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Archive for April 18th, 2013

Counting the Cost

Posted by Dirck on 18 April, 2013

I was fixing a spleling arrer on my site this morning, and while I was at it, I had a look at the page for any other mistakes.  There weren’t any… but there was a problem.

On most of the pages, I put down the original price, or at least as close to a sensible guess at the original price as I can make.  Because telling the world that a pen made in 1925 cost $3.00 isn’t extremely illuminating, I generally put down what these guys say that works out to in modern funds– in the current example, that’s nearly $40.  My problem, though, lies in the word “current”.

Inflation hasn’t been as big a problem since the Big Dumb Incident of 2008 as in some times, but it remains an element in our lives.  Currently, that 1925 three bucks is $40, but a year and a half ago when I was working up the site’s current incarnation it was a little over $38.  That means that just about everything on my site speaking of “current value” is a little bit out, and it’s just going to get worse.

…Unless I constantly update every blinkin’ page.  As a fellow with a real house that needs constant maintenance, I’m not in love with the idea of devoting that much effort to repainting something virtual on a regular basis.  This presents me with a choice:

  • Abandon the contextualization of historic pen prices, or;
  • Find a non-variable means of doing so, make one sweeping update, and be content forevermore (on this specific front).

I really don’t like the first option.  It’s all well and good to say “That cost $10!” in tones of wonder, because in 1931 that was a pretty fair pile of cash, but to the modern ear is sounds like “That cost as much as two or three comic books!”  Yawn.  Big deal.

The problem with the second one is figuring out something that is consistently available throughout the past century.  I was thinking bread, but on reflection, saying a Waterman 52 cost 27 loaves of bread, while a Sheaffer Snorkel Crest cost about 100 loaves… well, to me it gets a little hard to visualize that much bread, and it seems apt to lead to a certain amount of snickering.

I know that I usually just spout off here, but now I am posing an honest, non-rhetorical question as to what I might use as my context-token.  What is there that has been in use since 1880 or so, which is still common enough in the  present day that most people will find it familiar, and which is worth in current terms somewhere between $5 and $10?  I’m having trouble settling on something, and a nudge in the right direction would be greatly appreciated.

Today’s pen: TWSBI Mini
Today’s ink: Pelikan Royal Blue

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