Inflation Conversion Chart

Are you tired of people saying things like, "I remember when you could buy a house for 100 dollars, and cars were 5 dollars?" Do you always want to say something like, "Yeah, but you worked for 2 dollars a month, and besides you have to adjust the price for inflation," but you never had the data to challenge them? Well, now you do. I have used the Consumer Price Index numbers from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics to create this conversion chart.

How does it work?

Say, for example, that your grandfather is spouting-off about how a Coke was 5 cents when he was growing up, and now look at what they cost. If he was a kid in 1940, look-up the conversion factor in the chart below, which is 16.770. Now, simply multiply 5 cents by this conversion factor, and the price in today's dollars would be 83.85 cents. That's $10.06 for a 12-pack (probably 6.5 oz. bottles, too). I can get a 12-pack of Coke (in 12 oz. cans) for $5.95 any day of the week, less on sale. Those 5-cent Cokes don't look too impressive now, do they?

You could do it the other way. Say you want to know what $20 today would have bought in 1940. Take 20 and divide by 16.770 and you get 1.193, so $20.00 in 2014 dollars equals $1.19 in 1940 dollars.

If this is too confusing, you can use the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Inflation Calculator.

So, have fun, amaze your friends, annoy your neighbors, but remember this is only an exhibition, this is not a competition, please no wagering.


Year   Factor      Year   Factor      Year   Factor      Year   Factor

1913   23.715      1939   16.891      1965    7.453      1991    1.724
1914   23.478      1940   16.770      1966    7.246      1992    1.673
1915   23.246      1941   15.971      1967    7.029      1993    1.625
1916   21.540      1942   14.404      1968    6.747      1994    1.584
1917   18.342      1943   13.571      1969    6.397      1995    1.541
1918   15.548      1944   13.340      1970    6.051      1996    1.496
1919   13.571      1945   13.043      1971    5.797      1997    1.463
1920   11.739      1946   12.040      1972    5.617      1998    1.440
1921   13.116      1947   10.528      1973    5.288      1999    1.409
1922   13.975      1948    9.742      1974    4.762      2000    1.363
1923   13.730      1949    9.865      1975    4.364      2001    1.326
1924   13.730      1950    9.742      1976    4.126      2002    1.305
1925   13.416      1951    9.030      1977    3.874      2003    1.276
1926   13.264      1952    8.860      1978    3.601      2004    1.243
1927   13.493      1953    8.793      1979    3.234      2005    1.202
1928   13.730      1954    8.728      1980    2.849      2006    1.165
1929   13.730      1955    8.760      1981    2.583      2007    1.132
1930   14.059      1956    8.632      1982    2.433      2008    1.090
1931   15.446      1957    8.355      1983    2.357      2009    1.094
1932   17.137      1958    8.124      1984    2.260      2010    1.077
1933   18.060      1959    8.068      1985    2.182      2011    1.044
1934   17.521      1960    7.932      1986    2.142      2012    1.023
1935   17.137      1961    7.852      1987    2.067      2013    1.008
1936   16.891      1962    7.774      1988    1.985      
1937   16.304      1963    7.673      1989    1.893      
1938   16.651      1964    7.574      1990    1.796      
Data current as of February, 2014

How I arrived at these numbers

The numbers I use are CPI-U (1982-1984=100), series CUUR0000SA0, and here's the page that I use to extract the data. I use the annual CPI for each year. This yields a chart like that below.
Year     CPI       Year     CPI       Year     CPI       Year     CPI

1913      9.9      1939     13.9      1965     31.5      1991    136.2
1914     10.0      1940     14.0      1966     32.4      1992    140.3
1915     10.1      1941     14.7      1967     33.4      1993    144.5
1916     10.9      1942     16.3      1968     34.8      1994    148.2
1917     12.8      1943     17.3      1969     36.7      1995    152.4
1918     15.1      1944     17.6      1970     38.8      1996    156.9
1919     17.3      1945     18.0      1971     40.5      1997    160.5
1920     20.0      1946     19.5      1972     41.8      1998    163.0
1921     17.9      1947     22.3      1973     44.4      1999    166.6
1922     16.8      1948     24.1      1974     49.3      2000    172.2
1923     17.1      1949     23.8      1975     53.8      2001    177.1
1924     17.1      1950     24.1      1976     56.9      2002    179.9
1925     17.5      1951     26.0      1977     60.6      2003    184.0
1926     17.7      1952     26.5      1978     65.2      2004    188.9
1927     17.4      1953     26.7      1979     72.6      2005    195.3
1928     17.1      1954     26.9      1980     82.4      2006    201.6
1929     17.1      1955     26.8      1981     90.9      2007    207.3
1930     16.7      1956     27.2      1982     96.5      2008    215.3
1931     15.2      1957     28.1      1983     99.6      2009    214.5
1932     13.7      1958     28.9      1984    103.9      2010    218.1
1933     13.0      1959     29.1      1985    107.6      2011    224.9
1934     13.4      1960     29.6      1986    109.6      2012    229.6
1935     13.7      1961     29.9      1987    113.6      2013    233.0
1936     13.9      1962     30.2      1988    118.3      
1937     14.4      1963     30.6      1989    124.0      
1938     14.1      1964     31.0      1990    130.7      
Then I take the current CPI (for February, 2014 it's 234.781) and divide that number by all of the CPIs to get the conversion factors in the chart at the top of the page. That's all there is to it. I acknowledge that there may be some flaws in this methodology, but we're just trying to have fun, not get to the moon. More information can be had at The CPI Home Page.
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Last modified: 3 APR 2014

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