IQ High: Sure, just take it out of my wallet.
As everyone knows and grandparents are fond of reminding us, the value of money tends to decrease over time, and the purchasing power of the dollar has decreased by 95%. It would be logical to assume that it will continue to do so, right? Well, Hollywood has caught on to this and, if The Future is depicted, goods will likely be (by the standards of The Present Day) highly overpriced. At this rate, a Zillion-Dollar Bill will just get you a cup of coffee and a newspaper.
In real life, it is a possible but not very likely scenario, especially in a fiat currency system.note First, in modern economic science, inflation isn't even seen as something inherently bad. As long as the average income also multiplies, the inflation would do little harm. Deflationary periods are usually tied with recessions rather than booms. Deflations were only beneficial in commodity currency systems free of debt, such as the gold standard or Lincoln greenbacks. However, if the creation of money is based on loans, such as the fractional reserve system that the Federal Reserve operates under and bank credits that we have now, then this is very likely. Printing money en masse as credits and bailouts with interest can create rapid inflation, and rapid deflation can cause a sharp decrease in the money supply to pay back that debt with interest, causing defaults, unemployment, and stockholders selling off worthless investments. This was theorized to be one of the causes of The Great Depression.
Second, governments can sometimes simply revalue their currency when the numbers get too unwieldy, by creating "new" dollars or whatever, worth 1,000 or whatever of the old dollars. Except that governments usually leave that to the central banks. This revaluing is usually only for hyperinflation — they don't do much about "normal" inflation. For example, they aren't going to change things so that that newspaper in the 1980s that cost 40 cents and now costs $1.50 costs 40 cents again — ditto that 20-cent bag of candy that now costs about $2. Likely, though, when numbers become ridiculously high for a chocolate bar, new currencies will arise and we'll gradually shift to their use for sake of convenience, with the older currencies likely kept in record (so that they're still valuable).
The portrayal of runaway cumulative inflation in fiction probably peaked from 1973 through 1982. The annual inflation rate in the U.S. never fell below 6% and often reached double-digit percentages. To this day, there's been no consensus as to what caused this period of "stagflation." The "Nixon Shock" of 1971, when President Richard Nixon took the US dollar off the remaining vestiges of the gold standard allowing the Federal Reserve to have no restrictions in printing and loaning money as debt, was a highly likely cause. For all we knew at the time, this high inflation rate might continue indefinitely. Thus, many fiction writers painted a picture of the future with $15 cups of coffee by the year 2000. (Insert joke about Starbucks' prices here.)
Of course, this trope is also possible to a degree with commodity currencies as well. The values of gold and silver dropped significantly when Spain opened mines in the Americas; something similar could happen with asteroid mining or Matter Replicators.
As a rule of thumb, if a rate of inflation is expected to remain constant at X% annually, then prices will double roughly every 72/X years (So long as 72/X >= 2). So if inflation is 3 percent prices double every 24 years and add a zero every 78 years, while if the average rate is 7 percent prices double every 10 years. When a show pulls out this trope, use this to compare what future prices are actually likely to be at that time.
- A 1970s radio commercial for the airline Pan Am advertising a European vacation costing $1,000, quite a bit of money then, and an old man reminiscing how he was glad he took the trip back in the '70s because "today" (sometime decades in the future), a thousand bucks was about the cost of a dinner for two at a good restaurant. A child comes running in to interrupt his train of thought with, "Hey grandpa! Can I have ten dollars for an ice cream cone?"
- One of Doraemon's Gadgets of the Week is a machine that allows the user to buy things from different time periods (with that period's respective price), by choosing a date and object and inserting the corresponding amount of cash in the machine. Nobita manages to make a profit by buying things cheaply from the past and selling them in the present at an increased price. Being Nobita, he forget that buying candy from the future does the opposite...
- Another time he used time travel to invest his parent's "secret" money stash, collecting a fantastic amount of interest in the far future...except the stack of bills he gets is in the future currency, so Doraemon has to find a collector to exchange it for modern bills. The result is that he only gets a modest increase (but enough for Nobita to get a bump in his allowance).
- Lampshaded in a Hayate the Combat Butler chapter when Wataru angrily protests the price of travel, and Sakuya tells him it's based on the projected price of crude oil in 2008. In-universe, the year is still 2001.
- Early on in the history of the Legion of Super-Heroes, 30th-century teenager Chuck Taine pays fifty cents for a bottle of soda pop. A reader asked about such a high price in the letter column, and the editor explained about Ridiculous Future Inflation. (Chuck didn't even get to enjoy his insanely expensive soft drink, as he accidentally swallows a Super Serum, that turns him into Bouncing Boy.) Of course, in 2018, you're doing well if you can buy a soda for less then a dollar and fifty cents...
