5

I realize the title is probably too broad to answer, so I'll narrow it down a bit:

  • Sword types: Viking swords, and/or Arming swords

  • Quality: Pattern welded iron/steel, crucible (or pseudo-crucible) steel (e.g., high end VLFBERHT swords), or piled/laminated iron/steel; properly forged and quenched (i.e., takes an edge properly, isn't too soft or too brittle). Ornamentation and embellishment not necessary. In short, a well made weapon that a knight would be proud to carry into combat, but not a gold-hilted, jewel-encrusted sword a king would carry during ceremonial duties.

  • Time Period: 600 C.E. - 1400 C.E.

  • Monetary value: Any currency is acceptable, but for convenience, provide an estimate of the 2016 equivalent value.

What would a European warrior pay for a sword like this, and how much would that price equate to today?

  • 3
    I don't think any "monetary equivalent" value will actually satisfy your curiosity. Money was used somewhat differently then; some things were much, much more expensive, while others were rather cheap, twisting "monetary equivalent" into something deceptive. (At least that is what I found.) – DevSolar May 23 '16 at 7:36
  • 1
    Only thing you can do for monetary equivalence is to count it into gold and silver, but it won't be accurate because of 2 reasons: 1. now gold and silver aren't money any more. 2. the choice of goods and manufacturing methods are very different today. – CsBalazsHungary May 23 '16 at 8:09
  • 1
    Considering that this is very skilled labor you are asking about, you can perhaps get a good idea from the answers to this question on how long it took. Note that, (as @DevSolar also pointed out) in the early middle ages there wasn't much of a cash economy, and wealth was typically measured in acres. – T.E.D. May 23 '16 at 14:43
  • @CsBalazsHungary perhaps one way to approach it would be to estimate how much gold and/or silver it would cost in those days to buy such a sword, and then post that amount and provide a reference to a gold or silver price tracker so readers can convert that amount into any currency of today that can be converted on the open market to precious metal. – Columbia says Reinstate Monica Dec 13 '16 at 2:23
  • "Good" is ambiguous - it would be valuable to distinguish between quality and opulence as to which attribute you are most interested. A high quality sword might have little in the way of ornate decorations, such as a jewelled hilt, while an ornate sword might be intended for primarily decorative purposes. Opulence is far more expensive than metallurgical quality. – Pieter Geerkens Dec 12 '18 at 17:38
6

Lifting from this site, I found a "cheap sword (peasant's)", England ~1340, listed at 6 pence. The same site lists the daily wage of a thatcher (in the same time period) as 3 pence.

The source is given as "Standards of Living in the Later Middle Ages, Christopher Dyer, Cambridge University Press, 1989". Probably a good source to look into.

This does not exactly match your requirements, but is the best I could find, ad hoc, and at least is in the same ballpark. A high-quality sword, as you describe, would probably cost a multiple of the quoted value (quality work tended to be much more expensive).

  • good source, I would love to see how much silver it contained, best I found is sixpence (tanner) which was weight 2,83 grams of silver from 1500's – CsBalazsHungary May 23 '16 at 8:15
  • 1
    @CsBalazsHungary: Check Pound sterling, medieval: "[The Tealby penny] was struck from 0.925 (92.5%) silver." As for the weight, originally 240 pennies equalled one pound. Same source: "In the reign of Henry IV (1399–1413), the penny was reduced in weight to 15 grains (0.97 g) of silver, with a further reduction to 12 grains (0.78 g) in 1464." – DevSolar May 23 '16 at 8:25
  • A "cheap sword (peasant's)" is probably a vaguely sword-shaped lump of pot iron. Anything better-quality would take more than two days' work by a skilled laborer to make. – Mark Dec 14 '16 at 21:34
  • @Mark: Related question -- how long does it take to forge a sword?. The page I linked lists an apprentice armorer at 6 pence a day, so we're looking at a sword that an apprentice has hammered together in under a day (to allow for material cost). That's possible (I have seen reenactors do it), but yes, it won't be anything ornate or particularly durable, but servicable (or the source wouldn't have listed it). Anyway, that's the closest I could come to sourced information (as opposed to guesswork). – DevSolar Dec 16 '16 at 13:33
  • @WadCheber: FWIW, related video by Lindybeige. – DevSolar Apr 26 '17 at 12:58
3

A sword might be the most expensive item that a man owned. The one sword whose value is given in the sagas (given by King Hákon to Höskuldur in chapter 13 of Laxdæla saga) was said to be worth a half mark of gold. In saga-age Iceland, that represented the value of sixteen milk-cows, a very substantial sum so these days it would be like the price of a new car or your years wage.

That was the price of a good sword, for the Norse.
Source

-2

Using the above comment's source, and assuming a thatcher circa 1340 would earn 3 pence daily for 365 days a year, I believe that calculates to approx. 71 British pounds or 103 USD today. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

  • 6 pence in 1340 should be compared to 2 days labour of a skilled worker, call that at 1.5-3 times minimum wage ~£150-300 today. – Conrad Turner May 24 '16 at 13:00
  • 1
    365 days a year? They were forbidden to work on Sundays. – RedSonja Sep 7 '16 at 7:22
  • Plus, no payed vacation or sick days. You went to the market, you didn't earn money. You fell ill, you didn't earn money. You went to visit relatives, you didn't earn money. You didn't find someone requiring your service, you didn't earn money. -- But this isn't really an answer to the question, now is it? – DevSolar Dec 12 '16 at 14:06

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.