But it’s not as simple as saying that everything in the 1988 Ikea catalog has gotten radically cheaper over time. The full story is, as full stories always are, subtler. Anthony Landry, a research adviser at the Bank of Canada, and Marianne Baxter, an economist at Boston University, have studied swaths of data culled from old Ikea catalogs and how they reflect economic concepts — exchange-rate pass-through and the law of one price, for example. Baxter, who loves midcentury-modern designs such as Aalto’s, shared some slices of that data with me, and we discussed the phenomena she and Landry spotted within it. In addition to the steadily decreasing prices of much of the product line, the researchers also identified Ikea’s tendency to constantly modify its menu of products and varieties.
I know someone who keeps old Ikea catalogues to look at. Studying them for price movements is fascinating.