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D. Phillip Caron




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PostPosted: Wed 11 Jan, 2012 7:23 am    Post subject: Relative Cost of a Sword         Reply with quote

Is there information on how much a sword would cost a medieval person in relative terms? I know that I can eat well for $50.00 a week. I also that I can get an Albion for around $1000.00. Therefore a good sword would cost me five months in food, and this can be reduced to percent of income. Is there some way to evaluate the cost for medieval times?
The first casualty of battle is bravado, the second is macho.
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James Barker




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PostPosted: Wed 11 Jan, 2012 8:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

15th C England basically went like this:

You had "li, s, d" or "pounds, shillings, and pence". 12 pence in a shilling and 20 shillings, or 240 pence, in a pound.

Average sword was a pound.

Average person made 2 pence a day; so 120 days of labor for a sword.

Skilled Labor could make 4-6d a day, someone like a stone mason.

Archers made 6d a day on campaign so 40 days of campaigning for a sword.


Helmet cost about the same.

I know one of the issues of the Dragon from the Guild of St George covers this but I cannot access them at work.

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D. Phillip Caron




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PostPosted: Wed 11 Jan, 2012 9:43 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you for responding. That is a fair cost for the common folk. Not so much so for those in "the business" as they would need the best tools they could afford.
Is this one pound sword a munitions grade weapon?
Is it reliable to think that the farther back in time the greater the cost due to a less organized economic system, or would the sword cost vary accordingly?

The first casualty of battle is bravado, the second is macho.
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Wed 11 Jan, 2012 9:45 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm pretty sure there are several existing threads on this subject. Have you used the search function?
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D. Phillip Caron




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PostPosted: Wed 11 Jan, 2012 10:14 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Chad, being fairly new here I didn't know there was one. How do I find it.
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Gary Teuscher





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PostPosted: Wed 11 Jan, 2012 10:51 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It's real tough here - there is a fair amount of documentation on wages, but for swords it is tougher. First, there are not a ton of references to the pricing - secondly, the pricing rarely indicates type or quality. It might mean a short seax, possibly made by a blacksmith, up to a top quality ornate and bejewelled weapon.

In Standards of Living in the Later Middle Ages by Christopher Dyer, there are references to a peasant sword around 1340 AD that ran 6d. Now what this "peasant's sword is, I have no idea, but I'd guess it might be similar to that blacksmith made seax, or perhaps a Falchion.

I've seen other documentation of more armound the 700-900 AD period where it seems swords were worth a few cows - cows seem to be priced around 120d in the 14th century, so perhaps a 14th century sword cost 240d if the ratio was still correct.

Wages in the 14th Century? Around 2d per day for an agricultural worker, though I believe food was provided as well.

A thatcher? About 2.5d per day at the beginning of the century, rising to about 4.5d by the end of the century. Masons, Carpenters, Weavers seemed to earn similar amounts, though it was stated the weavers did not receive food (most worked out of their home).

As far as any exact prices on swords and what type of swords though, I am somewhat at a loss.

One thing to take into account - wages rose dramatically in the course of the 14th century, largely do to a manpower shortage caused by famines and plagues.

A 12th century coat of mail cost 12,000d, or 100 shillings, listed in The Knight in History by Frances Gies.

Quote:
Average sword was a pound.


Any idea as to the source of this, James? I have looked but have not been able to find anything concrete.
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Wed 11 Jan, 2012 11:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

D. Phillip Caron wrote:
Chad, being fairly new here I didn't know there was one. How do I find it.


Simply click the Search button. Happy

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James Barker




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PostPosted: Wed 11 Jan, 2012 11:25 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gary Teuscher wrote:
Quote:
Average sword was a pound.


Any idea as to the source of this, James? I have looked but have not been able to find anything concrete.


I was recalling from memory some documents I have seen quoted and I know that was the price in the before mentioned dragon which is quoting a period account.

