Of Price As Measured By Money





201. The money price at which an article sells furnishes us

with comparatively little information respecting its value, if we

compare distant intervals of time and different countries; for

gold and silver, in which price is usually measured, are

themselves subject, like all other commodities, to changes in

value; nor is there any standard to which these variations can be

referred. The average price of a certain quality of different

manufactured articles, or of raw produce, has been suggested as a

standard; but a new difficulty then presents itself; for the

improved methods of producing such articles render their money

price extremely variable within very limited periods. The annexed

table will afford a striking instance of this kind of change

within a period of only twelve years.



Prices of the following articles at Birmingham, in the

undermentioned years



Description 1818 1824 1828 1830

s. d. s. d. s. d. s. d.

Anvils cwt 25 0 20 0 16 0 13 0

Awls, polished, Liverpool gross 2 6 2 0 1 6 1 2

Bed-screws, 6 inches long gross 18 0 15 0 6 0 5 0

Bits, tinned. for bridles doz. 5 0 5 0 3 3 2 6

Bolts for doors, 6 inches doz. 6 0 5 0 2 3 1 6

Braces for carpenters, with 12 bits set 9 0 4 0 4 2 3 5

Buttons, for coats gross 4 6 6 3 3 0 2 2

Buttons, small, for waistcoats gross 2 6 2 0 1 2 0 8

Candlesticks, 6 in., brass pair 2 1 1 2 0 1 7 1 2

Curry-combs, six barred doz. 2 9 2 6 1 5 0 1 1

Frying-pans cwt 25 0 21 0 18 0 16 0

Gun-locks, single roller each 6 0 5 2 1 10 1 6

Hammers. shoe, No. 0 doz. 6 9 3 9 3 0 2 9







Description 1818 1824 1828 1830

s. d. s. d. s. d. s. d.

Hinges, cast-butts, 1 inch doz. 0 10 0 71/2 0 31/4 0 21/4

Knobs, brass, 2 inches for commodes doz. 4 0 3 6 1 6 1 2

Latches for doors, bright thumb doz. 2 3 2 2 1 0 0 9

Locks for doors, iron rim, 6 inches doz. 38 0 32 0 15 0 13 6

Sad-irons and other castings cwt 22 6 20 0 14 0 11 6

Shovel and tongs, fire-irons pair 1 0 1 0 0 9 0 6

Spoons, tinned table gross 17 6 15 0 10 0 7 0

Stirrups, plated pair 4 6 3 9 1 6 1 1

Trace-chains cwt 28 0 25 0 19 6 16 6

Trays, japanned tea, 30 inches each 4 6 3 0 2 0 1 5

Vices for blacksmiths cwt 30 0 28 0 22 0 19 6

Wire, brass lb. 1 10 1 4 1 0 0 9

--, iron, No. 6 bund. 16 0 13 0 9 0 7 0





202. I have taken some pains to assure myself of the accuracy

of the above table: at different periods of the years quoted the

prices may have varied; but I believe it may be considered as a

fair approximation. In the course of my enquiries I have been

favoured with another list, in which many of the same articles

occur, but in this last instance the prices quoted are separated

by an interval of twenty years. It is extracted from the books of

a highly respectable house at Birmingham; and the prices confirm

the accuracy of the former table, so far as they relate to the

articles which are found in that list.



Prices of 1812 and 1832

Reduction

per cent in

price of

Description 1812 1832 1812

s. d. s. d.



Anvils cwt 25 0 14 0 44

Awls, Liverpool blades gross 3 6 1 0 71

Candlesticks, iron, plain 3 103/4 2 31/2 41

screwed 6 41/2 3 9 41

Bed screws, 6 inch square head gross 7 6 4 6 40

flat head gross 8 6 4 8 45

Curry-combs, 6 barred dozen 4 01/2 1 0 75



Reduction

per cent in

price of

Description 1812 1832 1812

s. d. s. d.



