Prices, United Kingdom, 1970-71

Monday 19 May 2014, 8.40pm HKT

9.20am local time, 29°C (84°F), super humid and pissing down

MY old man and I occasionally kept strange records to show where and how our bread and honey went.

While I’m still hacking Part 3 of my Elle Ess Dee story, I thought this might be interesting to some.

old rolodex

The Rolodex: “in which low-tech trumps high-tech”
(via Shane Burnett)

Oh, back when you got hired because they liked the cut of your jib

How loaded were we back then? Truth be told, not a great deal.

But everyone DID make enough to feed and clothe themselves properly, plus a few smokes, a couple of pints, and a bit of fun on a weekend or two. And that was that. Whatever’s left over, it was saved up.

As a rule, pay was weekly on Thursday (not monthly today). People were flush and the shops stayed open till 8pm every Thursday.

Since Thursday was also P.A.Y.E. (Pay-As-You-Earn) day for income-tax payments throughout the year, the IRA wised up and carried out Thursday bombings — which it did so nearly every Thursday throughout the time I was living there.

TABLE 1: Wage and home selling price then and now

Item Then (1970–73) Now (2013–14)
Wage, weekly average £30–£40 pw (~£2,000 pa) £400–£500 pw (£25,000 pa)
Home selling price (national average) £5,000 – £6,000 £150,000 – £250,000

Data by author © The Naked Listener’s Weblog, 2014. (My refs Folio #EC-70-3 and Rolodex #3.) Table created via Quackit.

Note that the home selling price was just 3 times the average yearly income. A quick glance at any British newspaper classifieds easily turns up prices in the £200,000 region.

Life in the 1970s was embarrassingly cheap to live

People have three basic needs — food, clothing and shelter. If your average minimum-wage job won’t cover the cost of these, something’s wrong.

Food was your biggest spend in those days. A fifth of your cash went into feeding yourself (and your folks). Today it’s energy and fuel, which feeds your gadgets, your car and your Internet porn addiction.

Data from Dad’s and my own private notes. Current data from email with friends specially for this post.

TABLE 2: Average prices in 1970–71
Decimal and metric equivalents in brackets where given. VAT introduced in 1973 and levied on some goods and services at 8% standard rate. Current (2014) rate is 20%. Most food and clothing items are VAT-exempt (‘zero-rated’) then and now.

