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20 Of The Most Important Barter Items You Need To Have On Hand For When The SHTF

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By Josey Wales


If we have an event similar to the nationwide power outage portrayed in American Blackout, there is little doubt that we will eventually have widespread panic, looting and rioting by people who either don’t care or are driven to criminal behavior because of fear or need. The duration of the hypothetical scenario in American Blackout was only 10 days, but for events lasting longer as in a societal breakdown caused by an economic collapse, we could be looking at years of chaos. With no formal way to purchase anything using what would at that time be worthless paper, people would need to revert to bartering.


Here are a few of my thoughts and opinions on barter and trade.


When bartering with people never show more than necessary for any given trade. Never let on like you have more, people will be desprate and unpredictable at this point,  people will not be thinking or acting rationally, flashing large amounts of barter items in front of people could get you hurt or even killed. 


Only trade alcohol, weapons, and ammunition to those you know will not be a problem for you later. Just when you think you know someone, the situation may change them into someone you never knew at all.


Always try to barter skills and knowledge rather than goods.  Knowledge and skills never run out and no one can steal them from you.


You can also try to barter the information in books. Don’t let the books leave your control.


In a SHTF situation try to barter the use of tools and equipment rather than trading them away.


Try to make trades in neutral areas or at a designated barter/trade meeting. Make sure you aren’t followed back home.


Not all the items/skills listed will be of much value early into the event. It could be three to five years or more for some of the items to become valuable.


Try to have most of your equipment and several months of consumables before you stockpile trade goods, including Precious Metals.


When it comes to PMs, unless you are wealthy, start slow. A few silver dimes & quarters at a time. When you feel it is time to get gold coins, stay with the small denominations. And remember that there will be some people that won’t trust or want them.


If you are trading bulk items, try to have the customers bring their own containers for the items. But it will be a good idea to have some of your own so you can trade just the amount you or they want without having to try and get full value for the full container of the goods. For many of them you can collect a deposit, to encourage the people to bring back the same container for repeat sales to conserve you stock of the containers.


Things to Stockpile with High Barter Value


First aid – Antibiotics – Medicine is hard to stock up on unless you have a very understanding doctor. Fortunately, there are sources for antibiotics you can take advantage of now and stock up before the hospitals are overflowing with people.



Cigarettes. I hate smoking, and can’t stand being around anyone that smokes. But Having said that, I recognize that in a SHTF situation many others will be cut off from their access to cigarettes, so there is plenty of barter potential.



Soap. Bars of soap, and even those little cleaning napkins/wipes that you get at the BBQ restaurants could be very valuable in a SHTF scenario. Learning to make soap is easy and a skill that can never be taken from you.  Ever see “The Book of Eli?”



Bullets. Obviously, it’s a good idea to have a decent store of ammo representing all calibers of the weapons you own. However, it is also a good idea to store extra ammo in common calibers (9mm, .22, .38, 12-guage shells, etc.) as a potential barter. After all, a gun without ammo is just an inacurate throwing object.



Alcohol. Alcohol could serve a variety of purposes in a SHTF situation. It is valuable as a potential bartering commodity, and it also has medicinal uses. Did you know Vodka is a great home remedy to counteract the reaction to poison ivy?



MREs. More portable and easier to barter than larger 5-gallon buckets, or even #10 cans of dried foods, MREs are great to have on hand for bartering. Keep a variety of flavors and different kinds of foods because you could be holding something that could complete a meal for a hungry person.



Silver Coins. Keep in mind this doesn’t necessarily mean only silver dollars with a full ounce of silver, but even older, less expensive coins with a high silver component (the 1964 Kennedy half-dollar, for example).



Detergent. Don’t think people are interested in bartering detergent? Check out the story about the recent rash of detergent thefts across the country. Apparently, Tide detergent on the black market is now referred to as “liquid gold.” Interesting.



Water bottles. To someone in bad need of water, a water bottle could be worth its weight in gold. Remember the rule of threes: you can live three minutes without air, three days without water, and three weeks without food. Store accordingly.



Matches and lighters. A box of matches is relatively inexpensive, but for someone needing to build a fire a pack of matches or a lighter could be very valuable. Be sure these are stored safely, and if they are not waterproof make them so by storing in a watertight container.



