Prices of Weapons in Early 16th C Holland

James P. Ward

Halberds were 3-4 times more expensive than pikes.

Bows were very cheap:

The poor man’s other weapon besides the pike was the longbow with its arrows. One hundred longbows cost Gouda 14 stuivers in 1508, the same price as one halberd at Leiden. Although arrows were bought in larger numbers (thousands) an arrow cost the same as a bow, calculated at 14 stuivers per hundred. The work of cutting, shaping and stringing a bow must have been about the same as that of turning, feathering and tipping an arrow. It is sobering to recognize that one hundred longbowmen could be armed each with a bow and ten arrows for the price of eleven halberds. It is not surprising then that King Henry VIII of England was keen to encourage archery in England at the time when the longbow was being supplanted by firearms and becoming obsolete on the Continent. As a cheap offensive weapon the longbow still had some use in the open field, despite the opinion of the Leiden magistrates when they abolished it that it was `of very little value and defence’.

I am skeptical of these prices for the bows and arrows. A bowyer would have had to make dozens of bows a day to support himself. I have tried to make a bow myself with hand tools and it took days.

Crossbows cost about the same as a firearm:

In 1508 Leiden bought eight steel crossbows for resale to the burghers, and a single windlass used in tensioning the string. All the crossbows were sold immediately but the price is not recorded. The windlass remained unsold, and so it stood to book at its value of 30 stuivers. That suggests that the crossbows, each with a reserve steel bow, were themselves not cheaper than this. In that case they were comparable in price to a good firearm.

Crossbow bolts 3x more expensive than arrows:

Supplies in 1523 to the fishery protection vessels in Holland included 72 dozen darts or quarrels (darden) for use with crossbows, costing 5 stuivers per dozen. Calculated at approximately 42 stuivers per 100, therefore, they were three times more expensive than arrows for the longbow costing 14 stuivers per hundred.

Knives, hammers and axes not considered suitable weapons:

Not any weapon was considered suitable for the defenders of the city. When on watch the burghers of Leiden were ordered to be armed with crossbow (stalen boog, `steel bow’) complete with bolts or quarrels, or with a hand gun (hantbosse), halberd, pike or some similar weapon. Knives, hammers and axes as sole weapons were insufficient. Men coming on watch armed only with a hammer or an axe were to be fined 2 stuivers (4 groats). This was an appreciable sanction at a time when 3 to 4 stuivers (6-8 groats) was a day’s wage for many men.

Firearm prices. The firearm terminology is complex and a bit imprecise. This is early in the 16th century and names for guns that are used here don’t necessarily mean the same things as they do in other periods. The author identifies harquebuses as the heaviest guns meant to be fired from walls, while knipbossen, handguns and calivers refer to lighter guns.

In 1508 Leiden bought four metal’ or bronze guns under the former name (knipbos) at 24 stuivers, two at 30 stuivers and four at 21 stuivers each. About the same time Leiden also bought six harquebuses (haakbos) at 25 stuivers, and 12 at 27 stuivers each, while Gouda paid for 31 harquebuses a price of 25 stuivers each. In 1508 Leiden purchased forty seven knipbossen, each provided with powder horn, priming powder, bottle and fuse etc.’ for a price of 2 Rhine guilders 11 stuivers (51 stuivers) per complete set. In 1523 100 handguns (handtbussen) supplied to the fishery protection vessels cost 24 stuivers each.

Exceptionally, in 1512 Leiden also ordered to be specially made at Rotterdam 100 harquebuses at the higher price of 32.5 stuivers each

Bronze artillery cost twice as much as iron artillery of equal weight.


Daily wage- 3-4 S.

Pike- 3-5 S.

Halberd- 9-14 S.

Longbow- 14 S. per hundred

Arrow- 14 S. per hundred

Steel crossbow- at least 30 S.

Bolt- 42 S. per hundred

Handguns- 24-32.5 S., or 51 S. for a gun including all accessories

One pound lead- ~.5-1 S.

One pound Hailshot- 3.5 S.

One pounds gunpowder- 2-8 S., depending on quality

Very light iron artillery (137 pounds) – 154 S.

Heavy bronze gun (2047 pounds) – ~4,920 S.

What was the price per shot of a handgun? We will have to estimate roughly. Take a powerful 10-gauge gun with the best powder at one extreme and a puny 30-gauge gun with recycled lead and cheaper coarse powder at the other. Assume that the weight of the powder is half the weight of the ball.

1 S. for a pound of new lead + 4 S. for a half-pound of the best gunpowder gets you 10 shots with the 10 gauge or .5 S per shot.

.5 S. for a pound of recycled lead + 1 S. for a half-pound of coarse powder gets you 30 shots with the 30-gauge, or .05 S per shot.

With bolts costing .42 S. and arrows .14 S. per shot it seems that the price per shot was roughly similar to the guns.

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