Item 1970 1971 2013-14
1 Bacon, back (lb) 65¼d (5s.5¼d) 32.7p (72p kg)
2 Beef, rump steak (lb) 114d (9½ shillings) 57p (£1.25 kg)
3 Beer, lager (pint) 40d (3s.4d) 20p £2.10
4 Beer, ‘Tarkin’ (pint) (1974) 14p
5 Bread, white unsliced 800g (loaf) 1 shilling (5p) 8.8p–10p 60p
6 Butter, 8-4/5 oz 250g 2 shillings (10p) 10.1p–15p
7 Calculator, pocket, generic usu. £10
8 Calculator, Sinclair Cambridge £19.95
9 Camera, Polaroid £6.8s.0d (£6.40) £7.30
10 Camp bed £2.19s.6d (£2.98) £3.72
11 Car, Mini Cooper £480–£550 £600 £10,500
12 Car, Range Rover (launched 1970) £1988 £57,000
13 Carrots (lb) 6d 3.3p (7.3p kg)
14 Chanel No. 5 Parfum, 50cc £3.19
15 Cheese, cheddar (lb) 37d (3s.1d) 18.5p (40.8p kg)
16 Cigarettes, 5s, Park Lane 5p
17 —, 10s, Players No 6 10.5p
18 —, 20s (average) 40d (3s.4d) 20p £4.65
19 —, 20s, Benson & Hedges (1978) 57p
20 —, 20s, Cadets 1s.9d (9½p) 12p
21 —, 20s, Consulates 2s.3d (21½p) 27p
22 —, 20s, Players No 6 King Size 29p
23 —, 20s, Players No 6 Plain 24p
24 —, 20s, Players No 6 Regular 21p
25 —, 20s, Players No. 6 (1978) 52p
26 Coffee, instant, 100g 45d (3s.9d) 22.7p
27 Confectionery, Drumstick Lolly 1d (½p) 1p
28 Confectionery, Mars bar 6d (3p) 2p then 6p 65p
29 Crisps, average (bag) 5d (2½p) 5p–8p 65p
30 Crisps, Spicy Tomato Snaps (bag) 2½d (1¼p) 5p 65p
31 Digestive biscuits (pkt) 6d (3p) 8½p
32 Eggs (dozen) 3s.4d (18p) 23.2p
33 Flour (lb) 9d 4.9p (10.8p kg)
34 Fruit, Apples (lb) 16½d 8.4p (18.5p kg)
35 Fruit, Bananas (bunch) 2s.8d (14p) 18p
36 Fruit, Bananas (lb) 15¾d (1s.3¾d) 7.6p (16.8p kg)
37 Fruit, Lemon (each) 6d (2½p) 5p
38 Gramophone, portable £21 £26.23
39 Ham, cooked & sliced (lb) 100½d (8s.4½d) 50.3p (£1.11 kg)
40 Hamburger, McDonald’s (1974) (1974) 18p
41 Hamburger, Wimpy’s 2 shillings (10p) 10p
42 Heater, convector 2 kW £5.17s.0d (£5.85) £7.31
43 House, average selling price £4,640 £5,632 ~£200,000
44 Jelly sweets (portion) ½d less than 1p
45 Lamb, loin (lb) 60d (5 shillings) 25p (57p kg)
46 LP record £2.8s.0d (£2.40) £3
47 Magazine, “Look-In” (1977) (1977) 9p
48 Magazine, “TV Times” 15p
49 Matches, book of ½d (¼p) 1½p
50 Meal, Breakfast 2s.6d (13p) (1972) 25p min. £3
51 —, Fish & chips, 1970/1971 5 shillings 25p
52 —, Fish & chips, 1975 (1975) 40p
53 —, Fish & chips, 1976 (1976) 50p
54 —, Fish & chips, 1980 (1980) 83p
55 —, Fish & chips, 2013, Suffolk (2013) £2.50
56 —, Fish & chips, 2013, London (2013) £5
57 —, Fish & chips, 2013, Cambridge (2013) £9
58 —, School dinner (luncheon) 10½p–12p
59 Milk, pasteurised (pint) 4.7p or 65p gal
60 Music stereo player/centre £96.29
61 Onions (lb) 5.7p (12.6p kg)
62 Petrol (gallon) 6s.2d (31p) 33p
63 Potatoes (lb) 4d (2p) 5p–10p
64 Radio, portable £4.18s.4d (£4.92) £6.15
65 Rent, 1-room basement flat £2.10d.0d pw (£2.50 pw) £3.12 pw
66 Rent, bedsit (1979) £25 pw
67 Ring, diamond engagement £13.11d.2d (£13.56) £16.95
68 Sewing machine, electric £38.7s.0d £36.95
69 Sugar, granulated (lb) 3.8p (8.3p kg)
70 Sugar, 2 lb 3½d (2p) 7p–8p
71 Ticket, movie, “Love Story” 30p–90p
72 Ticket, Wembley Cup Final £2
73 Train, London-Manchester, 1 way £1.4s.0d (£1.20) £2.50
74 Tomatoes (lb) 14p (30.9p kg)
75 Typewriter, electric £20 £24.99
76 Typewriter, Olivetti Lettera 32 £12 £18 over £400
77 Washing machine, twin tub £90.13s.0d (£90.65) £131.29
78 Whisky (750mL bot) £2.69 £12
79 Wine (750mL bot) £1 (1972) 99p £4.55

Data by author © The Naked Listener’s Weblog, 2014. (My refs Folio #EC-70-3 and Rolodex #3.) Table created via Quackit.

Wozzit in today’s money?

screenshot safalra historical price converterSafalra’s Historical UK Inflation and Price Conversion converts prices in any year from 1751 to 2013 adjusted for UK inflation.

With that, compare a 1970 price vs. probable price today against the price you are actually paying now.

Whisky (#79) at £2.69 a bottle in 1970 should be £41 today, but actual average is £12.

Unfortunately, the converter accepts only decimal input or it doesn’t work. Wait for Elle Ess Dee Part 3, which shows how to convert pre-decimal £.s.d into decimal form.

‘You need to hit the bricks to get a job

This might be your baby-boomer parent to a T (usually the dad).

brickwallI’m the last of the baby boomers.

Sometimes I effing hate my generation’s mentality.

There IS truth that we’re a bunch of selfish brats, blaming all problems on others.

It annoys me to hear some baby-boomer dad rant that the young’uns are lazy and stuff.

Yeah, that’s just your opinion, mate. It’s like, we’ve had the same unionised job since 1984 and paid $21K for the house at 3% interest p.a.

