Uncovered: Signs of Inflation

By Matt Noel

How the times are a changing.

Going through the archives we discovered an old bill from a lighting equipment company. When Jenna Clarke and myself looked at the bill we were amazed at how cheap everything was compared to what we normally pay for these supplies today. The bill in question looked like it was the season’s supply of gaffer’s (gaff) and spike tape. It consisted of 61 rolls of spike tape and 2 rolls of gaff. And it was only about $275. This may seem like a lot but considering that going to a store and buying a roll of spike tape will normally cost you about $7 a roll now, you can see that this seems like a bargain deal.

What are spike and gaff tape, you might ask? Spike and gaff tape are two essentials to any theatrical production. Gaff tape is a heavy-duty tape much like duct tape, however it does not leave the sticky residue of duct tape and it is normally either black or white. Perfect for theater because it allows it to not be seen in the dark or the perfect thing for labels. Spike tape on the other hand is primarily used to mark where things go on stage. It is used to mark where certain pieces of scenery need to go, or in a rehearsal space when we do not have all of the final elements of the production they mark out the floor and where things will actually be going.

Various rolls of spike and gaff tape
White spike tape marks scenic elements during a rehearsal of Emerson Stage’s production of Lady Windermere’s Fan (2008)

So we were jealous and wanted to see what the cost would be if we placed the exact same order today, about 8 years later. So I went to the company’s website and submitted a quote for the exact same order just to see what the price would be. After having a couple of discussions on the phone I got my result. Our new quote was set to be $700 dollars. I was actually surprised at how cheap this was at first. Then I looked more closely at the quote and saw that they were cutting us a huge deal on the spike tape price because we were buying so many rolls. As I said, spike normally sells for a little more than $7 a roll but they were only charging us about $5. All in all it was amazing to see how something so basic to our industry as spike tape can change price so drastically in a period of 8 years or so.


Follow our Uncovered series as we continue to explore our archives.

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