All those planes in catalogs seemed *so* cheap.

It’s hard not to look at historical catalogs and be in awe at how cheap those planes seem. In an 1894 Sargent catalog, a low-end No.107 block plane sold for $0.60, whilst the highest end plane, whilst the No.1317 with all the bells and whistles sold for $2.05. Doesn’t seem like a lot. How much is it really?


In this period, the average income for a family living in the northeast was $748.81, of which the major expenditure was on food – $306.31 (this income equates to approx. $20,356 in 2017 $). After all expenditures, it left about $52.37, or $1.00 per week. So a 60¢ plane cost less than a weeks worth of savings. To compare this, the median household income in the US in 2014 was $51,939. So about 2.5 times its 2017 equivalent. With inflation, that 60¢ plane is worth about $16.31 today. Can one buy a plane for $16 today? No. Unless you pick up an equivalent vintage plane somewhere, it’s impossible to find a similar plane today for that price. The closest, might be the garish red-and-green No.110 from German manufacturer Kunz, which sells for about $40. Or at a similar price point maybe the more adjustable Stanley “Standard Block Plane”.

Sometimes it would be interesting to travel back in time, just to see the variety of planes available in the late 19th century.

[1] Hanger, G.W.W., Cost-Of-Living and Retail Prices in the United States, 1890 to 1903, Bulletin of the United States Bureau of Labor


One thought on “All those planes in catalogs seemed *so* cheap.

  1. Rich Adams Fine Art says:

    I did a similar kind of analysis on my own about three years ago and was amazed at how expensive our modern homes and cars are comparatively. We are paying far more now for our core conveniences like homes and autos than Americans did a century ago. It was started by me wondering about home ownership and our seemingly untenable debt that Americans seem to have less and less concern about being saddled with. It eventually led to my wife and I cutting out expenses and paying off our home instead. Best decision we ever made and now I can afford the occasional hand tool without guilt.

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