As a baby boomer but with a few more ups and downs than the usual run of us, I try to help people in any way I can regardless of their age. Increasing numbers of people pour into the job market every year. Job numbers keep shrinking every year. It’s tough all round for EVERYBODY. Parents who take that line with young people suck. Yes, hitting the bricks IS required, but you can’t tell them that either. Life as a kid in this day and age is different from our day.

Having said that, kids need to pull their fingers out and get going too.

Image from author’s collection

‘… and then the system crashes

“Our parents are supposed to leave us a better world/country/etc. Instead, they set it up so that we give everything up … and then the system crashes.”

quote hide behind systemI can’t say I like this, but it’s sadly accurate.

How do we royally un-phuque ourselves?

Kids who take that line also suck because they’re idling their engines.

I’ve never known my parents to be wrong about financial advice. Maybe because they spent less than they made and didn’t act like idiots like we tend to.

Which would I prefer? Which would you prefer? A US$200 smartphone that becomes obsolete in a year or two, or being able to afford downpayment and mortgage and still feed yourself?

Actually, mortgage rates are at all-time lows. However, wages are mostly at all-time lows too, and most people are too overloaded with debt to qualify.

To be fair, economies everywhere were shite for much of the 1970s and ’80s. From then until around the 1990s, it got good for the wealthy but progressively worse for the middle class in relative terms. (‘Middle class’ in the convention sense, not the American sense, which means ‘working class.’). Since then, the ‘wealth’ of the world has been built with debt in all but name.

communist_partyAnd the daddy rants aren’t just in the Free/Capitalist World.

Post-USSR kids get the same earful.

I have USSR and Bulgarian friends from Cold War days. I hear their kids bitch about being told off “I was well employed by your age” by their folks.

Yup, that’s just your opinion too.

The State relocated people to where the jobs were and provided housing. Nowhere does that now — not even in that fictional country North Korea since 1992/93 when it launched their ‘jiuchi’ (‘self-reliance’) econ programme.

Image via c4c

Actually, my old man got his degrees and FRIBA (Fellowship of the Royal Institute of British Architects) and had a great career. Then we got wiped out in a ferocious lawsuit that in fact had no winners. Dad was actually encouraging me and the other young ones that a lot of the problems we were having (even in my day) weren’t our fault and we shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves.

But I’m going to leave you — the young and the old alike — with this morsel of wisdom:—

words poor young money old



The following stuff are for those who dig statistics generally.

United Kingdom official exchange rate

For 52 years’ worth of official ‘period average’ exchange rates per US dollar (1960–2012), go to:—

The greenback got the most British money in 1985 (US$1 = 78p) and the least in 1960 (US$1 = 36p, or 7s.½d).

Inflation in them days

I’ve made a chart to show graphically what the UK inflation rates looked like. Far better than rows of numbers.

CHART 1: Inflation in the UK 1970–79 chart inflation in the UK 1970-79 Chart by author. Data via

An interesting chart I’ve found

CHART 2: Salaried workers, UK, Hong Kong, USA and Japan, 1980–2011

chart country comparison salaried workers 1980-2011 Screenshot by author. Source:

The short and sweet:—

UK and Hong Kong have roughly the same proportion of salaried workers in the workforce. The USA, despite the image of it being a capitalist entrepreneurial society, has more salaried workers than either.

The intensely interesting bit:—

Japan. Roundly seen as “a nation of salarymen.”

But Japan historically has a small proportion of white-collar works on fixed salary than the UK, the USA and Hong Kong. Never realised that, did we?

Now go to the site and play around comparing different countries:— Wage and salaried workers, total (% of total employed)

No data available for China, and little wonder. There’s just no goddamn way China will ever release that kind of information. To know the level of salaried workers in the workforce is in a sense also to know the entrepreneurial potential of that country’s population.


© The Naked Listener’s Weblog, 2014 | Site | | FB | Twitter | Policy & Legal

DocID: B14135 (1,920 words)
Updated 01 June 2014 (added ‘More’ line and Rolodex photo)

2 Responses to “Prices, United Kingdom, 1970-71”

  1. Ed Hurst said

    With what I’ve been hearing about conditions in the UK, I’m pretty sure I’d rather not visit there any time soon. It’s not just the bad economy but the government does some truly insane things, and ours tries to copy it a short time later. Yeesh.


  2. You’re right, absolutely. The place has gone completely ‘pear-shaped,’ as they say there.


Comments are closed.

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