Is Post-Disaster Bartering a Possibility?


The answer to that question is a wholehearted YES. Whether you know it or not, the barter system you learned about oh so long ago is still up and running. You make use of it every single day to do a whole variety of things! The barter system (which is thought to have ended when we first used currency) is defined as an exchange of goods or services. This applies to just about any type of goods, including money.

A perfect example of this is hiring a plumber. When you hire the services of a plumber to fix the leaky faucet and the pipes in your home, you pay him money in exchange for the services he is offering. We use paper, issued by the state, to barter for services. Of course, when it comes to a world-destroying disaster, paper is going to be absolutely worthless to barter with. Government collapse would lead to a complete devaluation of money. It would be better to just buy gold to last you through the fallout.


No currency means goods need to be traded

Without currency backed by the state to support barter using currency, there is only one option left: to trade goods with actual value for others that you need in return. To survive, this is something that will have to be done in a survival situation. Of course, you could go all Rick Grimes on the people around you and kill them, but you would probably get arrested and sentenced when rescue came along.

A prime example of this type of situation is any natural disaster today where people are trapped for weeks without a rescue. Examples include the 2004 South Asian Tsunami and the more recent Hurricane Katrina. People stuck on the inside would trade food and clothing in exchange for other goods that they had dire need of. Remember that when it comes to a survival situation, your very life hangs in the balance. Barter carefully.


Essentials and material comforts

There are two categories that you need to sort everything into the second a disaster occurs and you get to your stockpile. These are the bare essentials for survival and the objects that are more materialistic, made for comfort rather than survival. The priorities are food and water. You can survive without anything else, but you will die off soon enough without a steady supply of food and water. Make getting these your highest priority.

One tip is that if you need food and water to live, so does everyone else. This can make that sheep you found wandering about after the disaster as valuable as its weight in pure gold. If you trade food items and water, you can be sure that the people you are bartering with will give you just about anything that you need.


Ten useful barter items

In addition to the bare essentials, there are a number of items you should try stockpiling right now, so that you can trade them when the need arises, for the right exchange of course. Here are 10 of them right now:

Lighter fluid


Soap/Liquid Soap

Magnifying glasses(fire starting)

Toilet Paper


Water/Water Filters




Some of these may seem worthless right now. When the time comes for them to be used, everyone is going to want them. You are going to be the man with a plan.




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24 thoughts on “Is Post-Disaster Bartering a Possibility?”

  1. In addition to buying extra food .. I’m getting things for personal use .. that I can trade .. sugar, flour, etc
    I am also canning .. and raising bees, fish and fowl… They produce exclusive of currency and produce food.
    Also they make their own new little ones. As well as seeds that I can grow for food excesses that store and are barter worthy.. like corn, sorghum, millet (feed for stock and fowl). Canning supplies ..
    Just about anything at an estate sale or flea market .. like fabric, tools, plumbing supplies ..

  2. Bartering after teotwawki will be a non survivable event. If life could go on through bartering then it wouldn’t be teoetwawki. It would be a depression, a war, a post war situation or whatever, but it would not be a no holes barred teotwawki. How are you going to barter with anyone: In a market place; I think not. Are you going door to door. Absurd. Even if you could barter a loaf of bread for a bag of cashews how are you going to get back to your bol. What is it going to take to get it through to people that when it is over, it is over forever. When you come on with a ‘wholehearted yes’ then you are deluding yourself and suckering the inexperienced into a death trap. Roll back the calendar twenty years and go to South Sudan and attempt to barter. Good luck once anyone knows you have anything and I repeat anything of value on you.

    • Totally agree with Rouke …. you’re experiencing Mad Max syndrome – there’ll be a die off period rife with anarchy – but not forever …. bartering post-SHTF will be very much like what the 3rd World experiences now – trading posts will be established and an once a week flea market – even town to town peddlers traveling a trade route ….

  3. Don’t forget rechargeable batteries. Stock up on those – I’m pretty sure you will have takers. Lighting up the darkness after the sun goes down. Also having multiple SOLAR battery rechargeable stations would be wise, as your customers keep coming back to you for juicing them up. For a small fee of course.

    That builds trust which gains you allies.

  4. The bartering can start with your neighbors bugging out – smart move to go down and check out the SHTF goods that they’ll be leaving behind …. see what kind of deals you can make …. make sure to offer your services as a “house watcher” – make it as legal and authorized as you can …

  5. Taxdn2poverty is generally correct, Rourke. You say EVENTUALLY. Like the old saying EVENTUALLY we’ll all be dead. Besides, the multitude of those who survived the initial SHTF situation won’t have anything worth exchanging or bartering anyway.

  6. How are you seeing the barter of services . . i.e. putting in gardens, teaching foraging, hand made items . . ?
    Any thoughts on beginning that ahead so some are already trained to look to you for those services /goods?

