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"Historic price of plate armor" Topic


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Gunfreak Supporting Member of TMP08 Feb 2018 6:27 a.m. PST

Now plate armor was expensive, but at the same time, by the time of plate armor, more people had more money too.
We know that by the middle of HYW you could have tens of thousands of MAAs in plate armor, naturally, not all of these men were super rich. And given mercenaries to fought as men at arms, naturally, plate armor could not be super super expensive or very few could afford it.

VonTed08 Feb 2018 7:40 a.m. PST

I am curious… what is the current year price of a suit a armor?

Griefbringer08 Feb 2018 7:40 a.m. PST

The Osprey book on 15th century English knights gives an example of the price of a full plate armour bought by a certain individual somewhere in the early half of the 15th century.

I do not have the book with me at the moment, but I do recall that the price listed was roughly equivalent to half a year salary for a men-at-arms in service to the English crown (paid one shilling per day).

Of course to be employable as a man-at-arms in the first place you needed to already own your armour.

Yellow Admiral08 Feb 2018 8:01 a.m. PST

I don't quite understand why plate armor would be more expensive than mail.

It is incredibly labor intensive to make a mail coat with primitive smithing technology, as you first have to make the wire and then rivet or weld it into a few thousand rings. The main advantage is that the sizing can be very generic.

Full suits of articulated plate armor would have to be customized to fit the wearer, but breast plates and basic arm and leg coverings must have been fairly easy to hammer out in generic sizes, just like helmets. The pieces of plate are bigger and fewer, so must have been easier to work on than thousands of tiny rings.

- Ix

Gunfreak Supporting Member of TMP08 Feb 2018 8:02 a.m. PST

I am curious… what is the current year price of a suit a armor?

Like in the medieval period, it depends, you have cheap mass produced stuff, that will kost you some $1,000 USD-1500 and you have hand made "tailored" suits that will easly cost twice that.

Personal logo PrivateSnafu Supporting Member of TMP08 Feb 2018 8:02 a.m. PST

400 gp

22ndFoot08 Feb 2018 8:11 a.m. PST

The point is probably that quality varied enormously – not all plate armour was created equal. While it was possible to acquire armour relatively cheaply "off the peg;" the really good, made to measure stuff was much, much more expensive. It would have been better at doing the job too. It is the equivalent of buying a suit from Joseph A. Bank or Burton's as opposed to having one made on Savile Row.

Fatuus Natural08 Feb 2018 8:24 a.m. PST

Funnily enough just yesterday I was reading a document from the English National Archives which gives the values of some pieces of body armour in England in 1425-6.

The document is E 357/28 the roll of escheator's accounts for 1425-6. membrane 99 of the roll is part of the account of Edward Gildeford, escheator for Kent and Middlesex, and lists the goods and chattels of one Edward Tylthe of Cranbrook in Kent who had been outlawed for some unknown reason (part of the roll is missing due to fire damage). In those days all the possessions of an outlaw were forfeit to the crown it was the eacheator's job to collect them, sell them and account to the exchequer for the proceeds. As well as the usual household items such as pots, pans, bedding and clothes Tylthe had:

a 'brestplate' worth 20s.; a pair of 'vambras, 6s. 8d.; a pair of 'Rerebras', 6s. 8d.; a pair of gloves of plate, 5s.; a mail shirt ('lorica' in the original Latin), 15s.; and a bow, 20d. Interestingly the mail was worth less than the breastplate.

The record does not give Tylthe's status or occupation, but the escheator was unable to collect his possessions because they were in the hands of a tanner of Cranbrook, who would not give them up, and may have been a relative or associate.

(Corrected after the initial posting.)

Fatuus Natural08 Feb 2018 8:30 a.m. PST

Oops, sorry, I omitted the value of the mail shirt – it was 15s. (less than the breastplate).

22ndFoot08 Feb 2018 8:37 a.m. PST

Fatuus,

Good find.

This website may also prove useful:

link

Of note, a suit of armour owned by the Duke of Gloucester in 1397 cost 103, whereas a suit of ready made Milanese armour in 1441 was 8 6s 8d.

Fatuus Natural08 Feb 2018 9:00 a.m. PST

Here's another one:

E 357/25, m. 39d. William Bouerset, who fled justice in Westmorland after murdering Alexander Burgham of Ormside on 31 May 1417, had a mail shirt (lorica) worth 13s. 4d.; a 'salet', a 'garbrace' and a pair of 'waumbrace' worth 12s. 4d.

