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The Christmas Price Index

December 11, 2011
Christmas Price Index

Christmas Price Index

The Christmas Price Index was conceived by PNC Bank’s chief economist as a humorous commodity price index to measure the changing cost of goods over time. Commodity price indices, as compiled by economics, use a “market basket” of certain goods and then measure the cost of the goods from year to year to gauge inflation in different sectors of the economy.

The Christmas Price Index chose the items in the popular Christmas carol “The Twelve Days of Christmas” as its market basket: a partridge in a pear tree, two turtle doves, three French hens, four calling birds, five gold rings, six geese, seven swans, eight maids, nine dancing ladies, ten leaping lords, eleven pipers, and twelve drummers. According to tradition, the purchasing of the items begins on December 26 and ends on January 6.

PNC compiles both a “Christmas Price Index” and “The True Cost of Christmas.” The “Christmas Price Index” is calculated by adding the cost of the items in the song. The “True Cost of Christmas,” however, is calculated by following the exact instructions in the song (buying a partridge in a pear tree on each of the twelve days, buying two turtle doves from the second day onward, for a total of 22 turtle doves, etc.) for the complete set of 364 items.

The price of each item is set as follows:

  • The pear tree comes from a local Philadelphia nursery.
  • The partridge, turtle dove, and French hen prices are determined by the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden.
  • The price of a canary at Petco is used for the calling bird, though the price of a blackbird would be more in tune with the song.
  • Gordon Jewelers sets the cost of the gold rings, though the gold rings of the song actually refer to ring-necked pheasants.
  • The National Aviary in Pittsburgh sets prices for swans and geese.
  • The maids are assumed to be unskilled laborers earning the Federal Minimum Wage.
  • A Philadelphia dance company provides estimates for the salary of “ladies dancing”.
  • The Philadelphia Ballet estimates the salary for the “leaping lords”.
  • The going-rate for drummers and pipers is that of a Pennsylvania musicians’ union.

This year PNC Bank has provided a stop-motion video/interactive web site on the web for a better user expereince — go HERE. (Give it some time to load.)

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