Wages for crew on Christopher Columbus’ ships.

Model of Santa Maria. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Wages paid to the crew and a current understanding of crew list for Christopher Columbus’ first voyage to the Americas is provided at Columbus Ships Crew.

Crew size:

  • 41 – Santa Maria
  • 26 – Pinta
  • 20 – Nina
  • 87 – total

Of particular interest to me is the pay information provided in the article. It also lists reference points for gold and silver.

Will list that info here for future reference. All amounts are maravedis, which was the Spanish currency at the time. This data is for 1492 in Spain.

Continue reading “Wages for crew on Christopher Columbus’ ships.”

Cost and time to cross the Atlantic has dropped by more than 90% in the last 500 years.

Columbus’ Ships. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Transatlantic travel time has dropped radically in the last 500 years.  Time to transit the Atlantic has dropped about 99% and cost has dropped about 95% by my calculations.

Let’s look at several data points for cost and time, then calculate one indicator of improved quality of life.

(Article cross-posted from my other blog, Outrun Change.)

Human Progress provides fun data points on August 2, 2018 in their post, A Reminder of How Far Transatlantic Travel Has Come.

Columbus’ first trip

The 1492 trip by Christopher Columbus took two years of lobbying before the king and queen of Spain approved 2 million Spanish maravedis to fund the trip. A professor has calculated that would be comparable to about US$1,000,000 today.

The cost seems low to me. I’ll look at that more later.

Crew size was 87 according to this article. The accountant in me is driven to calculate the cost per crewman.  That would give an average cost of $11,494. I’ll round that to $11,500 and ignore any adjustment for several crew members who died on the trip.

His trip took two months, nine days, which I calculate at 70 days (30+31+9).

Mayflower

Mayflower. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Continue reading “Cost and time to cross the Atlantic has dropped by more than 90% in the last 500 years.”

What was the price of gold in 1522 in relation to today’s dollar?

Gold Florin (Fiorino d’oro) coin issued circa 1256 in Florence, Italy. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Previous post explored a comment by Eric Metaxas in his book, Martin Luther, The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World, that the first printing of Luther’s translation of the New Testament cost half a gulden for an unbound copy and a gulden for a bound copy.

In that post I calculated that the implied value of a bound New Testament, hot of the press from the first printing, cost something in the range of about $900 in terms of today’s currency.

I’d like to work through what that implies about the value of gold back then.

What is a Gulden?

It is a gold coin used in Germany. A few minutes of research does not quite explain its weight or purity. The most helpful thing I found is an article from Money Museum which describes a number of Medieval Currencies:

Continue reading “What was the price of gold in 1522 in relation to today’s dollar?”

What is a cow worth today? That provides a framework for valuation in ancient times.

Momma Cow and calf. Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Comparing prices and values over a long period of time is tough to do.

For example, how can we compare the cost to live for a year in the Viking Age to today? How can we understand the cost of a sword that cost X ounces of silver?

This involves not only converting the value of silver then to now but also adjusting for the very low standard of living then (you hope all your family survives the winter and hope you live long enough to see a grandchild from each of your children) to the high standard of living with long life expectancy today.

One way is to look at the value of something back then and the value of something today.

This post looks at the value of a cow today in order to provide some frame of reference for ancient times.

What is a cow worth today?

An article from Farm and Ranch Guide back in 2012 gives some good info: What’s a cow worth? Determining the value of a cow important to success. (Update:  Link no longer works. Article is not visible on that website. Several articles on the ‘net refer to the article but don’t have the text. I can’t find the original article.)

Article provides education on how to price cows and calculate their production. Lots of brand new information for me and the detail would be good training for someone learning to run a farm.

Here is some info relevant to my blog:

Continue reading “What is a cow worth today? That provides a framework for valuation in ancient times.”

Total wealth held by American households as reference point for ancient finances

There is a lot of wealth visible in all those homes. Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock.
There is a lot of wealth visible in all those homes. Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Here is another point of reference I’ll use for my discussion of ancient finances. The Wall Street Journal reported on 6/7/16:  Americans’ Total Wealth Hits Record, According to Federal Reserve Report.

(Cross post from Attestation Update.)

Want to add this additional frame of reference before getting back to looking at Alexander’s haul as he looted various Persian cities.

The Fed released an estimate of the total wealth of all Americans for the first quarter 2016, which includes individuals and nonprofits.

Continue reading “Total wealth held by American households as reference point for ancient finances”

Stock market capitalization as reference point for ancient finances

Street sign for Wall Street and Broad Street, the heart of the Financial District of New York City. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.
Street sign for Wall Street and Broad Street, the heart of the Financial District of New York City. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

I am building some reference points for my ongoing learning about ancient finances. (If you couldn’t tell, I’m have a lot of fun. This learnin’ thing is cool.)

Here is the value of all the stock listed on the market in the G-20 economies. This is the total capitalization of the companies in those countries.

(Cross post from Attestation Update.)

Data is from this site. A lot of other sources could be used and other years might give different results. The accuracy of the valuation of Alexander’s loot is only accurate to one or two significant digits. The needed estimates and assumptions will leave any comparisons accurate to only one significant digit. Actually, by the time my calculations are finished, the amounts will probably be accurate to maybe overestimating 20% or perhaps underestimating by 100% or 200%.

Thus, more precision in the market capitalizations is irrelevant.

Amounts are in US dollars and are for 2012: Continue reading “Stock market capitalization as reference point for ancient finances”

So, how can we compare today’s wages with 100 years or 2,300 years ago?

What does that tetradrachm from Alexander the Great representing pay for two days of a skilled construction worker represent today? Image courtesy Adobe Stock.
What does that tetradrachm, from the era of Alexander the Great, representing pay for two days of a skilled construction worker, represent today? Image courtesy Adobe Stock.

The following numbers are based on purchasing power parity, which is a tool economists use to compare countries across currencies and across time.

(Cross post from Attestation Update.)

Average income across the planet is now $33 a day, which is also about equal to average income in Brazil today or in the US back in 1941.

Income in places like the US and Sweden are 3 or 4 times the planet average.

Average income per person was about $3 a day from about 1800 all the way back until humans first appeared on the planet.  Dr. McCloskey says daily income sometimes in some places rose to $6 or $8 for a while but slipped back to the $3 range.

For illustration of what $3 per day looks like, consider Haiti or Afghanistan. In those two places, the current PPP income is $3.

So where does that leave us for a comparison? Consider this purchasing power parity analysis.

  • $3 – For all of history until about 1800 average daily income was about $3.
  • $33 – Today average income is about $33 in Brazil or a worldwide average.
  • $132 – Today average income in the US and Sweden is 3 or 4 times higher than the world average. The specific days point is $132 a day in the US in 2011.

Going from $3 to $132 is an increase by a factor of 44.

Continue reading “So, how can we compare today’s wages with 100 years or 2,300 years ago?”