  7. I do think bartering would be a thriving part of a recovering localized economy. The beginning though would be very dangerous. As mentioned, bartering with neighbors would likely be a starting point. Moving beyond that will be full of hazards. Some will want to barter their bullet for your goods and your life.

    • @Karen
      We belong to a couple groups managed in that are prep groups. We Recently have had visitors doing a “Barter Blanket” session..
      The idea is bring a blanket anywhere, meeting room or round the fire .. share stories .. Anyone places something they have to trade in the center of the blanket, tells about it .. anything they want .. sales pitch sort of.. others there offer a trade for it if they are interested.. You learn a lot about perceived value .. and that the thing leaving the blanket un-traded can be better than leaving it.. side deals .. and you mentioned services.. We learned to do that too.. just know what you value and can do .. worked out pretty well and I have not been stiffed yet.. I negotiated as well.. to do the service with them so I got education too.. Around the fire you can bring guns, pictures of livestock .. worked out well .. Anyway it is worth doing just to get the experience.

      I never thought of trading my solar capacity. I lose nothing and it is gain .. great idea .. I might have eventually .. maybe 🙂

      good topic .. got some good ideas..

  8. Rather than stock several of those yellow Ronsonal lighter fluid cans, why not just buy a gallon of naphtha or white gas? Both are commonly used with wick type lighters.


  9. People always have and always will have the need to trade goods and services.

    As far as what to barter there are endless list on the net telling us what to stock.

    My take on barter is to plan on doing what I do now. I have a handyman / home repair business. I can and do fix everything in a home from the basement floor to the top of the roof. I will continue to do so if it hits the fan. I barter now so I’m already set up mentally and in practice to do it.

    I barter for ammo, firearms, free camping at a campground (for helping around the camp) a salamander kero heater, I got gift cards to spend at a TJ-Max store when I painted the back service hallways. I traded and got about 25 pounds of deck-screws for 2-hours electrical repair work at a lumber yard getting the power restored to their work shop. Deck-screws sell for $6.00 + per pound, that trade made my day and they were thrilled to be able to get back to cutting wood.

    Anything that someone is willing to trade for I’m open to an offer. I have been bartering for years. Almost always both parties walk away thinking they got a good deal. And it’s even better that the fact the government was not involved in plundering the trade.

    Today (in The USA) we don’t give any thought to barter as we just pay what the price tag says to pay. But all it takes is to make an offer. All they can say is no. Also it’s much easier to do bartering with a small business. Large chain stores are not set up to do it and the local manager has limited abilities to barter or change prices.

    • @Chuck
      I agree ..
      You guys be careful about what you do in practice.
      If you record a trade for goods in print ..
      It constitutes a trade for value in kind and can have a “Cost Of Goods Sold” value .. as far as IRS is concerned.
      You are better off with a hand shake .. trust and verify
      But then if you can’t do it on a handshake, might not want to do it anyway..

  10. Very interesting discussion. I disagree with the author’s assumption that you would be better off just to buy gold. I think we as preppers forget Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs which in my opinion is a great tool to set priorities for procument of prepping goods and equipment.
    If food is scarce and gold plentiful which has more value? Just because the SHTF doesn’t mean that science and “laws” like supply and demand go out the window. Doesn’t it make any sense to buy an ounce of gold now at $1051 or would it be a better move to take the $1051 right now and buy rice and beans? Again think supply and demand. I can put a ton (probably literally) of rice and beans for that $1051. So when SHTF what do people want gold or food? I also think that too many people mistakenly view a recession/depression economic collapse call it what you will as a TEOTWAWKI event and I don’t see that as probable through the lense of history. If you are trying to protect wealth in a hyper inflationary period gold may be an answer but in a true TEOTWAWKI event those items that provide for the basic needs will be worth way more than gold.

    For those that might be interested, FEMA actually did a report on this very subject – barter. The title of the document is:
    “Markets, Distribution, and Exchange After Societal Cataclysm” Document number is RR-31. My hard copy says it was reprinted in March 1990. This report is based on history not Hollywood.

  11. I have some gold (not much) but I have a lot of silver as I have been buying it for years. I buy at least a few ounces every week and over time it has grown to a respectable pile.

    But I don’t see it as barter material, I buy it for a time when I may not have the ability to work and or to make a big purchase if I want to. A new auto (or at least new to me) a new piece of property in an out of the way. I would like to move a bit farther out of the city, but still close enough to do my work of handyman service. Silver is going to pay for the new property as I am not now and never will go back into debt again. Been there done that and don’t want to do it again…

    For barter I plan on trading repair skills for things. I can fix just about anything and have the tools to support my skills. I also have supplies put up to support repairing, making and modifying things to get them back in service. I do auto repair, I do some electronic repair, I build small wind generators for myself and have made a few for others. These are 12-volt generators that produce up to 500 watts or so. Not real big, but still in a grid down world I imagine they would be popular. I buy motors at hamfest (electronic flea markets) harvest them from wheel chairs, treadmills. Usually for free or only a few dollars.