- Subverted in a Blinky comic strip in The Dandy where a front cover of the comic in the future (far enough to the point it's now on sale on Jupiter with the characters living in Zeerusted homes) and shows it being priced as "still 50p". A little Hilarious in Hindsight, since in Real Life, The Dandy ceased publication in 2012, at which time it cost £1.99.
- In an episode of The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers set in the future, an overdue parking bill is in the millions, Phineas tries to pay it with a billion dollar bill from his tiny change purse, but drops the bill which is too small to see.
- Mortadelo y Filemón:
- In "Los mercenarios" the main characters obtain 100 000 "percebos" (fictional coin of Percebelandia) They think they can get more than one million pesetas (a fortune in the moment of the album), but thanks to a sudden devaluation only obtain 17.50.note
- Same in Los Guardaespaldas. Mortadelo and Filemón receive as reward for accomplishing their mission 1 000 000 "dólares cochinchinos" (cochinchinese dollars; fictional currency of course), who Filemón thinks are worth 200 million pesetas (a real fortune when the album was published). Mortadelo turns on the radio to know how is going the currency change... to discover that a massive devaluation turns that million of cochinchinese dollars into just 6.50 pesetas, even less money that in the former case.
- Portrayed the other way round in a Tim Traveller strip in The Beano. Tim is concerned that his pocket money doesn't go very far, so travels back to the 19th century and is able to buy a baker's entire day's worth of pies and cakes for £1. The baker is astonished, having never seen such riches before.
- Averted in Old Man Logan. Fifty years after the villains killed off all the heroes and took over America, the economy is so heavily ruined that $600 is a small fortune and trying to earn that is what sets Logan on his adventure.
- The Ultimates: Captain America, a Human Popsicle from WWII awaken in the new century, is amazed by the ammount of money that they paid for a pair of slacks. Back in the 1940s, to get that money he would have required the combined wages of six months.
- The Dynamite Comics Massive Multiplayer Crossover Legenderry also reverses it: In the pseudo-19th century Elseworld the cost of Steve Austin's mechanical implants make him the Six Thousand Dollar Man.
- The MAD spoof of Star Wars had Han Solo wondering what he was going to buy with the immense reward he'll get for rescuing Princess Leia. Leia says for that money he can buy a cup of tea on Earth, as "the inflation isn't as bad there."
- In Vol. 5 of Pugad Baboy, the protagonists time-traveled from 1992 to the year 2078. Bab claims 10 million pesos after selling his necklace, which dates to 1970. So when he tried to buy shoes, the shoes cost 8 million pesos.
- A couple Dilbert comics played with this in the third-world country of Elbonia. One man goes to a grocery store with a chain of bills attached to each other and tells the cashier that the other end of the money chain is being held by his brother in a different town, who will let go when the sale (of a single potato) is completed.
- One Garfield comic from the late 1970s features Jon reading that the rate of inflation is decreasing. Garfield snarks "That and a buck-fifty will get you a cup of coffee."
- In The Keys Stand Alone: The Soft World, the four return to C'hou after about six years have passed there, to find that not only has their existing C'hovite money been vastly reduced in value, but that things have gotten a lot more expensive. For example, in the old days one-size-fits-all healing potions cost ten dime-sized gold coins; now the weakest potions start at thirty one-ounce gold Swords, and the strongest an outrageous 5,000 Swords. Later, John is suspicious when they're offered 50 Swords to deliver some scrolls to a person; it seems like a lot, until George points out a table and chair set being sold for 4,500. And 50 Swords will just barely get them two rooms at a cheap inn.
- Combined with Failed Future Forecast in Rocketship Voyager, a Star Trek: Voyager fanfic written In the Style of... a 1950's sci-fi pulp. In the year 2020, tobacco is a luxury due to Earth having to use all arable land to feed over seven billion people crammed into megacities. As a result cigarettes cost the outrageous price of a dollar a packet. Well, that would have been outrageous back in the 1950's...
- Back to the Future Part II:
- Doc Brown gives Marty $50 to buy a Pepsi with in the year 2015. Similarly, Marty is asked by a charity collector to contribute $100 for the town hall clock, presumably out of pocket change. Contrast this with the 1985 version of the scene, in which Marty gave a solicitor a quarter — a pittance of pocket change even then, and definitely less than a Pepsi would have cost in a restaurant.
- According to the wiki, Marty sold his '80s pocket money as antique currency to pay for Gray's Sports Almanac.
- Subverted by old Biff's taxi ride; a cross-town ride from Hill Valley Square to Hilldale is $174.50 — expensive relative to the time of the movie's release, but ridiculously cheap compared to the Pepsi and the clock tower donation.
