In 1965, the St. Louis Cardinals played their home games in Sportsman’s Park (aka Busch Stadium I). The most expensive seat in the ballpark, a box seat, cost $3.50. A blue-collar worker, who earned about $2 an hour at the time, could treat a family of four to a game in these most expensive seats for less than one day’s pay.
These days, the Cards play at the new stadium, Busch Stadium III. A typical blue-collar worker makes something like $20 an hour The cheapest seat in the stadium still costs less than an hour’s pay. But the most expensive seats cost somewhere north of $800. It would take a month for a blue collar worker to earn enough to treat a family of four to the best seats in the ballpark.In 1965, my family would've thought nothing of buying the most expensive seats. Now, there's no way I could afford them.
What's really gotten expensive, and is too heavily weighted in the Consumer Price Index when considering how the middle and lower classes are faring, is the cost of exclusion: things like caviar, high-end wines, and exclusive seats at the stadium. Imitation crab, Two-buck Chuck (Charles Shaw wines), and general admission at the ballpark, have had a far, far lower inflation rate than exclusive items.
To me, wine inflation is the most interesting. The cheapest bottle of wine in the mid-1970s was made by Boone's Farm. It was $1.79 a bottle. It was really terrible, but hey, it got you drunk if you could choke it down. The Two-buck Chuck Chardonnay is $2.99 a bottle, 40 years later. We California wine snobs disparage it, but really, it compares quite favorably with the very best wines I had during the 1970s, and once in a great while, I happily drink it. According to CPI inflation calculators, $1.79 in 1975 is equivalent to $7.81 in 2015, so the quality is up and the relative price for good low end wines is down.
I'm not sure what the most expensive bottle of exclusive wine in 1975 was. But it doesn't matter, because we can be sure it was orders of magnitude less than the £122,380 (about $180,000) a bottle folks paid for Chateau Margaux 2009. And there's quite a number of wines that push $10,000 a bottle.
It's become really expensive to live the high life.