If we have an event similar to the nationwide power outage portrayed in American Blackout, there is little doubt that we will eventually have widespread panic, looting and rioting by people who either don’t care or are driven to criminal behavior because of fear or need. The duration of the hypothetical scenario in American Blackout was only 10 days, but for events lasting longer as in a societal breakdown caused by an economic collapse, we could be looking at years of chaos. With no formal way to purchase anything using what would at that time be worthless paper, people would need to revert to bartering.
Here are a few of my thoughts and opinions on barter and trade.
When bartering with people never show more than necessary for any given trade. Never let on like you have more, people will be desprate and unpredictable at this point, people will not be thinking or acting rationally, flashing large amounts of barter items in front of people could get you hurt or even killed.
Only trade alcohol, weapons, and ammunition to those you know will not be a problem for you later. Just when you think you know someone, the situation may change them into someone you never knew at all.
Always try to barter skills and knowledge rather than goods. Knowledge and skills never run out and no one can steal them from you.
You can also try to barter the information in books. Don’t let the books leave your control.
In a SHTF situation try to barter the use of tools and equipment rather than trading them away.
Try to make trades in neutral areas or at a designated barter/trade meeting. Make sure you aren’t followed back home.
Not all the items/skills listed will be of much value early into the event. It could be three to five years or more for some of the items to become valuable.
Try to have most of your equipment and several months of consumables before you stockpile trade goods, including Precious Metals.
When it comes to PMs, unless you are wealthy, start slow. A few silver dimes & quarters at a time. When you feel it is time to get gold coins, stay with the small denominations. And remember that there will be some people that won’t trust or want them.
If you are trading bulk items, try to have the customers bring their own containers for the items. But it will be a good idea to have some of your own so you can trade just the amount you or they want without having to try and get full value for the full container of the goods. For many of them you can collect a deposit, to encourage the people to bring back the same container for repeat sales to conserve you stock of the containers.
Things to Stockpile with High Barter Value
First aid – Antibiotics – Medicine is hard to stock up on unless you have a very understanding doctor. Fortunately, there are sources for antibiotics you can take advantage of now and stock up before the hospitals are overflowing with people.
Cigarettes. I hate smoking, and can’t stand being around anyone that smokes. But Having said that, I recognize that in a SHTF situation many others will be cut off from their access to cigarettes, so there is plenty of barter potential.
Soap. Bars of soap, and even those little cleaning napkins/wipes that you get at the BBQ restaurants could be very valuable in a SHTF scenario. Learning to make soap is easy and a skill that can never be taken from you. Ever see “The Book of Eli?”
Bullets. Obviously, it’s a good idea to have a decent store of ammo representing all calibers of the weapons you own. However, it is also a good idea to store extra ammo in common calibers (9mm, .22, .38, 12-guage shells, etc.) as a potential barter. After all, a gun without ammo is just an inacurate throwing object.
Alcohol. Alcohol could serve a variety of purposes in a SHTF situation. It is valuable as a potential bartering commodity, and it also has medicinal uses. Did you know Vodka is a great home remedy to counteract the reaction to poison ivy?
MREs. More portable and easier to barter than larger 5-gallon buckets, or even #10 cans of dried foods, MREs are great to have on hand for bartering. Keep a variety of flavors and different kinds of foods because you could be holding something that could complete a meal for a hungry person.
Silver Coins. Keep in mind this doesn’t necessarily mean only silver dollars with a full ounce of silver, but even older, less expensive coins with a high silver component (the 1964 Kennedy half-dollar, for example).
Detergent. Don’t think people are interested in bartering detergent? Check out the story about the recent rash of detergent thefts across the country. Apparently, Tide detergent on the black market is now referred to as “liquid gold.” Interesting.
Water bottles. To someone in bad need of water, a water bottle could be worth its weight in gold. Remember the rule of threes: you can live three minutes without air, three days without water, and three weeks without food. Store accordingly.
Matches and lighters. A box of matches is relatively inexpensive, but for someone needing to build a fire a pack of matches or a lighter could be very valuable. Be sure these are stored safely, and if they are not waterproof make them so by storing in a watertight container.
Sugar. My grandfather used to tell stories of things that were in limited supply in the Great Depression. Sugar was something he often mentioned. Imagine how easily you could win over a sweet-tooth with the promise of a bag of sugar in exchange for something you are short on.
Toilet paper. This one is rather self-explanatory, isn’t it? Sure, there are substitutes for Charmin, but who wants to keep using leaves when paper feels so much better.
Water Filters/Purifiers. Water purification drops and filters could mean the difference in offering family members treated water or potentially harmful, bacteria-infested water. Who’d be willing to trade for that?
Bleach. May be used to disinfect water, or keep living quarters and soiled clothing sanitized.
Batteries. Can be used to power up flashlights, radios, and other electronic devices.
Candles. Emergency candles would be a great barter item for those in need of providing some light to their living quarters without electricity. Plus another skill you can add to your developing skill sets.
Propane – Small propane canisters like the kind for camping grills or lanterns are relatively cheap and could make an excellent barter item.
Seeds – Seeds will be one of the most valuable commodities we can have on hand. Everyone needs to be able to eat.
Books – Resource books and even fiction books. Without our modern distractions, a good book will be welcome to someone who has the time to chill out or who needs to learn something.
Hand Tools – People will have to have tools to survive, wether it be gardening or repairs on their shelter, small hand tools will be very barterable. Garage sales and auctions are a great place to buy these tools cheap.
The list goes on. What other items would you add to your barter list?