After society crumbles, the ability to use the fiat currency which was in use before vanishes. Likewise, when politicians decide that certain people no longer should be able to purchase food, medicine, or healthcare, the ability to use the fiat currency which was previously stored becomes much more difficult. It’s in times like these that the ability to create a barter network matters.
What does this entail? Are there things I learned about this from living through the collapse of Venezuela? Absolutely, but first, we must understand that this is nothing unique. The creating of barter networks is absolutely nothing new.
Barter has history.
Trade is intrinsically tied to mankind. One doesn’t have to look far in ancient history to find semi-nomadic tribes living by the ocean exchanging seashells, salty fish, or textiles to get what they needed. When society returns to a primitive state, the means of exchange will as well.
In this article, I will limit myself to deal with physical bartering. Selco has covered pretty well the skills bartering topic in this article. Of course his experiences come from much more crude scenarios, if you will. Venezuela post-collapse was bad, but it wasn’t a literal war zone.
Like anything else, bartering has advantages and disadvantages. The main advantage? Not having to use money. This link elaborates on that.
What should you take in account for starting a bartering network?
Therefore, there are reasonable odds that all sort of people will end trying to barter all kind of goods. Once a critical mass of users is reached, some good measurements based on common sense are needed. And, of course, you have to be sure that bartering is for you.
The first factor to consider is this:
1. What platform are you going to use?
Are you going to use a social media profile? Is it safe to use social media to barter a couple of boxes of .22LR for 5.56 through this venue?
Is it safe attempting to exchange 5-oz of silver with someone who we don’t even know when SHTF? Should this person rip you off, you can’t just go with the police to file a claim.” In this part of the world, it’s risky enough already even with a law enforcement infrastructure.
I would suggest those in smaller communities using an old-school style BBS message board, as a backup means for Internet-based barter/trading platforms.
Why? It’s much more likely to be “online” than the Internet! Just check this out. If anything happens to the web, we’re all pretty much deeply screwed. But (and it’s a big BUT), as long as the telephone lines keep working, the BBS will be there. If things really go sideways and the Internet is shut down for an extended period of time, then the BBS can prove to be a cheap and reliable communication means.
Furthermore, even if phone lines end by being wiped off for some reason, HAM is there to save the day. I find this useful for those looking to get rid of the Internet’s general lack of privacy. A well-tuned HAM system should be more than enough to keep us “connected.”
Maybe I should start a “Telegram service” with the nearby town so the producers up there could set up their trading before heading down the +20 km on bicycles or motorbikes?…A link system like this one would be useful for that, and it’s exactly the tool we would need on a local basis if the Internet stops working.
Once you have your platform figured out, you need to figure out the perception of what it is you have to trade.
2. Are your goods considered legal?
Some sort of disclaimer has to be in place, so you don’t end with a room full of stolen stuff. I’m sure many of our English-speaking readers keep the receipts of everything they buy. That’s very healthy.
Unfortunately, South Americans are…well, “different”, in this regard. Getting something used down here, therefore, means exposure to a potential problem, but tons of people do it daily out of need, though. I’ve personally refused extremely good deals because of the good’s owner hesitating when asked about the origin. I’ve been down here long enough to realize that around 30-40% of stolen goods here are sold via second-hand social media marketplaces.
This being said, it is always a good idea to develop a trusted, reliable, local, online community to avoid problems, whether “online” means on the Internet or using some other means.
If Venezuelan cops discover you have stolen goods – regardless of whether you knew about it or not – you end up being the one in trouble. I would expect to see similar attitudes elsewhere post-SHTF. Can you prove something is legitimately yours?
It’s because of this that it would be wise to figure out some means of proving to your customers within the network that the good is legit. Is this some form of hand-written receipt? A chit? You’ll have to figure this out for yourself.
3. Do you know the base value of your goods?
The “base value” is the current average price someone is willing to pay for your goods. You must know what the market barter value of goods is at the moment if you don’t want to get fleeced. Yes, this does take a bit of experimentation and risk, but you can greatly offset this risk by checking the market thoroughly.
Shop around. Ask prices. Figure out what others are asking for similar goods. You’ll get a much better idea of what you can ask yourself as well then.
(Make sure to check out our free QUICKSTART GUIDE on the four levels of disaster to see how much this principle may apply to your barter network.)
4. Know who you’re dealing with.
Is the person of good reputation? How’s their background? Do you have mutual friends who can vouch for this person’s character? All of these are common sense questions that need to be done. The more you know, the more you can trust the product. Nobody wants to buy ground plaster rather than flour, and nobody wants to buy stolen goods. Selco wrote here about the potential dangers of trade.
Knowing your network is what helps you to avoid these types of situations. If you don’t know them, don’t deal with them. If you’re going to start a barter network you need to ensure it’s as reliable as possible. Don’t invite in those who can’t be trusted. The only thing that happens when these people weasel their way into a network is that people get hurt.
Don’t let it happen.