Sugar. My grandfather used to tell stories of things that were in limited supply in the Great Depression. Sugar was something he often mentioned. Imagine how easily you could win over a sweet-tooth with the promise of a bag of sugar in exchange for something you are short on.



Toilet paper. This one is rather self-explanatory, isn’t it? Sure, there are substitutes for Charmin, but who wants to keep using leaves when paper feels so much better.



Water Filters/Purifiers. Water purification drops and filters could mean the difference in offering family members treated water or potentially harmful, bacteria-infested water. Who’d be willing to trade for that?



Bleach. May be used to disinfect water, or keep living quarters and soiled clothing sanitized.



Batteries. Can be used to power up flashlights, radios, and other electronic devices.



Candles. Emergency candles would be a great barter item for those in need of providing some light to their living quarters without electricity. Plus another skill you can add to your developing skill sets.



Propane – Small propane canisters like the kind for camping grills or lanterns are relatively cheap and could make an excellent barter item.


Seeds – Seeds will be one of the most valuable commodities we can have on hand. Everyone needs to be able to eat.



Books – Resource books and even fiction books. Without our modern distractions, a good book will be welcome to someone who has the time to chill out or who needs to learn something.



Hand Tools – People will have to have tools to survive, wether it be gardening or repairs on their shelter, small hand tools will be very barterable. Garage sales and auctions are a great place to buy these tools cheap.



The list goes on.  What other items would you add to your barter list?


Critical Reads: More News Mainstream Media Chooses To Ignore By Josey Wales, Click Here!


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    Total 20 comments
    • Dustdevil

      Actually, there are a few items on the list that aren’t that valuable (this will quickly become obvious, once you actually got into the mix of things), and there are important things missing from the list that wouldn’t become obvious until a few months went by (but that it was too late to do anything about it then, too).

      FORGET water filters. I wouldn’t give you a dime for the best of them. A simple Automatic Drip Coffeemaker filter is 10-20 microns filtration size (quite small, actually, considering the $300 ceramic water filters are only 0.2 micron). Stack three coffee filters in a funnel, you have a 2-3 micron filter. You don’t need smaller than this – because your 2nd half of water purification should ALWAYS be boiling (hence, you won’t need to use bleach for this operation, either). If I am not drinking the water, then I am not worried about boiling it. Shower with the simple filtration water. Done Deal.

      This also reduces your demand on bleach, which over time, can cause LOTS of physiological problems for your body, if you don’t find a better purification method, anyhow.

      Missing from your list – ALL THE ROPE AND CORD you can find. Paracord on 1000-ft spools is GREAT, and will end up being ‘the forgotten currency’, once bullets and bandages are accounted for.

      Salt is another highly forgotten item. You can cure meat with salt, and you need it to live. Unless you have a natural salt lick near you, or know how to derive it from local water or mineral sources, then maybe a few hundred pounds of iodized and non-iodized salt wouldn’t be a bad idea?

      Curing meat? You need Prague Powder No. 1 (aka, curing salt additive). You can get a 2.5-lb bottle of it on Amazon for $18 (wow! I bought a bottle a year ago for $6, see how the price increases?) and one 2.5-lb bottle of it will mix with up to 1000-pounds of non-iodized salt to provide you with years worth of meat curing mix. (it contains potassium nitrate, and if you search for Hoosier Farms Prague Powder, theirs is condensed for easy storing – just add your own salt, and mix into a brine or rub your meat down directly with it).

      VITAMINS! I try to keep several bottles of general purpose multi-vitamins laid in. If you think you eat right, imagine trying to do this after a collapse. Now, consider that to offset ‘bad eating’ or possible malnutrition, that a multi-vitamin can easily offset for ‘bad diet’ to a major amount. Again, a possibly-tradeable item.

      An in-depth understanding of propane and diesel fuels, how to move them, pump them, handle them and how to operate all related handling equipment is not only beneficial to you, but very helpful to ‘pay for training’ you might be able to negotiate with someone. Remember, while education-is-fundamental, those who can, not only do, but teach, and in a place where no one knows, he who knows, can sell ‘training for goods’.