- In Idiocracy, which takes place in the year 2505, everything costs several billion dollars. Of course, the ridiculously bad economy is actually a plot point in the film — it's entirely possible that hideous inflation is an intentional choice rather than just poor economic mismanagement so that everybody can be rich and amazed to have "billions of dollars". On the other hand, considering that 500 years of 3% inflation would still result in an increase of around 2.6 million times, it's not as absurd as it initially seems at first glance.
- The Austin Powers films play this trope every which way:
- Inverted and parodied in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, wherein Dr. Evil, who is from The '60s, attempts to ransom the Earth for one million dollars. Cue the Chirping Crickets... Henchman Number Two has to explain to Dr. Evil that their dummy corporation Virtucon generates $9 billion in 1997 dollars in annual revenues, and convinces Dr. Evil to instead raise his ransom to One hundred billion dollars.
- In Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, he demands one hundred nillion dollars from the United States government in The '60s. The President and his staff, immediately laughing at Dr. Evil, tell him that amount of money doesn't even exist at the time.
- And again, in Austin Powers in Goldmember, Dr. Evil requests "One billion, gajillion, fafillion... shabadylu...mil...shabady......uh, yen." The U.N. representatives calculate it in their heads and determine that it is a reasonable claim.
- In The Running Man, a cost of a single can of pop from a pop machine is $6. Which you had to pay for in quarters, because they didn't have automatic dollar-bill reading machines. Or dollar coins, apparently.
- Another Arnold movie, The 6th Day, taking place in the near future, Arnold's clone pays $447.16 for a cab ride which shouldn't have been a long trip for him. You can see the base cab fare is set at $200.
- Inverted in Cherry 2000, which depicts a near-future which has undergone massive deflation. For example, mixed drinks in a bar cost 25 cents.
- In the 2000s as imagined in the 1979 film Americathon, a bum asks for $25 for a cup of coffee. (As of 2012, that varies from a little under $2 at a convenience store to almost $4 at some pricier Starbucks if you order a vente.)
- In Warlords of the 21st Century a.k.a Battletruck, the opening scene features an abandoned petrol/gas station with a faded sign reading, "GAS FOR LESS - ONLY $59.99 A LITRE - WHILE IT LASTS". Justified in that the film takes place in a Mad Max-style dystopia where dire oil shortages have led to the collapse of civil society.
- The proposed film remake of The Six Million Dollar Man, starring Mark Wahlberg, will be called "The Six Billion Dollar Man".
- Inverted in A Million Ways to Die in the West. When Foy wages a dollar on the shooting match, townspeople don't believe he even has that much money, until he takes it out and shows them.
- In Soylent Green, things are so expensive that when an rich occupant of an apartment complex is killed, the investigating officer, Charlton Heston, helps himself to some of the food left in the man's kitchen. Leading to the scene:
(being handed a cigarette from the live-in companion (aka "the Furniture")Thorn (taking a couple of puffs): Wow, if I had the money, I'd smoke one or two of these a day.
- Strange Days establishes its dystopian near-future setting of the year 1999 (only a few years from the film's actual release date) by stating that "gas is up to three bucks a gallon!" This was about half again as much as gas cost at the time in America, but gas would go on to exceed that price only a few years into the new millennium.
- Perhaps the Ur-Example in film is Things to Come, which towards the end of its war montage showing the decline of civilization, focuses on single page, badly typeset broadsheet with a price of four pounds (a week's average wages at the time of the film's release).
- In Ad Astra, on the commercial flight to the Moon, Brad Pitt's character asks the flight attendant for a pillow and a blanket (why he'd even want a pillow in zero-g is a different question). She provides them right after he uses his thumbprint to agree to pay $135. It's also likely a crazy markup for anything in space.
- This sets up the plot of Time To Hunt. A group of thieves stole a lot of money and their leader was planning to use his share to leave Korea and start a new life in Hawaii. However, he is caught and goes to prison for three years. While he is behind bars, the economy collapses and hyperinflation has completely devalued the Korean currency. His stash of stolen cash is worthless and he leaves prison completely broke.
- In The Spirit of '76, the inside of the time machine is papered with bills because money is almost worthless in 2176.
- Alongside Night: The US dollar has lost practically all of its value from excessive printing by the Federal Reserve. Eventually the entire government either collapses or ends up privatised because of the advice of a bunch of revolutionaries described in the book as "worse than terrorists and the mafia combined".
- In the Crosstime Traffic series by Harry Turtledove, a future society makes common use of "benjamins" — ie, hundred-dollar bills — in contexts where we moderns use dollars. A dollar is a fairly worthless coin, analogous to a penny. A later book in the same series has them use a hundred-dollar coin.
