A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that


Friday, 23 June 2017

If a tree is in a box and no-one sees it, is it really there?

Well I haven't had any activity on the give-away quiz for a few days now, so - since I am in for a busy weekend - I decided to close a day early. Thanks to everyone who sent an estimate of the original value of the trees in the boxes. One slight shock was how unfamiliar and illogical the old British currency seems now.


There are 107 individual fir trees in the boxes - you probably can't quite see all of them, but I was looking for an estimate. I know it is 107 because I had 85 good trees and recently I obtained an additional 22, and also I can confirm that the number of magnetic patches I attached to them is 107. And, of course, I counted them again, to check. That should about do it.

107 trees, at 6-to-a-box, is 17-and-five-sixths boxes, which, at 3/11d a box (that's three-shillings-and-elevenpence, or 47 old pence a box), works out at close to £3:9:10d - that's three-pounds-nine-shillings-and-tenpence - or £3.49236. I did not bother to work it out in contemporary Mars Bars, since no-one seemed interested.

Best cost estimate came from Ross Mac, who doesn't want the prize and is therefore a Category B entrant (glory only). Ross's estimate of £3:3:7d was based on 16 and a half packs - 99 trees. If he had done the cost calculation more accurately, I think he'd have got £3:4:8d, which would have been even closer, but no matter - well done, Ross, the glory is yours.

The nearest estimate from Category A was Mark Dudley's £3:2:8d, so he wins the Lachouque booque (or Lachook book if you prefer). Mark - if you send me a comment (which I shall not publish) giving your postal address I'll get your prize to you.

Goya observed that, around 1960, when these were bought, three-pounds-something would not be far away from the average weekly wage of a manual worker supporting a family. Discuss...


Thanks again, everyone - them sums are harder than I remembered, man.

13 comments:

  1. The thing that got to me when researching the currency was the comment in wiki about it being so easy to do calculations for the costs of things done in dozens. Took me about 15 minutes to figure out why someone would say that....

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    1. Well done, Ross. Another great strength of the old system was that you could divide a shilling up evenly 2, 3, 4 or 6 ways - can't remember why we might have wanted to do that, but I guess it must have been useful. It's all because Englishmen always had 6 fingers on each hand.

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    2. With the old currency everything was sold in dozens which were much more versatile to store and divide. There were eggs for example and .. well just eggs really.

      Also the change of currency completely ended people playing with the coins in their pockets. Chinking your change, overnight became a thing of the past as nasty little lightweight coins became the norm. In fact it is socially rather frowned on nowadays, at least my wife seems to think so.

      Sorry not to enter this one, I old enough to have been comfortable with the arithmetic, but every time I tried to count the trees I came over all dizzy and had to lie down.

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    3. I am always intrigued by how international the pre-decimal arrangements were really - French joiners still use the "pouce" as a working measure, with 12 pouces to the pied. The same conventions are found in French Napoleonic artillery classifications. One thing I do miss is the convenience of some of the measures - a "quarter" (quarter pound = 4 ozs) bag of sweets was a handy size - we seem to have made a poor fist of finding a friendly metric equivalent, though I am delighted that the Italians have the etto, which is 100gm, which is near enough a quarter of a pound, which is a sensible measure for a purchase of ham, sweets etc.

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  2. I was thinking you could have worked the price out with log. tables. (Remember those?) But then I regretted it.

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  3. The tree may or may not be there but either way it is probably listening to the sound of one hand clapping. Am I too late to enter? I was thinking possibly 107?

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    1. Some of these trees travelled to your house recently (before I applied the magnetic sheet) - a good Scottish tradition, having Dunsinane Wood come to your home. In passing, a relative of mine once appeared as a tree in Polanski's film of Macbeth - there were rather a lot of them, but it was the high point of his acting career - he bored everyone with the tale for decades. In fact, I seem to be continuing the tradition for him now.

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  4. I would have made it L3 9s 10d farthing - which would be overcharging by a twelfth of a penny. New Zealand went decimal back in 1967. I still remember that a third of a pound was 6/8 and a sixth 3/4; and that five-sixths of a quid was 16/8, and two-thirds, 13/4.

    Never could suss why on earth our government would pi-- would barf up so much treasure to make an altogether unnecessary change to the money system.

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    1. I was in Cork, in the Republic of Ireland, shortly after they sort of unofficially went metric, and they changed the town speed limit signs to "48", being a close metric equivalent to 30mph - they had not yet become European enough to notice that all the other metric nations rounded it up to 50.

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  5. I remember my first metal figures costing a shilling each.

    Whilst the 12 times table is less important than it used to be I still measure in feet and inches.

    The old £sd coins had far more character than the current decimal ones. The trupenny bit and half crown were my favorites.

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    1. I have a Victorian fourpenny piece (which I believe is a groat, and is, surprisingly, silver) on my granddad's old watch chain.

      I never understood the derivation of the word "farthing" - it seems an odd word. When I first came to Edinburgh we were still £sd, and the summer used to be chaotic with foreign visitors trying to understand the money for bus fares.

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    2. Sad to say but more than 50 years since we went metric I buy meat by the pound but milk and gas by the litre and measure distances in inches, feet, yards and .... kilometres. sighh

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