Did you ever wonder what was the value of $1,000 U.S. Dollars back through the ages? For example, when partners Ed Schieffelin & his brother Al Schieffelin sold their shares in their Tombstone mines for $600,000 in 1880, how much was that worth in 2017 dollars?
I knew the sale made them wealthy. But really, how rich were they in terms I can relate to in today’s buying power?
I found answers, and several ways to calculate relative values, at MeasuringWorth. Many factors go into calculating historical values: the price of gold; price of stocks; inflation rates; wages; etc.
But based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) through history going back to the founding of the United States of America, here are some comparisons to 2017.
• In 1775, $1,000 was worth about $33,100 in 2017.
• In 1880, $1,000 was worth about $24,700 in 2017.
• In 1920, $1,000 was worth about $12,200 in 2017.
• In 1930, $1,000 was worth about $14,700 in 2017.
• In 1950, $1,000 was worth about $10,200 in 2017.
• In 1999, $1,000 was worth about $1,880 in 2017.
Ed discovered silver at a place called Goose Flats in 1877. A year later he brought brother Al and his friend Richard Gird to the site now known as Tombstone. At that time, all were nearly penniless. In 1880, the brothers sold out for $600,000. Dick Gird sold out a year or so later. In terms of 2017 buying power, their $600,000 was worth about $14,800,000.
This is somewhat misleading, of course. In the 1930’s, John D. Rockefeller, Sr. was the world’s richest private citizen said to be worth over a $1 billion. In today’s money, that would be something in excess of $14 billion; small change compared to Bill Gates who, in 2017, was reportedly worth $86 billion, give or take a few billion.
But John D. couldn’t buy a lot of things that middle class Americas take for granted today, such a modern air conditioning; a commercial airplane flight that travels coast to coast in less than 5 hours, or an effective polio vaccination for his children. Not to mention the ubiquitous cell phone.
By some accounts, the Tombstone Mining District, with over a hundred mining claims, produced about $85 million in silver bullion before the mines flooded and had to be shut down. Using the calculations above, that amounts to about $2 billion today. Clearly, in addition to Ed & Al & Dick, a lot of others got rich in Tombstone too.
Note: Ed, Al, & Dick were equal partners in the Tombstone mining operation. They never had a written partnership agreement. And by their own admission, never had a quarrel.