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BEV BUTULA: Look beyond the Bureau for historical consumer goods prices

When on a quest to find historical prices for consumer goods, many legal researchers will consult the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Using the Average Price Data database, searchers can locate the monthly average price (from 1980 forward) for everything from chocolate chip cookies to bananas to unleaded gasoline.

However, the items being researched may not always be household staples. An option is to conduct the search using an online tool that tracks prices.

CamelCamelCamel is a price tracker that identifies prices via Amazon, as well as its various third-party sellers. Enter an item into the search box (e.g. Keurig 2.0). Follow the item’s hyperlink to discover historical prices. The prices are displayed in an easy-to-read graph and can go back several years. CamelCamelCamel is also available as a Chrome and Firefox extension.

Looking for items traditionally sold at BestBuy? Try CamelCamelCamel’s sister site – CamelBuy.

Another Amazon price tracker is Keepa.com. The graphic display is similar to CamelCamelCamel and provides a nice statistical box that summarizes the prices. I found that Keepa worked much better in Firefox than Internet Explorer.

Looking for really old prices? I stumbled upon an interesting website that specifically targets food prices – FoodTimeLine.org. The website is quite detailed and offers tips for locating older prices. (Hint: public library.)

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