A Century of Pocket Change

What Could You Buy With a Nickel? - Ignitespot.com - Infographic

The change in your pocket may not be worth much today, but if you could travel back in time those same coins could have paid for a lot of things.

This graphic looks back over the last century to see what a pocket full of coins could buy in the United States.


Today a penny is pretty much only good for making a wish as you toss it into water. However, throughout the last century, a penny could buy candy, a newspaper, a cup of coffee (if you were poor), or an adult peep show.


Five cents could get you a “Nickelodeon” movie ticket, a shoe shine, a pack of gum, a chicken dinner candy bar, a 12 ounce bottle of Coca-Cola, a peanut butter cup, one green bell pepper, a postage stamp, or a piece of gum with a comic inside the wrapper. Today you can use a nickel to scratch off a lottery ticket.


In the 1900s a dime could buy you a pound of pork chops. Today a dime might get you a very used item at a thrift store, but not much else.

Over the years a dime could be used to buy a bottle of ketchup, almost a loaf of bread (Wonder Bread was 11 cents), a head of iceberg lettuce, four pounds of baking potatoes, 12 ounces of apple juice, a comic book, a phone call from a pay phone, a can of soup or a single pog.


In the 1900s, a quarter could buy three cans of soup. Today you can buy a pack of Ramen noodles with twenty-five cents.

Through the years a quarter could buy you seven rolls of toilet paper, a dozen eggs, a movie ticket, a children’s storybook, an eight ounce box of cereal, four bars of Ivory soap, a box of tissues, a chocolate bar, or one gameplay at an arcade.

One Dollar

In the 1900s a dollar would buy a nice pair of ladies shoes. Today it can get you a burger from the dollar menu at a fast food restaurant.

Through the years a dollar could buy you a woman’s house dress, two brooms, a silk necktie, a box of DIY hair color, a bath towel, a drive-in movie ticket, a quart of motor oil, three pounds of bananas, or a gallon of milk.

Ten Dollars

In the 1900s, ten dollars was the price for a month’s rent for a five-room house. Today ten dollars can get you a movie ticket if you’re lucky.

Over the past century, with ten dollars you could buy a men’s suit, a girl’s bicycle, a pair of ladies dress heels, pay a housekeeper for a week, buy a child’s snowsuit, a girls’ wool coat, a pair of Wrangler jeans, two My Little Pony dolls, or five cassette singles.