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PM/day’s work back to what it was in my great-great-grandfather’s day…

The value of old 90%-silver US coins is closing in on 20X face. This prompts the following calculation about how PMs do, or do not, preserve purchasing power.

In the family records, I have pay slips from my great-great-grandfather getting paid 66 2/3rds cents/day and $1/day*. He fought in the Civil War as a young man, and was more successful later in life, so we’re talking 1860s-70s. At that time, a silver dollar represented a day’s work, and a $20 gold piece represented a month’s work. Going by the current federal minimum wage of $7.25/hr, note that a day’s work is now $58, and a month (22 workdays) is now $1276. In other words, gold has kept it’s value over 150 years; silver has a ways to go, but appears to be getting there.

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Of course, savings in the 1860s could be counted on to earn a real 5%/year.

*BTW, those payslips were for building a dam for a sawmill – which as time went on, my GGGfather’s son eventually owned. Also, other artifacts from the family safe deposit boxes included extracted gold teeth(!), and plenty of worthless stock certificates from 1890’s gold mines.

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