Can You Guess How Much These Items Cost During WWII?

Jaclyn Lavine

How much did it cost to a buy a car in 1939?

The average cost of a car today is around $33,560, but back in 1939 it was just $700! Even crazier is the fact that a car made in 1939 could sell for almost $20 million today depending on the company that produced it.

How much did it set a family back to buy a home during WWII?

In 1939, your dream home may have cost you just $3,800. The cost of a home today depends largely on where you live, however, the median home price in the United States is roughly $200,000.

What was the cost of buying a mattress?

A full-size Sealy mattress during WWII was just $19.95! Today, the cheapest full-size Sealy mattress sells for roughly $649.

How much did it cost to keep up with world events?

During WWII you could pick up a newspaper for just 5 cents. The average cost of a newspaper today is around $1.50, not much of a huge difference for once!

What did a bottle of Bayer Aspirin cost?

Bayer Aspirin has been around for a very long time and is still a medicine cabinet staple. During WWII, a bottle of aspirin was just 59 cents. Today, that same bottle costs around $9.49, depending on the size.

How much did it cost to polish your nails?

Women have been painting their nails for a very long time! During WWII, women could buy nail polish in variety of colors for just 59 cents.

How much did it cost to fill your car up?

In 1939, you could fill up your car with gas for just 10 cents. The average cost today is more than $2.50 per gallon! Needless to say, gas is far more expensive today than it was back then.

How much did it cost to purchase a pair of shiny new pumps?

You can spend a pretty penny on a new pair of pumps but there is also quite a range in terms of price and quality. In 1939, however, most pairs of pumps were just $8.95.

Coffee is the fuel of life. How much did it cost during WWII?

Today, the cheapest canister of coffee sells for $2.95. In 1939, however, it would have set you back just 25 cents per pound! The cost of coffee doesn't stop most of us from guzzling multiple cups a day, but it was just as important back then as it is to us today.

Scrambled, over-easy, sunny-side up: How much did a dozen eggs cost?

A dozen eggs in 1939 cost about 38 cents as opposed to about $2.50 today. Just as today, eggs were an important staple in our diets. However, they were far more affordable.

How much did it cost to keep your teeth clean with toothpaste?

In 1940, two tubes of Colgate toothpaste cost 29 cents. Today, a two-pack of Colgate at stores such as Target costs about $3.99. Other than the cost, the variety of toothpaste on the market these days is far greater than they were during WWII.

We all need toilet paper, so how much did a roll cost during WWII?

Today, you can purchase a single roll of toilet paper for roughly 84 cents. but during WWII, a single role cost 15 cents. Today, most people buy a bundle of toilet paper at a time, not just a single roll, and it will set you back a few more dollars than it did in the 1940s.

How much did it cost to keep your head stuck in a book?

Could you imagine buying a new book for 25 cents?!

What was the cost of a movie ticket?

Thanks to the cost, many people today forgo the movie theater in favor of Netflix, Redbox, or On Demand. In 1939, however, a movie ticket cost just 20 to 25 cents, meaning a movie a week habit may have been a bit more affordable during WWII. Movie theaters also played propaganda films that allowed those on the homefront a glimpse into the war.

How much did it cost to keep your face clean shaving with shaving cream?

Shaving cream during WWII cost 16 cents; even soldiers still shaved their faces. The 1940s also marked the first time women started purchasing shaving cream for personal use. Today, a 10 oz can of shaving cream sells for roughly $1.50 depending on size and ingredients.

How much did it cost to purchase laundry detergent and keep your clothes smelling and looking fresh?

During WWII, people were not washing their clothes in washer and dryers, but they were using laundry detergent for hand washing. A large package of laundry detergent cost just cents as opposed to the $4 or more we spend today.

Ponds Cold Cream cost how much?

Pond's Cold Cream is still a popular makeup remover today, but the cost of a jar is quite different. During the 1940s a jar of Ponds was between 39 to 55 cents a jar. Today, that same jar costs around $8.50.

How much was that fabulous dress in the window?

A dress during WWII was priced at just $3.98. It's difficult to compare the cost of a dress then to what we spend today because a lot has changed regarding production, materials used, and fashion in general. However, imagine buying a dress from Macy's for just $3.98!

How much were bananas during WWII?

Bananas during WWII cost 5 cents as opposed to 99 cents today. The bananas eaten back then were actually a different variety than the ones we eat today.

What did it cost to purchase a loaf of bread?

Imagine feeding your family a loaf of bread for just 10 cents! Today a loaf of bread costs on average, $2.50. Bread has long been an important part of many people's diet and is one of the more affordable ways to feed a family.

A cup of milk a day keeps the doctor away, so how much did it cost during WWII?

14 cents per quart bottle! A half-gallon bottle of milk today costs on average $1.18. Particularly in the US, milk has been treated as essential part of a healthy diet since before the 1940s.

How much was a bottle of refreshing Coca-Cola?

Coca-Cola has been around since 1886 and quickly become a popular soft drink. During the 1940s, you could purchase a bottle for just $1.48, although most people were not spending their money on such things as soft drinks during the time due to economic hardship.

