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25 Things You Could Buy for a Quarter in the 1950s

A Box of Cereal

One 8-ounce box of W.K. Kellogg's Toasted Corn Flakes cost exactly 25 cents in the 1950s. And while today you can choose from a ton of different-sized boxes (most of them far, far larger than 8 ounces) none of them are going to be able to beat that price-per-ounce.

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A Gallon of Gas

Actually, you'd get a nickel back. In 1950, a gallon of gas would only set you back about 18 cents, and even by 1959, it was still only a quarter per gallon. That may seem cheap now, but it’s all relative. Post War inflation had also recently brought the price of a new car up in 1950 to about $2,210 -- which was about 2/3rds of the median family income of $3,319 at the time. 

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A Loaf of Bread

In 1957, a loaf of bread cost only 19 cents, giving you 6 cents left to spend on a couple of postage stamps, or a pound and a half of celery (if you just really, really like celery for some reason). A loaf of white bread today costs about $1.40 nationwide, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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A Ballpoint Pen

In 1950, a ballpoint pen cost you a quarter.  Today you'll usually buy them in a package, but you'll pay anywhere from 36 to 60 cents per pen. Not that much of a markup, all things considered. Of course, the pen everyone thinks of when they think of ballpoint -- the Bic Cristal -- didn't make the journey from France to the U.S. until '59, carrying a price tag of 29 cents a pop.

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A Milkshake

Not just any regular ol' milkshake, either. A "malted milk" made with "2 Dippers of Ice Cream" sits smack in the middle of this Woolworth's menu for right at a quarter. And if the price of orange juice on that menu seems steep compared to the cost of the shake, note that the juice was squeezed fresh to order.

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Two Pounds of Campbell's Pork & Beans

We're not sure what exactly you would do with two one-pound cans of pork & beans, but by golly, you sure could buy them for a quarter in 1950. Maybe you were making baked beans for a family cookout. Like, a really large, Southern family where all the cousins actually know each other.

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Two Comic Books

The cover price for most comics was only 10 cents from the 1930s on up until about 1962 when they went up to a whole 12 cents per issue. You could get a couple of books, and one of them might even be an issue of World's Finest Comics. Sure, it cost an extra nickel, but it had Batman and Superman in it!

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As Many as Five Cokes

The 1950s were a golden age for Coca-Cola. 1950 saw the iconic bottle grace the cover of Time magazine -- the first commercial product to do so. The advent of the '50s saw a few bottlers start to push up costs, but in most places, you could still buy a Coke for a nickel. By the late '50s, the nickel coke was more or less history, but your quarter could still get you 2 to 4 bottles of Coke, depending on where you lived. 

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McDonald's Hamburger and Fries

In the '50s, one of Ray Kroc's burgers would only set you back 15 cents, leaving you with a dime to either get fries or a soda. (Or, interestingly, a tall, cool glass of milk.) Can you even get, like, one single French fry for that price now? At most, you could maybe buy a couple of ketchup packets and drink the ketchup out of them if you were really desperate for some kind of sustenance.

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Half-Gallon of Clorox Bleach

In 1954, you could get a half-gallon of Clorox bleach for only 19 cents. That price actually represented a big increase in 1947 -- Post War inflation took its toll yet again. Of course, you'd probably use that bleach a lot more than we do today. During the war, bleach was used to disinfect wounds, which sounds like it would probably be more painful than helpful. 

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A Paperback Book

During the 1950s paperback books were a booming business. People loved the stories held inside, especially because they were only 25 cents each. In comparison, the average cost of a paperback today is about $10.

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Two Heads of Lettuce

Lettuce is a pretty versatile food because you can use it for so many things. Whether you want a salad, to add it to a sandwich, or even as a wrapper for a delicious stuffing, it’s a good way to get in your daily dose of leafy greens. You could get two heads of lettuce for 25 cents in 1950, compared to today’s pricing of 99 cents per head.

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A Pack of Cigarettes

Smoking is a terrible habit. The dangers of smoking weren’t widely accepted or even talked about in the 1950s, but luckily we recognize how bad it is today. A pack of smokes would only set you back 15 cents in the '50s, whereas today a single pack can be $7 or more.

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Two Cups of Coffee

It’s easy to overspend on coffee when you head to your local cafe every morning—a single cup can cost anywhere from $2 up to $8 or more depending on what you order. In 1950, one cup was 10 cents so you could easily get two cups with change to spare!

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A Jar of Grape Jelly

Jelly has been a staple for breakfast for a long time. One jar was 19 cents back in 1950, so you’d have 6 cents left over! If you walk into any grocery store today, it’ll cost you about $2 for your favorite morning condiment.

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A Half-Pound of Frozen Green Beans

A half-pound bag of frozen green beans went for 24 cents back in the day. That’s plenty of vegetables to use as a side dish for a meal, making it a great deal for families. Today, the same amount of green beans costs about $1.

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Four Pounds of Cabbage

Good thing cabbage is healthy and delicious because you could get a lot of it for 25 cents in the 1950s. At 6 cents per pound, you could snag four pounds of the leafy green to feed your family. A pound of cabbage is about 62 cents in stores today.

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A Pound of Margarine

Margarine is a good replacement for butter when you don’t need the real thing, and is found in many households even today. For 19 cents you could get a whole pound of margarine and still have 6 cents left over. The same amount of margarine would cost you about $1.50 today.

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A Pineapple

Who doesn’t love fresh fruit? It’s always nice to have access to a refreshing, sweet, and healthy treat, which makes the 25 cent price tag on pineapples in 1950 fairly reasonable. A whole pineapple would set you back an average of $2.28 in stores today.

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Five Rolls of Toilet Paper

Everyone uses toilet paper, so it’s nice that this necessity was available for 5 cents per roll in 1950. You could get five rolls of the tissue for 25 cents, making that quite a steal. Today, a pack of four costs about $3 and a pack of six is about $5.

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A Package of Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls

There’s nothing quite like waking up to the smell of freshly baked cinnamon rolls in the morning. In 1950, you could snag a package of the delicious pastries for 23 cents! Today, the name brand cinnamon rolls are an average of $1.66 per can.

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Three Bottles of Palmolive

I don’t know about you, but it’s easy to go through dish soap quickly. In 1950, one bottle was 7 cents, so you could stock up and get three bottles of Palmolive for 21 cents! That’s nice compared to today’s cost, which is almost $3 for a bottle of the cleaning liquid.

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Five Pounds of Onions

Onions are a great ingredient for cooking. They smell great when they’re cooking and add a pop of flavor to many dishes. A five-pound bag of the delicious vegetable was a reasonable 15 cents back in 1950. Today, a three-pound bag is about $2-$3 at the grocery store.

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Two Jars of Gerber Baby Food

It can be incredibly stressful to raise a baby and finding the right food for your growing child can be just as difficult. Gerber, a trusted brand for many years, was only 10 cents per jar in the 1950s. A package of the same brand of baby food costs $1.36 today.

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Two Boxes of Jiffy Cake Mix

Two cakes are better than one, right? You could get two boxes of Jiffy brand cake mix for only 10 cents each in the '50s, leaving you with 5 extra cents! Nowadays, a box of the same cake mix would cost you $1.48. Either way, that's not bad for a box of cake mix.

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