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View Full Version : A shilling's worth in the 1700s


Markxxx
12-10-2003, 08:11 PM
I was watching a show and it was about hypnotism and regression. Anyway for some reason Sheena Easton was on this show. (I don't know why she was a panelist) anyway she said "You can tell it's fake. The lady said 'I saw a poor homeless boy so I gave him a shilling.' Do you know what a shilling was worth in the 1700s. That is like giving someone $5,000.00 today"

That seems a bit much. I can't seem to find anything googling around that would say what an English Shilling was worth.

TitoBenito
12-10-2003, 09:19 PM
A shilling in 1700 was worth 4.62 in the year 2002. A lot to give a begger but not nearly $5,000.
http://eh.net/hmit/ppowerbp/

Nametag
12-10-2003, 10:04 PM
A shilling... "works out as fully equivalent to sixty or seventy guineas from a millionaire.... It's handsome. By George, it's enormous!"

Pygmalion, G.B. Shaw (yeah, I know, not 1700 -- work with me, here)

Markxxx
12-10-2003, 11:40 PM
So if a shilling was worth 4.62 pounds what could you buy for that. I mean in America in 1900 you could get lunch for a nickel according to books I've read.

How much was the average weekly wage in 1700?

bump
12-10-2003, 11:42 PM
So.. one guinea in 1700 was worth roughly 100 today, but only worth about 50 of today's pounds in 1804.

I didn't realize there was that much inflation over 100 years back then!

Then again, $100 in 1900 is worth $2130.30 in today's dollars, so I guess that's really not that bad.

TitoBenito
12-11-2003, 12:10 AM
Originally posted by Markxxx
So if a shilling was worth 4.62 pounds what could you buy for that. I mean in America in 1900 you could get lunch for a nickel according to books I've read.

How much was the average weekly wage in 1700?

No, but we are talking about modern pounds when I said 4.62 not pounds from 1700. A shilling at a certain time equalled exactly 1/20 a pound at the same time and continued to be so till 1971. So theoretically in 1700 a shilling could buy you about the same 4.62 could buy you now. Not being British, I'm not sure exactly what you could buy, but it could definatly get you a meal (probibly 1 and 1/2 meals)at McDonalds. That is of course if they had had McDonals back in the day.

Gunslinger
12-11-2003, 12:20 AM
4.62 is about equal to US$7 (the exchange rate varies daily, of course, but $1.50=1 is a good estimate).

So a shilling in 1700 would have the same buying power as $7 does today.

racinchikki
12-11-2003, 12:33 AM
Keep in mind, however, that even with the buying power being equal to $7 in today's money, things cost different amounts proportionate to each other. Currently, wool is much more expensive than cotton; back then, the reverse was true. Any manufactured good was proportionally more expensive then, while most food and many services were proportionately cheaper. I used to have exact figures (from 1720, not 1700, but still) available, but I can't seem to locate my notes.

Markxxx
12-11-2003, 12:47 AM
I guess I am not saying this right. For instance in 1900 a family in Brooklyn could get by on 10 dollars a week.

So giving someone 10 dollars in 1900 would be equivilent of giving someone a week's salary today.

That would be more accurate.

racinchikki
12-11-2003, 01:32 AM
I know I used to have a chart of what various things cost in the 1720s, but all I can remember is that a doubloon would buy you a cow. I did some creative googling and eventually found this page (http://footguards.tripod.com/08HISTORY/08_costofliving.htm):


1s (one shilling)
Dinner in a steakhouse - beef, bread and beer, plus tip.
Sign-on bonus for army recruitment: The king's Shilling.
Admission to Vauxhall Gardens
Admission to Ranelagh Gardens (although it could be as much as 2 guineas on masquerade nights).
A dish of beef at Vauxhall.
1lb of perfumed soap.
Postage of a one page letter from London to New York.
1lb of Parmesan cheese.

yabob
12-11-2003, 01:43 AM
Here's some notes:

http://oldbaileyonline.org/history/london-life/coinage.html

In normal times a loaf of bread could be purchased for a penny, while one and a half pence could buy you a meal at an Irish ordinary. If you wanted something rather more filling you could try a three penny ordinary, where a meal of meat and broth and beer was available for the advertised price. A quart of beer could be purchased for a penny, and a cup of coffee for the same price. Gin ordered by the quarter and half pint, would set you back a penny and two pence respectively.

As observed, things don't match up. Clothing was relatively more expensive against food and lodging. $5000 is an overstatement, but the point is well taken. A shilling would have been a bit much to hand to a beggar - 4 decent meals. "15 to 20 pounds was a low wage, and a figure closer to 40 pounds per annum was needed to keep a family." - a shilling would have been a substantial part of a day's wage (a pound was 20 shillings).

TitoBenito
12-11-2003, 06:55 PM
Originally posted by Markxxx
I guess I am not saying this right. For instance in 1900 a family in Brooklyn could get by on 10 dollars a week.

So giving someone 10 dollars in 1900 would be equivilent of giving someone a week's salary today.

That would be more accurate.

I think the problem is having to think in pounds and shillings rather than dollars.

$10 in 1900 could by you around what $213.03 can today. You can't then say that well if $10 has the worth $213.03 then today it must be worth $4538.18.

We already are accounting for the phenomina (no idea how to spell that) you are describing. By saying that 1 s. in 1700 is worth about 4.62 today we are using inflation (actually purchasing power but they are closely related). But when you try to say that "well 4.62was worth more back then", You are trying to count inflation twice. We already brought the value of 1 shilling from 1700 into the present, you can't sent that value back to 1700 and then back to the future again (Wow I actually got to use that in a sentence), which is essentially what you are doing with your nickle example.

Hari Seldon
12-11-2003, 08:49 PM
As it happens I recently read the book, The Lunar Men (highly recommended) and it was mentioned in passing that in the mid 18th century (but probably it wasn't much different at the beginning of the century), workmen at the Wedgewood factory, definitely not the most poorly paid in England, were making 4-5 shillings a week. The significance of this was that small coins were scarce and sometimes the factory would be forced to give a pound (20 shillings) to four or five workers to divide among themselves as best they could.

Now how does this square with the admission to Vauxhall Gardens and the other items mentioned above? Workingmen simply could not afford those luxuries and needed every farthing just to survive.

The point is that relative prices vary so much over the centuries that the question is nearly meaningless. My own opinion is that the only decent measure of inflation is indeed a workingmen's wages. If you do it that way, then today of low paid workingman might earn $400-500 a week, so that suggests a shilling is worth maybe $100.

I am typing this on a Toshiba laptop I paid under CAD2500 for two years ago. What would that have been worth in 1700?

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