This is a guest post by William P and entry for our non-fiction writing contest.
Before modern society standardized the monetary system of cash for goods, many cultures around the world heavily practiced the barter system of trade up until the industrial revolution. It was during the mid to late nineteenth century when most families switched from producers to consumers.
For those of you who have never bartered before, its concept is fairly straight forward. The barter system is a direct exchange of goods or services between two people. If you need a gunsmith to repair one of your broken firearms he would require some method of payment. In today’s society this exchange of goods for service would normally take place through a payment of government backed currency. But how would you pay for such a service if there was no government to back such currency in the near future?
If you don’t believe this could happen, you should take a quick look at the not so distant past. Following their defeat in WWI, Germany experienced an economic collapse which caused a hyperinflation of their currency (the paper mark). During such dark times it could have cost as much as a barrel full of paper money to buy everyday staples such as bread and milk.
When the current monetary system no longer works we will have to fall back on the system of bartering and trading with one another to get the supplies we need. No matter which way you believe that modern society will collapse, it is important to understand bartering. As long as there are groups of people they will always have a need for goods, and bartering is the way in which they will exchange goods with one another.
Now that I have given you a brief idea of the importance of bartering, I will now examine the best items to trade after a collapse of society. Any items could be exchanged in barter. In fact much of what we throw in the garbage today could become invaluable following a collapse of society. Here are a few categories of items which I believe will be the most valuable to trade with in bartering situations.
1. Food and water- These are the two greatest essentials to stay alive and will always be in demand. Renewable food sources such as crops and livestock would be ideal to barter with as long as you can produce more than what you need to consume.
2. Camping, hunting and trapping supplies- Anything needed to live away from the cities and suburbs will be good for bartering with. The list of such supplies to use for barter is endless. My best tip for you is to go into a large sporting good store and look around at everything for sale. Think with the mindset of what would be needed to survive if I had nothing.
3. Medical supplies- Any medical supplies will be at a premium once they are no longer being produced. First-aid products and medications will be the most valuable to those mildly skilled in the medicine. By growing an herbal garden you can add to your own stockpile of medicine and also add valuable herbal remedies to use in barter.
1. Hygienic supplies- Keeping clean will be extremely important in a world where a scratch or rotted tooth could lead to infection and possibly death. All hygienic supplies will become valuable. I like soap and tooth paste due to their small size. Toilet paper is another great comfort item to stock up on for bartering purposes but it takes up a lot of storage space.
2. Tobacco products and alcohol- Such vices have been apart of society for as long as there has been recorded history. Both items are also renewable if you have the knowledge/materials to grow the crops and process them into the final product. Although there are other vices, I don’t believe it is worth it to stock up on any of the illegal vices as a bartering supply due to the high risk of legal prosecution.
3. Energy- If you have the means of producing energy there will be people who require it to charge their devices. It is true that many will abandon such electrical devices once energy is no longer readily available but in this electronic age, many will probably keep small electrical devices such as MP3 players or phones as a connection to the past world. A generator would not be the best source for energy due to the fact that it requires a large stockpile of fuel. Renewable energy sources such as solar panels, wind and water turbines are best.
1. Ammunition- Within our world today there is an uncountable number of firearms, which could easily number into the billions. However as we all well know these firearms need ammo. Once ammunition is no longer being produced in mass quantities it will become a precious commodity.
2. Salt- It is much more than just a table condiment. Prior to household refrigerators and freezers, salt was one of the main preservatives of meats. In ancient Roman times salt was so valuable that they sometimes paid their soldiers with it. This sort of payment with salt led to the phrase, “Not worth your weight in salt.” Do to its many uses salt would become quite valuable but also heavy in large quantities.
3. Gems- Most gems are extremely light weight and would be a good item to spice up any deal with.
4. Precious metals- Although I am adding metal to my list because many people include them, I feel that they are not as important for bartering as the others on the list. All precious metals are heavy to carry and would not be worth the great financial investment before hand.
In addition to these items I have discussed, here are some good tips to know when you are bartering or trading for items and services.
1. Always keep on a poker face. Don’t let the person you are bartering with know how badly you need an item. Once the person knows how badly you need something, the price will automatically go up because they know you will pay whatever it takes to get what you need.
2. Start by asking what items they are looking for. Once you have an idea of what they are looking for it will make the bartering process easier. Don’t give up if you don’t have what they are looking for, they may still be interested in what you have to trade. However, not having what they want would put you in a weaker bargaining position.
3. Don’t show all of your bartering items at once. You can always add more to the bartering table but, it isn’t as easy to remove an item once it has been added.
4. Start off by showing your items of lesser value and work your way up. This could save you more of your items for future bartering and reduce the chance that your bartering partner would attack you for your most valuable goods. If they don’t know what valuables are in your possession, than they are less likely to risk harming you in order to take them.
5. Take caution with who you intend to barter with. Remember to always stay alert with your guard up, the people you will deal with may try to cheat or steal from you with force.
6. I do not recommend trading weapons of any kind to people who you do not trust. If you do not know who you are bartering with, they could use the weapon against you to take everything you have.
Finally I would recommend that each person develops a specific skill set which you can barter with. It doesn’t matter what the skill is as long as it will still be relevant after the collapse of society. Having a hardback collection of trade/skill books would also be a good idea. With these books you would be able to self teach many relevant skills to barter with.
As a footnote a good post-apocalyptic movie that shows an excellent depiction of bartering is The Book of Eli. Specifically the scenes when Eli barters with the town trader and for water in the saloon.
Prizes for this round in our non fiction writing contest include…
- First Place winner will receive – A $150 gift certificate for $150 off Wolf ammo courtesy of LuckyGunner. A Humless 2.5 Watt Portable Solar Panel courtesy of LPC Survival
- Second Place winner will receive – Two Emergency Seed Banks (stored in military ammo cans) with over 33 varieties of non-hybrid garden seed courtesy of TheSurvivalistBlog.net from M.D. Creekmore’s personal seed stash. A $260 value.
- Third Place winner will receive – a one year subscription to Personal VPN service courtesy of unspyable and a copy of my book 31 Days to Survival: A Complete Plan for Emergency Preparedness.
This contest will end on September 9 2013