While I was reading the book, I wondered how much the sums of money mentioned would be worth in today's prices. For example, when Pip wants to buy some furniture to move in with Herbert, Jaggers first asks if he wants £50 but Pip says he does not need near so much. Then Jaggers asks if he wants £5 and Pip thinks this sounds too little. Finally they agree on £20 iirc. Several years later, after turning twenty-one, Pip receives £500 a year, of which he decides (very generously) to donate half to funding Herbert's career. Towards the end of the book, Pip is nearly arrested and taken to debtors' prison for owing about £115. Miss Haversham writes a cheque for £900 to complete the secret funding of Herbert's career and changes her will to leave Matthew Pocket £4000.
I imagined inflation had made £1 then worth somewhere between £500 and £1000 today. Eventually, I decided a pound was worth about 500 times back then than it is now. £25,000 would seem like an awful lot to spend on furniture to someone straight out of Pip's background, but £2,500 is probably not enough if you wanted to buy new, good quality furniture. If Magwitch funded Pip the equivalent of £250,000 a year, that would enable a very luxurious standard of living. It is also an amount that would enable you to be very generous. That also sounds like the sort of money you would need to buy your way into a capital investment firm (Herbert said he wanted to become a capitalist). Finally, £57,500 sounds like the sort of serious debt for Pip to build up, which a blacksmith could possibly afford to pay, although I am not sure Joe paid the entire debt or just the immediate debt. I also noticed, that Charles Dickens' magazine, All Year Around, cost 2d, which multiplied by 500 would be about £4.00. That seems reasonable.
However, this does not seem to be the case. It seems like there were periods of inflation in the nineteenth century, but these were matched by periods of deflation. Prices were kept stable because currencies were pegged to the gold standard. According to the Bank of England website, prices have only risen by 79 times since 1820. I am really surprised by that. That makes Pip's annual income about £20,000 after giving away half. There's a big difference between £20,000 and £40,000. £40,000 a year tax free is pretty good, but it is not outrageous. Finally, Pip's debts only amount to £9,085, which he could pay off in several years by being frugal and working hard. It sounds like Pip was not as profligate as I thought.