The brochure produced by the National Park Service for the Fort Union Trading Post national historic site 25 miles southwest of Williston has lots of fun comments. I want to focus on the wages at the time and the wonderful beauty of free trade.
(Cross-posted from my other blog, Attestation Update. I am accumulating all my posts about transportation cost and prices into this blog, Outrun Change, for future reference.)
A while back I discussed a comment I read saying that when Caesar crossed the Rubicon, the Roman treasury held 17,410 pounds of gold, 22,070 pounds of silver and 6,135,400 sesterces.
I made a bunch of wild assumptions and estimated that volume of precious metals would be worth about $361M at today’s market prices.
A reader, Caleb, has expanded the discussion by indicating he thinks the value of gold was dramatically higher back then in relative terms that it is today. He estimates gold was around $7,000 an ounce in today’s dollars. See his comments at the above post for further explanation.
I enjoyed his comments so much I decided to create new post in order to extend the discussion.
(Cross-posted from a post on 8/22/14 from my other blog, Attestation Update. I’m accumulating all my posts on transportation time and prices in the past here on this blog. Someday plan to link them together to tell a larger story.)
Hadn’t thought about that question too much, but when Jacob Soll mentioned it in his book, The Reckoning: Financial Accountability and the Rise and Fall of Nations, it got me thinking.
He gives the following info:
In his Natural History, Pliny states that in 49 BCE , the year Caesar crossed the Rubicon, the Roman treasury contained 17,410 pounds of gold, 22,070 pounds of silver, and in coin, 6,135,400 sesterces.
Soll, Jacob (2014-04-29). The Reckoning: Financial Accountability and the Rise and Fall of Nations (Kindle Locations 276-277). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.
I don’t think in terms of pounds of gold or silver and I don’t know what a sesterce is or what it is worth. But I do know how to search the ‘net.
I share this on my Nonprofit Update blog and cross-post it here at Attestation Update because I enjoyed it and think it might be some fun trivia for accountants and people working in the faith-based community.
By the way, Prof Soll’s book is superb. Just got started reading it and think I will find lots of little tidbits to share. More on that idea in my next post.
How much is that worth?
I often make comparisons of costs or prices across time on this blog. Doing so is difficult. I just found two resources to help understand how to do a better job.
The value of money in colonial America from the UNC School of Education explains the British currency system based on pounds. Because mercantilism was the predominant thought on how to gain wealth, manufacturing in the 1700s was done in the home country and raw materials were exported from colonies. (How much mercantilism held back the economy in the home country and every colony is a discussion for another day.)
This made manufactured goods extraordinarily expensive. Things we would think were high-priced were actually inexpensive.
For example most people could afford to buy land and build their own home but few people could afford imported sheets.
The article suggests looking at probate documents to see how things were valued. Continue reading “Background on comparing costs and prices across time”