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Can you decode this price?

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AndyT

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Here's a challenge for you. Another recent purchase is a rather nice Greenslades plough plane. It has a very clear example of the original retailer's labelling - handwritten in ink on on end:



I can make out the word 'Plough' at the start - that's quite easy! Then what might be Sh in script - secondhand?? Or maybe S/-

But after that, I think there is a price - or rather three prices. As far as I can tell so far it's

de/z

O<something>/X - crossed out

then OA/X fairly clear.

I've heard of this practice - writing prices in code so that the shopkeeper can read the price but the customer can't. It would have been based on a ten letter word - with a letter taking the place of each digit, for the price in shillings and pence.

But what was the code word here? Come on you sleuths!!
How much was this plane?
 

jakethebuilder

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There used to be a code used by pawn brokers in the U.S. to tell them how much they had invested in an item, that the customer couldn't read. Not sure where the practice originated. Over there, maybe? The simple code used a particular ten letter word, in which no letter repeated itself, with each letter representing a number 1 through 9, plus zero. The letter "x" was used as a "repeat" in the code. The real trick is finding out which ten letter word was used. I'm sure it varied from one location to another, and changed over time, as people discovered which word was being used.
 

AndyT

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Thanks for the tip on pawnbrokers - that gave me something more easily searchable than 'shop price code' - it led to several descriptions of the sort of ten-letter word code I remembered - but none of the suggested words seems to fit.

So, what sort of word would a Victorian ironmonger have chosen, which contained probably D, E and Z, plus O, A and X, probably with X=6?
 

jimi43

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I read those three letters in the middle as "dyz" Andy...but maybe that's just me.

The pawnbroker idea is a fascinating concept of social history!

Jim
 

xy mosian

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I cannot think of one, no surprise. But if x = 'half a shilling' then the problem becomes a nine letter word, of which there may be more.
xy
 

jakethebuilder

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The third line may be OD/X. It looks like they may have made the letter "D" by drawing a half circle, then a vertical slash, and the ends of the circle extend left of the vertical slash. If so, then it would be an upper case D, and not cursive. The line above contains lower case, cursive letters. Notice too, that the second line is underlined, as if to separate it from the figures below. I think the second line is a word followed by slash Z: "SL__DE/Z" with one or more letters between that have faded away. Perhaps even "SH?" If the second line is a word, and not a price, then the last two lines probably represent what the broker paid, and what the price for the customer would be. The letters Z and X may not represent numbers at all, but may be, repeaters, or some other code. If that's the case, then the only letters we have to work with are "O" and "D". That doesn't narrow it down very much.
 

jakethebuilder

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The brand of the plane is "Greenslade". In that light, that second line certainly looks like it could be "slade/z".
Could the brand have been so common as to be abbreviated? That still leaves the question as to what "/z" and "/x" mean....
 

jakethebuilder

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Sorry to keep posting separately, but I just did a quick internet search. If the selected 10 letter word in the code had the same letter repeat, then the second instance of the letter was substituted with an "X". Presumably, the letter "Z" could perform the same function. So, you could have a 10 letter word, with one letter repeated twice.

Here's a thought: What if they used the brand names of the items themselves? "Greenslade" has ten letters, and 3 instances of the letter "E". That means the first two E's would be assigned the letters X and Z respectively. The trouble with that is, you would have to assume that rather than letters "O", the last two lines would begin with leading zeroes. If that were the case, shouldn't they be the letter "E"? Maybe they had a rule about showing leading zeroes, in addition to the code itself? Anyway, the last two lines could become 09/3 and 08/3. Is that a plausible pricing for such an item?
 

adidat

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is there any literature showing a price for this plane? then we could work backwards if we have a close enough amount.

:duno:

adidat
 

jimi43

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Jake...you've been reading too much Sherlock Holmes mate! :mrgreen:

Seriously though...this is very interesting indeed and I think we have to leave it up to the Prof to find us a price...eh Andy? :wink:

Jim
 

AndyT

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Thanks guys - it feels as if the trail is warming up!

Ok, let's try working the other way round and start with a plausible price.

