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Money Worth Since 1774

20 dollars

Have you ever found a receipt for a purchase your relatives made decades ago and wondered how much in today’s money value they really spent on that item. For example, if you have a receipt or an advertisement that a loaf of bakery bread in 1915 cost five cents, how does that compare today? Well, five cents in 1915 in purchasing value is today about $1.18. You would quickly see that was quite a value, where can you purchase a loaf of fresh bakery bread for just over a dollar today?

If you have the receipt for the first car purchased by your great grandfather, that can be really interesting to compare values. A new 1920 Ford Model-T auto would have cost about $250. In today’s dollars that would be about $2,860; again quite a bargain.

Compare that with a person’s salary. If your same great grandfather earned about the average wage in America, it would be $1,236 a year in 1920. That is equal today to about $14,200; a bit below standard incomes today.

When you look over the US Federal Census, some years have the value of a person’s home or the amount of rent they pay monthly. From region and town to town that figure for the same type of place can vary. If a relative lived in the heart of New York City (Manhattan), their rent could be quite higher compared to someone living in a small town in Kansas. The 1930 and 1940 Federal Censuses have a column for the person’s monthly rent amount or if they own their home, its value. In 1930 if monthly rent was $20, today that amount would be $275 a month. In 1940 if that same place rented still for $20 a month, today that would be equal to $327.

Use the web site ‘Measuring Wealth‘ which goes back to 1774 for figuring values of services, products or incomes. This can be quite an eye-opener on how much our ancestors had to spend for goods and services.

Photo: 1922 Twenty Dollar Gold Bill

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