This is probably going to be the most popular form of commerce WTSHTF. Bartering is simply the exchange of goods and/or services for other goods and/or services.
These are the items that people need. You don’t need to resort to the tactics used by modern advertisers to tell you what you want, people will almost certainly know what they need in a post-disaster situation.
You’re much more likely to make it successful barter with people if you have some of the following items:
- alcohol-forget about cans of beer, I am talking specifically about bottles of wine and liquor. Not only can they serve as a mild form of escapism, as well as providing a small sense of normalcy, but they can also be used medicinally.
- Candles, lanterns
- canning supplies
- coffee, tea, other drink mixes
- basic foodstuffs including salt and spices
- gardening supplies
- hygienic supplies (TP, bleach, soaps, etc.)
- information (how-to books, survival guides, medical guides, etc.)
- knowledge, skills, wisdom, labor-training people to survive or helping to build shelters and other structures can be very valuable.
- matches, other fire starters
- medical supplies (dental, chemical, physical)
- seeds (preferably non-hybrid)
- tobacco items (consider other supplies of vice, but I highly caution against hard drugs)
- water purification and storage, as well as clean water
If you are going to stockpile items for bartering, and I suggest you do, always buy those items in bulk. I cannot stress enough how pointless it is to pay full retail price for items you’re going to stockpile for bartering, you want to make sure you pay as little as you can per unit. A great example is salt, which has a lot of uses outside of seasoning your eggs. Obtain a 100 pound bag of salt and get 100 heavy-duty Ziploc bags. Break out the salt into 1 pound bags, and now you have a great bartering tool. You can do this with rice, beans, pasta, and other foodstuffs and spices with very little extra expense.
What not to barter
There are a few things that you will never really want to barter away, but primarily these will be weapons, ammunition, and just about anything else that could harm you or defeat your own survival.
I suppose that no article on bartering would be complete without the mention of gold and silver. In many preparedness and survivalist communities there is a lot of talk about the value of gold, silver, and other precious and semi precious metals and even gems for their use as currency if a national or global economic meltdown occurred.
I think the problem with stockpiling these things for use as currency, and to an extent as trade goods, is that you cannot eat precious metals. I do think that in certain short-term situations, they would probably benefit you to some degree because people without forethought or consideration for preparedness would make the assumptions about how valuable precious metals are in post-disaster situations. More specifically, gold won’t have much use to people who are starving, thirsty, or have no reliable warm place to winter.