The Magic and Miracle of the Marketplace: Christmas 1964 vs. 2014
Mark J. Perry
Pictured above are some color TVs from the 627-page 1964 Sears Christmas Catalog, available here at the WishbookWeb website along with many other Christmas catalogs from 1933 to 1988. The original prices are listed ($750 for the Sears Silvertone entertainment center and $800 for the more expensive one), and those prices are also shown converted to today’s 2014 dollars using the BLS Inflation Calculator: $5,700 for the basic 21-inch color TV model and $6,100 for the more expensive model.
To put that in perspective, the pictures below illustrate what about $5,700 in today’s dollars (actually only $5,600) would buy in the 2014 marketplace using current prices from the Sears and Best Buy websites:
Bottom Line: For an American consumer or household spending $750 in 1964, they would have been able to purchase the 21-inch color TV/entertainment center from the Sears Christmas catalog pictured above (includes phonograph and AM/FM radio). An American consumer or household spending that same amount of inflation-adjusted dollars today (about $5,600) would be able to furnish their entire kitchen with 5 brand-new appliances (refrigerator, gas stove and oven, washer, dryer, and freezer) and buy 7 state-of-the-art electronic items for their home (a Toshiba Satellite 14″ laptop computer, a Garmin 5 Inch GPS, a Canon EOS Rebel T5 DSLR Camera, a Sony 1,000 Watt, 5.1-Channel 3D Smart Blu-Ray Home Theater System, a Sharp 50 inch LED HDTV, an Apple iPod Touch 32GB MP3 Player, and an Apple iPhone 6 [with 2-year contract]). And of course, even a billionaire in 1964 wouldn’t have been able to purchase many of the items that even a teenager can afford today, e.g. laptop computer, GPS, iPhone, digital camera.
As much as we might complain about a slow economic recovery, the decline of the middle class, stagnant median household income, rising income inequality and a dysfunctional Congress, we have a lot to be thankful for, and we’ve made a lot of economic progress in the last 50 years as the example above illustrates, thanks to the “magic and miracle of the marketplace.”