Irrelevant guide"" might have been an apter subtitle for this odd assortment of facts and figures whose compiler, to paraphrase Wilde, seems to know the price but not the value of many things. A history professor at New York's City College, Skolnik offers briefings on 100-odd topics in a format which ranges from an appreciation of consumer expenditures in the US through estimates (under the heading ""You Must Remember This"") of what it might cost to remake Casablanca with the original cast. The text also includes a baker's dozen quizzes, plus almanac overviews that provide snapshot glimpses of the past at 10-year intervals, starting in 1926--when, for example, a first-class postage stamp was 2 cents, the defense budget totaled $355 million, and Paul Whiteman's orchestra earned $9,500 a week. Unfortunately, only a few of the statistical tabulations--mainly those having to do with book prices, housing costs, and lower-level employment opportunities--are carried through in consistent form from decade to decade. Skolnik's random roundup features some moderately intriguing items, e.g., ""the wages of skin,"" i.e., how Playboy compensates young women for posing nude, the cost of conspicuous consumption at Bijan's boutiques in Manhattan or Beverly Hills, and a capsule history of parking meters. On balance, though, there's far more dross than gold. Notably weak are entries on the underground economy, franchising, medical malpractice suits, middlemen, and prize packages--Nobel, Pulitzer, et al. The bottom line: small change.