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Comparing The Cost of Goods From 1920 To Today

Cost of Goods
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EDITOR NOTE: Here’s a curious piece around the cost of goods to consider. In 1921, exactly 100 years ago, the average home cost around $6,296. That was equivalent to 314 ounces of gold (as gold was $20 per ounce). Gold still backed all dollars printed and was actually in our US coinage. Today, the average American home costs around $408,800. Now here’s the kicker: in today’s gold market the same 314 gold pieces in circulated condition are worth $588,750 ($1875 per coin). In mint condition (MS-65+), the same coins would be worth $1.57 million ($5,000 per coin). Either way, you see the effect of inflation, and how gold--whether newly minted, common pre33 coins in poor condition, or coins in graded mint condition--all outpaced inflation. This tells you two things: first, gold is a supreme hedge against inflation, and second, gold numismatic coins provide supreme growth over and above its safe-haven properties. As inflation is about to accelerate toward unprecedented levels, non-CUSIP gold coins may be the best investments to hold if you seek safety and growth in the years to come.

Well, we've officially re-entered the roaring '20s, and while it doesn't seem like we're off to the greatest start, it can only get better, right? Now things are surely a lot different than they were 100 years ago. For starters, our main source of entertainment back in the '20s was listening to the radio, and "stream" was only a term used to describe a small river. But one of the most significant differences between then and now is the cost of goods.

You won't believe what a beautiful two-story house in the suburbs, an apartment in New York City, or even a shiny new car cost back in the day. The prices seem like pocket change in comparison to today's figures. It might even tempt you to hop in a time machine and travel back to 1920. But it's also important to remember that everything is relative.

As we review these costs, don't forget that the average household income in the United States in 1920 was approximately $3,269.40–that's about $42,142.08 today, with inflation–so keep that in mind as we travel back 100 years and do a little window shopping.


If you dreamed of making the white picket fence a reality, a new house would've cost approximately $6,296–about $77,339 today.

Apartment in NYC

In 1920, to rent an apartment in New York City cost $60 per month. With inflation, that's $773.00 in 2020 – which is still less than you'd pay to rent a single room nowadays.

Grocery Items

It's surprising what certain items at the grocery store would have set you back in 1920. For instance, a dozen eggs cost 47 cents ($6.06 today), one pound of round steak cost 40 cents ($5.16 today), and three pounds of macaroni cost 25 cents ($3.22 today).


As the automobile industry emerged in the 1920s, ladies would oftentimes paint their nails using high-gloss car paint. A manicure back then cost less than 25 cents ($3.22 today). If only manicures cost that much in 2020.


Ladies! Listen up. The most trendy hairstyle of the 1920s was the bob. To get the initial cut, it cost $5.00 ($64.25 today), and to upkeep the style it was $2.00 ($25.78 today) per week.


Walking down the aisle is a ridiculously expensive trip. American's currently spend, on average, $33,000 on the big day. In 1920, the average cost of a wedding was about $400 ($5,000 today).

New Radio

The latest entertainment medium at the time was quite pricey and was therefore seen as a major investment for most Americans. At the beginning of the 1920s, a new radio cost over $200 (over $2,577.00 today)! But by the end of the decade, prices dropped to a more affordable $35 ($451.14 today).

Movie Ticket

A ticket to catch a movie on the big screen cost 15 cents–which is about $1.93 today. That's a far cry from the national average of a movie ticket in 2020, which is $9.16.

Vinyl Records

If you weren't fortunate enough to have a radio in 1920 (that's okay, not many people were), then listening to vinyl records was your main source of entertainment at home. It cost anywhere between 85 cents ($10.96) to $1.25 ($16.11) to nab yourself a cool vinyl record.

Washing Machine

Laundry isn't just going to do itself, you know. But if you wanted a washing machine, it would've cost $81.50. With inflation, that's about $1,054–which doesn't seem too far off by today's standards.

Electric Vacuum Cleaner

The newest and hottest vacuum on the market, the Hoover Electric Cleaner, set households back about $39—or $503 today. How badly do you want clean carpets?

Diner Food

While you can expect to drop about $20-$30 bucks on a meal for two at a diner in 2020, the same meals would've cost about 70 cents ($18.23) in 1920. So not much has changed there.

New Car

A fresh set of wheels varies depending on the make and model, but a Chevrolet in the 1920s cost $525–which is about $6,790.30 today. Wouldn't it be nice to own a new car for that price in 2020?


"Fill 'er up!" A gallon of gas cost 30 cents in 1920. That would be equivalent to $3.87 per gallon now. Talk about a steep rate! That's quite a bit above our current national average of $2.18.

Half-Gallon of Milk

The average price for a 1/2 gal. of milk cost 33 cents back in the day. Today that'd be about $4.25, which is surprisingly more than our current average of $3.

Originally posted on Country Living

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All articles are provided as a third party analysis and do not necessarily reflect the explicit views of GSI Exchange and should not be construed as financial advice.

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