1950s Fifties Prices          

What it cost in 1954


by Jennifer Dickinson

With a recent Associated Press Report on January 7, 2007 of a man receiving a letter to his home which was postmarked October 26, 1954, an amazing time capsule is revealed.

The letter was received in Ferndale Pennsylvania encased in a larger Postal Service window envelope at the home of Brian McAteer for a Frederick Zane Yost. Mr. McAteer refuses to open it in hopes of locating Mr. Yost. At this point he has not found him, and plans to keep searching.

A Postal Service Spokesman from Pittsburgh has commented that at times pieces of mail can be “lost behind equipment or transporting equipment” and “no matter how old it is we will deliver it”. Wow, after over 50 years they must have done some long overdue major cleaning!

And amazing with the hike in postage they didn’t attempt a “return to sender” for “inadequate postage”, which we usually see these days. The postage in 1954 was only 3 cents while we pay 39 cents. I am impressed at the nobleness of their delivering this misplaced letter despite the incredibly insufficient postage.

This letter has piqued the interest of your author here as to what the prices were in 1954 versus what we pay today in January 2007. Prices for 1954 were taken from the website Fifties Web (http://www.fiftiesweb.com).

My figures may differ slightly from those of your town because of the region in which I live, but I’m sure they’re close enough. I’ve taken the 2007 prices from what I have paid at retailers that are in my neighborhood. The prices for the cars were taken directly from the Ford Website (http://www.ford.com) and their Vehicle Showroom page for Ford, Lincoln and Mercury Vehicles (That’s a Ford GT at $151,000!)


Price in 1954

Price in 2007



$2.99 (gal)




Swiss Cheese

$.69 lb


T-Bone Steak

$.95 lb


Post Grape Nuts Cereal (10 oz pkg.)


$3.99 (24 oz)

Clorox Bleach ½ gal


$1.59 (60 oz)

Postage Stamp





$2.45 (gal – reg)

Ford Car

$1,548 - $2,415

$14,000 - $151,000

What is even more interesting is how much we are paying based on the rate of inflation. I found the fascinating CPI Inflation Calculator (http://data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/cpicalc.pl) a helpful source. Although it currently only calculates costs up through the Year 2006, it will inform you what your dollar from a particular year is worth in a different year.

Try plugging the 1954 prices from my chart into this calculator for 2006. It is really amazing what their dollar would be worth in today’s time and how much we’re really paying for the same items. And to think that I started this fuss based on an article about a misdelivered letter from 1954…

And here’s links to the astounding story which launched it all:




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