How much did things cost in 1972?

Pocket calculators from c1972
A selection of pocket calculators available for the first time in the UK in 1972. Rear left to right: Texas Instruments TI-2500 Datmath, Anita 811, Canon Palmtronic LE-10. Foreground: Sinclair Executive

In 1972 some of the first fruits of the technological revolution went on sale to British consumers. You needed big pockets for the first pocket calculators. They were hardly pocket-sized and neither were the prices.

One year after Decimalisation prices were going up, but Britain had yet to experience the levels of inflation that followed the 1973 oil crisis.

Technology was expensive, but motoring and beer were cheap compared to today.

Technology

Pocket calculators

The first electronic calculators were available to buy in the UK in 1972. They were eye-watering prices.

This is a small selection advertised in the national press in 1972.

1972 priceInflation adjusted
Prinztronic MC95 (Dixons Nov 1972)£95£920
Prinztronic Micron (Dixons Nov 1972)£49£475
Caltronic 812 (Oct 1972 direct)£37.75£365
Rapidman 800 (May 1972 direct)£39.50£380
Texas Instruments TI2500 Datmath (Selfridges, Oxford Street, Nov 1972)£52.50£500
Sinclair Executive£79£760

The Sinclair Executive was a game changer. It was the only one that was truly pocket-sized.

Television

Black and white television c1972
Black and white TVs were still more common in UK homes in 1972

Colour TV was more popular in 1972. There were 1.6 million colour licences issued in 1972. [1] However, more people still watched in black and white. There were 15 million monochrome licences issued.

A black and white TV licence cost £7 in 1972 and a colour licence was £12. [1]

The purchase of the TV set dwarfed the cost of the licence:

1972 priceInflation adjusted
22" Pye colour TV (Currys)£239.00£2,250.00
24" Ferguson black & white TV (Currys)£67.00£630.00

Waste disposers

A waste disposer in the kitchen was the trendy gadget of the early 1970s. They were expensive to buy and could cost up to £50 to install. The Maxamatic Deluxe cost £62 in 1972. [2]

Clocks and watches

The early years of the 1970s were the last years when mechanical watches were the first choice of most people.

The first digital watch, the Pulsar Hamilton, went on sale in the USA 1972. It was out of reach for most buyers in the UK.

Discerning buyers opted for automatic (self-winding) mechanical watches. Many of these were Swiss-made.

1972 priceInflation adjusted
19.40£190
Omega (Swiss)£32.50£315
Seiko (Japan)£24.95£240
Sekonda (USSR)£11.95£120
Timex (USA)£6.55£60
Alarm clocks from 1972: Metamec electric and Coral travel alarm
Start the day 1970s' style. Alarm clocks from 1972: Metamec electric and Coral travel alarm

1972 was also just before the digital alarm clock revolution. Mechanical and mains-powered electric clocks were the choice most people had to wake them up in the morning. Travel alarm clocks were a popular gift.

These are a few examples from 1972:

1972 priceInflation adjusted
Eurostyle 7/0334 traditional alarm clock (Yugoslavia)£2.42£23
Coral 2221 travel alarm clock (Japan)£4.25£40
Metamec A905 electric alarm clock (UK)£3.30£32

Motoring

1972 priceInflation adjusted
Gallon of petrol35p£3.40
Ford Cortina car£1,022.00£9,600.00
Mini 850£695£6,700
Fiat 500£650£6,300
A Fiat 500 cost £650 in 1972
A Fiat 500 cost £650 in 1972

Motoring was cheaper in the early 70s. Both cars and petrol were cheap compared to what we have to pay today. Cars were more basic, but they still got you from A to B.

Allowing for inflation you could get a basic Mini 850 for under £7,000 and a Fiat 500 was just £6,300.

Petrol was just 78p a litre in 2021 money. Happy days!

Cigarettes and alcohol

Beer was 16p a pint in 1971
Courage Tavern cost between 14p and 18p for a pint in 1972
1972 priceInflation adjusted
Bottle of whisky (Haig)£2.52£24.00
Bottle of sherry (Harvey's Bristol Cream)£1.25£12.00
Pint of beer (Courage Tavern)14-18p£1.32-£1.70
20 cigarettes26½p£2.50

Whisky was more expensive in the 1970s than today (allowing for inflation). A standard bottle of whisky from a well-known brand, such as Bells or Johnnie Walker, costs around £15 from a supermarket today.

