A fascinating (for gunnies) economics article from The Market Oracle: It Can’t Happen in America? It Already Did! Excerpts:
I am sure more than one Southern gentleman desired to own the Spencer rifle to protect his hearth and home during this era, but the 1866 Spencer Repeating Arms Catalog shows the rifle in the 44 caliber retailed for a whopping $45.00.
To a present day buyer this may not sound like a lot but let’s put this in perspective; a frame of reference, which will remain constant throughout the rest of the article.
In 1866, according to nber.org, the average weekly wage of working Americans was $41.18, (adjusted to 1866 dollar), with the average work week being estimated at sixty-four hours. The results were an hourly wage of $0.64. With this in mind it would take a worker dedicating everything they earned from 70 hours of labor to purchase a Spencer rifle.
In 1870 the Montgomery Wards catalog (of 1870,) advertised the Sharps (?) 7 shot repeating rifle at $50.00 still requiring the American worker to dedicate 59.25 hours a 15% reduction in hours needed to work before purchasing the rifle.
The 1876 Winchester catalog shows the least expensive standard New Model ‘73’ Sporting Rifle with 24 inch barrel in the 44 caliber sold for $45.00; requiring the purchaser to contribute his earning from slightly more than 47 hours of toil before claiming it, as opposed to 70 hours in 1866.
As the end of 1880 approached Winchester Repeating Arms August catalog reports that the Model 73 had been reduced in price by 33% to $30.00 from $45.00 in 1876. The American buying public now was able, with less then twenty-nine and a half hours of labor to purchase a Winchester, down nearly 58% from 1866.
I won’t give away the conclusion. Instead, I urge you to give it a read.