Curry-combs, 8 barred dozen 5 51/2 1 5 74

patent, 6 barred dozen 7 11/2 1 5 80

8 barred dozen 8 63/4 1 10 79

Fire-irons, iron head, No. 1. 1 41/2 0 73/4 53

No. 2 1 6 0 81/2 53

No. 3 1 81/4 0 91/2 53

No. 4 1 101/2 0 101/2 53

Gun-locks, single roller each 7 21/2 1 11 73

Locks, 1 1/4 brass, port. pad 16 0 2 6 85

2 1/2 inch 3 keyed till-locks each 2 2 0 9 65

Shoe tacks gross 5 0 2 0 60

Spoons, tinned, iron table gross 22 6 7 0 69

Stirrups. com. tinned, 2 bar dozen 7 0 2 9 61

Trace-chains, iron cwt 46 91/2 15 0 68



Prices of the principal materials, used in mines in Cornwall, at

different periods [I am indebited to Mr John Taylor for this

interesting table]



ALL DELIVERED AT THE MINES



Description 1800 1810 1820 1830 1832

s. d. s. d. s. d. s. d. s. d.

Coals wey 81 7 85 5 53 4 51 0 40 0

Timber (balk) foot 2 0 4 0 1 5 1 0 0 10

(oak) foot 3 31/2 3 0 3 6 3 3

Ropes cwt 66 0 84 0 48 6 40 0 40 0

Iron (common bar) cwt 20 6 14 6 11 0 7 0 6 6

Common castings cwt 16 0 15 0 8 0 6 6

Pumps cwt 16s. & 17s. 17s. & 18s. 12s. & 15s. 6 6 6 10

Gunpowder 100 lbs. 114 2 117 6 68 0 52 6 49 0

Candles 9 3 10 0 8 9 5 11 4 10

Tallow cwt 72 0 84 0 65 8 52 6 43 0

Leather lb. 2 4 2 3 24 22 21

Blistered steel cwt 50 0 44 0 38 0

2s. nails cwt 32 0 28 6 22 0 17 0 16 6





203. I cannot omit availing myself of this opportunity of

calling the attention of the manufacturers, merchants, and

factors, in all our manufacturing and commercial towns, to the

great importance, both for their own interests, and for that of

the population to which their capital gives employment, of

collecting with care such averages from the actual sales

registered in their books. Nor, perhaps, would it be without its

use to suggest, that such averages would be still more valuable

if collected from as many different quarters as possible; that

the quantity of the goods from which they are deduced, together

with the greatest deviations from the mean, ought to be given;

and that if a small committee were to undertake the task, it

would give great additional weight to the information. Political

economists have been reproached with too small a use of facts,

and too large an employment of theory. If facts are wanting, let

it be remembered that the closet-philosopher is unfortunately too

little acquainted with the admirable arrangements of the factory,

and that no class of persons can supply so readily, and with so

little sacrifice of time, the data on which all the reasonings of

political economists are founded, as the merchant and

manufacturer; and, unquestionably, to no class are the deductions

to which they give rise so important. Nor let it be feared that

erroneous deductions may be made from such recorded facts: the

errors which arise from the absence of facts are far more

numerous and more durable than those which result from unsound

reasoning respecting true data.



204. The great diminution in price of the articles here

enumerated may have arisen from several causes: 1. The alteration

in the value of the currency. 2. The increased value of gold in

consequence of the increased demand for coin. The first of these

causes may have had some influence, and the second may have had a

very small effect upon the two first quotations of prices, but

none at all upon the two latter ones. 3. The diminished rate of

profit produced by capital however employed. This may be

estimated by the average price of three per cents at the periods

stated. 4. The diminished price of the raw materials out of which

these articles were manufactured. The raw material is principally

brass and iron, and the reduction upon it may, in some measure,

be estimated by the diminished price of iron and brass wire, in

the cost of which articles, the labour bears a less proportion

than it does in many of the others. 5. The smaller quantity of

raw material employed, and perhaps, in some instances, an

inferior, quality of workmanship. 6. The improved means by which

the same effect was produced by diminished labour.