- In his Timeline-191 — stories in the CSA that just lost World War I — he shows one character complaining about the ridiculous inflation that just started. A beer is now a dime rather than a nickel. Of course showing the economic spiral, the beer prices do go up and up — things start getting really bad when beer gets to a dollar... then ten, then a hundred... It eventually reaches the point where the Hitler Expy says "Bet you a million dollars" during a speech, then takes a million dollar bill out of his pocket and throws it away.
- Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court anticipates this effect when converting 6th-century Arthurian Britain to decimal currency. He defines the units so that a cent is a lot of money and a dollar an inconceivable fortune, so that prices can inflate to those of 19th-century America on schedule.
- In 1978, in the original version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, part of the indication that Ford Prefect really did believe the world was about to end was that he bought six pints, paid with a five-pound note, and told the barman to keep the change. In the 2005 film, this became a fifty: £5 barely pays for one pint of beer and a packet of peanuts nowadays.
- Several Robert A. Heinlein future stories have mentions that the United States went the "drop a few zeroes" route to address inflation.
Lazarus Long: $100 placed at 7 percent interest compounded quarterly for 200 years will increase to more than $100 million, by which time it will be worth nothing.
- In Heinlein's Citizen of the Galaxy, a girl asks the hero, who is in a pensive mood, "Dollar for your thought?" "What?" "Old saying." Thorby at one point is given a "megabuck", which is a combination of this and We Will Spend Credits in the Future. The main Terran denomination is the credit (one credit will buy about five loaves of bread, according to Thorby); 100 dollars is 1 credit, 1,000 credits is 1 supercredit, and 1,000 supercredits is 1 megabuck. In other words, a megabuck is a million credits, or 100 million dollars which is still considered a lot of money, but not nearly as much as 100 million would be today. And that 'megabuck' is considered to be an amount of money that Thorby, Leda, and several other young rich scions could all blow through in several weeks of holiday amongst the resorts and sports for the super rich... in other words, about a million dollars. It is also the amount that Thorby pays as a retainer for to top-tier attorney.
- Snow Crash establishes this as a joke when the teenage Y.T. asks the police if they'll take a bribe to let her go. They say sure, for a trillion dollars. The deadpan snarker Y.T. counter-offers with $500 billion, and they end up splitting the difference at $750 billion. That's how bad "megainflation" has become. Old billion-dollar bills are now literally being used as toilet paper. Some corporations have fought inflation by introducing new, non-inflated currency such as Kongbucks, which have become the unit of exchange for larger transactions.
- In The Age Of The Pussyfoot, a science fiction novel by Frederik Pohl (written around 1967), Charles Forrester is revived from cryopreservation in the year 2527 with a quarter of a million dollars from his insurance and interest (worth about $1.7 million in 2011). He thinks he is rich. It takes him a while to find out he isn't. It's handled quite well as the main source of inflation is rising health care costs.
- An Isaac Asimov short story about Human Popsicles has a man withdrawing a couple million dollars from his bank account after being revived...and finding out that a new suit cost several million (or was it billion?) more.
- Parodied in The Book What I Wrote (Eddie Braben's book about Morecambe and Wise) in which his reminiscing about 1950s Britain is accompanied by helpful footnotes such as "A shilling is worth about a hundred billion pounds in today's money".
- Based on Real Life, James Bond, when in France at the beginning of On Her Majesty's Secret Service (which was written shortly after the franc underwent a 100:1 devaluation) likes to think of the money in his pocket in old francs because that makes him feel richer, while counting his expenses in new francs to make them seem smaller.
- The Jaunt, a Stephen King short story, inverts this. The eponymous teleportation technology makes petroleum-powered transportation virtually obsolete and makes oil drilling on Mars viable, so gasoline is only a few cents a gallon.
- Averted in The Witcher, where one character mentions that whenever a party of adventurers tries to slay a dragon, there's always some magician nearby, and said magician always has connections to the Goldsmiths and Jewelers Guild or some large bank. Indeed, no one has ever heard of inflation in their world.
- Subverted in the Time Warp Trio book 2095. In said year, a slice of pizza costs something like $150, but antigravity devices are a buck apiece. Which might have something to do with said AG disks being powered by MSG.
- In The Forever War it's mentioned that on the planet Heaven a meal costs a few hundred dollars, of course it's justified as much of the population of Heaven is soldiers on medical leave with multiple decades or centuries of back pay that's been accumulating interest.
- In William Gibson's Mona Lisa Overdrive a local phone call in Britain costs about twenty pounds. But pretty much everyone else uses Japan's revalued currency, which seems roughly equivalent to modern dollars.