According to Goodman, Greenslade won their medals in 1860 (London) and 1865 (Dublin). They used a different mark to mention their success at the Paris exhibition of 1862 and the Melbourne one of 1881 so this is probably from after 1865 but before 1881.

I don't have many price lists from that far back.

There is a TATHS-published one from Henry Osborne of about 1898 which lists a top of the range handled screw stem plough at 30/- (when an ordinary one was 14/- or 17/6 with an improved stop and "extra work on fence".)

An 1899 Mathieson list I found on an Aussie forum has a no 7 plough with boxwood screw stems at 26/6 which I think would have been comparable.

By 1925 the price in the Melhuish cataloge for a plough with screw stems has gone up to 46/- or a whopping 54/- with boxwood stems.

So we are somewhere in the 26 to 40 shilling range. Bargain!!
 

AndyT

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Doh! Lightbulb moment - there is no reason to assume this was the original selling price when new.
It could have been any time after - and could indeed have been when an earlier owner had to take it to the pawn shop!!
 

Noggsy

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Well, this brings out the detective in me (which, to be fair isn't that hard)...I haven't got any answers, but I would say this;

-Plough is definitely right.
-I was wondering if the 's' on the next line could be dollar, but when I opened the picture, I think it is fairly clear that the top part of the 's' was made separately. I think that this might be a percentage sign, but I have no idea what that would mean.
-Further along that line, the letter after the 'd' has a split at the top, making me think it is not a y, but rather an 'i' and the curl is the pen tracing up and left to make the dot. That makes the next part a slash and then definitely a 'z' written in the old style. So, best guess, 'di/z'.
-The first letter on the next line shows the same deformity as the 'o' in plough, so that gets my vote. The next letter is hard. I think it is 'OD/X', but I'm not sure.
-I think the line crossing out OD/X is thicker than that used to write it and the same thickness as the next line, so perhaps this relates to a price which was reduced. It would make sense that the next line (clearly 'OA/X) would be written at the same time as crossing out a higher price.

You don't think it's a simple as 'di/z' translating as pounds shillings/pence do you? That might explain why the first line isn't crossed out, but the second is. Alternatively, 'd' usually means pence, so it could be the other way round; pence shillings/pound.
 

jakethebuilder

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Sorry if I seemed a bit over zealous about something so trivial. A lot of what we do in land surveying involves forensics of old documents and old corner monuments. I've done that for so long, that any mystery just sort of grabs me by the brain, and won't let go. Throwing possibilities into the mix, even if they're way off base, will sometimes stimulate an idea in someone else. Now I've got to study your monetary system. I don't understand any of that....Thanks for letting me share in your conversations!
 

Chrispy

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I can't send a picture coz I lost the camera. but I have an old wooden brace with the same kind of code on that, now the thing is the lay out of the code seems to be the same ie. J%
L#/J
RD/_

The J could be a three sided square if you see what I mean.
The writing on mine is very clear and not worn away and I'm sure it was the new price as the tool is like new still.
 

jimi43

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jakethebuilder":3m3j5llc said:
Sorry if I seemed a bit over zealous about something so trivial. A lot of what we do in land surveying involves forensics of old documents and old corner monuments. I've done that for so long, that any mystery just sort of grabs me by the brain, and won't let go. Throwing possibilities into the mix, even if they're way off base, will sometimes stimulate an idea in someone else. Now I've got to study your monetary system. I don't understand any of that....Thanks for letting me share in your conversations!

Hi Jake...only my sense of humour mate (it may be with a "u" but it's not at you!) :mrgreen:

I'm worse than you mate....we spent the last two years trying to find who made an obelisk mark on a plane iron!!! :oops:

Now...the monetary notation...mmm...best look HERE

Hours of fun!!

Cheers

Jim
 

Tom K

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S/- is the symbol for shillings and pence as opposed to £/S/- isn't it? I assume the idea that X = 6 is because that is a common way to price stuff by the same process that would make Z = either 3 or 9.
May I suggest that the second line is of/x where the f is copperplate like on a Ford logo? So a ten letter word including letters A,D,E,F,X,Z ?
You could of course make your code more cryptic by using a ten letter word for shillings and by only pricing pence as 3,6 or 9 XYZ making it harder for others to decode :p
 
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