      Propane and diesel are both ‘long term fuels’. Once contained in waterproof containers, they last for years. Diesel has been known to last decades, if properly stored. Propane the same way, if it is still under pressure in a canister, then it will still burn, just as good as the day it was put there.

      Knowing how to pump from a major distribution tank farm, a distribution truck, or a service-supply line is powerful knowledge. To know how to operate the PTO pump on a diesel tanker truck is also beneficial. Knowing how an in-ground tank system is laid out, and why, is again more highly useful information.

      Survival in a total crash will result in 2-months of combat, at most, followed by years of trying to ‘make it work again’. Knowing how it works now cuts a BIG PART of that learning curve down to a manageable timeline. Knowledge like that is marketable, and increases your personal value to a community (meaning, they will make sure you are safe-and-sound, and well-fed, if you are their neighborhood ‘Mr. Professor’ helping them).

      • Concerned US Patriots

        I find this comment more useful the article. Very good thinking!

        • Concerned US Patriots

          Then the article*

      • bozzchem

        Great advice IF you can boil your water. Boiling is definitely the best way to ensure potable water but isn’t always possible. If you’re trying to hide/keep your profile to a minimum, any type of fire is a bad idea.

        When boiling isn’t an option, a couple drops of bleach per quart of water shaken vigorously along with a 10 minute rest followed by 0.2 micron filtration means you’ll have potable water with negligible effects of chlorine. Once you’re at this point in SHTF, chlorine is probably the least of your worries. Using the coffee filters for getting out the larger crap prior to using the 0.2 micron filter is highly recommended. Hell, a t-shirt is good to make sure the sub micron filter doesn’t get clogged.

        Discounting small pore water filters is exceptionally bad advice.

        For even more effective filtration, Sawyer has 0.02 micron filters.

        • bozzchem

          BTW, the reason for using bleach with .2 micron and below filters is viruses. Viruses can be as small as .005 microns.

          Comparing .2 microns to 10? You do the math.

        • Dustdevil

          Again, I was addressing ‘long-term tradeable items’ for barter, not that 2-month blitzkrieg that facilitates rebuilding. A gallon of bleach put back is ample, rotate it if possible. Secondly, I DON’T want to be in ANY place where I can’t make fire. If it is THAT HOSTILE, I did not plan well prior to the collapse, and did not take the hint leading up to the collapse to leave. Where I live, I can dig a hole and make an ‘almost invisible’ Dakota Fire Pit in 10-minutes, and be ‘boiling ready’ in another 10. Even in the desert, there’s still a dozen burnable fuels that I have in ample supply to use. Only Hollywood envisions survival starting at 64th street in NYC. In reality, chances are high, that city won’t even be there 3 days after the start of collapse.

          I am also aware of virus sizes related to filtration. 212-degrees F will kill all toxic viruses that are detrimental to mankind, if applied for a period of 10-minutes (boil for 10-minutes, and you are absolutely ok). This doesn’t necessarily make the water smell good, taste good, etc., but it does negate the DNA and RNA load of bacteria and viruses in the water.

          Which takes us into filtration. The problem with food poisoning (this is directly from a friend of mine, that is an M.D.) is that food poisoning is caused by WASTE EFFLUENT from the bacteria, not the bacteria itself. That means, in most cases, that the toxic load they have disposed into the water source IS STILL PRESENT, even after boiling OR filtration (not counting RO, but that is another issue). Food poisoning IS A CHEMICAL SPILL, not a bacterial load. To get it out of the water, the only effective way is to either dilute the original water, find a relatively clean water source to begin with (no dead animals upstream), or chemically counter the food poisoning (nearly impossible in primitive survival environments). Bottom line, you can’t cook food poisoning out of ANYTHING, because it is NOT a critter making you sick, it is their chemical waste stream making you sick.

          Start with relatively clean water (no water downstream of a waste treatment plant, no water from a street pothole, no water from a sewer drain), maybe from a relatively clear flowing stream. Now, RELATIVELY QUICKLY, coffee filter it and boil it. You have now killed the KNOWN bacteria in that water that would keep living, and eventually pollute the water in that small sample you took. Now you have clean water…for the moment. Keep in mind, you haven’t killed THEM ALL, just most of them, like 99.9999999 percent of them. Someone got lucky, and in 72-96 hours, he will have had time to reproduce his whole galactic water jar again. Every 24 hours, if you keep a water sample, it is wise to refilter and reboil it, replacing it with clean water on the third day.

