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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Money and Mr. Holmes

I didn't know that I needed a guide to money in the Sherlock Holmes Canon until Nicholas Utechin wrote one, but I'm glad that he did.

The veteran Holmesian's just-released monograph, Coin of the Canonical Realm, is the first publication of the John H. Watson Society. It's a work of impressive scholarship.

Forty of the 60 canonical tales mention money, usually cash. Utechin considers each and tell us what the equivalent amount would be in U.S. dollars then, and what that translates to in today's money (both dollars and pounds as of 2012).

This will be a useful little volume to have at hand while reading the Canon so that when Watson tells us that he was "as free as an income of eleven shillings and sixpence a day will permit a man to be," we know that his Army pension amounted to $74 a day today. That wouldn't go very far in London, as Watson implied.

But Utechin makes an interesting point in the postscript: "For today's readers, whether used to sterling or dollars, there are immense anomalies brought up by these listings." In reading "A Case of Identity," I've always taken at face value Holmes's assurance that a young woman could "get along nicely" on sixty pounds a year. But it turns out that would be only $7,892 today. On the other hand, the Great Agra Treasure turns out to be worth more than $26 million -- a great treasure indeed!

The 52-page booklet is greatly enhanced by six pages of color photos of the coins mentioned in the text and a couple of examples of paper money as well. And speaking of money, you can buy a copy of the monograph for just $12 ($14 for international purchases), including postage. See the website of the John H. Watson Society for details.


  1. You are right, it is a great little publication.

  2. Think I might have to get a copy of that; I can see it coming in useful. I more or less avoided mentioning money in my last book in case I got my facts wrong.
    Now all we need is a monograph on the cigar and tobacco types used in the 1890s.

  3. Yes, gentlemen, I continue to be impressed and proud of the work of this fledgeling John H. Watson Society.