Medieval Price List | or, why elves are humps for paying 80 gp for a longbow 

This price list is intended to replace those used in fantasy role-playing games, which are rarely informed by reality. It is based as far as possible on the actual prices of commodities between 1100 AD and 1400AD, concentrating on earlier. As far as is possible, prices have been adjusted to reflect the inflation of silver and the debasement of coins, and are given in a epoch of about 1200 AD, even though some of the items were not in fact available in 1200 AD.

Prices in this list are given in pence, each equal to the value of the Carolingian penny or denier of 1/240th of a (Roman) pound of silver. This is a unit of value, not necessarily of currency. Penny coins would have been the size of a decimal Australian or British threepence-- inconveniently small. The point is more important for shillings and pounds, which were not minted (silver shillings would have been very large).

On the basis of the cost of living, the silver penny used as the unit of value in this list is worth about 8 c.p. in D&D money.

In fact, the most common gold coin seems to have weighed 2.5 pennyweights, and to have been called an ecu, florin, ducat, crown, bezaint, or sequin, depending on where it was minted. As the relative prices of gold and silver varied, so would its value, from about 37 to about 75 pence. A normal or average value of 60 pence (5 shillings) seems not unreasonable.

A copper farthing (where used) would have weighed about six pennyweights, and been the size of a pre-decimal Australian or British penny.

Asterices (*) mark prices interpolated from RPG price lists.


Leather  60
Scale* 600
Mail 1,200
Partial plate 1,640
Plate armour, complete 2,000
Improved plate* 2,400
Bascinet, with lining 200

Board & Lodging

College/boarding school, per week 24
Inn, London- beds, per night 1
Inn, rural- meal with drinks 2
" heat and light private chamber 1.25
" beds for gentlemen, per night 0.5
" beds for servants, per night 0.25
" hot bath 2
" stabling and fodder (per horse) 1.25
Rent, cottage, per year 60
" craftsman's house, " 240

Building, construction

Church, 125', stonework only  27,000
" cathedral  500,000+
Cottage, 2story, material free 480
Hall & chamber, modest, labour only, materials from estate 2,880
Hovel, from materials available 120
Wooden gatehouse, with drawbridge
-with materials from estate
-plus value of materials 3,840
Stone gatehouse, in modest private castle
-with materials from estate
-plus value of materials 7,200
Tower (in large royal castle) 48,000
Well, per fathom deep 18

Buildings & real estate

Row house (in York, well built) 1,200
Craftsman's house, with shop, workers' quarters, and tile roof 2,880
Merchant's house, in large city 7,200
House with a courtyard, " 21,600
Guildhall in large city, (hall, 2 chambers, buttery, pantry, kitchen) 32,600
Prices listed are for plain, standard-quality. Apply modifiers for expensive materials, fine workmanship, and so forth.
Belt, weapon 2
Boots, pair 8
Chemise, linen 8
Cloak, woolen 36
" fur-lined 116
Gown (long), woolen 36
Gloves* 3
Hat  10
Kirtle, woolen 24
Purse  1.5
Quiver, red leather 9
Robe, woolen 36
Scarf* 1
Shoes, pair 4.5
Surcoat, linen 24
Trousers, woolen* 20
Tunic (short)/doublet 24
Underlinen 12
Clothing modifiers
Dyed, dear (scarlet, green, black) x 1.6
" rare (purple, royal blue) x 2
Fur lining, cheap +80
" luxury furs +480-720
Fine cloth x 2
Shoddy (recycled rags) x 0.4
Silk x 12+
Household furnishings
Basin & ewer 16-32
Blanket, woolen 15
Bottle  3
Bowl, earthenware 0.25
Candles, tallow, in the country, per lb. 1.5
" tallow, in a large city, per lb. 2
" wax, per lb. 6.5
Chair  4
Chest  6
" large, for clothes 24
Coffer (strongbox) 12
Cup, earthenware 0.25
" glass 2.5
Ewer, metal (brass?) 6
Knife, eating  2
Mattress, straw 2
Mirror, silvered 24
Padlock  12
Pillow  1
Plate, earthenware 0.25
Pot, cooking, ceramic 0.5
" brass, large 12
Sheet, linen 4
Stool  3
Towel  6
Table  6

