Bartering During SHTF


Flohmarkt2Long before money became common, our ancestors acquired the things they needed by trading goods and services for things other people needed. And it is still economics in many parts of the world. So, how useful would bartering be to you in a SHTF situation?

Imagine a long-term serious SHTF situation such as a total grid down environment. Maybe at some point life will return to “normal” but for now you are going to survive on what you have. Nothing is being manufactured because there is no power. Nothing is being transported because there is no sufficient fuel. How do you get what you need if you do not already have it stocked? You trade the excess of what you have to others who need it for the excess that others have that you need. That’s called bartering. Sounds simple, right? Maybe. And maybe not.

Stockpiling for Barter Before SHTF

Many people suggest that you should stockpile certain items with a view to using them for barter material. This sounds reasonable but I think there are a few issues you might want to consider. First of all, anything that will be valuable to someone else is also going to be valuable to you. Just how do you figure “excess”? You may be sitting on a 5 year supply of foodstuffs that you feel flexible in trading some of, but what if the disaster lasts 6 years? How much food, medicine, ammunition and other “critical ” items can you stock up in order to have “excess” to trade? How much space do you have, and can you protect all of this stuff from a bunch of starving have not’s? And if you have the funds, space, and ability to stock up that much stuff, exactly what are you going to need to trade for anyway? The problem with stockpiling large quantities is that if the SHTF situation goes seriously long-term, you are going to need those items yourself.

Short Term vs. Long Term

In the short-term, trading your excess items to those who did not prepare in exchange for certain items might be useful. It depends on the nature of the disaster and the possibilities of things eventually returning to normal. For example, much of Western Europe was occupied by the Nazis in WW2. Farmers in those areas were required to turn over much of their food produce to the Germans. But most rural folks have a knack for having “extra”. People who lived in the cities would travel to the country to visit “friends and relatives” bringing suitcases of silverware, gold jewelry and other “valuable” that were no longer valuable to starving people. The would trade them for things that did have value such as food stuffs to stay alive. After the war, when the national economies returned to a state of normal many of these farmers became rather well off selling the items they traded for because they were now valuable again.

In the long-term, especially if we reach TEOTWAWKI, bartering is going to become the new economy. People will be trading for things they don’t necessarily need in order to trade them later to people who do need them.

What’s Going To Be Valuable?

Anything people need, or perceive that they need, to stay alive will have the highest value. Food, water, medicine, medical supplies,  and ammunition will all be things high on the survival list and can be bartered in the short-term for things you need.  Personally, I would be damned careful in bartering weapons or ammunition. The people you are dealing with may simply want them to take the rest of what you have. This should be limited to people you know and at least have a small measure of trust in. Additionally, luxury items, especially cigarettes and alcohol, can be easily moved. But in the long run, I believe that the most valuable trade items you can use will not be the things that you have. It will be the things that you can do. The more skills you have, the more valuable you will be to others. Not much different from today except money will not be the exchange medium. The guy or gal who is a proficient hunter can trade extra meat to the guy or gal with nursing skills for medical help. The ex professional soldier or experienced law enforcement or security professional can organize the defense of a community of people lacking those skills. People who have learned the skills of 19th century living will be very valuable to any community. Fox FireCan you make soap, or clothes from scratch? Can you repair damaged firearms? Make a bow and arrows? Make serviceable knives from scrap metal? Dress a hog? Do you know how to make moonshine? (both for medical and social uses)Start learning some useful skills now. Your masters degree in IT security probably won’t mean much in a grid down world with no internet. Learn to barter useful skills and not necessarily the things you have that you may need down the road

Learning to Barter

barterBartering is a psychological experience in good times. A real art form in bad. You need to understand the art of negotiation. Practice now. Flea markets and garage sales are great places to pick up items for prepping very cheap, as well as giving you experiencing in trading and bartering. Learn to barter your skills now. When you contract with another professional such as a lawyer or plumber, see if you have skills they need and try to work an exchange. It is estimated that the United States already has a massive underground economy based on barter. The money you save can be used to prep with.

Dealing With Desperate People and Security

Some of the people you will be bartering with are going to be desperate. Hurt, hungry, ill, or worse yet with a child in any of those categories. When you are a have and you are dealing with desperate have not’s, it can be easy to seriously take advantage of people. Don’t. Taking a man’s last food in exchange for that bit of medicine his dying daughter needs is not conducive to making friends. And if his daughter dies anyway, don’t be surprised if he comes back with murder in his heart. Desperate people are not rational. People are going to dislike you for having what they need to begin with. Don’t compound it by taking advantage of them. Be honest and fair. Don’t give the impression that you have anything more than what you brought to trade. Give the impression that you are as desperate as the person you are trading with.Have someone with you, and deal on neutral ground. The more public, the better. Be armed, even if it is concealed. Listen to your gut instincts. It something doesn’t feel right. it probably isn’t. Make sure you aren’t followed going home, and if you are being followed, lose them before you get home.

Effective bartering can help you get the things you need, and can even help you thrive in adverse situations. But in a SHTF or TEOTWAWKI it can be a dangerous experience. Ask any drug dealer who experienced a deal gone bad.

