26 June 2010

When Russian Prices Were in Steel


I read the fine print identifying restaurant cutlery... It’s a whimsy.  Also study labels... food, clothing, hardware... to see the journey from producer to distributor.  In Russia these last ten years, I have looked for a  price often stamped in the metal of items before 1991, something I challenge you to find in any other country!

These ruble-kopeck stampings in metal show clearly the dramatic difference between pricing systems.  When pricing ignored inflation the items could be good deals.  Sometimes there were shortages, as pricing didn’t require supply considerations.  Markets for clothes and high quality imported furniture stores were available along with the standard stores. 

The West’s system of Supply and Demand often has been an efficient vehicle for people to buy plentiful items at good prices.  It also  has been corrupted by monopolies, shady dealing, and it’s own polite corruption through the centuries.

So in studying pricing systems of Russia and the West we shouldn’t be naive... and also know we will confront a lot of confusing and conflicting information.

Kitchen items and hand tools marked in Soviet times are great souvenirs.  A meat grinder is cumbersome, but something smaller is just the ticket for something truly made in Russia!

Here’s the stamp in steel for a large hand ax made in 1990... a  fixed price of Ц 3 Р ( the first letter of  цена= price),  Р (the first letter of  рубли).

A porcelain fuse...  Ц 38 К  копек, kopeck.  There are 100 kopecks to a ruble.

My favorite is at the top... A small adjustable wrench that's great as a key ring... which was marked for all time at Ц 60 К.

SDC10557    SDC10558


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