- The Kingsbury science-fiction short story "To Bring in the Steel" (Analog Magazine, 1978) has the female protagonist stop by McDonald's for a quick twenty-five dollar hamburger. (At the time of publication, a 'burger at Mickey D's was about 40¢.)
- Victoria: has the US undergo a hyperinflation crisis, to the point where people are described as using hundred dollar bills as toilet paper because it's cheaper, a million dollars aren't worth a Mexican peso and $50 million can just about purchase a hamburger.
- Inverted in Johnny and the Bomb: when comparing The '40s to The '90s, reference is made to everyone's grandparents explaining you could buy a chocolate bar for sixpence and still have change. At the end of the book a policeman in the forties gives Mrs Tachyon sixpence for a cup of tea and a bun, and she travels back to 1903 where it pays for a serving of fish'n'chips. And she still has change.
- Applied retroactively in Mindwarp when two of the teenage protagonists go back in time to 1945. At first, they are astonished when they can pay for a very large meal out of pocket change, and discuss going back to live in this time when the plot is resolved. Then the waitress notices Roosevelt's face on a dime, followed shortly by the years the coins were minted... and the two are swiftly detained and arrested.
- The Last Guardian (2001): T.G. (a college student in 1975) is utterly shocked to walk into a diner in the year 2000 and see a cup of coffee is two dollars. For reference, it would have been 25-35 cents when he left Earth, depending on the quality.
- The Four Horsemen Universe: As shown in Winged Hussars, prices in spaceport cities on Earth are insane compared to elsewhere on the planet, with a night in a seedy motel costing the equivalent of several months' rent on the rest of the planet. Justified because Galactic Union credits, which are usable in port cities, are ridiculously overvalued compared to indigenous Earth currency: major Private Military Contractors in particular command fees and operating budgets equivalent to the GDP of entire Earth nation-states.
- Quidditch Through the Ages mentions that 150 Galleons from the year 1269 would translate into millions in modern terms.
- In the 1989 Doctor Who story "Battlefield", set 20 Minutes into the Future, the Doctor buys a round of drinks. A lemonade, a vodka and Coke and a water come to five pounds. The Doctor pays with a £5 coin. In 1989 the drinks would not have cost more than two pounds and both the amount and the fact that a five pound coin existed were mildly startling. They got the five pound coins half-right (they exist and are technically legal tender, but are only made in small runs as collector's items) and the price is actually not far off what you'd expect to pay for that drink order in a British pub in 2013.
- The Doctor Who Magazine features an article in its 400th issue, where a picture of a mock-up 800th issue cover was seen on one of the pages. The price "300 Euros" can be made out on the side.
- In the Y2K episode of Kenan & Kel (set in the year 3000), prices have inflated into the millions range, with a few grocery items costing a whole backpack full of cash.
- Subverted in the episode "The Leap Back" on Quantum Leap. Sam suggests mailing the master code for the imaging chamber (which locked when he and Al cross-leaped), to his father's lawyer with $100 to ensure the man will follow the odd-but-specific instructions about mailing it to Sam on a specific day in the future (the day that Sam is actually at currently, but trapped in the imaging chamber). Al, who's still out of it from the Leap, suggests Sam is talking about the cost of postage.
Sam: The post office. And my dad's lawyer, Doc Krosnov. We mail Doc Krosnov a letter, right? With, say, a hundred bucks.
Al: For the stamp.
Sam: No, no, no, it's 1945. $100 will do very nicely. We mail him $100 with instructions to deliver the code on September the 18th, nineteen-hundred and ninety-nine.
- Al says "for the stamp" sarcastically, but if he's actually being honest and the cost of a stamp in Sam and Al's "present" time period (the late 1990s) is in the ballpark of $100; that would be a rate of inflation of 40,000% in less than a decade! For the record, as of 2016, the cost of a single 1st class postage stamp has yet to go over fifty cents.
- Lost in Austen inverts this. When the modern protagonist Amanda truthfully says she lives on £27,000 a year, it gives everyone in the Regency era entirely the wrong idea about how wealthy she is.
- A 1976 Saturday Night Live sketch titled "Jeopardy! 1999" had dollar values in the Jeopardy! round ranging from $10,000 to $50,000. This is 400 times the actual Jeopardy! clue values in 1976 ($25 to $125) and 100 times what the actual clue values turned out to be in 1999 ($100 to $500).
- Sleepy Hollow also does the inverted version.
Ichabod: You did just say she is a billionaire, correct? Meaning she has a billion dollars? That's the gross national income of all 13 colonies, in my lifetime.
- In Other Space, a cup of coffee from a vending machine costs $40, and a crew member is given a bonus of $1,000,000, which is played as generous but not life-changing.
