barter and trade, sign
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Having items to trade for gear and equipment you don't have is a good investment during a time of emergency

What to stockpile for barter and trade in anticipation of a currency collapse or some other catastrophe is one of the most popular topics under the preparedness umbrella.  The idea is that we’ll inevitably need to pay someone for either an item or a service they can provide.  While the objective of preparedness is to be able to provide for all of our needs during the disaster and aftermath, stocking up for barter and trade is a way to cover our bets, so to speak.

It is something of a gamble, though.  You are not only counting on finding someone else who has the stuff you need but who will want what you have to offer in trade.  An entire garage filled with trade goods isn’t worth much of anything if no one wants what you have.  On the other hand, if you’re the only person around who has a needed commodity, you could probably name your price.

Barter and Trade Stock Guidelines

There are three guidelines I suggest when it comes to determining if an item is a good candidate to stock up for later barter and trade.

  • 1) The item should be relatively inexpensive now but likely to have high trade value later.  It makes little sense to invest a lot of money into trade goods when you could be buying food and other supplies for your family.
  • 2) The item should be easy to store long-term.  If the trade goods go bad before you are able to use them, you’ve lost your investment.
  • 3) The item should have some inherent use for you and your family.  If the worst case scenario never happens, the trade goods shouldn’t just go to waste.

Trade Goods Suggestions

Let’s take a look at a few items that meet all of those guidelines and thus are great options for post-collapse barter and trade.


High proof alcohol isn’t just for getting hammered, though that is certainly one of its appeals.  It is also has use for disinfecting wounds as well as sterilizing medical instruments.  Distilled spirits like rum, gin, vodka, brandy, and tequila have virtually indefinite shelf lives if unopened.  Once opened, the taste can change over time as oxidation occurs but the booze doesn’t ever truly go bad.

Beer does not have quite as long of a shelf life, of course.  It won’t necessarily go bad in the sense that is unsafe to drink but a bottle of suds that has been sitting in the pantry for a year might not agree with your taste buds.

Someone who goes to the trouble of learning how to distill alcohol and can produce these beverages at home will probably never go hungry if there are others around with whom they can trade.  Doing so requires not only practice but stocking up on the requisite ingredients and equipment.

Hygiene Supplies

Anything that can help someone feel human again after a disaster will likely be prized.  Most people, if they think to stock up on supplies at all, will concentrate on food and water.  Things like soap and shampoo will be afterthoughts at best.

Toothbrushes, toothpaste, and floss can all be had pretty cheap and will go a long way toward preventing mouth infections.

Don’t overlook the potential trade value of a roll of generic toilet paper or a handful of feminine hygiene products.

As with alcohol, knowing how to make soap and such will be a valuable skill in a post-collapse world.

Kitchen Gadgets

If the power blips off and isn’t coming back any time soon, all of the electric doodads in the kitchen are just going to be fancy paperweights.  While all experienced preppers have manual can openers either in use or set aside for later, how many of your neighbors can say the same?  While it is possible to open a can of fruit or vegetables without one, a can opener sure makes things a lot easier.  The crank powered ones are much easier to use than the military styled P-38 or P-51 models.

A hand crank meat grinder might be a little pricey to stock multiples of for trading but perhaps you can work out an ongoing agreement with a neighbor who hunts.  You’ll grind all the meat if you can keep a small portion.

A mortar and pestle is an essential bit of equipment for grinding herbs and spices, especially for those exploring the world of natural remedies.

Many of these hand powered kitchen tools can be had fairly cheap at rummage sales, flea markets, and thrift stores.

What Not to Trade

One of the most popular suggested barter and trade goods is also one that could be very dangerous.  Trading ammunition to someone you don’t know very well and trust implicitly could be a recipe for disaster.  They just might decide to return it to you at high velocity.

Gold, silver, and other precious metals might be feasible but many folks will be seeking items that can actually use.  Eventually, the economy will be restored and those who have gold and silver will be able to use it for making purchases and such.  Until then, many people will rather trade for food, alcohol, and other commodities.

Another oft-suggested trade item is tobacco.  While nicotine addiction is very powerful, in the weeks that follow any disaster that is large enough to cause a currency collapse most smokers will quit cold turkey, whether they want to or not.  Cigarettes will probably have high trade value initially but it will likely drop off over time.

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