Information and Instruction

Books, per pecia 9.5
Book rental, per pecia per year (a pecia is approx. 7,500 words, the Bible is about 100 pecia) 1
Fencing instruction, per month 120
Tuition, monastery school, per year 480
", private schoolmaster 160
", University, basic courses 480
" " fashionable lecturers &c 1200+
Capon  2
Calf, weaned 10
Cow  72
" good milker 120
Duck  1
Donkey or mule* 280
Falcon, trained gerfalcon 48
" trained goshawk 60
Fowl (hen)  0.5
Goose  3
Horse, riding hack 300+
" pony* 300+
" trained for horse-archer  480+
" draught horse 200+
" palfrey 680+
" hunter* 2,100+
" trained destrier 9,600+
Ox  108
Pig (in breeding country) 24
" (in a large city) 36
Pigeon  0.25
Sheep (in breeding country) 10
" (in a large city) 17
Precious items
Necklace, gold 80
" pearl 282
Ring, gold setting with diamonds 1,800
" gold setting with ruby 320
Spoon, silver 28
Ale, per gallon 0.5
Bacon, per side 9.5
Bread, 1 loaf (24 oz?) 0.25
Cider, per tun 60
Cheese, retail, per lb 2
" whole, 80 lb 40
Eggs, per dozen 0.5
Fish, herrings, per dozen 1
" Pike, whole, 3' long 80
" Sturgeon, per barrel 396
Fruit, figs, per lb 1.5
" pears, 30 1
" pomegranate, 1 only 6
Gingerbread, per lb 36
Grain, barley, per quarter (8 bushels) 22
" oats, per quarter (8 bushels) 16
" wheat, per quarter (8 bushels) 38
Ham, whole 16
Onions, 1 bushel 8
Partridges, per brace 4.5
Raisins, per lb 2
Salt, per bushel 3
Spices, per lb up to 168
Sugar, per lb 12
Wine, fine claret, per tun (252 gal.)  480
" best, per gallon 4-5
" cheapest, per gallon 2
To feed a lord, per day 7
" a squire " 4
" yeoman " 3
" groom " 1
Armour, clean & de-rust 5
" overhaul & varnish 16
Carriage, annual maintenance 12-36
Cesspit, empty out  80
Courier, 1 horse, per 50 km or day 12
" 2 horses, per 100 km or day 18
Ferry, river crossing for man & horse 1
Guide, for one night 1
Milling grain, per quarter 1
Minstrel, to play at an inn 1
" Christmas gig at manor house 36
Stabling & care, warhorse, per day 5.25
" foal " 1.5
Parchment, folio, per leaf 0.5
Vellum "  1.25
Wax, sealing, per lb. 2
Tools and hardware
Anvil  240
Armourer's tools, complete 3,324
Auger  3
Axe  5
Barrel  3
Bellows, large (for forge) 240
Bucket  4
Canvas, 25 yards 80
Chisel  4
Loom and treadle 24
Pick* 1.5
Plough  36
Rope, light, per fathom 0.5
Sand barrel (for cleaning mail) 9
Shovel* 1.5
Spade  1.5
Spinning wheel (late) 10
Vat  4
Vise  160
Yoke  16
Barge  2,400
Boat, 10' sailing  78
Carrack* 910
Carriage* 320
Cart, iron-bound 48
", wooden, unfit for long trips 24
Cutter* 95
Dray/waggon, iron-shod wheels 120
Galley, 40-oared* 8,480
" 80-oared & masted* 14,896
Wages & Incomes
Labourer, per day 1.25

Craftsman, per day

armourer  5-6
carpenter  3
mason  4
weaver  2.5
apprentice carpenter 1.75
apprentice armourer 3.75

Landowner, per year (1 = 240 pence)

" knight 30-300
" baron or abbot 200-500
" earl/count or bishop 400-11,000
" King (of England) 30,000

Mercenary, per day

Archer  3
" mounted 6
Knight banneret 48
Knight  24
Infantryman, armoured 6
Man-at-arms, mounted 12
Squire  12
Priest (in a chantry), per year 1,120

Servant, per year (plus bed & board)

squire 160-240
carter, porter, groom, falconer, messenger 60-104
indoor and kitchen 24-48
boys and pages 12-72
Dagger  2
Short sword 12
Hand axe 5
Torch  0.25
Lance  6
Long bow 18
Crossbow  60
Arrows (longbow), 24 3
Bolts (crossbow), 20 6.25
Bullets, lead (sling), 8 1
Legal privileges
Apprenticeship, guild of carpenters 12
" company of mercers  24
Freedom (of a city)  40-240
Marriage licence (for serf) 12-160
Membership, guild of carpenters 40
" company of mercers 240
" other guilds 80-720
Nobility, patent of 30,000

Q. You've forgotten the impact of magic - Even something as simple as a continual light (or flame) spell vastly alters society. People can work longer because of better lighting - right?

