Writing a ransom note

Italian lira (euro), Italy

Italian lira (euro), Italy

Have all of you seen Austin Powers? You remember when Dr. Evil comes up with an evil plan to hold the earth ransom for the (in his mind) terrifying demand of ‘one Mi-llion dollars’? Remember how all his evil minions giggled at that amount because in the time that Dr. Evil had been frozen, the value of the one-million dollar ransom had become insignificant?
Well in a weird way, that’s where I am in my research today.
In 1930s Italy, just what ransom demand WOULD be considered daunting to Portia and her client?

Just as a point of comparison, the ransom note for the Lindbergh baby (Charles Augustus Lindbergh, Jr. son of Charles Lindbergh) demanded $50,000 US dollars for his safe return in 1932.

Now since the Italian Lira no longer exists, there are some tricky calculations I am forced to make.

If I take data from this Fodor’s site that lists the historic value of the Italian Lira, and also this data that gives me the exchange rate for US dollar to various other international currencies, I find that $50,000 US dollars in 1930 is roughly equivalent to ₤1,000,000.

Interestingly, we arrived back at Dr. Evil’s ‘one mi-lion’ number.

That said, because the client in this case is a young girl, I think I will halve the demand (based on the amount of money she could actually readily get her hands on) and make it ₤500,000.

The internet is a fabulously informative place!

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4 thoughts on “Writing a ransom note

  1. The internet may be a great place for research, but I think if you want to check your bases, you’d do best to contact a bank, preferably one that has international dealings dating back to that time. They’ll have records that’ll allow you to get the info you need, and then you can feel safe knowing you’ve talked to experts.
    By the way, are you trying to go the traditional route of publishing or have you considered self-publishing? Either way, I’d buy one of your books.

    • That’s a good idea Rami, I have some friends who work in the financial industry, they probably know someone who can help. And I’ve given myself a year to find an agent/publisher (starting March 2012 when I began this quest) and then yes, I plan to self-publish. Thank you! My first customer!!

  2. Thanks for checking out my blog. Your blog looks interesting. I’m also fascinated by the 1930s, and I’ve thought (in a very vague way) of writing a novel set in that time period.

    I know there are economic historians who have calculated money values over time in the US (US dollars, as well as other currency used here before a standardized currency). There are probably Italian/European historians who have done similar work. Sorry, it’s not my field, so I don’t have any specific names, but it might be another lead. 🙂

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