What Stuff Cost in the 1980s

3 min read

The 1980s, sometimes called “the decade of greed” was characterized by excessive wealth and opulence. Quite a lot happened in the 1980s, Ronald Reagan was President, John Lennon was assassinated, Princess Diana got married, and cellphones and minivans made their debut. But what did stuff actually cost in the 1980s? Find out below.

10. Rubik’s Cube

Rubik's Cube

The Rubik’s Cube, that colorful grid of pure puzzle frustration, hit the American market in 1980 and quickly gained in popularity. When it was first released, you could score one of these toys for $1.99, adjusted for inflation, that would be about $6.00 today. While it’s popularity fell over time, Rubik’s cubes are still available for purchase and a new Cube will cost you about $19.00

9. Cell Phones

Cell phone

Cell Phones and car phones became the status symbols of the power elite. Everyone who was anyone had a cellphone if they could afford it. In the 1980s, a new cell phone would run you anywhere from $750-$3,500. Adjusted for inflation your slick new gadget would cost $1,735-$8,099! Cellphone prices of today don’t look so bad in comparison when a new iPhone X costs about $1,200-$2,500.

8. Computers


The 1980s saw the creation and availability of the Personal Computer (PC). In 1984, Apple released the Macintosh computer for about $2,500. Today that would equal almost $6,000. Time and research has brought the cost of computers down to a more realistic price. A new Mac Book Pro starts at around $1,300.

7. Minivans


If you were alive during the 80s and 90s, there’s a high probability that you, your family, or your neighbor owned a minivan. The Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager became a quintessential part of the American family. In 1985, the base price for a new Dodge Caravan was $9,612, (about 22,250 adjusted for inflation). Today, one of these family mobiles starts at about $26,000. When you consider inflation, the price of this vehicle has not increased much in the past 34 years.

6. Homes


The average cost of a new home in the United States at the end of 2017 was about $400,000. At the end of 1987, a new home cost $136,000 on average ($289,000 adjusted for inflation). It’s no wonder that people in their 20s and 30s are struggling to purchase their first homes in this day and age!

5. Milk


In 1980 you could purchase a gallon of milk for $1.12. What a steal! A gallon of milk today costs about $3.15, but when you factor in inflation, milk cost about .35 cents more in 1980.

4. Entertainment


In 1985 you could catch a movie at the cinema for about $3.50. Today, that wouldn’t even cover the cost of your small popcorn! The average price of movie tickets in 2017 reached an all time high of $8.97. With the emergence of “luxury movie theaters”, the price of one ticket can cost you over $20!

3. Gasoline

Gas pump

While many believe that gas is more expensive now than it has ever been, they’re not exactly right. A gallon of gas in 1985 would cost you about $1.20, but when inflation is factored in, that comes to about $2.78 in today’s money. The national gas price average for 2017 was $2.49. While the range varies from state to state, overall, drivers are getting more bang for their buck.

2. Fast Food


In 1985 McDonald’s marked their 30th year selling burgers and fries beneath the Golden Arches. They celebrated the occasion by introducing the Big Mac Value Pack, which later became known as “Extra Value Meals”. It’s original price was $2.99. That amount wouldn’t get you very far at the drive through window as the Big Mac Extra Value Meal will now cost you about $8.00.

 1. Newspaper


With the rise of modern technology, print news subscriptions have been on a steady decline. People choose to get their information on their devices rather than through the morning paper. In 1980, one weekday issue of the Los Angeles Times cost just .25 cents! Today a copy will run you $2.75. It’s no wonder print news is struggling when all the information you could ever want or need is at your fingertips, and usually for free.

Over all, the United States has seen an increase in price for many common items, with the exception of some. With the advancements of technology over the past 38 years, devices are much more affordable, when you take inflation in to account. However, everyday items like food and entertainment continue to rise in price.