Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Toasters Were 12X More Costly in 1949 vs. Today

Cost of Sears Toaster in 1949: $16.95 or 13.5 hours of work at the average hourly manufacturing wage of $1.26:

Cost of Sears toaster in 2009: $19.99 or 1.1 hours of work at the average hourly manufacturing wage of $18.03:

Bottom Line: The price of a toaster in 1940 was 12.3 times more expensive in 1949 (13.5 hours) than in 2009 (1.1 hours), when the price is measured in the number of hours worked at the average manufacturing wage. If we paid the same price today as in 1949 (13.5 hours at the average hourly wage of $18.03), a toaster today would cost $243.40. See related post below.


At 1/14/2009 3:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The price of a basic toaster in 1949 in America - do you mean that?
The basic toaster in England was a wire three prong fork that you impaled the bread on and held it up to the fire.

At 1/14/2009 8:57 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Do they have any Sears homes in that catalog?

At 1/14/2009 9:09 AM, Blogger Matt Young said...

"Do they have any Sears homes in that catalog?" B asks.

"From 1908–1940, Sears, Roebuck and Co. sold about 70,000 - 75,000 homes through their mail-order Modern Homes program. "

I looked it up for I always remember my dad telling me that mail order homes came complete and ready to assemble, all loaded on a rail car.

The issue came up for me a few weeks ago when I noticed that Chinese reform of property laws will require Sears to go into the mail order home business again, for the Chinese, who will need something like 50 million standard, but small, ranch houses if property reform goes through.

At 1/14/2009 9:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The quality of the 1949 toaster featured in this entry was far, FAR better than the current $20 toaster to which you compare it.

My grandmother is STILL using her 1940's toaster to make her toast for breakfast, as she has been doing every day for the last 60 years, and it is going strong. We, on the other hand, seem to go through a toaster every couple of years because they SUCK.

High-end retailers, such as Williams Sonoma, carry $250 toasters of similar quality to the $20 unit of days gone by.

At 1/14/2009 9:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aren't you conflating intertemporal toaster quality? :-)

The $19.99 2009 toaster is the basic model. The $16.95 1949 toaster is the deluxe model.

The 1949 Sears catalogue photograph seems to be cut off on the right side such that the basic toaster price is not visible. Let's call it $6.95. So toasters were only 5X more expensive in 1949 based on average pre-tax hourly wages. Do you think that the X factor would be even less based on average after-tax hourly wages?

At 1/14/2009 9:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Drew Carey does a great short film about this very thing over at It's called "Living Large".

Here's the link:

At 1/14/2009 2:23 PM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

1) I'm sure it's still a lot cheaper in hours worked, even when taxes and "equivalent models" are compared. That difference is far too high for those things to be relevant, and, if you want to compare "basic models" $20 is about 30% more than the $15 designs I've seen at Wal-Mart.

2) Regarding "store-bought" homes -- the local construction industries use bogus safety code regs to restrict that industry from gaining ground. Most homes COULD be assembled from factory-produced standard wall segments assembled on-site by trained people, but that would mean a lot less vastly overpaid Union laborers. So they make various bogus claims about how such pre-fab housing is "unsafe" and use political pressure to push laws which prevent such techniques from being used in many, if not all, venues. Are we surprised? We are not.


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