10 Annotations

First Reading

Phil  •  Link

A way to see what 17th century money would be worth today, posted by David Gurliacci on the 4 Jan 1660 entry:


If you click on the "source note" in light blue lettering near the top of the page, it gives you some good caveats. Essentially, it says these calculations are very inexact because the relative values of many things can change quite a bit over time. But this may give a rough sense of the value of 1660 money.

Bullus Hutton  •  Link

Economic Perspective

It occurs to me that whilst monetary amounts are frequently mentioned in the Diary, it is not always clear how much these figures mean in today's coin.
For the sake of illustration, imagine that this 50l. a year law clerk was working currently for a downtown law-firm at a salary of (for the sake of argument) $40,000 a year. We then get the following comparisons:

The best deal in the Diary so far is his 3l. a year maid at $200 a month, who ranks right up there with the poor au pair girls so popular in more recent times.

Pepys emerges as quite the profligate gambler, dropping 2s/6d or $100 at Wills on Feb 6, a sum quite rich enough for my blood at a friendly game, especially after he rued earlier that he "staid like a fool " until 9 pm on Feb 1. Curiously he seems more vexed at losing 6d. ($20) on Valentine's day, perhaps because he hadn't had a win in a while!

Book prices are interesting: Pepys is well pleased with his Feb 13 purchase of a song book which cost him 6s./6d. or $260 after trading in a couple of his own books. The regular price for the song book was 14s. (a whopping $560) for which price I would have expected the Compleat Beatles, and they weren't even around yet!

His Feb 16 philosophizing about carrying only 3d. or $10 in his pocket to avoid over-drinking would qualify him as a legendary skinflint, except that he evidently does not follow this advice as a rule.

Finally, I find it interesting to appreciate the cost of everything in the Diary, provided one does not lose sight of the value as a whole!

Bullus Hutton, Vancouver BC, Canada. Feb 16, 2003

vincent  •  Link

from :Stewart on Wed 7 Jan 2004, 8:57 pm |
Sterling Silver, Gold & Gilt
terling standard silver is and was an alloy of 925 parts per thousand of pure silver, with added or residual amounts of copper, etc.
Gold was generally 22 carat or 22/24 pure, until 18 carat was introduced in 1798, as pure gold is too soft to be worked usefully.
Gilt does mean sterling silver gilded with pure gold - this by coating the piece with an amalgam of gold and mercury and then burning the mercury off - very attractive but very deleterious to the health of the workmen involved breathing the poisonous mercury fumes.
A piece of (silver) plate was charged by weight with two amounts, one per (Troy) ounce for the actual weight of bullion used, and the second also per ounce for the workmanship, less for plainer, more for ornate.
Since the coinage passed at the actual bullion content of the coins (or close to it) we know what an ounce of silver was worth, so the

Siobhan  •  Link

Updated for several more options (GDP, e.g.) than only the one Phil cites above.

Harvey  •  Link

Relative Values; The 'official' exchange rate across time, where £1 (1660) = £90 (2006) is like the official exchange rate of developing countries now, it doesn't give much guide to the purchasing power.
A good PPP approximation seems to be x 500, so someone on £50 a year then is closer to someone making making £25,000 now, and someone with a fortune of £1000 has £500,000.

dirk  •  Link

Purchasing power comparisons over more than three centuries are dangerous — as the structure of the consumption package differs considerably — as do market circumstances (the present London housing market is probably fundamentally different from Pepys’ time). Still some indication can be helpful, if used with care — "cum granis salis".

Different calculators are available on the web, each with its own logical argumentation. They all give different results…

£730 in 1660 would have the same spending worth of £56,042.10 today

£730 in 1663 is worth £74,199.37 today, using the retail price index

£730 from 1650 would have been worth £43,530.02 in 2000

So, somewhere between £43,530 and £74,199 seems to be where we should look for the "real" present value of Sam’s £730 — sufficient to know that we’re talking lots of money!

I’m inclined to put my trust more in the National Archives calculation — so a useful rule of thumb might be "x 75".

[The figure of £730 refers to the diary entry for 31 July 1663.]

Second Reading

Chris Squire UK  •  Link

Here are the price indices for converting between 1660 and 2014:

real price = RPI/GDP deflator = 120
labour value = average earnings = 2,100
income value = per capita GDP = 5,200
Income or Wealth
historic standard of living = real price = RPI/GDP deflator = 120
economic status value = income value = per capita GDP = 5,200
economic power value = share of GDP = 29,000
historic opportunity cost = real price = RPI/GDP deflator = 120
labour cost = labour value = average earnings = 2,100
economic cost = share of GDP = 29,000

Taken from https://www.measuringworth.com/uk… which explains which index to use for different purposes. The important thing to grasp and remember is that using ‘real price’ by itself vastly understates the status and power that came with what seem to us quite modest sums of money in the pre-industrial society of 1660.

Example: Pepys’ net worth = £650 at 31 December 1662

Measured by historic standard of living = real price = 120 x £650 = £78,000

Measured by economic status value = income value = per capita GDP = 5,200 x £650 = £3.4 mn.

Measured by economic power value = share of GDP = 29,000 x £650 = £19 mn.

I have rounded these amounts to 2 significant figures as they are only estimates.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

The Bank of England has an inflation indicator:


“Use our inflation calculator to check how prices in the UK have changed over time, from 1209 to 2018.”

You can compare something that cost £10 in 1660 (for example), with its value in today’s currency. The page has descriptive sections explaining how the calculator was created and works.

Timo  •  Link

According to SDS’s Bank of England inflation calculator, the navy debt would be around £250 million in today’s money. That would only buy you an F35 fighter, with a little change left over nowadays.

Thinking about it tho, just one of those wold have quite easily taken care of that annoying Dutch fleet... Dracarys!

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