Price histories: 1955 cereal price was 19¢

Food Time Line provides some food prices dating back to 1600. The more recent history shows Kellogg’s Corn Flakes cost 19 cents in 1955 and 379 cents in 2011, 20x as much. Since the cereal has not become more 20x more popular, and since it’s easier to produce corn now versus 50 years ago, the price change must be due to falling value of the money.

To frame the price change another way, 19 cents was worth 1.0 box of corn flakes in 1955 and now is worth 0.05 box of corn flakes, a 95 percent fall. If you inherited stock that lost 95 percent of its value, you would sell it. You can sell your cents (and dollars) as well. Convert them into another product, which will be your new “money” for savings, and when you need to buy some Corn Flakes or really a month or more of groceries, convert your money back into dollars and cents.

For example, if you converted 19 cents into corn “futures” (a modern-day financial product) or silver or gold, your corn futures would likely be worth about 379 cents, and you could still buy one box of cereal.

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