$20 in 1848 is worth $636.03 in 2018

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Value of $20 from 1848 to 2018

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics consumer price index, prices in 2018 are 3,080.13% higher than average prices since 1848. The U.S. dollar experienced an average inflation rate of 2.06% per year during this period, causing the real value of a dollar to decrease.

In other words, $20 in 1848 is equivalent in purchasing power to about $636.03 in 2018, a difference of $616.03 over 170 years.

The 1848 inflation rate was -3.66%. The inflation rate in 2018 was 2.49%. The 2018 inflation rate is higher compared to the average inflation rate of 1.02% per year between 2018 and 2020.


Inflation from 1848 to 2018
Cumulative price change 3,080.13%
Average inflation rate 2.06%
Converted amount ($20 base) $636.03
Price difference ($20 base) $616.03
CPI in 1848 7.900
CPI in 2018 251.230
Inflation in 1848 -3.66%
Inflation in 2018 2.49%

USD Inflation since 1635
Annual Rate, the Bureau of Labor Statistics CPI
Download

Buying power of $20 in 1848

This chart shows a calculation of buying power equivalence for $20 in 1848 (price index tracking began in 1635).

For example, if you started with $20, you would need to end with $636.03 in order to "adjust" for inflation (sometimes refered to as "beating inflation").

When $20 is equivalent to $636.03 over time, that means that the "real value" of a single U.S. dollar decreases over time. In other words, a dollar will pay for fewer items at the store.

This effect explains how inflation erodes the value of a dollar over time. By calculating the value in 1848 dollars, the chart below shows how $20 is worth less over 170 years.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, each of these USD amounts below is equal in terms of what it could buy at the time:

