruits and advantages; or he could decide to couple the security of his fortunes with the good faith of the townspeople of any substantial municipality in any continent that fancy or information might recommend. He could secure forthwith, if he wished it, cheap and comfortable means of transit to any country or climate without passport or other formality, could despatch his servant to the neighboring office of a bank for such supply of the precious metals as might seem convenient, and could then proceed abroad to foreign quarters, without knowledge of their religion, language, or customs, bearing coined wealth upon his person, and would consider himself greatly aggrieved and much surprised at the least interference. But, most important of all, he regarded this state of affairs as normal, certain, and permanent, except in the direction of further improvement, and any deviation from it as aberrant, scandalous, and avoidable. The projects and politics of militarism and imperialism, of racial and cultural rivalries, of monopolies, restrictions, and exclusion, which were to play the serpent to this paradise, were little more than the amusements of his daily newspaper, and appeared to exercise almost no influence at all on the ordinary course of social and economic life, the internationalization of which was nearly complete in practice.
edited by Nigel Overstreet on 3/9/2013