It’s been so long since the first Vikinglotto draw that inflation has made a major difference to the currencies involved. What if you won this week’s Vikinglotto jackpot in 1993? How much would today’s winnings be worth in the past? Let’s take a look at some key periods in history to see how today’s lottery winnings fare in past economies.
When Vikinglotto Began
Vikinglotto began in 1993, when lottery providers for five Scandinavian countries joined forces to provide Europe’s first multi-national lottery. Since then, hundreds of millionaires have been made by Vikinglotto, and a few more countries came along for the ride in the meantime. The first draw was held on March 17th, 1993, and generated €2.2 million in revenue - a historic moment for European lotteries.
What would the current jackpot be worth in 1993? Let’s crunch some inflation numbers!
Before the Euro
The base currency of Vikinglotto, the euro, wasn’t minted until 2003, meaning we’ll have to use another currency for reference. Since next week’s lottery numbers will be drawn in Norway, it seems only fitting to use the Norwegian krone (kr). The current Vikinglotto jackpot stands at an estimated €5.8 million. The exchange rate for euros to krone is at the time of writing 1:9.67, giving the jackpot a value of roughly 56,000,000 kr.
The total inflation of the krone between 1993 and 2019 was 72.58 percent. If you were to travel back in time with 56,000,000 kr and manage to spend it all, you’d be sitting on, in contemporary terms, 96,646,914 kr worth of stuff - or €9.9 million. Increasing the worth of your jackpot by more than two thirds isn’t too shabby! But what would the winnings be worth further back in time?
Dutch East India Trading Company
The Dutch East India Trading Company (in Dutch: Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie, or VOC) was formed in 1602, in response to mounting economic pressure from England’s monopoly of the spice trade. The VOC would go on to become a formidable force in the European spice trade, eventually creating forts, armies and even its own currency: the Netherlands Indies gulden. Sadly, the gulden’s worth in today’s terms is not easily worked out. So for ease, let’s use the Dutch guilder (in use from 1680 until the Euro was adopted in 2003) as the currency of the time.
At the outset, the VOC had a capital of 6.4 million guilders. Between 1602 and 1650, the VOC was making an an average profit of 2 million guilders a year. What does this mean in modern day terms, and how does the Vikinglotto jackpot fare in comparison?
According to the International Institute of Social History, 6.4 million guilders would have a modern-day purchasing power of €106.5 million. This means the VOC was making a modern-day-equivalent profit of over €33 million a year - a relatively low number, considering the lengths the company went to secure those profits!
According to these numbers, the €5.8 million jackpot is equivalent to five percent of the VOC’s initial capital - or two months worth of profit. That’s an impressive amount of money for one person to wield - and without conquering a single island nation…
So far, the lottery jackpot has held up incredibly well against historical economies - but what if we go even further back? To an age with a familiar name...
Live Like a (Vi)king
What better time to visit than that for which Vikinglotto is named? The Viking Age ran from around 800 to 1000 AD, marking the period that Norse seafarers explored, traded, battled and raided the Northern Hemisphere. A turbulent time for sure - but perhaps not for a newly minted Vikinglotto millionaire?
In early Viking times, conventional understanding of currency didn’t yet exist. Vikings would trade in metals such as gold and silver, but more often in livestock, produce and textiles like cotton. Much later, coinage became a catalyst for trade, but largely for weighing purposes. Sadly, it doesn’t seem like your lottery winnings would be so useful if you were dropped into rural Scandinavia circa 900 AD. Or would they?
The price of an ounce of gold (as of 29th March 2019) is €1,146.33. If you somehow managed to convert your €5.8 million into gold ingots before being hurled back in time, you would be the proud owner of 5060 ounces of the stuff. But what purchasing power would this have in Viking times?
Historians have estimated exchange rates for certain goods during the early Viking era. It is claimed that eight ounces of silver was worth one ounce of gold - over 10 times less silver than you would need today. But just because gold was worth less in the Viking era doesn’t mean you would be destitute. At the time, an ounce of gold could allegedly buy four cows, or 24 sheep. The prospect of owning over 121,000 sheep might not be all too exciting, but purchasing power like that would have been very difficult to ignore at the time…
That said, there’s every chance you didn’t have the foresight to convert your jackpot to gold. Could €5.8 million in banknotes be worth anything around the 900s?
The euro note is composed entirely of cotton fibre, making its raw material of potential interest to tradesmen of the time; you might just still be rich. The average €10 note weighs roughly 0.72g, and you have 580,000 of them. This gives you a weight of nearly 418kg.
According to the same estimated exchange rates as above, one ounce of gold would also buy you a stretch of wadmal – a coarse, woven wool fabric, and one of the main forms of currency in Iceland around the 10th century – 72 metres long and 2 metres wide. Wadmal would have a ballpark weight of 275 GSM. Using this estimate, we now know that one ounce of gold is worth around 40kg of wadmal.
After all that working, we now know that the raw value of our banknotes in 900AD is approximately… 10 ounces of gold, or around €11,000 in today’s terms. Maybe you could make a living as a shepherd?
And there you have it! A whistlestop tour through the history of Europe, with a Vikinglotto jackpot as our measuring stick. It’s been a rollercoaster of economic equivalence, but at least we know how many viking sheep, or how much of the Dutch East India Trade Company, winning this week’s lottery could hypothetically buy you… Good to know.
For a chance to actually own a slice of the Vikinglotto jackpot, you can enter Vikinglotto online or by visiting any authorised retailer in a participating country. Playing is simple: pick six numbers from 1 to 48, and one Viking number from 1 to 8. Match all seven, and the jackpot is yours! For more information, take a look at this How To Play guide.