Before the monetary system was standardized by modern society regarding cash for goods, the majority of cultures across the globe were utilizing the barter system, where goods were traded for goods. This went on until the dawn of the industrial revolution. It was in the mid to late 19th century when most families made the switch from being producers and became consumers.
For anyone who has never bartered before, the concept is easy to grasp. The barter system is simply an exchange of goods and/or services between 2 people. It worked like this. If you were in need of a gunsmith to repair a broken gun, and if you had something the gunsmith needed that he believed worthy of payment for his services, then the trade was made. Today we use money to make this type of transaction. The question arises, “How would we pay for this kind of service today if we had no government backed currency in the future?” If you believe this could never happen, then you need to take a quick look back into history.
After being defeated in WWI, Germany went through a hard economic collapse. This caused the hyperinflation of their paper ‘mark’ (German currency). In a time such as that, it might have taken a whole wheelbarrow full of paper money to purchase everyday necessities like bread and milk.
When our current monetary systems ceases to function properly, then we too will have to fall back on the old bartering system of trade, or we will not be able to get the necessary supplies we need. It doesn’t matter exactly how you think our modern society is going to collapse, the most important thing is to have an understanding of bartering. As long as groups of people exist, there will always be a system of supply and demand. People need certain goods and services, and can obtain them through the offering of their own personal goods and services.
Now that you have an idea of just how important bartering can be, I’ll examine what items make the best trading items once a society collapses. Any item can be exchanged in a barter. Actually, many of the things we simply toss out in the garbage today could be quite valuable under the barter system. Here are some examples of what type of items I believe would be very valuable for trading in a barter situation:
Food & Water – These two rank right up at the top of the essentials for staying alive after an economic collapse. They will always and forever be in demand. Renewable food sources like livestock and crops are excellent bartering tools, especially if you can produce more than you consume.
Hunting, Trapping, and Camping Supplies – All types of gear needed for living out away from cities and suburbs will make good bartering tools. The number of things you can add to the ‘supply’ list that would be great for bartering is endless. A good tip I would give someone, is to visit a large sporting goods store. Have a look around and see what’s on sale. Keep your mindset from the perspective of bartering for survival and see what items you would choose. Come at it from the perspective of trying to survive when you have absolutely nothing. You might surprise yourself as to your choices.
Medical Supplies – These will be a premium trade item the minute they become unavailable and are not being produced. Medications and first-aid products will be extremely valuable. If you have the skills to grow a herb garden, then you will have a much-desired talent and be in demand. You can stockpile herbal medicines and remedies and be like a rich person today.
Hygienic Supplies – Staying clean in a bartering environment is another thing that will become more important than ever. Infection and disease could spread very rapidly. If you can make soap, you have risen in importance. Anything hygienic, like a stockpile of toilet paper or tooth paste, will put you in the bartering seat.
Tobacco & Alcohol Products – These vices have existed as part of our society and culture for as long as history has been recorded. Both of these items are renewable as well, as long as you have the knowledge and the materials for growing the crops, and for making alcohol out of them. There are also many other vices, but I don’t believe stocking up on them would help so much, especially the illegal ones. No sense risking legal prosecution.
Energy – If there is any way that you can produce some type of energy, you will be in great demand. A lot of things will be abandoned in times like this, but in a time like this people will be looking to hold onto whatever little devices they can. A generator will require lots of fuel. However, if you can build solar panels, water turbines, or wind turbines, then you can live like a rich person.
Ammunition – Our world today is drenched with firearms and weapons of all kinds. It could easily range into the billions in number. The one thing necessary to firearms and weapons, is ammo. When ammo is no longer being mass produced it will be an extremely precious commodity.
Salt – History has been influenced heavily by salt. Salt has been a driving force in many decisions, made by many cultures, as to where to go and why to live in a certain place. The availability of salt is always a real necessity. Soldiers used to be paid in salt back in ancient Roman days. That is why today you hear the phrase ‘Not worth his weight in salt’. If you have access to large salt quantities, then you can survive in times like economic collapse.
Gems – The large majority of gems are very lightweight, and could maybe turn up a deal or two, or maybe spice up any deal you had going already.
Precious Metals – I really don’t feel like precious metals would be all that strong of a bartering tool. They are heavy to carry and have no value that is widespread among the masses in this type of situation. There has to be a specific need, but I don’t feel like there would be anyone after them like the ones mentioned above.
Here are a few good tips for when you are bartering to get goods and/or services:
Keep Your Poker Face On – Never let the other person you’re bartering with know that you are desperate for anything. If they sense this, then they will feel like they are in power, and will raise the stakes on you immediately. You should begin by asking them what it is ‘they’ are looking for. After you know this, then the bartering from your end will be much easier. Even if you don’t have what they said they needed, don’t give up. Offer other things they might be interested in. Just don’t let them turn the tables and put you into a weaker bargaining position.
Never Show All Your Items At Once – You can always add to the pot, but you can never take out. So start slow, adding only when necessary to maintain your bartering partner’s interest. Adding an item is attractive to the trade partner, but taking away makes it less desirable. When you begin your bartering session, start off slowly, putting the lesser value items up first. This can save you a lot down the road. Another thing this does is shield you from getting your best items stolen, in case the other person is a bit shady and has bad intentions. If they are unaware of your best items, then you will still have them, even if you’re robbed. Be careful who you choose to barter with. Always be alert, keep your guard up, and watch for signals of those who would cheat you or harm you. I would recommend that you never deal in weapons trading period. Maybe if you totally have faith and trust in someone, but otherwise, I would steer clear of that. They could turn your own weapon against you.
Lastly, I recommend that everybody develop a skill set that would protect them in a bartering situation. Which skill doesn’t matter, as long as it is something that would help you in times like economic downfall and the collapse of society. This type of survival is not thought of by a lot of people, but should it happen, they would be searching out the ones who did. It is the prepper’s who will inherit the earth in a time such as this.