One of the things I have always been a little uncomfortable with is the exchange of money for my work. Not that I am against the exchange of money for my work, but what to charge. I don’t want to undervalue practitioners who do it for a living, but I also don’t want to charge too much. See I have a full time job, and I am big on gifting. When I make things I like to share, and I have never been able to find the Goldilocks price range.
But I also find making small batches isn’t as easy as a medium size batch of spray, soap… etc. So how to price what I have been making recently? Some are my own recipes and some are based on recipes I found in New Orleans, and if I charge too little it devalues it, but if I charge too much that feels like taking advantage.
So I was stuck until the other day I had an idea. What if I convert the prices on the notebook from the Pharmacy Museum into modern day prices! I wonder what that would be.
My thinking is this: the formulations are in a notebook from a early half of the last century. They are written in pharmacist shorthand. Documentary evidence exists that hoodoo formulations were sold by white male pharmacists, who may or may not have worked with hoodoo practitioners. But this is the actual physical ingredients with a price so it is possible that the pharmacist was just mixing them and selling them on his own. So if you consider the price of the item to be physical object + intangible value added we can think of these prices as the physical object +/- intangible. So, this was considered a fair price at the time so let’s see how this all works out with the numbers! Math time!
The price listed range from $0.1/oz to $ 0.25/oz
Now the actual date of the artifact but the displays on the ground floor of the museum that opened in 1950 are referred to as “mid 19th century” but there is also a sign in that section that mentioned someone who was convicted for selling hoodoo wares in the 1930’s. Googling around it and looking at old pharmacist notebook pictures the sheets look on the early side and not 1930’s maybe closer to 1900. (finding the actual date range will require more research) So we have a range from 1850 – 1930 a pretty wide range, so I went wit 1910.
- What cost $1 in 1913 (earliest year in the inflation calculator) would cost $25.90 (I like rounding so lets make it $26) in 2019 so $0.10 becomes $2.60 per oz. and $0.25 becomes $6.50 per oz
- Everything is in metric where I am now so lets round to 30mL per oz (glass bottles are sold as 30mL or 1 ounce)
- so the price per mL would be $0.09 per mL – $0.21 so lets be nice and change it to $0.10 /mL and $0.20/mL
- Now we have the price in adjusted for inflation as $0.10 /mL – $0.20/mL Doesn’t that work out nice?
- This is based on the prices being from ~1913 (but we don’t know if they are earlier or late). Also we don’t know if the original prices I found were sold with or without the “intangible value added” so 3 to 6 dollars for a 30 mL bottle of my sprays would be the range.
- Essential oils here are on the expensive side here and mine come with the intangible value added part, so I think I am comfortable with the $6 price. But is this reasonable?
- Lucky Mojo sells Fast Luck oil for $7.50 USD and my Lucky Mojo bottles look like they are 1/2 ounce. This sounds like around the same range as what I got other oils in New Orleans when I was there for, so for someone who uses a different cheaper base (sprays not oils) I think I am in the right range.
- If I add on a $1.5 bottle charge then I also get $7.50 USD or ~ $10 SGD.
I hope that was an interesting discussion for you. It’s a little bit into my brain and how I use tools from my research work in science in my practice. I also think this type of research/thought experiment can help decisions like “how much should I charge for this” be based in historical precedent.
We should never devalue our work, even if money makes you uncomfortable. But we also shouldn’t take financial advantage of customers by over charging. I think that having a range like $3-6 in mind allows for a range of different price teirs from gifts (close friends and family) to a lower price (friends and lower income) and average customers, that doesn’t devalue the effort I put in. Also I think it shows that the current range of prices out there from whole sellers like Lucky Mojo who know what they are doing, and small individuals like Candle Smoke Chapel (they are awesome check them out), are actually very reasonable based on historic price data we have.
So if you are in Singapore right now you will soon be able to get my sprays for $10 in the bottle or 0.30 SGD/mL with your own bottle. I am also a big fan of making things yourself so when I have a formulation I am happy with feel free to ask.
Also remember the difference is in the “intangible value added” of each maker and how much that is worth to you should be considered when you are assessing the reasonableness of a price.
Make things! Support each other!