By George Paul Tire

Many of us assume that money will lose its value during a crisis. Since bartering could take the place of cash if cash goes bad, having something to barter with along with the skills to do it is a good prep to think about now.

My first thought on bartering is that anything I stock for barter should be useful for my family should we not get a chance to trading it.

So what to put away for barter? Many think guns and ammunition are ideal. I have no doubt of their value, but I remember the scene in the movie The Terminator where Schwarzenegger strolls into a gun shop and has a bunch of stuff laid out to look at. He starts loading a shotgun and when the clerk says don’t do that, bang, he drops the clerk, sealing the deal. I don’t want to wind up like the clerk.

What else is there? Alcohol is another suggestion and it isn’t a bad idea. Some will always want a drink and the stuff has other uses. It can be a disinfectant, anesthetic or a dandy fuel and fire starter. We decided that inexpensive vodka was a good choice for this purpose. It is cheap enough to lay in a good supply, but not much pricier than rubbing alcohol which serves similar uses, though it can’t be imbibed. The size bottle was a conundrum. The larger the bottle, the cheaper the purchase cost per ounce, but it creates a more expensive barter unit. I settled on fifths, but will consider breaking it into smaller units if needed.


 Tobacco is also frequently proposed. Smokers will want their poison so I plan to add some to our stash, but since we don’t use it, it could be a waste of precious resources and space. There is also the issue of keeping it palatable. My research says cigarettes can only be stored for six months or so, so I’m planning to buy papers and canned tobacco.


Coffee is another item with potential. Many of us are addicted to it and caffeine could be an important stimulant in a crisis. With all the new stresses of a collapse scenario coffee can be a very important moral booster. What type do we stock? I hate instant, but it has advantages. It is easy to prepare and if it is all they can get, coffee junkies will drink it. Ground coffee tastes better and might be worth more, but I think instant wins. You can learn more about some primitive meathods of brewing loose ground coffee here

Food strikes me as the best barter item because people will probably be hungry. MRE’s and freeze dried foods are hard to beat, though they are pricey to stock. Canned goods with pull tops strike me as the best bargain item. Vienna sausages and Spam are compact and dense in food value, so very attractive for trade. Things you can eat straight from the package would be best. Some P-38 can openers might be good for trade too.

Luxury items like chocolate and candy could go a long way, especially in trading with families with kids. Clothing also comes to mind. Comfortable, rugged shoes and socks could be really valuable in a worst case scenario. We might be doing a lot more walking and how many people have solid shoes?

Rechargeable batteries and a way to charge them, solar comes to mind, could be worth more than gold or silver, speaking of which, I’m unsure of how helpful gold and silver will be during the worst of a crisis. They are better than paper, but when life is really bad, people will prefer things they can use more than precious metals.

I thought about cheap radios. I don’t however, want to equip people with gear that can monitor my own communications. Perhaps if you have GMRS or amateur radios, you could get some FRS or MURS only models that can’t monitor your channels.

Some considerations on the process of barter include not revealing what you have and being on guard at all times. In troubled times, good people may do things to feed their families they would never do normally. Allowing them to see all your goods might tempt them to take it. Be cautious and have a backup cover you when bartering.

Assigning a price to your goods will be tough and will have to be done by the seat of the pants. Values will change as the crisis goes on. You might want to practice now by shopping for things with negotiable prices at yard sales and flea markets. Don’t hesitate to trade for work if you need help and always be ready to trade for good will. Helping others when possible is always a good plan.