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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Wed 11 Jan, 2012 12:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

FWIW: "Samuel Purchase's 1622 list of the goods colonists should bring with them recommends one sword at a cost of 5 shillings—the same price as the two iron skillets he recommended, half the price of one heavy wool suit and just under one-third the price of one "compleat, light" armour. By contrast, a musket was very expensive at 1£, 2s. It is significant that although Purchase reckoned that armour for half the men was sufficient, he expected each man to have a firearm and a sword".
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Gary Teuscher





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PostPosted: Wed 11 Jan, 2012 12:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
Samuel Purchase's 1622 list of the goods colonists should bring with them recommends one sword at a cost of 5 shillings—the same price as the two iron skillets he recommended, half the price of one heavy wool suit


A wealthy peasants tunic in the 14th was 3 shillings, or 36d. It's hard to say though how that co,mpares to the price of a heavy wool suit. But if a woolen suit would be the equivalnt of double the price, or 72d, then we have a sword that should be priced maybe at 36d.

Problem here though - comparing early industrial age prices to middle ages prices. Industrialization greatly lowered the manpower required for clothing as one for instance - and one would think that would reduce price as well.

Problem is there are a few different types of economies - I believe unitl perhaps at least the 10th century, Europe was more metal poor, the price of metal going down as time went on. And up unitl maybe the 15-17th centuries, Europe was very clothing poor due to the man hours required.

As advancements in spinning and weaving came about, and an industrialization of the textile industry by having workers in shops and not working from home, the "cost" of making cloth and garments went down dramatically.
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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Wed 11 Jan, 2012 2:40 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In the early 15th Century Baltic a sword was half a mark, a crossbow was a mark (it doesn't indicate what type of crossbow though).

At the same time a roughly average peasant could earn 20-30 florins per year, a florin is worth a bit more than a mark though the relative values fluctuate wildly.

Most town-dwellers (burghers) made considerably more than that. I can post some more stats later if needed. But in a nutshell, in the very early Medieval period (7th-9th Century) swords were quite expensive. They had declined sharply in price by the Late medieval period to the point of being relatively ubiquitous. It's common in period art from the 15th Century to see common footsoldiers wearing swords as sidearms.

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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Wed 11 Jan, 2012 3:34 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

A quick search found these two threads, which seem to be related.

http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=23546
http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=17682

I believe there are more as well.

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Gary Teuscher





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PostPosted: Thu 12 Jan, 2012 8:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
But in a nutshell, in the very early Medieval period (7th-9th Century) swords were quite expensive. They had declined sharply in price by the Late medieval period to the point of being relatively ubiquitous. It's common in period art from the 15th Century to see common footsoldiers wearing swords as sidearms.


Kind of roughly what I have seen, Jean.

A sword was worth multiple cows, the exact amount is hard to determine, but pretty well multiple cows in the early middle ages. As the poorer peasants may not even have had one cow, this was indeed a substantial cost for the average person.

It seems the small seax was the sign of being a freeman in Saxon England - but as time goes on you see longer arming swords in use by anyone who is remotely a "professional" by the 12th century. Many Norman foot for isntance carry these in the Italian and Sicilian campaigns.

And, as you say by the late middle ages, almost everyone bearing weapons seems to be able to afford a arming length sword.
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Mark Shier
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PostPosted: Thu 12 Jan, 2012 10:40 am    Post subject: sword prices         Reply with quote

From a discussion on the Schola forum:

"I can answer this for 15thC England. Between £0.01 and £2000. Seriously. I found a sword valued at 1 penny in a 15thC will and Henry V bought 12 swords from Spain each valued at £2000. The usual price for average swords seems to have been the equivalent of a couple of days pay for an archer. So they were reasonably cheap by the 15thC."

http://www.fioredeiliberi.org/phpBB3/viewtopi...st#p268622

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Gary Teuscher





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PostPosted: Thu 12 Jan, 2012 12:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

http://www.keesn.nl/price/en2_sources.htm

From the discussions Chad provided links for, the above is a good source for the early middle ages. Problem is again, one of the swords mentioned had a silvered sheath, and one could assume the weapon would likely also be ornate.

Also, the Norse sword mentioned that was worth 1/2 Mark of Gold - If I'm doing my correlating of currency correctly, the sword was worth 4 ounces of gold, each ounce of gold worth 8 ounces of silver, which I thing would be about 8 shillings, so 64 shillings, or 768d, so perhaps 4 x 768 or 3840d.