Daniel S08 Feb 2018 11:08 a.m. PST

Any modern armour made with proper shape and design will cost a lot if you want a full suit. For example an almost complete Milanese suit (no sabatons) from a good mid-level Czech maker would cost about 5200 USD. And then there are certain short cuts taken and the armour will be mild steel of uniform thickness. If you want the real deal by one of the modern masters (only a fairly small group of modern armourers can make 100% accurate reproductions) be prepared to spend at least 10 000 USD for a full suit. But then you will have a suit that let's you do things like this.
https://youtu.be/KNcKolKQ1F4

How a piece of armour is made by a modern maker also has a huge impact on the prince. For example I own a sallet in a late 15th Century style that was made the "right" way i.e was raised from a single plate of steel which was given the right shape complete with vision slit (no movable visor) and then hardend. Even with a discount it cost me about 860 USD, in comparison the same armourer could make a more elaborate visored sallet for half that price making full use of mild steel and modern methods.

nevals08 Feb 2018 11:40 a.m. PST

I have from somewhere that 1 Pound in 1440s would be worth 630 Pounds today, adjusted for inflation etc. Taking into account scarcity of money then, cost of work, availability of produced goods and similar, the converting ratio is probably even higher.

Garand08 Feb 2018 11:52 a.m. PST

A note on mail. During certain periods of the Middle Ages, mail manufacture was done almost assembly line mass manufacture, with apprentices or laborers doing nothing but drawing wire, riveting links (IIRC most suits of mail armor in the High & Late MA were of rivetted links, rather than using some stamped links as a "filler"), etc, with the master armorer only coming in to do the fitting & critical assembly. So mail armor could be quite common. Plate armor, however, doesn't have the same advantages of labor (you can't just hire a laborer to do grunt work, other than work the bellows or something), & probably required more "hands-on" manufacture.

But the prior post above is right: there were plenty of opportunities to get armor "off the rack" so to speak, but the good stuff had to be custom made.

Also consider that plate armor is by its nature modular. Can't afford a full set? Maybe you get the leg harness & gauntlets, but make do with a coat-of-plates or brigantine for torso protection. And so on. Some armor at least was cheap enough that mounted archers could get their hands on leg harness…

Damon.

22ndFoot08 Feb 2018 11:57 a.m. PST

There are various ways of evaluating a particular commodity over time. For example, a pound in 1441 would have the following relative values in 2016:

real price of that commodity is £811.50 GBP
labour value of that commodity is £5,984.00 GBP
income value of that commodity is £22,410.00 GBP

Don't ask me to explain how they calculate that; you can find an explanation and a neat little engine to do it here:

link

Cerdic Supporting Member of TMP08 Feb 2018 12:11 p.m. PST

Asking how much does armour cost is probably similar to someone from the Middle Ages rocking up in the 21st Century and asking "how much do these car things cost, then?"

You looking for a Ferrari or a Dacia, mate?

dapeters08 Feb 2018 12:37 p.m. PST

"middle of HYW you could have tens of thousands of MAAs in plate armor"…ah…no. Many would be limited to maybe some pieces. Coats of plates then later brigandines over jacks and maybe mail were the norm. Someone in sabaton to helm shiny armor was not a run of the mill, Man at arms.

Sobieski Inactive Member08 Feb 2018 3:24 p.m. PST

You certainly need a higher level of smithing skills to forge a plate harness than to make mail. Wire-drawing, cutting, flattening, and riveting just demand patience.

PatrickWR08 Feb 2018 4:38 p.m. PST

This is a fascinating thread btw.

Benvartok08 Feb 2018 10:48 p.m. PST

I agree riveting read indeed. I especially like how it switches between historical values and the modern weirdo larpers.

Griefbringer09 Feb 2018 12:00 a.m. PST

The Osprey book on 15th century English knights gives an example of the price of a full plate armour bought by a certain individual somewhere in the early half of the 15th century.

I do not have the book with me at the moment, but I do recall that the price listed was roughly equivalent to half a year salary for a men-at-arms in service to the English crown (paid one shilling per day).

I checked the book now: it was Sir John Cressy who in 1441 paid £8.00 GBP 6s 8d for a suit of armour.

That is pretty close to five and half months salary for an English man-at-arms.

22ndFoot09 Feb 2018 6:07 a.m. PST

Griefbringer,

This is the exact same date, 1441, and price, 8 6s 8d, as the "off the peg" suit of Milanese armour cited above. I wonder if the two writers simply used the same source and Sir John was being economical.

Sir John was the captain of a company under Richard, Duke of York, when he went to France in 1441 though he appears to have been in the garrison of Rouen as early as 1432. Presumably he bought a new set for the 1441 trip which is the first in which he appears as a captain in his own right.

