In the 1903 book "A Library Primer" chapter 12 is "Reference books for a small library". The list contains 75 books and there is a line that says these books will cost around $550. If we adjust for inflation that amount in 2015 dollars would be roughly $16,000.
When you look at the list of books and their prices consider that each $1 has the value of $28 in 2015 dollars. So a $2 book would cost $50 now.
Brown, E. and Strauss, A. Dictionary of American politics. 1895. D. Burt, cl., $1.
Cost adjusted for inflation = $28.57
Appleton's annual cyclopædia and register of important events. Q. Appleton, cl. $5.
Cost adjusted for inflation - $142.86
Century dictionary and cyclopædia. (Century dictionary and the Century cyclopædia of names combined with the atlas of the world.) 10 v. Prices from $60 to $150. Often can be picked up second-hand.
Cost adjusted for inflation - $1700-$4200
When you look at the list of books what do you notice? What books (updated) would be most or least useful in a modern reference collection?