The northern economy was quite strong during the Civil War, with demand for skilled and unskilled workers in industry creating more lucrative job opportunities in the civilian world than being in the army.
While the pay for a soldier was $13 a month, the author says a man could make four times that much money merely by working as “a sign maker or a clerk in a dry goods store” (location 26210). That stat is credited to American Annual Cyclopedia, 1863, p. 413. A 30 second search on the ol’ internet suggests the book can be had for between $60 and $100.
The ratio of 4x suggests a dry good store clerk could make somewhere around $50 a month.
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).
Pay for a legionnaire soldier in the Roman army increased substantially over time, from 225 denarii a year around the turn of the millenium to 600 denarri in the early 200s.
The amount of silver in a denarii was also steadily reduced over that same time. That is called inflation, which as we know from other reading, was driven by Roman Emperors intentionally debasing the currency as a way to help finance the empire.
First, let’s look at the declining value of a denarius. Here is the silver value of each coin, measured as the number of denarii minted from each pound of silver, along with my point estimate of the year of the change:
To develop an estimate of precious metal prices, I’ll use the data from Hurstwic. They are a group that provides training on Viking combat techniques.
They provide some estimates of relative value and provide multiple data points that can be cross referenced. I’ll keep my eye open for other reference points.
Here is what they provide on their page, Towns and Trading in the Viking Age. Yet another shaky simplifying assumption is that this analysis assumes data from Iceland early in the 11th century is somewhat representative of relative values across the Viking age. Here are their estimates:
Before trying to quantify some sort of dollar value for items during the Viking era, let’s look at some relative values. My approach will be to find a way of comparing the prices of items during the Viking Age in relation to each other. Value of cows or sheep today will be added into those relative values. That will provide some sort of rough methodology for gaining some sort of understanding of prices.
Notice the vagueness of my description and the number of qualifiers? This is a very rough process and could easily be wrong. However, I will give it a shot and I will show my work so you can assess my methodology and revise it as you wish.
Here is what I’ve found for indications of relative prices and exchange rates.
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:
The Viking, by Tre Tryckare, copyright 1967, has some fun speculation on the volume of annual trade in a major Viking trading town in Sweden.
The large island of Gotland, off the eastern shore of Sweden, is about 1,229 square miles in size. It was a major trading center during the Viking age. Page 51 of the book says that of the 200,000 silver coins found in Scandinavia from the Viking Age, about half were on the island of Gotland. This includes, according to the text:
40,000 – Arabic
38,000 – German
21,000 – Anglo-Saxon
The text has some fun speculation on the possible amount of trade. Two critical assumptions, which are listed so you can revised them as you wish:
Out of 1,000 silver coins received in trade, an unknown number were buried for storage and 1 of those has been found. This wild guess assumes that there was 1,000 coins of income for each 1 coin found,
One Anglo-Saxon coin had purchasing power of 10 or 20 schillings. At the then exchange rates of 1967, this would be roughly comparable to somewhere around $3.00.
Before decimalization of British currency, there were 20 schillings to a pound. Today (10/17/17) one pound converts to US$1.32.