This University of Southampton website is very useful for Hundred Years War research:

link

22ndFoot09 Feb 2018 7:26 a.m. PST

Cressy was an interesting chap and rather more than a mere man-at-arms. He was obviously very well-to-do but not a magnate by any means. He had extensive holdings and was MP for Hertfordshire (unfortunately, the records of the Parliaments between 1422 and 1504 are not yet online). This link takes you to his tomb showing his armour, prabably in 1445, when he died in Dodford parish church, Northamptonshire.

link

He died on the diplomatic mission to Charles VII, so he may have splurged on fancy kit for that. On the other hand, he had held several offices in Normandy which would have been lost so money may have been tight.

Griefbringer09 Feb 2018 7:35 a.m. PST

Thanks for the info about Sir John Cressy, he clearly was not an ordinary man-at-arms – and probably was earning much more than a shilling per day in 1441.

22ndFoot09 Feb 2018 8:02 a.m. PST

Richard, Duke of York paid for a lot of the expenses of trying to hold on to Normandy out of his own pocket certainly during his second lieutenancy from 1440 to 1445. I don't know whether, as a captain of a company, Sir John would be paid by the Duke of York or would be expected to pay out of pocket and seek reimbursement later. The failure of Henry VI's administration to repay York was, at least in part, one of his justifications for taking the actions which lead to the Wars of the Roses.

If you haven't read them, Dr. Juliet Barker's books, Agincourt and Conquest, are very good. The second of the two, Conquest, is a fascinating modern account of the English occupation and subsequent loss of French territories in exactly this period.

Grelber09 Feb 2018 9:01 a.m. PST

The 10 year contract to produce 80 new sets of armor for the Vatican's Swiss Guard ended in 2017, I think. It's an infantry armor, which includes breast and back plates, a lobster-like pauldron/rerebrace/half vambrace for each arm, and probably a new morion, as well. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find the price. It would not be directly comparable to 16th century armor, since one reason for the new contract is that modern Swiss are larger than 16th century Swiss, so they require larger armor.

Re: Damon's comment about plate armor being modular, at the defense of Constantinople in 1453, many of the defenders didn't bother with leg armor since they were fighting from behind walls and their legs would not have been exposed.

Grelber

Gunfreak Supporting Member of TMP09 Feb 2018 10:17 a.m. PST

But how much is 1 shilling a day? Compare say to a well of merchant?

Personal logo Patrick R Supporting Member of TMP09 Feb 2018 2:19 p.m. PST

The process of making mail can be done by relatively unskilled people (child labour) It's also relatively easy to forge the metal in comparison to a piece of plate that requires a skilled smith to gauge exactly when to quench it. You can have a dozen kids knitting your mail for little more than a pittance, but you'll need an expert to make a good quality suit.

It's not easy to match current prices of a suit of armour with the prices back then, modern technology helps tremendously with getting things like temperature and steel quality to a high quality level, whereas our medieval smith had to rely on years of experience. According to Tobias Capwell of the Wallace Collection the price of a good quality suit probably exceeded that a luxurious house today. Given that knights changed armour every few years, there is a substantial amount of wealth involved.

Once they got the hang of plate armour, they could make it to a reasonable level of consistent quality that made it affordable for lower ranks, although they rarely could afford a full set, but helmet, breastplate and some other parts were certainly made in large numbers, combined with the looted armour and the ones on the second-hand market helped to "democratize" the use of plate.

Sobieski Inactive Member09 Feb 2018 6:02 p.m. PST

"A well of merchant"? Did merchants pay more to have a well sunk than, for instance, farmers, the parish clerk, or a corn factor?

Griefbringer12 Feb 2018 2:05 a.m. PST

Maybe he meant a "well-off" merchant.

That said, a merchant's income could vary from a month to another. Maybe a better point of comparison could be a labourer or artisan – and I do not have any numbers around to show how many pennies they made per day.

Fatuus Natural11 Mar 2018 1:15 a.m. PST

That said, a merchant's income could vary from a month to another. Maybe a better point of comparison could be a labourer or artisan and I do not have any numbers around to show how many pennies they made per day.

I have only just noticed this.

In the 14th and 15th centuries a typical daily wage for a labourer was 3d. or 4d.

The daily rate of pay of an ordinary man at arms, generally 1s. or 2s. in the late 14th century, wasn't intended to enable him to purchase his necessary equipment. He was expected to have acquired that before the muster, and could not receive any pay until he had it. His warhorse alone had to be worth at least £5.00 GBP (100s.) – and he needed additional lesser beasts and of course armour and weapons.

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