Monday, December 22, 2014

The Magic and Miracle of the Marketplace: Christmas 1964 vs. 2014

Pictured above are some color TVs from the 627-page 1964 Sears Christmas Catalog, available here at the WishbookWeb website along with many other Christmas catalogs from 1933 to 1988. The original prices are listed ($750 for the Sears Silvertone entertainment center and $800 for the more expensive one), and those prices are also shown converted to today’s 2014 dollars using the BLS Inflation Calculator$5,700 for the basic 21-inch color TV model and $6,100 for the more expensive model.

To put that in perspective, the pictures below illustrate what about $5,700 in today’s dollars (actually only $5,600) would buy in the 2014 marketplace using current prices from the Sears and Best Buy websites:

(via Mark Perry)


  1. Factor in that the stuff back then lasted 10 times longer and in the case of the TV, it was an actual piece of furniture made of wood not worthless plastic. The concept is correct but it is not exact equivalent comparison.

    1. lol.

      Funniest thing I've read all day!

    2. You're right, looking at a heavily bowed out cathode ray tube housed in a 400lb piece of furniture is much better than looking at a crisp HD flat screen, plus being able to look up any information about anything near the speed of sound, plus being able to take HD pictures with a 75MP camera, plus being able to wash and dry your clothes while you cook a chicken, and storing all the future chickens in the deep freeze, while simultaneously cooling your beer, veg, and eggs, and still have money left over for top of the line surround sound to rattle your colon, and be able to navigate your way to the nearest thrift store to pick up that 400lb piece of furniture with the useless piece of ancient history slotted in the middle for about $35. What a sound argument.

    3. On the electronics side one may be amused by 'ten times longer', longer if not used or if regularly repaired. Electronics have come a long way. However, serviceability and substance of an appliance has faltered over the years in favor of ease of manufacture and a lower price. A modern appliance doesn't even pay to service if a person is incapable of doing it himself. If it's broken, throw it away, get a new one. But old ones are far easier for a person to service themselves. simple to diagnosis and repair. Also the substance of the bodies has suffered immensely. Ever get a good feel for how a good 1950s stove is made? heavy gauge steel, castings, etc. Yesterday's mid/low market in this regard is pretty up market these days.

  2. This looks like a job for Paul Krugman. We can't have this kind of deflation out there.

  3. What happened to sticky prices and death by deflation? We should all be dead.

  4. I would swap a higher real income for old tech anyday.

    Real income hasn't moved for most people since the 70s.