Dollar inflation: 1848-2018
Year Dollar Value Inflation Rate
1848 $20.00 -3.66%
1849 $19.49 -2.53%
1850 $19.75 1.30%
1851 $19.49 -1.28%
1852 $19.49 0.00%
1853 $19.49 0.00%
1854 $21.27 9.09%
1855 $22.03 3.57%
1856 $21.52 -2.30%
1857 $22.03 2.35%
1858 $20.76 -5.75%
1859 $21.01 1.22%
1860 $21.01 0.00%
1861 $22.28 6.02%
1862 $25.57 14.77%
1863 $31.90 24.75%
1864 $39.75 24.60%
1865 $41.27 3.82%
1866 $40.25 -2.45%
1867 $37.47 -6.92%
1868 $35.95 -4.05%
1869 $34.43 -4.23%
1870 $33.16 -3.68%
1871 $30.89 -6.87%
1872 $30.89 0.00%
1873 $30.38 -1.64%
1874 $28.86 -5.00%
1875 $27.85 -3.51%
1876 $27.09 -2.73%
1877 $26.58 -1.87%
1878 $25.32 -4.76%
1879 $25.32 0.00%
1880 $25.82 2.00%
1881 $25.82 0.00%
1882 $25.82 0.00%
1883 $25.57 -0.98%
1884 $24.81 -2.97%
1885 $24.56 -1.02%
1886 $23.80 -3.09%
1887 $24.05 1.06%
1888 $24.05 0.00%
1889 $23.29 -3.16%
1890 $23.04 -1.09%
1891 $23.04 0.00%
1892 $23.04 0.00%
1893 $22.78 -1.10%
1894 $21.77 -4.44%
1895 $21.27 -2.33%
1896 $21.27 0.00%
1897 $21.01 -1.19%
1898 $21.01 0.00%
1899 $21.01 0.00%
1900 $21.27 1.20%
1901 $21.52 1.19%
1902 $21.77 1.18%
1903 $22.28 2.33%
1904 $22.53 1.14%
1905 $22.28 -1.12%
1906 $22.78 2.27%
1907 $23.80 4.44%
1908 $23.29 -2.13%
1909 $23.04 -1.09%
1910 $24.05 4.40%
1911 $24.05 0.00%
1912 $24.56 2.11%
1913 $25.06 2.06%
1914 $25.32 1.01%
1915 $25.57 1.00%
1916 $27.59 7.92%
1917 $32.41 17.43%
1918 $38.23 17.97%
1919 $43.80 14.57%
1920 $50.63 15.61%
1921 $45.32 -10.50%
1922 $42.53 -6.15%
1923 $43.29 1.79%
1924 $43.29 0.00%
1925 $44.30 2.34%
1926 $44.81 1.14%
1927 $44.05 -1.69%
1928 $43.29 -1.72%
1929 $43.29 0.00%
1930 $42.28 -2.34%
1931 $38.48 -8.98%
1932 $34.68 -9.87%
1933 $32.91 -5.11%
1934 $33.92 3.08%
1935 $34.68 2.24%
1936 $35.19 1.46%
1937 $36.46 3.60%
1938 $35.70 -2.08%
1939 $35.19 -1.42%
1940 $35.44 0.72%
1941 $37.22 5.00%
1942 $41.27 10.88%
1943 $43.80 6.13%
1944 $44.56 1.73%
1945 $45.57 2.27%
1946 $49.37 8.33%
1947 $56.46 14.36%
1948 $61.01 8.07%
1949 $60.25 -1.24%
1950 $61.01 1.26%
1951 $65.82 7.88%
1952 $67.09 1.92%
1953 $67.59 0.75%
1954 $68.10 0.75%
1955 $67.85 -0.37%
1956 $68.86 1.49%
1957 $71.14 3.31%
1958 $73.16 2.85%
1959 $73.67 0.69%
1960 $74.94 1.72%
1961 $75.70 1.01%
1962 $76.46 1.00%
1963 $77.47 1.32%
1964 $78.48 1.31%
1965 $79.75 1.61%
1966 $82.03 2.86%
1967 $84.56 3.09%
1968 $88.10 4.19%
1969 $92.91 5.46%
1970 $98.23 5.72%
1971 $102.53 4.38%
1972 $105.82 3.21%
1973 $112.41 6.22%
1974 $124.81 11.04%
1975 $136.20 9.13%
1976 $144.05 5.76%
1977 $153.42 6.50%
1978 $165.06 7.59%
1979 $183.80 11.35%
1980 $208.61 13.50%
1981 $230.13 10.32%
1982 $244.30 6.16%
1983 $252.15 3.21%
1984 $263.04 4.32%
1985 $272.41 3.56%
1986 $277.47 1.86%
1987 $287.59 3.65%
1988 $299.49 4.14%
1989 $313.92 4.82%
1990 $330.89 5.40%
1991 $344.81 4.21%
1992 $355.19 3.01%
1993 $365.82 2.99%
1994 $375.19 2.56%
1995 $385.82 2.83%
1996 $397.22 2.95%
1997 $406.33 2.29%
1998 $412.66 1.56%
1999 $421.77 2.21%
2000 $435.95 3.36%
2001 $448.35 2.85%
2002 $455.44 1.58%
2003 $465.82 2.28%
2004 $478.23 2.66%
2005 $494.43 3.39%
2006 $510.38 3.23%
2007 $524.92 2.85%
2008 $545.07 3.84%
2009 $543.13 -0.36%
2010 $552.04 1.64%
2011 $569.47 3.16%
2012 $581.25 2.07%
2013 $589.76 1.46%
2014 $599.33 1.62%
2015 $600.04 0.12%
2016 $607.61 1.26%
2017 $620.56 2.13%
2018 $636.03 2.49%
2019 $647.23 1.76%
2020 $649.09 0.29%*
* Compared to previous annual rate. Not final. See inflation summary for latest 12-month trailing value.
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This conversion table shows various other 1848 amounts in 2018 dollars, based on the 3,080.13% change in prices:

Conversion Table: Value of a dollar in 2018
Initial value Equivalent value
$1 dollar in 1848 $31.80 dollars in 2018
$5 dollars in 1848 $159.01 dollars in 2018
$10 dollars in 1848 $318.01 dollars in 2018
$50 dollars in 1848 $1,590.06 dollars in 2018
$100 dollars in 1848 $3,180.13 dollars in 2018
$500 dollars in 1848 $15,900.63 dollars in 2018
$1,000 dollars in 1848 $31,801.27 dollars in 2018
$5,000 dollars in 1848 $159,006.33 dollars in 2018
$10,000 dollars in 1848 $318,012.66 dollars in 2018
$50,000 dollars in 1848 $1,590,063.29 dollars in 2018
$100,000 dollars in 1848 $3,180,126.58 dollars in 2018
$500,000 dollars in 1848 $15,900,632.91 dollars in 2018
$1,000,000 dollars in 1848 $31,801,265.82 dollars in 2018

Inflation by Country

Inflation can also vary widely by country. For comparison, in the UK £20.00 in 1848 would be equivalent to £2,319.14 in 2018, an absolute change of £2,299.14 and a cumulative change of 11,495.72%.

