The Magic and Miracle of the Marketplace: Christmas 1964 vs. 2011 - There's No Comparison
Pictured above are some color TVs from the 627 page 1964 Sears Christmas Catalog, available here at WishbookWeb along with many other Christmas catalogs from 1933 to 1988. The original prices are listed ($750 for the Sears color TV console and $800 for the more expensive one), and those prices are also shown converted to today's 2010 dollars using the BLS Inflation Calculator: $5,300 for the basic console TV model and $5,650 for the more expensive model ($5,473 and $5,838 in 2011 dollars).
To put that in perspective, the pictures below illustrate what $5,300 in today's dollars would buy in the 2010 marketplace:
Bottom Line: For a consumer or household spending $750 in 1964, all they would have been able to afford was a console color TV from the Sears Christmas catalog. A consumer or household spending that same amount of inflation-adjusted dollars today (about $5,500) would be able to furnish their entire kitchen with 8 brand-new appliances (refrigerator, freezer, dishwasher, range, washer, dryer, microwave and blender) and buy 9 state-of-the-art electronic items (laptop, GPS, camera, home theater, plasma HDTV, iPod Touch, Blu-ray player, 300-CD changer and a Tivo recorder). And of course, even a billionaire in 1964 wouldn't have been able to purchase many of the items that even a teenager can afford today, e.g. laptop, GPS, digital camera.
As much as we might complain about high unemployment, a sub-par recovery, a dysfunctional Congress and a huge deficit, we have a lot to be thankful for, and we've made a lot of economic progress since the 1960s as the example above illustrates, thanks to the "magic of the marketplace."