There was a time when telephone calls cost a dime a minute if you used Sprint, and you could get a shave and a haircut for two bits. Were those prices as cheap as they sound in retrospect, or were they on par with what we’d pay today, based on the value of today’s dollar? Here are a few classic price points for comparison purposes.
1. Motel 6
Motel 6 was founded in 1962 and got its name from its room price: $6. Even when the chain went national in 1968, they still kept that same low price by offering no-frills accommodations—the beds were on pedestals to reduce vacuuming time, and the television sets were coin-operated. Paying $6 for a room in 1968 is the same as $40.87 in 2014.
2. A Five-Cent Cigar
During a heated 1917 Senate debate, Senator Joseph Bristow of Kansas was in the midst of a long-winded speech that included a laundry list of “What this country needs….” statements. Vice President Thomas Marshall leaned over to a clerk and remarked loudly, “What this country needs is a really good five-cent cigar!” Paying a nickel for a stogie in 1917 would be the same as buying one for 93 cents today.
3. A $29.95 Paint Job
“I’ll paint any car, any color for $29.95!” Earl Scheib’s price went up gradually as the years went by, but when he first opened up shop in 1965, it ran you less than 30 bucks (sometimes with $10 worth of dent removal thrown in for free) to slap a new color on that AMC Rambler. Today that $29.95 paint job would cost the equivalent of $218.34.
4. Pepsi-Cola for a Nickel
Rival Coca-Cola was sold in six ounce bottles in 1946 at five cents a pop, so the Pepsi folks hit on the idea of selling their product in 12 ounce bottles for the same price: Pepsi-Cola hits the spot, twelve full ounces—that’s a lot! Twice as much for a nickel, too; Pepsi-Cola is the drink for you! Since five cents in 1946 is worth 61 cents today, Pepsi really was a bargain.
5. MAD Magazine for 25 Cents ("Cheap")
Image credit: MyTravelPhotos, via Flickr
What cost a quarter in 1961 would run $1.98 in 2014.
6. The $3990 Yugo
Direct from Yugoslavia, the $3990 Yugo was the lowest-priced new car on the U.S. market when it was introduced in 1986. That sticker price would read $8630.63 today. (The Yugo gained infamy in 1989 when one blew off while crossing Michigan’s Mackinac Bridge during a high wind and plunged into the Straits below.)
7. Apple I for $666.66
When the Apple I computer hit the market in 1976, the price tag was an unusual $666.66. Steve Wozniak said at the time the number had nothing to do with Satan and everything to do with his love of repetitive numerals. The cost of making that first Apple was about $540, so the $666.66 gave Woz both a decent mark-up and some obsessive-compulsive satisfaction. That original Apple would retail for $2777.62 today, which still contains a nice repeating digit but costs a heck of a lot more than an iPad.
8. The Six Million Dollar Man
Back in 1974, it cost $6,000,000 for the bionic parts needed to rebuild a better, stronger, faster Steve Austin (Lee Majors). Of course, today when the PowerBall jackpot is a mere $6 million it’s not worth a trip to the gas station to buy a ticket, but that amount in 1974 is actually the equivalent of $28,852,576.06 in 2014 dollars.
Motel 6 image via Wikimedia Commons