[Note: I gave a presentation on this topic at the NPS Expo in Louisville, Kentucky, in October, 2015. These are the notes from that presentation, as promised to those who attended.]
After TSHTF, paper money will likely be pretty worthless. As for gold and other valuable metals, well I’m personally not sold on the idea of stockpiling them for future currency. I think that if the world does finally end up turned on its ear, it will be quite some time before people are concerned with more than just filling their bellies and keeping some form of roof over their heads. For at least the immediate future after TSHTF, barter and trading will be the most popular forms of currency.
No matter how long we’ve been prepping, each of us will probably forget to have stockpiled some item, or at least enough of it, that will get us through. Hopefully, someone else will have had the foresight to either stockpile it or in some other way be able to provide it…probably for a fee. No man (or woman) is an island and we all likely lack at least a couple of skills we might need at some point down the road. Thus, we’ll need a way to “pay” for someone else to help us out in those areas we lack.
There are essentially two categories for what you might have available to trade or barter – stuff and skills.
Stuff refers to the physical items you have on hand you could trade to someone else for either goods or services.
The key elements in my opinion as to what items to stockpile for future use in barter are:
1) They must be relatively inexpensive now.
2) They must be long lasting and easy to store.
3) They must have inherent use for you, whether you trade them later or not.
Some suggestions for stuff to stockpile for use in bartering:
Feminine hygiene products
Yeast infection treatments
Strike anywhere matches
Skills are the services you could provide in exchange for either goods or services. Again, same with stuff, the skills must have inherent value to you and your family.
Medical (including herbal remedies)
Leather working, tanning
Smithing, metal working
Automotive, small engine repair
Home brewer, distillation
Obviously, if you have skills to offer, you should have stockpiled the necessary tools and supplies to do the job. Most of the above skills would be well suited for a cottage industry after a collapse.
The key elements to a successful trade either now or later:
1) Both sides should be happy with the result. Ideally, each party will feel they got the better end of the trade.
2) The trade should take place in a safe manner, as best as is possible. Thus, I highly discourage the idea of trading ammunition, just in case the other person feels like returning their “purchase” using some form of quick delivery system. If the other party is a neighbor or friend, obviously that is a less worrisome transaction than someone relatively unknown. In the latter event, perhaps you can work out a neutral location to swap goods.
Incidentally, that image at the top of the page? That was a barter kit issued to American pilots during World War II. The idea was that downed pilots could use the contents to help bribe their way back to safety. Read more about these kits here.