Yes, sixteen and a half cents was was cheap, but it really isn’t a fair comparison since wages were much less too. We really have to adjust for inflation. So let’s do that.
Price in 1939: $0.165 per gallon
Adjusted to 2014: $2.82 per gallon
Today: $3.60 per gallon
How about other items?
Here is an add from the Iowa City Press Citizen, May 11, 1939:
Let’s have a look compared to prices in Iowa City today.
Price in 1939: $0.055 per lb
Adjusted to 2014: $0.94 per lb
Today: $0.48 per lb
Price in 1939: $0.23 per lb
Adjusted to 2014: $3.94 per lb
Today: $3.77 per lb
Price in 1939: $0.15 per doz
Adjusted to 2014: $2.57 per doz
Today: $1.95 per doz
Price in 1939: $0.15 per quart
Adjusted to 2014: $6.33 per quart
Today: $4.14 per quart
Price in 1939: $1.29 per case
Adjusted to 2014: $22.08 per case
Today: $12.80 per case (Keystone Light)
Here are some other items…
Price in 1939: $0.59 per 100 count
Adjusted to 2014: $10.10 per 100 count
Today: $5.88 per 100 count (Walmart)
First Class Stamp
Price in 1939: $0.03
Adjusted to 2014: $0.51
Price in 1939: $0.21
Adjusted to 2014: $3.59
Today: $9.75 (Cedar Rapids Galaxy 16)
Price in 1939: $144.50 6.2 cu ft
Adjusted to 2014: $2,473.13
Today:$449.00 (Avanti 10.0 cu ft Refrigerator, Walmart)
Price in 1939: $37.95
Adjusted to 2014: $649.52
Today:$404.99 (Amana, top loading standard, Best Buy)
Price in 1939: $659.00 and up
Adjusted to 2014: $11,278.86 and up
Today:$17,520 and up (Chevy Cruz)
Price in 1939: $19.75
Adjusted to 2014: $338.02
Today:$698.00 (Brooks Brothers Madison Fit Solid Navy Wool Suit, Von Maur)
Price in 1939: $29.95
Adjusted to 2014: $512.60
Today:$519.00 (Weatherby® SA-08 Shotgun, Bass Pro Shops)
It is a mixed bag as to what costs more or less after adjusting for inflation. (Which it would have to be or the inflation calculator would make no sense.) For the record, I couldn’t find any 1939 prices for laptops, iPads, cell phones, cable television, television sets, satellite radio, Internet access, e-readers, video games, DVDs, Netflix, air conditioners, microwave ovens or MP3 players. That’s all stuff you pay for now that they paid nothing for. Worth remembering.
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