Stop being confused and confounded by currency figures in old movies and books! This new “inflation adjustment” movie-and-book currency calculator will solve all of your narrative befuddlement.

by worstplans.com

Background:

In many movies and books, a financial amount is discussed at some point. For example, a character may remark that a heist “could be worth 100,000 florins” or “the estate had fallen on hard times, and now generated only 576 denarii annually.”

The issue:

Is the amount discussed above a lot of money? Or is it a paltry sum? Who knows!

This can be both narratively confusing: e.g. in a situation where an outlaw spends a week scheming to pull off a stagecoach robbery and then gets a $500 share in the ill-gotten goods. Are we, the readers, supposed to think that the outlaw has done well for himself, or is that amount equivalent to a week of work sweeping floors in the saloon?

Proposal:

Movies should have the option to pop up an inflation-adjusted and currency-adjusted figure (Figure 1) for any amounts of money mentioned by the characters.

1-treasure-inflation-adjust.png

Fig. 1: If a bunch of characters in the Old West are murdering each other over a treasure, it would be nice for the viewer to understand the value of the treasure: is it actually worth something, or are the characters murdering each other over something valueless? Narratively, it could work either way, but it would be useful to know what the intended interpretation is!

Similarly, e-books could easily have an option to display the current modern inflation-and-currency-adjusted value (Figure 2) of any mentioned quantities.

 

2-book-inflation-adjust.png

Fig. 2: Books that are set hundreds of years in the past often discuss currencies that no longer exist. This can be difficult for a modern reader: is a “ryō” a lot of money? What is a “ducat,” anyway? Here, the obsolete foreign currencies are converted to a modern equivalent.

Conclusion:

This would also provide an excuse for book and movie publishers to periodically update their works. “Oh, you have the 2014 copy of Price & Prejudice? We’ve updated it with the new 2020 inflation figures—you should really re-order 100 new copies for the school library. Isn’t it important that students have access to quality educational materials?”

PROS: Helps the reader properly interpret a narrative with more complete information.

CONS: Actually performing the adjustment may be difficult. For example, if a high-quality Viking canoe is valued at “ten steel hammers and ten yards of cloth,” should we naively translate that to the modern cost of such things—e.g. approximately $140 in 2020 dollars?