What it used to cost

Provides prices for groceries, houses and wages for Victoria, spanning the 19th and 20th century.

Groceries

The figures below show the retail prices for basic goods in Victoria spanning 1901-1999. Time periods where figures are not stated indicates that prices have not been readily available and more extensive research is required.

Further breakdowns and other product prices are available in the sources listed below the tables. Where required, prices are rounded to the nearest whole number.

 

YEAR

Bread (4lb loaf)

Milk (quart)

Sugar

Butter (lb)

Potatoes (lb)

Tea (lb)

1867

5d to 9d

6d

N/A

8d to 1s 8d

½d to 1¼ d

6d to 3s 3d (perlb)

1877

6.5 d to 9d

4d to 5d

3½d to 5½d

9d to 2s

3/6 to 4/6d

8d to 2s 6d

1888

4½d to 6d

5d to 6d

2½4 d

8d to 2s

2s 6d to 15s 6d (50kg)

6d to 1s 11d

1901

3d

4d

9c*

15d

N/A

6c (180g)

1911

4d

5d

N/A

18d

N/A N/A

1940

5d

7d

N/A

19d

12d

30d 10s (9lb)

1950

8d

11d

5d

26d

24d

36d (9lb)

1960

18d

18d

10d

57d

47d

77d

1970

21c

19c

42c

53c

45c

30c

1980

54c

63c

90c

$1.00

36c

74c

1990

$1.37

85c

$2.17

$2.09

99c

$1.64

1999

$2.33

$1.40

$2.21

$2.09

$1.55

$3.34

* The price of sugar for 1901 is taken from an Australian Bureau of Statistics page which has adjusted the price for inflation.

Table sources

Australian Bureau of Statistics

Australians Historical Statistics

Prices, price indexes and cost of living in Australia

Victorian year-book - from 1903 they are available online

Conversions

1 lb = 0.45 kg

12 pence(d) = 1 shilling (s)

20 shillings = 1 pound (£)

1 pound (£) = $A2.00

Conversion of £ s.d.  to dollars and cents (from Decimal currency, 1965, ABS)

Pence     Whole cents

1              1
2              2
3              2
4              3
5              4
6              5
7              6
8              7
9               8
10             8
11             9
 
Use the inflation calculator to convert to today’s prices.

Average retail prices 1962-2011

The Australian Bureau of Statistics have published the average retail prices of groceries in two date ranges; from 1962 to 2004, and 2004-2011. The data spans the eight capital cities and includes dairy products, vegetables, meat, petrol and alcohol. Once you choose a year, click on the 'downloads' tab and then the pdf file on the right hand side of the screen.

Postage rates within Australia

1911

1920

1930

1941

1950

1959

1967

1980

1990

1d

2d

2d

2d

3d

5d

5c

22c

43c

Inquiry into the cost of living in Australia, 1910-1911

Published in the 1912 Australian Year Book, this 18 page inquiry includes average weekly expenditure on housing, food, clothing, amongst other items. Also compares food costing to other countries and a cost of living analysis.

Fitzroy corned beef

A.S.C. Stacks of groceries, H99.201/3118A

Decades of change

The book Decades of change includes detailed figures on wages, groceries and real estate as well as many other areas, organized by the decades of the twentieth century (1900-1988). Each chapter gives the weekly wage for that year according to chosen occupations, i.e. the weekly wage of a coachman in 1929 was $10 (figures are converted), the price of milk in 1929 was 7c per litre.

The book is also divided into a series of junior books, according to decade.

Catalogue search

You can browse the broader subjects headings by entering the below terms into the Library catalogue, and then use the links on the left hand side of the page to narrow your search.

  • Grocery trade--Victoria
  • Grocery shopping--Victoria
  • Victoria--economic conditions
  • Victoria--social conditions

    The Journal of commerce

    The digitised Journal of commerce of Victoria and Melbourne began in 1885 and includes agriculture statistics, import figures and itimised listings, which can be found at the back pages of the journal under 'Melbourne prices current.'

    Gas Stoves; 1931

    A small pamphlet, Victorian price list, details different types of stoves from 1931.

    Online newspapers

    You can browse through digitised newspapers for old adverts of cars, groceries and houses. The National Library of Australia has digitised many Australian titles, including the Melbourne newspapers The Argus and The Age.

    Sometimes food and produce prices are listed in The Argus and can be found under the market reports; under headings such as
    'Commercial intelligence', 'Flour and grain markets' and 'Melbourne markets'.

    The Argus, Monday 23 June 1851, page 2

    Purchasing power calculator

    The Australian Bureau of Statistics has produced this calculator which compares the purchasing power of your dollar, ranging from 1948-2010.

    South Australia

    The online pamphlet An account of the colony of South Australia includes a detailed listing of the prices of food and the average wage rates for the the years 1852 to 1861.