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Bartering In Tough Times

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“The end of the world as we know it,” or TEOTWAWKI for short, can take many forms, but there is a good chance that whatever brings it on will be accompanied by monetary problems. Our currency may become devalued or even worthless.

There is the story of a post-WWI German woman who took a wheelbarrow full of German marks to the store to buy bread. She left it outside the door, and when she returned, someone had dumped the money on the sidewalk and stolen the wheelbarrow. While this may not be a true story, it points out that in some cases, things are worth considerably more than money.

Bartering is the simplest form of commerce, and it requires no money whatsoever. Trading one thing for another is all that bartering is. If our currency suddenly becomes worthless, trading items will be all we have left.

Preppers can put back extra preps or other items for just such an occasion. Some items should be for short-term emergencies like natural disasters, while others should concentrate on longer-term items in case of civil collapse.


One of the first things people will run out of will be their personal vices, such as cigarettes and alcohol. If you are in a position to be able to provide these when everyone has run out, you can almost name your price.


Food is where most preppers begin their prepping. Putting back extra to trade or to just be able to help out the needy is a good idea. Of course, you will need to examine your own situation and see if you want to chance trading away food security for your family. But if you have an easily renewable food source like livestock, bartering food can make you very popular.


Ammo and firearms will be very popular items in times of trouble. However, think long and hard before you trade away a firearm or ammo that can be used against you. If you are willing to accept the risk, then I suggest stocking up on .22 long rifle and twelve-gauge shotgun ammo. They are two of the most popular types of ammo used today, and they remain affordable despite recent price increases.  They are used mainly for hunting and will be less likely to be used against you.

Repair Items

Everyone knows that a real prepper can fix anything with bailing wire, duct tape, and a little WD-40, but the rest of the word will need parts to fix things. Salvage yards may make a comeback, and people like machinists and blacksmiths who can make parts from scratch will be able to make a good living in a barter society. With this in mind, putting back small engine parts like spark plugs or chainsaw chains, especially if they fit something you already own, can be a good idea.


People are hooked on electronic items. Most things nowadays run on AA or AAA batteries. Stocking up on lots of batteries is a good idea, especially since you will probably use them yourself someday. Alkaline batteries stored in a cool area lose little of their charge each year.

In addition, if you find a good deal of solar or wind-powered battery chargers, you could offer a charging service. While they are a bit slow, they do work.


If you garden, seeds can be a good thing to put away for bartering. Hopefully you are already growing heirlooms and putting back your own seeds for next year’s crops. If this is the case, it is a simple thing to make up a few extra sets of next year’s garden seeds.

New Survival Seed Bank™ Lets You Plant A Full Acre Crisis Garden!

Even if you don’t put any back in advance, your first genuine survival garden can produce a lot of trade items. Spoiled fruits or veggies and even weeds can be traded, even if it may be only for animal fodder.

My family made it through the Great Depression by selling apples in a nearby small city. My grandfather, being a youngster at the time, asked his father if he could have the windfalls that they couldn’t sell. My grandfather took these blemished apples and went around to people who were too poor to buy the regular apples and sold them at a much-discounted rate. In a true TEOTWAWKI situation, just about all items of food that you can produce will have some value.


Much of the advice floating around in the cyber world focuses in precious metals for use in bartering. This is good advice if you can find a good source of junk silver coins. I have always thought gold coins for everyday bartering is a waste. What are you planning on trading for that would require gold? On the other hand, things may get so out of control that gold is required. It is best to only buy what you can afford.

Let me offer word of caution when it comes to using precious metals as barter items. I was teaching a Sunday school class a few years ago, and the lesson was on the value of things. I thought I had a great idea for an object lesson by taking a dollar bill, an Eisenhower dollar, and a peace silver dollar to class. The problem became apparent when no one in the class of twenty-to-thirty-somethings could identify the Eisenhower dollar as being worth $1, let alone the silver peace dollar. I am sure after a few weeks in a barter situation, they would soon learn that U.S. silver coins 1964 and earlier are 90 percent silver and are actually worth a bit more than their face value.


Gas and oil top the list of consumables that folks will want to trade for. Coleman fuel, kerosene and firewood are other items people will start trading for soon. Other consumables include food items like salt, sugar, cooking oil, or spices.

Many of the Y2K preppers still have toilet paper left from that scare. I know people who have it insulating the walls in their basement. It may seem funny, but it will be in high demand. Almost anything you can think of that you run to the store to get is a consumable and can be stored for future trade.


I mentioned machinists and blacksmiths already, but anyone who can provide a useful service will have something they can trade.  Maybe it is only your labor for weeding the garden (there will be a lot of those kind of folks), but everyone has some skill.

One thing to look at will be a laundry. Before everyone had washing machines in their homes, people took their clothes out to be laundered. I have a couple large cast iron kettles behind my garage that were used for laundry on this farm 100 years ago. We could set up a laundry with little fuss if the need arose.

Survival Items

Many people will go into a TEOTWAWKI situation completely unprepared, and they will need someone to help them set up basic survival housekeeping. Maybe they will need an oil lamp or a hunting knife.  Animal traps should also be a good investment. They can be found used on eBay; if you can make your own, all the better.


Books on prepping topics will be in demand by those who have come into this unprepared. Books that describe lost skills or recipes for things that are no longer available should hold some value as well.


In a situation like we are talking about here, you must keep security in the forefront of your mind. If you are producing food or other high demand items, there will be those who think about trying to take it from you instead of trading for it. It pays to be good to the people around you so you always have friends watching out for you. If you trade everyone sharply, they may not care if someone takes your place from you.

Prepping is an individual game that requires each person to examine their own lifestyle, their own environment, and their own fears and then plan accordingly. Preparing some items for barter in case of a major upheaval is something to seriously consider and prepare for if you are able.

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