          Viruses do not have a waste stream and require a cell (sometimes a bacteria will suffice) to reproduce. Once boiled out of your water, you are pretty-well covered.

          A good ‘after the fact’ way of telling if you have been exposed to high levels of ‘boiled-dead’ bacteria is by smell. No joking, if you drink from a water source (maybe one you are camped nearby), and the next day your stool or flatulence (‘passing gas’) are extremely offensive (moreso than normal), chances are you have drank a volume of water that you had boiled a LOT of bacteria dead in (assuming you have not consumed high meat or bean volumes in that time).

          It is the protein in mean, beans, and yes, bacteria (dead or not, in your water) that usually cause your gas and stool to absolutely reek. The nose knows, when exposed to ‘bad stuff’.

          Oh, and once again, it’s nice to have an M.D. who doesn’t think your preparedness are crazy, but wise. He can ‘hook you up’ with prep-stocks at times, provide you detailed human physiology info, and of course, stitch up those bad wounds if you get them. My friend and I have an agreement, my old retired USMC butt will do everything to keep him alive and stocked for, and he will ensure we keep him ready to keep us alive in event of.

          Oh, and BTW, most doctors working for HMO’s have been briefed at some level, by some admin or security pencilneck, that should bad things happen and a collapse occurs, that they should deny any knowledge of medial experience and claim their hobby as their primary profession (groundskeeper, anyone?). They have been told, that this will keep them safer, and less valuable as a hostage target by ‘unscrupulous forces’ who would otherwise hold them against their will for personal gain.

          Don’t expect to ever see a doctor, or even a dentist again, once a collapse happens. They might eventually pop up, but it will be slow going, only after they feel the safety of society returning. The big problem there, is that a lot of ‘wanna-be’s’ will also hit the skyline, claiming to be doctors when they aren’t, hedging on the bet that their ‘records were destroyed’ if challenged.

          Make friends now, it might save your life.

        • Dustdevil

          To be truthful, bozzchem, you can’t filter out viruses unless you are calling Reverse Osmosis ‘filtration’. (a great concept, until you need to replace expensive membranes – and, oh yeah, society and the manufacturing plant that made those membranes are GONE FOREVER).

          K.I.S.S. – Keep it SIMPLE, SLUGGER.

          If I have a way to make a spark, I have a way to eliminate viruses from my water, so effectively that I won’t get typhoid, cholera, enecephalitis, viral plague and more. If I just show the wisdom to strike that spark, put my water in my canteen cup, bring it to a boil, and be patient for 10-minutes (plus cool-down time). SIMPLE, and HIGHLY effective.

          0.2 microns ONLY filters one-celled animals (bacteria). As you yourself said, viruses go down to 0.005 microns (and the nasty ones are often some of the smallest). A single hole in a filter can totally ruin your day (and your life). FIRE IS GUARANTEED, and cheap.

          Don’t feel bad, bozzchem, I have a $250 (now about $400) Katadyn pocket filter too. Has the ceramic filter, good to 0.2 microns for 13,000 gallons. I do use it when out hunting and camping. Nice gadget. If I doubt the water quality in any way, however, I WILL STILL BOIL IT AFTERWARD.

          Just because you own a hammer, doesn’t make everything in your house a nail. You are free to use other things, like the TV remote, to change the TV channel still.

        • stevesmitty79

          In any real SHTF scenario, the world will literally be on fire due to a multitude of reasons, some on purpose, most by accident. It’s not called chaos for nothing. So I don’t think a minor heat signature for boiling water in any semi-concealed environment is really going to make a big difference. Do so during the day and not out in the open and it’ll be alright. There may be an exception where bleach will come in handy when one doesn’t want to take that chance. Reason will be a large part of survival. Take care.