That's true in principle. The impact of magic would alter relative prices somewhat. Manufactures might be a little cheaper for the reason you suggest, and there might be no market for candles, and hence no candles to be bought, as a result of the same spell.

But unfortunately we don't have an economic model of production in the D&D world, and we haven't worked out what the effects would be. The alternative to basing prices on mediaeval prices is to base them on numbers just made up without thinking, such as the prices in the PHB. And the danger there is that those prices can be hopelessly inconsistent.

The mediaeval prices are not perfect, but at least they aren't *crazy*. And the prices in the PHB are crazy. Look for example at the price of the longbow: what process is used to make longbows in the D&D world that is fifty times as costly as that used in England? The price ratios of some items in the D&D lists are different by a factor of over three hundred from what they were in mediaeval England. I don't see how demographics and attitudes could do that.

Q. What about different political systems? Few fantasy rpgs feature feudalism. Most feature very strong monarchies. They have very different economies.

That's true. Under the manorial system (the economic arrangement popularly associated with feudalism, serfs didn't engage even in barter. They worked as their lord directed, and got to consume the goods that he allowed them. Price was not involved. However, the prices that I have are perforce from the commercial part of the economy. They reflect, therefore, the real cost of production. Since that is a technical and not an institutional issue, the discrepancies aren't likely to be pervasive or large.

Q. What about different economic systems? Most fantasy rpgs tend to have a fairly capitalistic system in place, while trade was basically controlled by unions/guilds in Med. Europe. This inflated prices of things, since only a guild member could sell a given item.

Well, actually trade guilds were a comparatively late development (Edward III), and although they did limit competition they did not eliminate it. And further, the effect of the existence of such guild monopolies would be to raise incomes for guild members (wages for craftsmen). And the real wages of craftsmen in D&D as not inflated to anything like the degree that would result if guild monopolies inflated the price of manufactures as much as they are inflated in D&D.

Q. What about different amounts of gold/precious metals? In most fantasy worlds, gold's fairly common. At least more common than in Earth. Mining also is much easier, since you have Dwarves and Gnomes who basically are born miners.

Now I concede that this can cause a problem if you carelessly assume a constant real value of precious metal. But I didn't do that, as you might have been able to tell if you had read my preamble. The silver pennies that I used to list prices contain only about one sixth as much silver as a D&D silver piece, but I reckoned them as being worth 8 c.p., not 1.66 c.p. This is because I assumed a constant real value of labour.

If you want to see a detailed explanation of why the price of labour is the best measure of real cost, and why the prices of the essential of life were constant (in the long run) in terms of labour until the demographic transition, I recommend that you read chapter five of book I of 'The Wealth of Nations'.

Q. Did you take into account better roads? In medieval Europe, often the only roads were dirt, or old Roman roads. This is not very good for trade...

Roads never are (until the invention of motor-vehicles). You need seas, ports, and navigable rivers for trade. Land transport is hundreds of times more expensive, and just won't support long-distance trade except in extraordinary commodities such as spices and silk, which are not of any structural importance to an economy. And water transport, even in mediaeval times, was cheap enough not to be a major component of the prices of most items. Cheap transport in the D&D world cannot explain why the real price of weapons is twenty times too high.

One important issue is the abundance, relative to the population, of crucial resources such as land and capital. The rise in population from about 800 to about 1500 AD (and the consequent cultivation of erstwhile pasture), together with the breeding of larger strains, raised the real price of livestock (horses) in Europe by about a factor of four. And the accumulation of capital such as smelters and furnaces, together with improvements in technology, lowered the real price of metal goods by about a factor of three or four over the same period. This made a big difference between different mediaeval economies in different times and places, and it could certainly make the difference between a fantasy economy and the English economy of c. 1200 that I reported on.

However, note that such considerations will have little effect on the relative prices of similar goods such as longswords and shortswords, or even shortswords and armour. Suppose that your D&D world has a frontier economy, so that land and therefore livestock are cheaper than in western Europe, is in an advancing state (so that labour is dearer) and therefore that labour-intensive manufactures such as cloth and clothes are expensive, while iron is in short supply and the mintage metals plentiful. That will move whole categories of costs around, but it will still be useful to compare with mediaeval prices *within categories*, so that the price ratios of candles and soap or of swords and plate armour are about right.

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built by unclefester | sternzwischen | updated 14-05-29 23:15:25