In the dry steppelands, one of their most valuable exports is the dried sap of the Larthorn tree. These ugly plants are covered with vicious thorns, but the locals harvest the golden droplets that ooze from their bark each Autumn. This sap, once dried, is valued for its medicinal properties and as a spice. Since little gold or silver is found in the hinterland, the dried droplets of sap are often used as currency by the locals.
One thing you must realise is that there is no such thing as pure iron/steel these days. Iron/steel isn't nearly as strong now as it was in medieval times. However, with that said, iron in early medieval times was so soft you could hack right through a helm with a sword and leave a nice lil mark on the skull (depending on the grade of iron used on the sword and the helm, ofcaurse). After many hundreds of years of fine tuning, however, the only use the sword had was to puncture the plate. That was very difficult, however, since the grade of steel was so hard... only blunt instruments and weighted axes had any use against plate armor in later medieval times. Makes me wonder why rapiers were so popular then and why less people wore plate (Other than it's obsene costs... a nice suit of armor would cost as much as a nice lexus does now... and a kings suit would be as much as a rols royce).