        • stevesmitty79

          Antibiotics are not hard to get. You can walk into most any farm supply and get bags of cheap and effective antibiotics. Fish antibiotics are a rip-off, unless you have no other option. I treat my animals for a host of diseases ranging from listeria, anthrax, tetanus, polio, you name it. Study up on simple animal care remedies and you’ll find all the recommended antibiotics to use, that are exactly the same as you would get prescribed, expect they’re not in tablet form but either powdered or liquid. I recommend powdered as they last a lot longer, but take what you can get. Be advised, certain types of antibiotics are hazardous after their expiration. You can also get injectible vitamins, powdered electrolytes and a host of other things like syringes, wound care ointments, etc. What would you be willing to do and take in a SHTF situation when medical care does not exist.? A little due diligence can go a long way. Take care.

    • carsonking

      Electric, buy a generator and charge people for a charge.

    • HOT OR COLD?

      Instead of waiting for a SHTF situation we need to take back America. Kick the black thug out of the White House and lay off all the senators and crooked people.
      Create a new administration build on biblical principals. Base the constitution on the bible, repent and start praying.
      This sounds like a better plan.

      • westgate

        Sounds much better than ‘kill all Americans’ as in some of your previous comments. Sounds like you have taken your own advice and repented.

      • Dustdevil

        9/11, what an amazing idea. It of course, will never happen, but what an amazing idea. The problem comes when you have 41-percent of America (a majority, by any measure) still (as of today) polling their preference for your boy, Obama and his resurrection of the 4th Reich.

        When people can’t see that Communist News Network (CNN) is the same as Faux News Network (Fox), and they will jump on opposing talk-point sides to club each other to death like baby seals, while the ONE mind of global domination owns BOTH platforms, and tells them what to do, goes walking through the crowd, smiles, and keeps walking while no one sees them at all; well, holding your breath for ‘retaking our nation’ is right there with hoping for a manned mission to Alpha Centauri next year. IT IS NOT GOING TO HAPPEN.

        Did God call the ball on how it would end from a skybox seat 2000 years ago, or has he done everything he could to make evil run the clock out so that the story would end like he said it would? What do the powers-that-be know that they won’t tell us, or are they working from the same mindsets that you read here in the comments blog, but with billions of dollars to allow them to put into play what each of us cannot? We will most-likely never know the truth.

        Above all things, remember this: EVERYONE LIES, but fire and steel are dependable. You can only trust yourself (at best), and sometimes, even that is not enough. In the end, we all die. Everything else is nothing but a distraction to your goals, which may be long or short-term. Keep your focus on this simple ideal, and stop worrying about the world. It seems destined to crumble into the hands of Hitler, it’s just the question of which generational Hitler that it will fall to. That’s the only real puzzle remaining.

    • StavoV

      So….exactly when if the Sheet going to hit the old proverbial fan. It was the same thing being said, back when I was a kid and that’s been over 60+ years??? :eek:

    • mask

      in a war torn economic breakdown #1 item has always been cigarettes, bad guys can go w/o food for days but w/o cigs they will tear neighborhoods down.

      • friends2you

        sad but your probably right.

    • Anonymous

      I didn’t see any mention of baking soda nor vinegar. Both are useful for many things. Soda can brush teeth – make bread – settle an upset stomach after eating really old MREs. Vinegar has about 2000 actual uses from antifungal to food preservative (spray on your veggies to prevent mold) to salad dressings.

      As to storing diesel fuels – vegetable oils are better if you can afford them because they can sub for diesel in most cases and are useful for 100 other things from cooking to making soap to vegetable oil lamp lighting well you get the idea.

    • Anonymous

      Another few items to consider is neosporin and aspirin (above all other medicines)

      Also not just books but playing cards, board games and DVD’s – maybe a laptop or some way to play the DVD’s – be surprised how younger survivors will appreciate something to take their minds off things and adults will also appreciate two hours of quiet time while the kids watch Finding Nemo or whatever.

    • homeservicespro

      okay…I wrote an addition to this article.

    • Dayton Flyers

      Yes, there are lots of items that could be added (coffee, tea etc.), but I would not buy MREs because they are so expensive. It is better to purchase canned foods with a 3 yr expiration date because they normally can last years longer and they are cheaper than MREs.

      Still, this is a great list especially batteries/candles & even baby diapers or products just for women.

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