13 thoughts on “Bartering During SHTF

  1. Thanks for the great article and comments. Understanding the need and value of bartering is becoming a valuable commodity now a days. My son and I were just talking about the “service” he could provide to the older folks in the community that they are unable to do any longer.

    Many of these simple tasks are beyond their physical abilities and helping them may keep them from being place in a home. Many folks have accumulated years of “stuff” they no longer want/need but are of value to you or to resell. It’s a win/win situation for you and those who don’t have cash.


  2. You have an excellent article, but in my opinion the 2009 movie, ‘The Road’ is going to be a better litmus test as to what we will be up against, of course minus the ecological damage in the movie. The food shortages, suicides, cannibalism, and fuel shortages are going to be nationwide with no return to normalcy ever. At the 1:17:00 time mark in the movie when the old tattered road map they are navigating by falls apart it splits my hometown of Victoria, Texas right down the middle. That got my attention. In closing, regardless my condition I would never require barter to help a dying child. Refusal to help a child is a salvation issue and we all must remember that when teotwawki hits, thanks.


  3. Years ago on the streets of London there was a “code” that the street dwellers abided by. (Been there, did this).
    Don’t handle the merchandise until payment had changed hands.
    There was another rule, never trade alone.
    Funny enough even those with little wanted proof of fairness and that would only be met by the presence of another. As a consequence very few ripped off others as the homeless are a tight knit group. Those who did got an instant bad rep and suddenly found themselves outcasts and/or in A&E following street justice.

    Fast forward to now (or later).
    Until some form of “protocol” is in common practice, barter, trade, or whatever you call it is not going to be easy and in some cases positively dangerous. To think everyone will “be reasonable” in a crisis is foolish as some (as always) will be in it for profit and power.

    Take those fools trying to trade in precious metals. Boy are they in for a shock. What price a can of beans? One gold ring or a handful of silver coin. The exchange rate will be whatever is demanded and sometimes not what the buyer thinks it’s should be. For instance, a pretty wife or daughter? Case of beans for 2 hours in the sack. And you’ll say what exactly if you are desperate? (Bet Mr nice guy hadn’t thought about that one).
    Ammo, water, meds, skills, its all going to be by negotiation, except what if you try and walk away from a bad deal? Especially carrying something another wants.

    Until time gently works out a protocol for trading, everything will be tactical i.e. how to get in and out without getting hurt. To assume otherwise is naive.


    • Throughout history there have always been people who, given the chance, have not hesitated to take unfair advantage of others. Lesson learned: extreme caution and the company of “muscle” make for good companions in such transactions.

      And with regard to trading with precious metals, here’s one for you…just today, in reading the history of the town of Murphys, CA, I learned that one of the original founders, John Murphy, traded a single blanket to the local Indians for a 5-lb lump of solid gold, which today would probably be worth at least $80,000. Unfair? Maybe, but maybe not; because apparently, to those Indians, at that moment that blanket was more valuable than that hefty, shiny rock.

      Perception in the moment is everything. By that, for example, I mean that we could all be criticized for paying too much for food, because we could raise it ourselves for much less — if we had the time and the means to do so…but if not, then the law of supply and demand kicks in.

      Good comments…by the way, what do you mean by “A&E”?

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I trade and barter for about half my needs. I do regular survival preps (garden, catch rain water, make myself, etc.) and actually earn $400 a month. I offer to take reusable items when people move or elderly down size. Being honest is key to repeat business and word of mouth. I help a lot of widows sort through the mess. I once found $15,000. While cleaning a place. I handed it to the grieving broke widow and that solidified my reputation. I have even been handed guns. I always ask family if this is what they really want to do and I do have a friend get them checked out for legality.


  5. Silver Can save you in more ways than the obvious one. During SHTF One of the more important items will be antibiotics, and you can make colloidal silver very simply, if you know how. Believe me, this stuff works, WELL, and for many more bugs than you can imagine.

    Do your research and Learn now, and practice making and using it. Get the supplies now, and develop a means for making distilled water. for reproducing it. It will be the only method for countering wierd diseases when the balloon goes up, and will serve as a continual item for barter…


  6. “It is estimated that the United States already has a massive underground economy based on barter.”

    I know for a fact there’s a massive underground economy based on barter-I trade labor for stuff at least a dozen time a month,sometimes more often.
    After the ’08 market meltdown,the number of customers asking about labor trades,cash discounts,paying with items other than cash or check increased dramatically.
    I sided and put new windows in a house in exchange for a used van-and they paid for the materials- last summer.
    I’ve got boxes and boxes of extra tools that the older people living in condos traded for $$$ off the bill.
    I traded me excavating and pouring a concrete driveway and patio for a new roof on our house.
    I do the upkeep on a dam for a 7 acre lake on a 72 acre property in exchange for being able to camp,fish,hunt and shoot there.
    The morons from the state of Ohio have the dam classed wrong-it’s classified same as the 1500+ flood control/ drinking water reservoirs that can be found throughout the state,rather than the big farm pond that it is.
    The 7 are lake is classified same as this…

    Anyhow-there’s lots of opportunities for barter-almost everyone will trade labor for labor,a lot of people have all kinds of stuff they no longer use that they’re willing to trade away-that’s how I got my rototiller.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: Bartering During SHTF | Azweaponcraftprepper

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