205. In order to afford the means of estimating the influence

of these several causes, the following table is subjoined:



1812 1818 1824 1828 1830 1832

Average Price of L s d. L s. d. L s d L s. d L s d L s. d

Gold. per oz 4 15 6 4 0 3 17 61/2 3 17 7 3 17 91/2 3 17 10 1/2

Value of currency. per cent 79 5 3 97 6 10 100 100 100 100

Price of 3 per cent consols 591/4 781/4 935/8 86 893/4 821/2

Wheat per quarter 6 5 0 4 1 0 3 2 l 3 1 1 10 3 14 6 2 19 3



English pig iron at Birmingham 7 l0 0 6 7 6 6 l0 0 5 10 0 4 l0 0



English bar iron at Birmingham 10 10 0 9 10 0 7 15 0 6 0 0 5 0 0

Swedish bar iron in London, excluding duty of from L4 to L6 10s

per ton 16 10 0 17 10 0 14 0 0 14 10 0 13 15 0 13 2 0





As this table, if unaccompanied by any explanation, might

possibly lead to erroneous conclusions, I subjoin the following

observations, for which I am indebted to the kindness of Mr

Tooke, who may yet, I hope, be induced to continue his valuable

work on High and Low Prices, through the important period which

has elapsed since its publication.



'The table commences with 1812, and exhibits a great falling

off in the price of wheat and iron coincidently with a fall in

the price of gold, and leading to the inference of cause and

effect. Now, as regards wheat, it so happened that in 1812 it

reached its highest price in consequence of a series of bad

harvests, when relief by importation was difficult and enormously

expensive. In December, 1813, whilst the price of gold had risen

to L5, the price of wheat had fallen to 73s., or 50 per cent

under what it had been in the spring of 1812; proving clearly

that the two articles were under the influence of opposite

causes.



'Again, in 1812, the freight and insurance on Swedish iron

were so much higher than at present as to account for nearly the

whole of the difference of price: and in 1818 there had been an

extensive speculation which had raised the price of all iron, so

that a part of the subsequent decline was a mere reaction from a

previously unfounded elevation. More recently, in 1825, there was

a great speculative rise in the article, which served as a strong

stimulus to increased production: this, aided by improved power

of machinery, has proceeded to such an extent as fully to account

for the fall of price.'



To these reflections I will only add, that the result of my

own observation leads me to believe that by far the most

influential of these causes has been the invention of cheaper

modes of manufacturing. The extent to which this can be carried,

while a profit can yet be realized at the reduced price, is truly

astonishing, as the following fact, which rests on good

authority, will prove. Twenty years since, a brass knob for the

locks of doors was made at Birmingham; the price, at that time,

being 13s. 4d. per dozen. The same article is now manufactured,

having the same weight of metal, and an equal, or in fact a

slightly superior finish, at 1s. 9 1/4d. per dozen. One

circumstance which has produced this economy in the manufacture

is, that the lathe on which these knobs are finished is now

turned by a steam-engine; so that the workman, relieved from that

labour, can make them twenty times as fast as he did formerly.



206. The difference of price of the same article, when of

various dimensions at different periods in the same country--and

in different countries--is curiously contrasted in the annexed

table.



Comparative price of plate glass, at the manufactories of

London, Paris, Berlin, and Petersburg



DIMENSIONS LONDON PARIS BERLIN PETERSBURG

Height Breadth 1771 1794 1832 1825 1835 1828 1825

in inches in inches L s d L s d L s d L s d L s d L s d L s d

16 16 0103 0101 0176 087 076 081 0410

30 20 146 232 2610 11610 1710 0106 1210

50 30 24 2 4 11 5 0 6 12 10 9 0 5 5 0 3 8 13 0 5 15 0

60 40 67 14 10 27 0 0 13 9 6 22 7 5 10 4 3 21 18 0 12 9 0

76 40 43 6 0 19 2 9 36 4 5 14 17 5 35 2 11 17 5 0

90 50 84 8 0 34 12 9 71 3 8 28 13 4 33 18 7

100 75 275 0 0 74 5 10 210 13 3 70 9 7

120 75 97 15 9 354 3 2 98 3 10





The price of silvering these plates is twenty per cent on the

cost price for English glass; ten per cent on the cost price for

Paris plates; and twelve and a half on those of Berlin.



