One usuable indicator of the value of a Viking sword. How many weapons you could buy today for that price?

Viking warrior with sword and shield standing near Drakkar on the seashore. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

What was the price of a Viking sword at the time? How about expressing a price then in some unit of measure we can grasp today? I have looked on the ol’ net but haven’t found any good guesses. Previous post discussed one indicator that I couldn’t process.

Hurstwic website describes one sword that had a reported value.   Chapter 13 of Laxdæla saga says a sword given to Höskuldur by King Hákon was worth a half mark of gold.

Hurstwic says that is equal to 16 milk cows.

At two ounces of silver for one cow that would be 32 ounces of silver.

At 8 ounces of silver to an ounce of gold, that would be 4 ounces of gold.

Working the math another way, a mark is 8, whether gold or silver. So half a mark of gold is 4 ounces. At 8 ounces of silver to an ounce of gold, 4 ounces of gold equals 32 ounces of silver.

See my previous Estimate of price of silver and gold in Viking Age.

So, this one data point indicates a sword nice enough to be a gift from a king, in others words a relatively nice one, had a value of 16 milk cows, or 32 ounces of silver, or 4 ounces of gold.

With my guess / estimate of an ounce of silver being worth somewhere around $550 an ounce, that would put that sword at

  • 32 ounces of silver
  • x $550 / ounce silver
  • = ~ $17,600

Keep in mind that wild guess contains a huge string of assumptions. On the other hand, that is the only shot at putting a price tag on Viking sword I have seen.

How well could you be armed today for price of a nice sword then?

Here is a thought exercise to put that high end weapon of the Viking Age into context of far richer, high-tech 21st century. Let’s look at Bass Pro Shop website and see how many weapons one could buy for $17,600.

We could express the equivalent price of $17,600 in terms of transportation, housing, or food. I think the better comparison is to adjust the rough-guess for price of a weapon back then to state of the art weapons today. So, back to the Bass Pro Shop listings.

I pulled prices for some rifles and shotguns from their site. Picked the most expensive item listed, some nicer weapons at the point there is a bunch of items in a narrow price range, some representative average priced items, and two of the more economical weapons.

Here is how many of different weapons you could buy today for the price of a gift-quality sword back in the Viking Age:

number rifle/shotgun price w/tax
most expensive
         3.9 Beretta 692 over/under, 12 ga.     $4,547
         4.1 Fierce CT Edge, bolt action, 6.5       4,330
high end
         7.9 Browning, Citori over/under, 12 ga.       2,219
         8.1 Browning X-Bolt, bolt-action, 6.5       2,165
        10.0 Springfield M1A, .308       1,764
average price range
        14.1 Armalite AR-10, .308       1,245
        16.9 Remington 700 bolt-action, .300       1,039
        18.1 Ruger Mini-14, .223          974
         23.2 Beretta A300 semi, 12 ga.          758
        30.7 Remington 870 tactical, pump, 12 ga.          574
        25.0 S&W M&P15, .223          704
        45.1 Mossberg 500, pump, 12 ga.          390


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