Beer and cigarettes were much cheaper, as you can see from the table above. Keg bitter was Britain's favourite drink in 1972. Watneys asked us to join the 'Red Revolution'.


In the kitchen

Russell Hobbs K2S kettle, 1970s
The Russell Hobbs K2 kettle cost £7.95 in 1972
1972 priceInflation adjusted
Zoppas refrigerator (made by Zanussi) (Currys)£32.95£310.00
Servis Supertwin washing machine (Currys)£86.95£820.00
Hoover Automatic Deluxe washing machine (Currys)£105.00£990.00
Russell Hobbs K2 (Timothy Whites) kettle£7.95£80
Kenwood Chef mixer (Timothy Whites) kettle£31.25£300

Food prices

1972 priceInflation adjusted
Pint of milk5p47p
White, 1¾lb wrapped and sliced loaf10p94p
½lb St Ivel Golden Meadow butter (Tesco)11½p£1.08
Maxwell House 4oz coffee (Tesco)25p£2.35
Can of Coke (Co-op)6½p 61p
Golden Wonder crisps 3p28p
One dozen large white eggs22p£2.07
1lb Stork margarine 11½p£1.03

In 1972 we ate about 17lb of fish per year. Today's figure is very similar. In 1972 the three most popular fish were cod, haddock and herring. Cod cost 33p per pound, haddock 35p and herring 15p. Kippers were 21p per pound. [3]

Posting a letter

Postal rates in 1972 were 3p for first class and 2½p for second class letters.

Housing

1972 priceInflation adjusted
Average house price£7,000.00£66,000.00

Newspapers

1971 priceInflation adjusted
The Daily Mirror newspaper3p28p
The Daily Express newspaper3p28p

Toys and games

1972 priceInflation adjusted
Tracy's Tea Party (Timothy White)£6.28£60
Monopoly game (Tesco)£1.35£13

Records

Long-playing (LPs) records cost from 77p to £2.25 in 1972. [2]

Clothes

1972 priceInflation adjusted
Tights (Woolworth's)15-29p£1.45-£2.80
Men's socks (Woolworth's)25p£2.40
Children's socks (Woolworth's)15-25p£1.45-£2.40
Drip-dry nylon shirts (Woolworth's)£1.25£12
Men's suit made to measure from Burton£19.50£190
Men's showerproof topcoat (Burton)£17.50£170
Men's paisley patterned polyester/cotton shirt (C&A)£1.65£17
Women's trouser suit with spotted cravat (C&A)£8.95£90
Dresses (Richard Shops)£5.45£50

Read more: 70s fashion

Children's bikes

Raleigh Chopper Mk2
A Raleigh Chopper cost £35 in 1972
1972 priceInflation adjusted
Raleigh Chopper£35.60£340
Dawes Red Feather RF1£36.99£360
Halfords Olympic£27.50£270
Dawes Kingpin 500B£35.99£350
Moulton Midi£27.50£270
Raleigh R16£35.35£350

Source: 'Bicycles for older children', published in 'Which?' February 1972 by the Consumers' Association, page 38-9

How far did money go in 1972?

This table will give you an idea of the spending power of the original decimal coins against 2021 money.

Under the decimal system there were coins for ½p, 1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 50p and notes for £1, £5, £10, £20.

AmountValue 2021
½p5p
1p10p
2p20p
5p50p
10p£1
50p£5
£1£10
£5£50
£10£100
£20£200

Figures derived from The Bank of England's Three Centuries Macroeconomic Dataset Version 2.3 - 30 June 2016 adjusted for current inflation and rounded.

You can think of £1 in 1972 as about £10 in today's money and today's pound as 10p in 1972. It gives you an idea why the coins were bigger back then.

How much did people earn?

The average weekly wage for full-time male manual workers over twenty-one was £36.60 in 1972. For women workers over eighteen it was £20.50. [Source: Hansard HC Deb 10 February 1983 vol 36 cc422-3W]

Holidays abroad

More people were getting on a plane and flying off to the sun in the early 1970s. Spain was the top tourist destination for British holiday makers in 1972. A package holiday to Spain cost from £40 to £150 in 1972.

References

[1] BBC Handbook 1973, published by the BBC in 1972, page 224

[2] 'Waste disposers' published in 'Which?', March 1972, published by the Consumers' Association, pages 88-92

[3] 'Fish' published in 'Which?', May 1972, published by the Consumers' Association, pages 135-7

[4] 'LP Records' published in 'Which?', May 1972, published by the Consumers' Association, pages 146-7

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