Well, wages have gone up about 3,800% but bread has gone up more than 3,900% and the price of a decent bit of steak has risen by as much as 5,000% or more. A bag of coal has gone up more than 6,000%.
An apple a day1953 was the first year eating apples made it into the inflation shopping basket, and for 20 cigarettes. It was also the first year for electricity, gas and a bar of soap. Those three only stayed in the basket until 1967.
And there are some items in the 1953 inflation basket that are now so rarely bought they are no longer included and there is no equivalent – lard, removed in 1992, and cocoa, removed in 1968, for example.
Comparing like with likeSome comparisons are not exact because the same items do not exist in today's inflation shopping basket. I asked my mother-in-law for the best comparisons with modern day Office of National Statistics items.
She said the sirloin steak was closest to the modern rump steak and the beef brisket was closest of the modern braising steak. And she suggested the pork leg with the foot off was closer to the modern loin cut.
My questions prompted an immediate bout of nostalgia and my mother-in-law lamented the way supermarkets had butchered the local butchers, bakers and greengrocers. She told me: "Bring back the high street of specialist shops and get rid of these supermarkets, I say. I used to love going shopping and now I loathe it." She's probably not alone on that.
The 1953 inflation basket (January 2012 price in brackets)
- British sirloin beef (without the bone) 34.9p (£14.08)
- British beef brisket (with bone) 17.4p (£9.13)
- Mutton leg (British) 31.2p (£8.26)
- Pork, leg (foot off), Home killed 31.2p (£6.64)
- Ham, cooked and sliced 77.1p (£1.56)
- Bacon, streaky 25.7p (£9.13)
- Fresh cod cuts 19.6p (£12.24)
- White loaf unwrapped 3.1p (£1.25)
- Loose tea (125g) 6.6p (98.5p)
- Sugar granulated 7p (£1.07)
- Pint of milk 2.9p (46p)
- Butter 9.2p (£1.44)
- Cheddar cheese 23.9p (£8.12)
- Margarine 8.3p (£1.65)
- Lard 9.2p
- Eggs (size 4) 27.5p (£2.69)
- Potatoes 1.8p (64p)
- Green cabbage 2.9p (82p)
- Onions 4.3p (88p)
- Eating apples 10.6p (£1.67)
- Oranges 9.2p (31p each orange)
- Cocoa 38.6
- Pint of beer 9.1p (£2.73)
- Coal (50kg) 27.2p (£16.84)
- Electricity (per KWH) 0.7p
- Gas per therm 8.1p
- Soap (per lb) 10.1p
- 20 cigarettes 17.9p (£6.72)
The item that sticks out for price increases is coal. Its price has gone up more than 6000%. It is 62 times more expensive now than 60 years ago. Coal was removed from the inflation basket in 1967 when it cost 60.1p. It was reintroduced in 1987 – after the 1984/85 miners strike and the closure of nearly 60 UK mines – at a price of £5.29.
The price of beef has soared, with all meat and fish produce rising significantly, as not just the nation eats more but the world. As developed countries get richer, people who subsisted on a mainly vegetarian diet want to eat Western quantities of meat, pushing up prices.
It also has a knock-on effect on the price of wheat – an animal feed as well as a staple for our daily bread.
Pay comparisonsDo you want to know how much we took home in our pay packets back then? According to the ONS the closest stat that was collected was the average weekly wage of a male manual worker. This was £9.5/11d (£5.0/2d for a woman). The male manual wage in modern money it was a ha'penny under £9.30
Today's only comparable figure is the average weekly earnings across all sectors and both sexes. It is £465. If you spent all the average male weekly wage in 1953 on bread, you would have been able to buy 300 loaves. Today you'd only be able to buy 292. Women on the other hand are much better off these days
That's something to think about as the upper crust celebrates the Queen's diamond jubilee.