Why $20 in 1912 Was Worth So Much More Than Now!


In today’s economy, we are used to our money having a certain value – $20 doesn’t go very far, so it’s hard to imagine how it could have had a significantly higher worth in the past. But the truth is, $20 in 1912 was worth much more than it is today. In this article, we’ll be taking a look at why that is and break down why $20 in 1912 was worth so much more than now.


The main factor behind why $20 in 1912 was worth more than it is today is inflation. Inflation is the rate of increase in the overall price level of goods and services, and it can have a big impact on of currency value. Inflation in the US rose steadily over the course of the 20th century, gradually increasing the price of goods and services while reducing the actual value of dollars in circulation. In 1912, the average annual inflation rate was only around 3%, while in 2020, it is closer to 2%. This means that $20 in 1912 had a higher buying power than the same amount in 2020.

Cost of Living in 1912

Another important factor to consider is the cost of living in 1912. The cost of living at the time was much lower than it is today. For example, the cost of food was much lower in 1912 than today, with basic staples like bread costing only around a penny per loaf. Other essentials like housing, transportation, and utilities cost significantly less in 1912 than they do today, making it easier for people to stretch their money further.

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Wage Growth

Wage growth is another important factor to consider when looking at how much $20 in 1912 was worth. Average wages in 1912 were much lower than they are today, but they also grew faster than the rate of inflation. This means that in absolute terms, wages were actually increasing in value over time, even if they weren’t keeping up with the rising costs of living. This allowed people to purchase more goods and services with the same amount of money, further increasing the value of $20 in 1912.

The US Economy in 1912

The US economy in 1912 was very different from the economy of today. It was largely a rural economy, with the majority of people living and working in rural areas. The industrial sector was growing, but it was still relatively small compared to today. The banking system was much less developed, and the stock market was only beginning to take off. In general, the economy of 1912 was much less capitalistic and market-oriented than it is today, meaning that the value of money was more closely tied to the actual production of goods and services.

Government Spending

Government spending was also much lower in 1912 than it is today. The federal budget at the time was only around $1 billion, compared to the $4 trillion it is today. This meant that the government had much less money to spend on social programs and other forms of economic stimulus, which in turn, reduced the amount of money circulating in the economy and kept prices low.

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Commodity Prices

The price of commodities was also much lower in 1912 than it is today. This is largely due to the fact that the industrial sector was still relatively small and the cost of production was low. This meant that commodities like food, fuel, and other raw materials were much cheaper on average than they are today. This in turn, lowered the overall cost of living and increased the value of money.

Currency Exchange Rates

The last factor to consider is the exchange rate between the US dollar and other currencies. At the time of 1912, the dollar was still the strongest currency in the world due to its strong economy and low inflation rate. This meant that it was worth more than other currencies, making it a better option for foreign exchange. This made it possible for US citizens to purchase goods and services from other countries at a lower cost, further increasing the value of the dollar.


In conclusion, there are many factors that contributed to why $20 in 1912 was worth so much more than it is today. From inflation to the cost of living, wage growth, government spending, commodity prices, and currency exchange rates, all of these factors played a role in decreasing the spending power of the dollar over the past century. Today, the dollar is still relatively strong, but it is nowhere near as valuable as it was in 1912.

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