Now it is also stated a mark of silver was worth about 4 cows - and a cow in 14th century England was worth about 120d or so. So according to this, 16 cows, or maybe 1600d in 14th century English terms.

Of course, the sword was given as a reward by a King to someone, along with a gold ring worth twice what the sword was.
It's specualtion of course, but one would this this sword given as a gift by a King would be an ornate weapon, it's value enhanced above it's functional value.
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Matt Easton




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PostPosted: Mon 30 Jan, 2012 3:33 am    Post subject: Re: sword prices         Reply with quote

Mark Shier wrote:
From a discussion on the Schola forum:

"I can answer this for 15thC England. Between £0.01 and £2000. Seriously. I found a sword valued at 1 penny in a 15thC will and Henry V bought 12 swords from Spain each valued at £2000. The usual price for average swords seems to have been the equivalent of a couple of days pay for an archer. So they were reasonably cheap by the 15thC."

http://www.fioredeiliberi.org/phpBB3/viewtopi...st#p268622


Given that this is a quote from me, I'll just comment Happy. Medieval English wills valued items such as sword - weapons used in crimes were also valued. It all depends on what parameters you put on the question - what kind of sword do you want to know the value of? Obviously the 1 penny sword I found in a will (above) was not new or in great shape. We also don't know what type of 'sword' it was. It may have been a rusty relic, or it may have been broken or bent.
Having looked through lots of 14th-15th century English records my conclusion was that swords then were much like cars or bikes today. Most members of society could buy a sword to suit their pocket. Then you have Henry V buying the equivalent of Bugatti Veyrons and giving them away as gifts....

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Carey Jebb




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PostPosted: Thu 14 Nov, 2013 2:09 pm    Post subject: Every man a sword, no         Reply with quote

First, the discussions around money and its availability looking at the period 1150 to 1350 and taking the upper end figures for currency in circulation £200,000 we get 48,000,000 pennies in circulation with a population of 5,000,000 that's 9.6 pennies each. So the likelihood of our average peasant amassing sufficient money to buy a sword is zero. There is a problem with this it is more likely that currency was in the region of £100,000 to £125,000 or 4.8 to 6 pennies per person in actual circulation therefore even less likely our peasant has a sword..
Second the documentary records point clearly to peasants trying to resist the move to money because it undermined some of their old rights. Paying the lord in produce was tied to the harvest so any believe that our average peasant earned X inflated claim in money needs to be resisted. The monetary value is a tax assessment not an income in cash which led to a lot of resentment.
Third, the concept that a man who struggles from year to year at the whim of the seasons would hoard away an otherwise (to him) useless piece of metal which he could sell to buy a pig/goat/cow and therefore increase the productivity of his land is fanciful. The concept of a hide of land appears here, a hide varied in size depending on the quality of the land but for good land a 'knights fee' rose from 3 to 5.5 hides your peasant was lucky if he had a hundredth of a hide or maybe an acre.
Next the National Archives states that crime before 1450 was:
Theft: 73.5% of all offences
Murder: 18.2%
Receiving stolen goods: 6.2%
Arson, counterfeiting coins, rape, treason and all others: 2.1%
Looks like violent crime is quite high at 18% but this is considerably less per 100,000 of population than modern New York or Moscow, we do not have a population armed to the teeth ready to draw their sword at the least provocation.
Now the receiving stolen goods should give us a hint, with a Knights fee needing the income of between 360 and 3000 acres (some of these medieval hand me down estates are just the right size) to equip my lord for the year I think if I have 'stolen' that posh car I'm going to sell it.
As an aside the battle of Visby stands out as one of the major archaeological finds for weapons during this period. This battle is comparatively unique in that the field was not stripped of the weapons and armor. Superficially lending support to peasants having weapons but these were Yeomen members of the nescient middle classes.
Finally, the trade in second hand weapons and armor that made some merchants rich also shows that as wars finished in one area the weaspons dealers then as now would move the surplus to more profitable areas.
If you find a peasant with a sword don't be fooled into thinking he had a right to bear arms, the interpretation of the Magna Carta being any thing other than a document intended for the elite is folly.

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