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I hope this is the right place to ask. :) I'm currently working on what is to be a wiki/encyclopedic website. Some articles contain amounts or prices like construction costs and such, but since these articles talk about things of up to about 80 years ago, I'd like to add some kind of translation of these values to put them in a better perspective.

I mean, building something for $50.000 is not not an extreme amount of money, while it might have been in 1930.

Can I translate these old prices to a current price to give especially younger readers a better idea of actual cost? I thought about using the gold price. If a kilo of gold was $10 then and it is $100 now, I could say that money has devalued to a 10th of its worth. If so, a building that cost $50.000 would cost about $500.000 now.

Is that a correct approach or is it utter nonsense? Thanks.

If anyone knows the right terminology for these kinds of calculations, I'm happy to know them. It will allow me to search better too. :)

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The calculators on this site should help: http://www.measuringworth.com/

They allow you to choose a currency (only about half a dozen are available), enter an amount and the years to compare, and then provides feedback in a table.

Obviously you will need to be careful which calculator you choose.

If they don't cover the currencies you are dealing with, see this site: http://projects.exeter.ac.uk/RDavies/arian/current/howmuch.html They provide numerous links that, while they don't provide sleek calculators per se, they do offer guidance on how to handle conversions yourself.

Regarding comparing the cost to something like gold, to try and help younger readers, I think it's a good idea but gold is not the ideal choice for comparison. I'd recommend something more tangible like household goods - what a Playstation would have cost in 1930s money etc. In short: the value of gold is esoteric even for most adults - concrete examples would be better.

  • Thank you for your answer. It is not my intention to compare the price to a playstation, but indeed, I want to 'measure worth'. The loaf of bread-example on measuringworth.com seems to describe exactly what I want. I'm gonna try out the calculators and read up on the background. :) – GolezTrol Jun 13 '11 at 13:32
  • I had forgotten the loaf of bread example and yes, I agree, that's an excellent/more appropriate comparison. The Playstation mention was purely to convey the need to choose something tangible that a youngster can identify (I had originally typed in "coffee cup" but that seemed pretty dull). Best, – gef05 Jun 13 '11 at 13:35
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Here's a good inflation calculator based on official US government sources:

http://www.westegg.com/inflation/

You can get a good idea of the affect of productivity gains on prices by comparing price differences between different commodities. For example, eggs sold for $0.50-0.60/dozen in 1920, and are usually about $2.50/doz where I live. In real terms, the price actually declined from 1920 to 2010.

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