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:
|3.9||Beretta 692 over/under, 12 ga.||$4,547|
|4.1||Fierce CT Edge, bolt action, 6.5||4,330|
|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|