- Subverted in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Neutral Zone". The Enterprise recovers a group of human popsicles from the 20th century. One is a businessman who excitedly assumes his investments must be worth a fortune (from inflation and compound interest). He is dismayed to learn that humanity abolished currency altogether many years ago (which is actually not consistently true but that's what they're saying this episode). It also assumes that after more than three hundred years and a third World War, his bank and the companies he invested in even still exist, but that's another problem.
- Homecoming: The first season, released in 2018, has a subtle and downplayed example. In the year 2022, a bowl of chowder at a casual diner apparently costs a whopping $18.50, suggesting that the dollar has inflated by about 100% in only four years.
- El Chavo del ocho made an accidental one, due to the show's age (and tendency to reuse scripts). In one script, el Chavo sells "aguas frescas" (soda). In the 1974 version, the prices for a glass of water were 50 cents, one peso, or two pesos. In the 1989 version the prices were 100, 200, and 300 pesos.
- Known to be inverted in a Heartbeat episode: post-match drinks for a cricket team in late-'60s Yorkshire only costs about £1.79 (or given that decimal conversion had not taken place yet, £1 3s), which is ~30 pounds in 2020. (Although because of other government-imposed taxes, you're probably not going to get 12 pints for less than £50).
- Car Wars
- This Steve Jackson Game (a.k.a. Autoduel), made in the mid-1980s, depicts a Mad Max-styled post-apocalyptic 2030's of road-going car battles. Most cars are electric, but where gas is available at all it costs about $40 a gallon.
- The supplement Chassis and Crossbow depicted the even more apocalyptic 2010's, where following a nuclear war and mass collapse of civilization, the trade value of a gallon of alcohol-derivative faux-gas is... about $3 a gallon. Eerie.
- Used and Averted in Shadowrun. A standard lunch costs $40-60 UCAS dollars. However, in the standard currency of the setting, the Nuyen, that's only 10-15¥.
- In the adventure game Gateway, loosely based on the novel of the same name, a news bulletin seen at the beginning of the game informs the player that the new currency reform means that a new U.S. dollar is worth about 1,000 of the old ones, meaning that prices are now at roughly the same numerical value they were at in 1995, 200 years previously.
- Deus Ex gave us a vision of a "nightmarish" future in which Unleaded is 3.95 a gallon, and Diesel 4.05 (i.e., what gas prices are, approximately, as of 2013)! For reference, the actual price of gas at time of the game's release was about $1.50. Bet 4 bucks a gallon sounded downright nightmarish to them. JC's augmentations apparently cost fifty billion dollars (and the same again for Paul), which would probably not be unreasonable if anyone used dollars in Deus Ex's future.
- Saints Row:
- According to Saints Row 2, gas is about $8.40 per gallon, as a jab at the minor gas crisis that was occurring during the game's development, when gas was raising about 40 cents per month (coming to a head of about $4.50 a gallon in some states.)
- Continued in Saints Row: The Third, where gas station signs advertise gas at $14.50/gallon.
- Fallout has a gas station where the price of regular gasoline is somewhere in the $4500 range. Premium fuel was $8000.99 per gallon. (Then again, this may have been more due to the lack of oil. The shock of the price is still jarring to those who do not know about the oil shortage of the past). The intro to Fallout 1 also shows an ad for a car advertised as being fully analog, with no computers, and costing "just" $199,999.99.
- The newspapers from the 2050s and 2070s shown in the Fallout 3 loading screens cost $56 each.
- Bottle caps are the standard currency of the Wasteland in most of the games(excepting Fallout 2 where they've been temporarily displaced by NCR gold coins)are backed by fresh water - a very sensible resource to base it on in a planet-wide radioactive desert. Needless to say they're worth quite a bit more than modern dollars.
- In Fallout 3, the Lone Wanderer can find bundles of pre-war currency(a hundred $100-bills). They go for about ten caps each, depending on Barter skill.
- In Fallout: New Vegas; inflation is an Invoked Trope in the Mojave Desert, where the Hoover Dam is the basis of a three-way territorial dispute; the locals use the standard water-backed bottle caps, Caesar's Legion uses gold (100 caps) and silver (20 caps) coins, and the NCR uses paper dollars (2/5ths of a cap, so no one even uses anything less than five dollar bills). Due to the NCR-Brotherhood of Steel war destroying the former's gold reserves, NCR has switched to water-backed paper money, explaining the change and lack of purchasing power.
- In Fallout 4, as evidenced by a terminal in Gwinnett Brewery, a pint of beer cost $39 in 2077, the year the Great War started. A six-pack cost $200, and a donut is proudly advertised for the low low price of $30. There's also a use for those bundles of pre-war currency; "Cloth" for Item Crafting. The most common item you'll build with "cloth"? Beds and chairs. You're stuffing your furniture with Worthless Yellow Rocks!