    I also have a LOT of the normal preps we all are putting up and have been a prepper since the late 1980″s. In that time I have most bases covered so I don’t see myself doing a lot of barter that involves me needing to trade to stay alive. One area I have been short on is gardening, I started doing it last summer for the first time and have had mixed results. Some plants did well, some didn’t do well and I have no idea why. But I will keel at it and continue to learn as I go.

    If we do have a bad event thrust upon us I would weather out the first (worst) part of it by keeping my head down and come out (somewhat come out) after the dust settles.

    I think some people see a SHTF world going on forever, a Mad Max way of life forever after an event. I don’t think history shows this to be a realistic expectation. People don’t like anarchy and would not put up with it for extended times. If a government didn’t restore civil times, people would install a new power base to restore peace. Yea the Brigands would have their day for a bit, but people would not put up with it and would eradicate them themselves if there were not a government to do it. This post brigand time is when barter and commerce would come back as it always has.

    I think we all should learn a marketable skill to use for barter as no one can possibly store all they need for themselves and also a lifetime of bartering. But skills do last a lifetime. Even when you are too old to a lot of labor you can still use the skills to teach others. We tend to think the older people are useless, but they have a lifetime of experiences and skills waiting to be harvested. And most times these people would love to pass on what they know. The most cruel thing a person can experience is to be considered useless. But the joy of being found useful and to pass on what we know is nothing short of joy. any survival group should harvest the skills of all that are in the group and make sure the knowledge is passed down.

  12. Karen,thats a great idea to practice the art of dickering and
    also swap items.
    Please read the book The Long Emergency . This is a fiction but a very realistic ex. of the dangers and positives of barter after the SHTF. Arlene

    • I downloaded The Long Emergency and loaded it onto my Nook and have been reading it. I’m 50 pages into it and I feel I got ripped off when I downloaded it. It was a free download and I paid $50.00 too much as he should pay people to read it as it’s nothing but a rant against anything made post industrial revolution. He thinks technology is the downfall of mankind, yet he admits to using a computer to type up this piece of junk. I would also make a bet he lives a comfortable life while he is telling us to cast all that was invented the last 100 years aside and live a 1800 life.

      Also he breaks up words like crazy. Every few sentences he does this making it hard to read or even have much respect for someone that doesn’t know how to write.

      Some words need to be broke up, but he does it to excess with words you don’t need to do it with.

      Examples: edu-cated, ef-ort, con-tinue, en-gine, pow-erd, mas-sive, les-son, fos-sil, sur-passing, fly-ing, per-fection. This is an example from only 2 pages of the book. You have to mentally reassemble every word when you come across it. I have no idea why someone would write like this? It seems he wants to over dramatize every word he does this to, but doing it every few sentences makes for a meaningless jumble of garbage.

      I also get a feeling of arrogance in that he is this super enlightened (liberal wacko) person talking down to the dumb reader.

      It may be the book gets better the more you get into it, but if he can’t write coherently and with some respect to the reader in 50 pages I don’t see him doing so as I turn more pages. It’s a 323 page book and I can’t see myself suffering through it for all that long.

      Unless you like punishment, I would pass on this garbage book.

      Sorry to be so brutal, but he’s the one that is being brutal to his prospective readers by putting out garbage like this.

      It’s not like I don’t want to be a good steward of this planet. I already live a simple eco-friendly life and am planning a move to a smaller house as money permits (I’m saving to do it without debt as I don’t want to go down that trail again) and I live a small footprint life already and will do even more in the future. But unlike him I don’t want to go back to the 1800’s, I want to go off-grid and at the same time do it with solar power, composting toilet, rainwater harvesting and other tech that makes life nice and still leaves a small footprint.

  13. For anyone like Patrick Henry, ‘who smelt a rat,’ as an explanation as to why he did not attend the Constitutional Congress, I would add that a several industrial sized mouse traps (rat traps) might be in order as well. There was a reason for the phrase ‘rat killing’ as they would so infest out houses such as woodsheds that one would take off from chores, just to kill rats.

    When the kiddos were small, we lived in a huge house in a Virginia forest with a finished walk out basement. I suspect my son often just walked out of the basement to water a tree and left the door open while out. As a result we soon had mice. We would hear them scratching and scurrying when watching TV in the basement. I would amaze the kiddos by catching mice by hand. As we usually watched the TV in a darkened room, I would creep upon the unsuspecting mouse, who was often in a floor level cabinet. Yanking open the door, I would shine a combat light into the rodent’s eyes, reach around to the tail and hoist the swimming offender. Next, I would ask the kiddos if they wanted to see Mighty Mouse fly, open the door and give the beastie a toss.

