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Old 01-24-2019, 09:34 AM   #1
The Colonel
 
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Default Price of a crossbow...

I happened to be reading through a recently acquired Osprey book (MAA494 Forces of the Hanseatic League 13th–15th Centuries) and noted that the city of Hamburg retained a master crossbowmaker who was expected to produce four weapons a year and paid a bonus for anything over...

Making a few assumptions about what a master craftsman might get paid, that would seem to put the modern equivalent price of a crossbow at perhaps some £10k. Which seems a lot...

Am I missing something?
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Old 01-24-2019, 10:01 AM   #2
Kromm
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Default Re: Price of a crossbow...

Some possibilities:

Was this person in the exclusive employ of the city, or was the deal "I'll be paid my retainer if I make at least four crossbows for the city in addition to the dozens I crank out for buyers who aren't the city"?

Were these regular, man-portable crossbows, or were they massive "rampart crossbows" for defending the city?

Was this person a true master, creating crossbows which would in the terms used by roleplaying games be "masterwork" or "fine" weapons, the crossbow equivalent of bespoke elephant guns or at least extensively rebuilt, accurized sniper rifles, not mass-produced infantry rifles?
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Old 01-24-2019, 10:48 AM   #3
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Default Re: Price of a crossbow...

Yeah, I suppose those would all work - the same section talks about a range of pretty impressive crossbows, so these might have been high end weapons.
Does anyone have known medieval prices kicking about? The traditional list (Hodges) is pretty poor for weapons ...
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Old 01-24-2019, 10:49 AM   #4
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Default Re: Price of a crossbow...

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Colonel View Post
I happened to be reading through a recently acquired Osprey book (MAA494 Forces of the Hanseatic League 13th–15th Centuries) and noted that the city of Hamburg retained a master crossbowmaker who was expected to produce four weapons a year and paid a bonus for anything over...

Making a few assumptions about what a master craftsman might get paid, that would seem to put the modern equivalent price of a crossbow at perhaps some £10k. Which seems a lot...

Am I missing something?
Yes, if there is no typo the ordinary price for a crossbow in the 13th century was between 25 and 80d English in a world where most workers earned 2d to 6d English a day. Serious orders for arms and armour were measured in the dozen or score, and 13th century merchants would happily deliver orders of a few thousand sets of equipment if you gave them enough lead time to send messages to all their contacts and buy up used gear. So a shop which makes four crossbows a year is not really making crossbows as a full-time business.
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Old 01-25-2019, 09:38 AM   #5
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Default Re: Price of a crossbow...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Polydamas View Post
Yes, if there is no typo the ordinary price for a crossbow in the 13th century was between 25 and 80d English in a world where most workers earned 2d to 6d English a day. Serious orders for arms and armour were measured in the dozen or score, and 13th century merchants would happily deliver orders of a few thousand sets of equipment if you gave them enough lead time to send messages to all their contacts and buy up used gear. So a shop which makes four crossbows a year is not really making crossbows as a full-time business.
Thanks - no idea what was going on in Hamburg then. May just show us that government procurement contracts are rarely good value for money in any era.

Useful link by the way.
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Old 01-25-2019, 05:14 PM   #6
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Default Re: Price of a crossbow...

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Colonel View Post
Am I missing something?
Did he get paid anything for that retainer? "Retained" technically means "keeps you from leaving", it doesn't actually say anything about paying you anything at all, let alone paying your entire living. It may be he's required to provide those 4 crossbows *for free*, and then will get paid whatever the "bonus" is for anything over that.
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Old 01-25-2019, 06:25 PM   #7
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Default Re: Price of a crossbow...

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Originally Posted by malloyd View Post
Did he get paid anything for that retainer? "Retained" technically means "keeps you from leaving", it doesn't actually say anything about paying you anything at all, let alone paying your entire living. It may be he's required to provide those 4 crossbows *for free*, and then will get paid whatever the "bonus" is for anything over that.
"German cities also had their own official, full-time crossbow-maker whose job was to produce a certain number of weapons each year. Conditions of employment varied, but the Hanseatic city of Hamburg can be taken as an example. There, from the start of the 14th century, the city’s own balistarius, balistifex, or armborstmakere had to produce four weapons a year, being paid extra for any additional bows he could make."
Osprey MAA494 (as above)
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Old 01-31-2019, 01:20 PM   #8
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Default Re: Price of a crossbow...

If you take a look at the price of four Fine Quality Military Crossbows from Low Tech it starts to look a bit more like something a master crossbow maker might get out of bed for, but still probably not all of his work for the year.
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Old 02-01-2019, 01:11 PM   #9
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Default Re: Price of a crossbow...

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Colonel View Post
"German cities also had their own official, full-time crossbow-maker whose job was to produce a certain number of weapons each year. Conditions of employment varied, but the Hanseatic city of Hamburg can be taken as an example. There, from the start of the 14th century, the city’s own balistarius, balistifex, or armborstmakere had to produce four weapons a year, being paid extra for any additional bows he could make."
Osprey MAA494 (as above)
From that, I suspect the four crossbows cover his license. With that, he is entitled to the basic privileges of being an officially recognized balistarius (prestige? favored position in contract bidding? some level of monopoly?)
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