How many dollars did it take to purchase a dollhouse?

It took far more time and effort to make a dollhouse during the 1940s than it does for a factory to produce one today, however, a dollhouse back then cost just $3.19. The average cost of a mass-produced dollhouse today starts at about $30.

What was the price for a postage stamp?

A first class postage stamp costs 50 cents today, but during WWII it cost just 3 cents. Today, there are a multitude of ways for us to communicate with one another, email, cellphones, Skype, etc., but back then letters were one of the only options.

What did it cost to buy a bag of flour?

Flour was and is a common pantry item in American homes. During the 1940s, flour cost 25 cents per 5-pound bag. Today, a 5-pound bag costs around $2.56, Some of the recipes we make may still be the same, but the price of ingredients has changed!

What was the price of a can of SPAM, otherwise known as the "meatloaf without basic training" during the war?

SPAM came out just before the Great Depression in 1937 and became an essential part of a soldier's diet during WWII. SPAM was and is affordable, but during the war, the price of a can was just 25 cents.

How much did it cost to purchase a delicious one-pound slab of bacon?

There was another reason people during the war were buying bacon for 32 cents per pound other than the fact that it's delicious. During the war, Americans were urged to save all the fat rendered from frying up bacon so they could donate it to the Army, which would then use it to produce explosives.

So you want to go to Harvard University? How much was tuition during WWII?

During the war, there were not a lot of men attending Harvard University. However, for the men who were, tuition cost just $420 and that's for tuition, room, board, and fees combined. In 2018, the cost of tuition at Harvard is $67,580!

A living room furniture set would set you back how much?

You would be hard-pressed to find a living room furniture set for $219 today, but that is how much one cost in the 1940s. The average cost of a living room set today starts at around $1,200. That is quite a difference in price!

How much did it cost to squeeze some ketchup on a burger?

Jonas Yerkes was the first person to distribute tomato ketchup in a bottle. A few years later, Heinz launched their version, and the rest was history. By the 1940s, Americans loved their ketchup and paid 11 cents per 12 oz bottle.

Grape juice

Grape juice has been around for a very long time. During the 1940s, the price for a pint was 22 cents. Today, you can't even find a grape juice that comes in a pint!

What was the price of a jar of peanut butter?

Chunky, smooth, chocolate-chunks, there are so many different kinds of peanut butter on the market it is astounding. Back in the 1940's, peanut butter was simpler and cost way less money! A jar of peanut butter during the war was just 15 cents.

Campbell's soup has been around for quite a while, so how much was a can during the 1940s?

During the war, three cans of tomato soup cost a person 20 cents. The soup is just as famous today. A four-pack for goes for $3.98 and pairs well a grilled-cheese sandwich.

How many dollars did it cost to buy sugar?

Today, we bake with all different sorts of sugar substitutes, but back in the 1940s, pure sugar was the sweetener choice. A 5 lb bag of sugar cost just 21 cents during the war.

How much was a wool-cotton blend blanket?

Blankets sell today for a starting price of around $25-$30, but back in the 1940s, a blanket made from a wool and cotton blend cost just $3.98. They were often scratchy, but they kept you warm!

How much was a good old-fashioned movie camera?

In the 1940s a movie camera cost $97.50. Today we can use our cellphones to take pictures and to record film, but back in the 1940s the only option for a recording was a movie-style camera.

How much money did it cost to purchase a light bulb?

The cost of a light bulb during the war was roughly 10 cents. Depending on the size and type, you can expect to spend at least $4 on a light bulb today.

What was the price of a box of cereal?

In 1949 a box of Wheaties cereal cost about 9 cents a package. Wheaties has been around since 1924! You can buy a box today for around $3 to $4.

What was the cost to "suit up" during WWII?

Although most men were in uniform somewhere in Europe during WWII, the everyday style of a man often required a suit. Back then, a nice tailored suit cost somewhere between $28 and $45. In 2018, an off-the-rack suit may cost you $100 if you're lucky but a tailored suit starts at $300.

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About This Quiz

Have you ever opened your baby book and a found a page that listed the price of certain items the year you were born? Were you shocked? Do you have a grandparent who likes to exclaim that, "In my day, coffee was just 10 cents!." If the prices of common goods change daily, and they do, imagine how much they have changed in the last 70 years!

World War II began in 1939 and ended in 1945. A year before the war began, the world suffered a worldwide economic depression called the Great Depression. At the start of the war, America was still dealing with the effects of the Depression, but by 1941, with their entry into World War II, the Great Depression ended. Prices throughout the war fluctuated. The government demand on specific resources in certain markets led prices to rise. Consequently, prices as the start of the war were quite different than the middle or end. 

Just like your grandparents may have told you, most common goods during the war were just a couple of cents as opposed to the couple of dollars we spend today. Do you have any idea how much your bacon and eggs cost in 1940? How about that tailored suit hanging in your closet? Are you just a WWII buff who knows everything including the prices of most goods during the war? Challenge yourself and your friends with this quiz! 

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