    When the wife and I were first married, I would occasionally surprise her with my gourmet dish, House Mouse Rice of which delicately filleted offender’s were prominently featured – and she just though I was making up the name. We no longer eat this delicacy, but then again, we have banished indoor mice.


  14. My thoughts on barter would be to organize a flea market, I have a 2400 square foot barn on my property, its currently half full of hay and a lot of junk but could be cleared out and reorganized easily to fit a lot of traders.

    I could probably charge a flat rate for a space to allow people to bring in barter items and conduct meaningful exchanges of excess goods for what they need.

    I could also say I have everything I need and screw you, but IMO that could easily lead to someone or a group saying screw you too and trying to take it. By encouraging open trade a lot of needless violence could be avoided. People with no preps could barter firewood, or manual labor, or scavenged items. People with gardening experience could sell food, people with hunting could sell meat. Farmers could sell dairy and eggs, grains, and meat.

    I can also see silver as a medium to facilitate trades, maybe set a basic price and then let the market figure it out. For instance I could see a silver dime being worth 1 days labor or 1 pound of food. So if you need wood, how much can be cut in a day using primitive means? If you need transportation, how far can you travel in a day? Of course more specialized skills like doctor or tradesman would need a different scale, but you get the idea. A thinker would therefor have a good stock of junk silver coins to get that system going and of course would profit from it as well.

    So to add to the “tradesman” argument for barter skills I will add organizer or leader, this ability should prove valuable if you know what you are doing.

    Good Luck

  15. Montana Rancher if you were to set up a trading post / flee market you would likely need to also supply security. That being a small force of men to provide a safe environment for people to trade without fear of being robbed or killed.

    You would probably find guys with guns to do the job (and be paid for doing it) and also they would want you to provide ammo. and then you need to also decide what to do about theft when it happens. And it will happen. What if it’s a kid, a mother trying to feed a starving family?

    If someone were to be killed when they are robbed it would be easier to know what to do.

    If incarceration is called for, how do you handle it? Are you ready to feed people you lock up?

    Hard questions to answer as to what to do, but you need to work it out ahead of time and hope to god you get it right…

    • If it’s my skin in the game setting up a swap area it’d be my rules alone. If it is a group, then the leaders of the group or a council (voted or otherwise) would make the call on operations and punishment for infractions. Either a punishment actually discourages the behavior or it doesn’t. I don’t see the point in punishing someone so severely that they would not make it when released. If that’s it, then do it right then, otherwise it’s torture. IMO The taking of a life is abhorrent to me, however done. That being said in self defense and in threat of innocent lives it might be justified. Mistakes get made when force is brought, and that’s on them for not asking.. intent is important. As for the mother and child .. Use common sense.. all infractions are not equal and never have been. Don’t take what isn’t yours.. either life, property or freedom. Mine is mine and yours is yours.. then consider the intent. You get as much as you ever will get with being nice .. Incarceration might be in order if there is law of sorts, but only periodic.. like the old west with circuit marshals and judges.. If you detain them, being human says you treat them with some respect (food, water, etc).. or don’t detain them in the first place. Remember there is always someone bigger and badder.. Try to be nice, and if you can’t then be hard.. and if you have to be very hard. You can’t learn from anything you don’t survive.

  16. A bit more on the flee market idea.

    Some kind of identifier for the security should also be provided for a few reasons. First when someone needs them they will be easy to find / see. Second reason if they are visible it probably would discourage problems from happening in the first place. It could be as simple as a bright color arm band that can be seen from a distance.

    Also being that people have different caliber of firearms you should lay up a a mix of different calibers of ammo to be able to give them. Or lay up silver coinage to pay them for using their own ammo. But being that ammo could be hard to impossible to find, you should buy it now as the guys may not do it for the silver if they can’t buy more ammo.

    Not everyone has a 5.56 rifle, I sold my HK-93 5.56 rifle years ago, if I did security for a flea market I would use my lever action 357 Mag rifle and handgun. These are powerful and deadly. A flea market operator would need to stock 357 Mag ammo for me to take the job as if it does hit the fan as I likely won’t be able to restock.

    I do have a 5.56 handgun, it’s a single-shot hunting gun, deadly to a woodchuck at 300-yards, but hardly good for security work.

    That’s why I think it would be good to stock lots of different ammo if the flea market is something you think you may want to do.

  17. The time stamp on this BBS is a bit off, this post (according to my cell phone, Eastern timezone) is Dec 19’th at 8:05 PM.

  18. Chuck,

    Don’t know if I would feed an offender. Tie them to a tree for a couple of days with water only and living in their waste – or even a public beating might be more in order.



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