The following table shews the dimensions and price, when

silvered, of the largest plates of glass ever made by the British

Plate Glass Company, which are now at their warehouse in London:



Height Breadth Price when silvered

Inches Inches L s. d.



132 84 200 8 0

146 81 220 7 0

149 84 239 1 6

131 83 239 10 7

160 80 246 15 4





The prices of the largest glass in the Paris lists when

silvered, and reduced to English measure, were:



Year Inches Inches Price when silvered

L s. d.

1825 128 80 629 12 0

1835 128 80 136 19 0





207. If we wish to compare the value of any article at

different periods of time, it is clear that neither any one

substance, nor even the combination of all manufactured goods,

can furnish us with an invariable unit by which to form our scale

of estimation. Mr Malthus has proposed for this purpose to

consider a day's labour of an agricultural labourer, as the unit

to which all value should be referred. Thus, if we wish to

compare the value of twenty yards of broad cloth in Saxony at the

present time, with that of the same kind and quantity of cloth

fabricated in England two centuries ago, we must find the number

of days' labour the cloth would have purchased in England at the

time mentioned, and compare it with the number of days' labour

which the same quantity of cloth will now purchase in Saxony.

Agricultural labour appears to have been selected, because it

exists in all countries, and employs a large number of persons,

and also because it requires a very small degree of previous

instruction. It seems, in fact, to be merely the exertion of a

man's physical force; and its value above that of a machine of

equal power arises from its portability, and from the facility of

directing its efforts to arbitrary and continually fluctuating

purposes. It may perhaps be worthy of enquiry, whether a more

constant average might not be deduced from combining with this

species of labour those trades which require but a moderate

exertion of skill and which likewise exist in all civilized

countries, such as those of the blacksmith and carpenter,

etc.(1*) In all such comparisons there is, however, another

element, which, though not essentially necessary, will yet add

much to our means of judging.



It is an estimate of the quantity of that food on which the

labourer usually subsists, which is necessary for his daily

support, compared with the quantity which his daily wages will

purchase.



208. The existence of a class of middlemen, between small

producers and merchants, is frequently advantageous to both

parties; and there are certain periods in the history of several

manufactures which naturally call that class of traders into

existence. There are also times when the advantage ceasing, the

custom of employing them also terminates; the middlemen,

especially when numerous, as they sometimes are in retail trades,

enhancing the price without equivalent good. Thus, in the recent

examination by the House of Commons into the state of the coal

trade, it appears that five-sixths of the London public is

supplied by a class of middlemen who are called in the trade

Brass plate coal merchants: these consist principally of

merchants' clerks, gentlemen's servants, and others, who have no

wharfs of their own, but merely give their orders to some true

coal merchant, who sends in the coals from his wharf: the brass

plate coal merchants, of course, receiving a commission for his

agency.



209. In Italy this system is carried to a great extent

amongst the voituriers, or persons who undertake to convey

travellers. There are some possessed of greater fluency and a

more persuasive manner who frequent the inns where the English

resort, and who, as soon as they have made a bargain for the

conveyance of a traveller, go out amongst their countrymen and

procure some other voiturier to do the job for a considerably

smaller sum, themselves pocketing the difference. A short time

before the day of starting, the contractor appears before his

customer in great distress, regretting his inability to perform

the journey on account of the dangerous illness of a mother or

some relative, and requesting to have his cousin or brother

substituted for him. The English traveller rarely fails to

acquiesce in this change, and often praises the filial piety of

the rogue who has deceived him.



NOTES:



1. Much information for such an enquiry is to be found, for the

particular period to which it refers, in the Report of the

Committee of the House of Commons on Manufacturers' Employment, 2

July, 1830.





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