- This trope may be the reason why in Secret of Evermore, the Omnitopian Credit is the least valuable of the four currency (even compared to what the cavemen of Prehistoria are using).
- The Tex Murphy game, Under a Killing Moon takes place in 2042. One of the in-game items is a single postage stamp. It costs 10 dollars. Tex comments that the postal service is a lot faster with the new stamp price, indicating this might have been a deliberate ploy by the government to make said agency pull its budgetary weight.
- In the alternate future in Homefront, gas prices rise to $19.99 per gallon. Yikes. Here is the trailer where it's mentioned. The exact time is around 0:53.
- In Gemini Rue, you can find an advertisement for a menial labor job in the mines. It pays $2400 per hour.
- In Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, a faded sign in the ruins of New York advertised a new car costing $7,000,000.
- The Assassin's Creed games tend to transpose centuries worth of inflation into the prices you have to pay in the Animus. For example, the first sword you can get in Assassin's Creed III costs £700 in 1754, which is considerably more money than most people in that time period would see over the course of their entire lives (£10-15 per year was a fairly good wage for working class people at the time), and still much more than a comparable sword would cost today. Now, if the currency of the game had been the pence rather than the pound, that sword would have cost the far more likely £2 11s 4d, which while still expensive, would be low enough for the average person to be able to save up enough to buy one (And for the typical blacksmith to actually be able to find a customer able to afford it).
- An in-universe example happens in Galaxy On Fire 2. At the start of the game Player Character Keith T. Maxwell got kicked about thirty years into the future due to a hyperdrive malfunction. At one point an NPC gives him 20,000 credits to outfit his ship with a tractor beam and scanner.
Keith: Where I'm from, I could've bought a whole ship for 20,000.
Carla Paolini: Well, times are changing, Mr. Maxwell.
- Inverted in Putt-Putt Travels Through Time. Putt Putt can Time Travel to the Old West and get a salary of 5 cents for helping out a train, which can buy him one gummy candy. In Medieval Times, the same nickel can buy him a full suit of armor for one puzzle, in a time when metal would be very expensive. In the 22nd century, Putt Putt expresses concern that he can't afford a small battery, but the shopkeeper Ms. Electra mollifies his concerns by telling him there's no money in the future, so he can take it for free.
- Overwatch takes place in the 2070s. On the Hollywood map, buckets of popcorn are priced at over a hundred American dollars. Then again, it might be a joke about how movie theatres tend to overcharge on snacks.
- A bizarre and somewhat metatextual inversion in Guild Wars 2; in Guild Wars the standard unit of currency was the gold piece, with 1000 gold pieces adding up to 1 platinum ingot. In the sequel (which takes place 250 years later) the base currency is the copper piece, with 100 copper pieces equaling 1 silver piece, and 100 silver pieces (or 10,000 copper pieces) making 1 gold piece, now the highest tier of currency (not counting gems). Even relatively poor character from the first game would be rich beyond dreams of avarice in the sequelnote . Platinum, meanwhile, is now just a mid-tier crafting material.
- SimCity 2000 has the price of the newspaper increase over time, eventually costing five dollars in the year 2050. Not that they will probably be very commonplace then.
- 21st Century Fox (takes place in 2066) plays it straight, but the inflation doesn't get much mention, besides a couple of comics near the beginning, where gas is "cheap" for $70 a gallon, and a can of soda is 20 dollars — and the main characters just happen to have a couple of $20 coins on them.
- Used for a throwaway gag in Flaky Pastry after Nitrine gets catapulted into the far future and gets some fast food.
Fastfood cashier: That comes up to fifty trillion two hundred sixteen thousand nine hundred forty three and fifty cents.
- In a future arc of S.S.D.D one character remarks that $2 million won't get you a candy bar, of course it was an economic crisis that messed up their world.
- Nine Planets Without Intelligent Life has a basic lozenge cost ∞ dollars on Uranus since all the solar system's cash and financial robots were dumped there when they became worthless due to the post-scarcity economy.
- A twist on that same tract can be found in the fifth story arc of Quentyn Quinn, Space Ranger, where the most politically powerful currency on the planet Kallifrax loses 95% of its face value in less than a century. The twist is that the inflation is stated to be purposeful; the result of the planet's oligarchy attempting to Take Over the World by scamming its citizenry into trading all the physical resources for fiat currency. In-Universe, the protagonist's civilization has a term for the process - a "Keynes Swindle" or "Frac and Fee" AKA "Fractional Reserve" and "Fiat Currency" - and consider it to be a criminal act identical to counterfeiting.
- One strip in Nodwick had the party accidentally tank the local economy after a series of unusually successful dungeon raids left them flush with treasure. It wasn't until several strips later when they encountered a kobold accountant who helped them figure out a way to maximize the value of their loot that things returned to normal.