Compare these numbers to the US's overall absolute change of $616.03 and total percent change of 3,080.13%.


Inflation by Spending Category

CPI is the weighted combination of many categories of spending that are tracked by the government. Breaking down these categories helps explain the main drivers behind price changes. This chart shows the average rate of inflation for select CPI categories between 1848 and 2018.

Compare these values to the overall average of 2.06% per year:

Category Avg Inflation (%) Total Inflation (%) $20 in 1848 → 2018
Food and beverages 3.96 73,329.16 14,685.83
Housing 4.26 120,122.35 24,044.47
Apparel 2.05 3,056.63 631.33
Transportation 3.30 24,964.00 5,012.80
Medical care 5.17 525,171.37 105,054.27
Recreation 1.09 530.30 126.06
Education and communication 1.89 2,328.62 485.72
Other goods and services 5.10 467,034.27 93,426.85

The graph below compares inflation in categories of goods over time. Click on a category such as "Food" to toggle it on or off:

For all these visualizations, it's important to note that not all categories may have been tracked since 1848. This table and charts use the earliest available data for each category.



How to Calculate Inflation Rate for $20, 1848 to 2018

Our calculations use the following inflation rate formula to calculate the change in value between 1848 and 2018:

CPI in 2018 CPI in 1848
×
1848 USD value
=
2018 USD value

Then plug in historical CPI values. The U.S. CPI was 7.9 in the year 1848 and 251.23 in 2018:

251.237.9
×
$20
=
$636.03

$20 in 1848 has the same "purchasing power" or "buying power" as $636.03 in 2018.

To get the total inflation rate for the 170 years between 1848 and 2018, we use the following formula:

CPI in 2018 - CPI in 1848CPI in 1848
×
100
=
Cumulative inflation rate (170 years)

Plugging in the values to this equation, we get:

251.23 - 7.97.9
×
100
=
3,080%

News headlines from 1848

Politics and news often influence economic performance. Here's what was happening at the time:

  • The Mexican-American war ends after signing Treaty of Guadalupe. Texas, California, Arizona and New Mexico went to the United States
  • June Days Uprising begins in Paris.
  • Seneca Falls hosts the first US Women's Rights Convention; it is arranged by Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady
  • Nationalist revolt against British rule in Ireland is put down by police. Event is known as the Tipperary Revolt

Data Source & Citation

Raw data for these calculations comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics' (CPI), established in 1913. Inflation data from 1665 to 1912 is sourced from a historical study conducted by political science professor Robert Sahr at Oregon State University.

You may use the following MLA citation for this page: “$20 in 1848 → 2018 | Inflation Calculator.” Official Inflation Data, Alioth Finance, 24 May. 2020, https://www.officialdata.org/1848-dollars-in-2018?amount=20.

Special thanks to QuickChart for providing downloadable chart images.


Ian Webster

About the author

Ian Webster is an engineer and data expert based in San Mateo, California. He has worked for Google, NASA, and consulted for governments around the world on data pipelines and data analysis. Disappointed by the lack of clear resources on the impacts of inflation on economic indicators, Ian believes this website serves as a valuable public tool. Ian earned his degree in Computer Science from Dartmouth College.

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» Read more about inflation and investment.

Inflation from 1848 to 2018
Cumulative price change 3,080.13%
Average inflation rate 2.06%
Converted amount ($20 base) $636.03
Price difference ($20 base) $616.03
CPI in 1848 7.900
CPI in 2018 251.230
Inflation in 1848 -3.66%
Inflation in 2018 2.49%