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.
|Plate armour, complete||2,000|
|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|
|Church, 125', stonework only||27,000|
|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.|
|Gown (long), woolen||36|
|Quiver, red leather||9|
|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|
|Basin & ewer||16-32|
|Candles, tallow, in the country, per lb.||1.5|
|" tallow, in a large city, per lb.||2|
|" wax, per lb.||6.5|
|" large, for clothes||24|
|Ewer, metal (brass?)||6|
|Pot, cooking, ceramic||0.5|
|" brass, large||12|
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+|
|" good milker||120|
|Donkey or mule*||280|
|Falcon, trained gerfalcon||48|
|" trained goshawk||60|
|Horse, riding hack||300+|
|" trained for horse-archer||480+|
|" draught horse||200+|
|" trained destrier||9,600+|
|Pig (in breeding country)||24|
|" (in a large city)||36|
|Sheep (in breeding country)||10|
|" (in a large city)||17|
|Ring, gold setting with diamonds||1,800|
|" gold setting with ruby||320|
|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|
|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|
|Wax, sealing, per lb.||2|
|Tools and hardware|
|Armourer's tools, complete||3,324|
|Bellows, large (for forge)||240|
|Canvas, 25 yards||80|
|Loom and treadle||24|
|Rope, light, per fathom||0.5|
|Sand barrel (for cleaning mail)||9|
|Spinning wheel (late)||10|
|Boat, 10' sailing||78|
|", wooden, unfit for long trips||24|
|Dray/waggon, iron-shod wheels||120|
|" 80-oared & masted*||14,896|
|Wages & Incomes|
|Labourer, per day||1.25|
Craftsman, per day
Landowner, per year (£1 = 240 pence)
|" baron or abbot||£200-£500|
|" earl/count or bishop||£400-£11,000|
|" King (of England)||£30,000|
Mercenary, per day
|Priest (in a chantry), per year||1,120|
Servant, per year (plus bed & board)
|carter, porter, groom, falconer, messenger||60-104|
|indoor and kitchen||24-48|
|boys and pages||12-72|
|Arrows (longbow), 24||3|
|Bolts (crossbow), 20||6.25|
|Bullets, lead (sling), 8||1|
|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.
built by unclefester | sternzwischen | updated 14-05-29 23:15:25