If you grew up in the '60s, you're old enough to remember nickel Hershey bars, dime bottles of pop and 30-cent-per-gallon gasoline. It only cost 5 cents to mail a letter or purchase a pack of baseball cards in 1964.
About that time, I paid $2.50 to see the Beach Boys in concert. Admission to the great ballrooms to see top regional acts like the Fabulous Flippers, the Rumbles and the Pete Klint Quintet was only $1.25.
Three Dog Night's 1969 album, "Captured Live at the Forum," contains a quip aimed at the crowd in the balconies. They should have bought the $5.50 tickets up front, said one of the band members. With that $5.50 in 2011 you'd be lucky to get into the parking lot or purchase a bottle of water at many venues.
Just as I listened to my grandparents' comment about Saturday afternoon double features for a nickel or dime gasoline, I now engage in the requisite generational reminiscing about what a dollar won't buy in today's marketplace.
According to various government statistics. It takes about seven 2011 dollars to equal the value of a 1964 dollar. Typical consumers may more easily relate to the Hershey Bar and Kellogg's Corn Flakes indices developed by foodtimeline.org. An ounce of a Hershey bar in 2008 was around 10 times more expensive than in 1964. Corn flakes? An ounce is about 12 times more expensive today than in 1965. Even that 30-cent gallon of gasoline has increased more than tenfold since then.
Using these figures, 1964's $2.50 concert tickets should run between $17.50 and $25 today. They don't. In fact, they're much higher.
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A friend unknowingly developed the "Bruce Springsteen Ticket Price Index" when he posted a picture on Facebook last year of most of his 15 concert tickets from The Boss's gigs. In 1980 his ticket was $9.50, and a 2009 concert was $95 plus fees.
Unlike in 1964, today's tickets often include fees that can amount to as much as $20 per seat. And pardon me, but no concert T-shirt is worth $45 unless the band personally silk screens and autographs it in front of me.
Over the past four decades, two hours of live music moved from the entertainment column of the family budget to the category of major purchase. A decade ago I wrote in this column that the family price tag to attend a Crosby, Stills and Nash concert would have paid for roundtrip airfare for all of us to Walt Disney World.
Although Pollster claims the average ticket price was $61 in 2010, tickets to see many of the most popular bands are much higher. An upcoming Elton John show peaks at $127 with almost $16 in additional fees. Tickets for a show featuring the cast of "Glee" sell for $65-$125 plus $10-$15 in fees.
I now use the Paul McCartney pH test when considering concerts. Are tickets more than the $60 I paid to see him? It makes the decision quite a bit easier.
Oh, remember that $2.50 ticket for the Beach Boys 45 years ago? This summer a similar seat runs $110 plus fees. And that's with only one original member on stage. Any Beach Boys concert not featuring Brian Wilson isn't worth that, even with a personally silk-screened and autographed T-shirt.