Estate Values are Relative

If an inventory of an estate lists appraised values of items, be careful in comparing them to prices today. Values are not easy to “translate” over several hundred years. Try and compare the value of the item in question to other items in the same inventory or to other inventories from the same time period. An 1865 estate inventory indicated the deceased had $200 in a “stock of groceries.” That seemed like quite a bit. In fact that same amount was the listed value for a frame building he owned. This made it seem like the “stock of groceries” was more than what a family would have on hand for their own consumption. It turns out he was a saloonkeeper and the stock might have been used in the course of business.

Try and put amounts in perspective.