Last year I acquired a job lot of Picture Post magazines from the 1940s and early 1950s and as well as the fascinating pictorial and editorial content, the adverts provide a unique insight into life in Britain sixty years ago. This advert for a modernistic EKCO radio caught my eye for a whole series of reasons. I had always assumed that clock-radios were a relatively recent development but here we have the promise of waking up to music in November 1949 (according to the best-selling music charts of the time it might have been The Inkspots or perhaps Billy Cotton and his Band). The manufacturers name also brought back memories : when our family acquired their first television set three years later than this advert it was also an EKCO.
EKCO was a pioneering British radio and television company established by Eric Kirkham Cole in the 1920s. During the Second World War the firm was heavily involved in the manufacture of radar sets and after the war it switched its production to domestic radios and televisions. ECKO eventually vanished as a trade name in the 1960s.
So, how much would you need to pay for "radio's most ingenious receiver"? The price was 16 guineas (a guinea was an ingenious unit with an ever changing numerical value : two guineas was two pounds and two shillings, sixteen guineas was sixteen pounds and sixteen shillings). So what would the equivalent price be in 2010? It all depends how you do the calculations, of course, but there is an excellent site run by the Economic History Association that incorporates a calculator which will do the maths for you. In terms of inflation, the price of that ECKO radio today would be £442 ($687). But if you take the proportion of your average wage you would need to spend now compared to the proportion back in 1949, the equivalent price is a massive £1,330 ($2,076) Prices like that make waking up to Billy Cotton an expensive luxury.