- Oh, Neopets. Their inflation has been compared to Germany's after WWI.
- And Gaia Online has passed postwar Germany's inflation to be comparable to Zimbabwe's. The problem, as shown on the "Bribing Your Way to Victory" page, is the use of "Gaia Cash" and its exchange rate to gold:
- Before 2013, gold and Gaia Cash were largely separate and the economy was stable, with users generally being able to survive solely on the site's free gold sources. The issues with the economy can be traced to a change of management in 2013, after which Gaia released Flynn's Booty, Flynn's Chest, and other Gaia Cash items that gave players millions and/or billions of gold instantly, causing massive inflation. Their response to the inflation was to encourage further inflation by releasing higher-valued gold generators — at one point the gold cap was 2,147,483,647 gold, and when users started reaching the cap they increased the cap, then released generators that were worth more than the old cap.
- By 2014, the "pay-to-win" idea and broken economy were bad enough to be mentioned as an example in a textbook. For example, on page 219 the author states that the publishers responded to new players complaints that they couldn't afford anything by giving them more gold, flooding the market and raising prices to the point that the new players couldn't afford anything.
- The end result of all this was that by the time price levels stabilised in 2015, cheap items that nobody really wants could sell for thousands of gold because the economy has been so badly screwed up, and all the old free gold sources (e.g. receiving 125 gold for each forum post) had been devalued into uselessness.
- In 2017, after another change of management and the subsequent end of gold generators, a new currency Platinum was introduced with 1 platinum worth 10 million gold, with the free money sources being rebalanced appropriately. Though platinum is worth substantially more than pre-inflation gold, the size of the revaluation gives a good idea of the scope of the inflation.
- The notorious Stylistic Suck Creepypasta The Supermarket Monster uses the excuse that the story takes place in the future as an explanation for how a loaf of bread Roger wanted to eat cost $10,000 after having the "On Sale" sticker removed.
- In the South Park episode "Goobacks", the future immigrants are willing to work for minimum wage, which they then put into a bank account so that in their time the interest has built up to the point that they have billions of dollars. Of course, due to inflation this is worth even less than when they put it into the bank.
- In Family Guy, it was spoofed as Pearl, the old singer, was shown in a documentary getting a meager sum of a couple thousand dollars a long time ago, "which is worth over $3 billion today".
- In an episode of Samurai Jack, a bounty hunter says that Aku has a bounty on Jack's head worth two googolplex. Yes, the hunter is convinced that this is "a looooot of money" and the person offering the bounty controls the entire world, but that's just ridiculous.note
- Of course, Aku isn't known for his honesty and was probably just saying that.
- In the Courage the Cowardly Dog episode "One Thousand Years of Courage", Eustace, Muriel and Courage end up in the year 3001, in a world ruled by sentient bananas. Muriel remarks that something doesn't seem right:
Eustace: [looking at a newspaper] I'll say there's something wrong. Eight million bucks for a salami!
- The Simpsons:
- One episode has a parody of the (then) modern Russian economy with an instance of Ridiculous Present Inflation, with a Russian dignitary at the Olympics committee:
Russian: I recommend Moscow, where the American dollar buys 7 rubles. [gets paged on his beeper, and reads out the message, sounding increasingly panicked] 12 rubles. 60 rubles. 1000 RUBLES!? I must go. [frantically leaves the conference hall]
- In "Itchy & Scratchy: The Movie", the last scene takes place 40 years in the future. Homer and Bart finally go to see the movie being shown at the same theater, and now two tickets cost $650. (Homer still says "D'oh", complaining about the price.)
- Also an inversion: in an episode set in the Huckleberry Finn era, Tom and Huck are shocked that a couple days worth of supplies cost 2 cents followed by a shot of a 99-cent store which sold such items as grand pianos.
- One episode has a parody of the (then) modern Russian economy with an instance of Ridiculous Present Inflation, with a Russian dignitary at the Olympics committee:
- The Arthur episode "Background Blues" opened with a segment depicting the main character's identical descendants living in a Jetsons-style future. One character mentions the incredible deal they got on mittens for "only" $3 million.
- Time Warp Trio has 100 dollar bills as something you borrow from a (school aged) friend for gum in the year 2105.
- The DuckTales (1987) episode "Duck to the Future" had Scrooge get teleported to a bad, but shiny-looking future where Magica stole his Number One Dime and took over his fortune, and his nephews grew up to be super-rich Corrupt Corporate Executives after going into business with her. In this world, things cost about 100 times what they do in Scrooge's time, though some of it can be attributed to Magica and the McDuck triplets' price-gouging.