Bartering is part street-smarts, part art.
No man is an island, and this principle most certainly applies post-SHTF. You’re not going to be able to produce everything you need for yourself, and eventually somebody is going to have something you desperately need. Barter is what will get you your medicine, crutches, or Mason jars in this type of event.
But you need to know how to go about things properly if you don’t want to end up getting cheated or getting in trouble with any remaining law enforcement structure. So, think through the above tips! They are time-tested here in Venezuela and will help you to survive as well.
Do you have any barter network tips to add? I look forward to hearing your comments!
Thanks for reading!
Jose is an upper middle class professional. He is a former worker of the oil state company with a Bachelor’s degree from one of the best national Universities. He has an old but in good shape SUV, a good 150 square meters house in a nice neighborhood, in a small but (formerly) prosperous city with two middle size malls. Jose is a prepper and shares his eyewitness accounts and survival stories from the collapse of his beloved Venezuela. Jose and his younger kid are currently back in Venezuela, after the intention of setting up a new life in another country didn’t go well. The SARSCOV2 re-shaped the labor market and South American economy so he decided to give it a try to homestead in the mountains, and make a living as best as possible. But this time in his own land, and surrounded by family, friends and acquaintances, with all the gear and equipment collected, as the initial plan was.
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Good stuff. Very few have experienced bartering. I’ve done some but observed a lot. It does not always go as planned.
You touched on items that you have to be careful bartering with. They lead to people having “thoughts”.
Absolutely. That´s why the members of such a network should be carefully chosen.
Barter just like “I got Gold to buy” requires a couple of things.
1st they HAVE something to trade you. And even better you want-need it. A closet full of Poshmark level party clothes isn’t on my shopping list.
2nd that Basic Level of Rule of Law style behavior as so you don’t get robbed OR Worse trying to make a trade.
Be a quiet grey man producer so you have something worth trading. Most important thing in bad times is TRUSTED Friends.
Many times, south of the boarder I’ve seen a couple of motor scooter guys try to strongarm a fruit stand to find themselves surrounded by the neighborhood. That’s what keeps most trouble from escalating.
Stocking up on commodities like booze and cigarettes, is a sure means to make money when these can´t be found anywhere else. See happening down here in Venezuela. TWICE.
Too bad I didn´t have anything stockpiled. Could have made a 70%-120% profit.
Jose, your mention of the BBS days brought back some pleasant but ancient memories to me of first learning to do email in the 2400 baud modem phone dial-up days when DOS computer code had not yet been superseded by Microsoft Windows. Back then, the majority of people could still phone dial into a BBS because the phone companies provided their own electric power to one’s home phones even if the grids were to go down. Since then the phone companies in the US have largely gone el cheapo and switched most (not all) fixed location phones to using a VOIP signal over the internet. That means during a grid-down situation, one would have to either use a mobile phone (unless the cell towers go down) or one of the few other alternatives discussed in this very recent video on YouTube. While some of the methods discussed are better suited to surviving out in the wilderness where you and your pet possum were stranded [whistle, signal mirror, eg], the ham radio, and texting over satellite links perhaps have more relevance.
The problem is that just because you might have prepared for such communication during grid down, the odds of most people in a barter network (that was created ahead of time) are not likely to have been as prepper-communication-oriented as you. So I don’t see a way to stay in touch with barter network members who haven’t prepped for grid down communications. Any ideas?
These are my notes on that YouTube video for communication prepping BEFORE a power grid goes down:
8 Overlooked Ways to Communicate When the Grid Goes Down
in this 12:24 minute video, from City Prepping on 5 Jan 2022:
**Items covered in the video**
– Signaling mirror: https://amzn.to/3ERZMTb
– Whistle: https://amzn.to/3qO8MUh
– Emergency radio: https://amzn.to/3zq6pLi and https://amzn.to/3zsX45i
– Walkie talkies: https://amzn.to/3G0KX1N
– HAM radio: https://amzn.to/3f9Gzlz
– Garmin inReach mini: https://amzn.to/3JI547k
– Starlink: https://www.starlink.com/
– 28 Watt solar panel (use coupon code “cityprepping” for 10% off your order): https://bit.ly/3GeQEc4
– 28 Watt solar panel (Amazon): https://amzn.to/3f9IAy9
– Anker battery storage: https://amzn.to/3zBC1xG
**Solar generator playlist**
Plus 403 comments.
I truly love your replies! 🙂
By the way, I´m almost sure we have the old systems running, because when there is no grid power, land lines still work. That´s why my first choice for this environment was to go full old-school BBS, even though I barely used it (I was too young, and had no computer back then but I used the one a friend of mine had). Second choice would be HAM radio, but unfortunately these have lost popularity thanks to the smartphones. Maybe another possibility is using the actual infrastructure to develop some sort of an hybrid: a BBS based on cellphones? I have an old antenna that should work, like 1.5 km or roughly one mile, maybe more. There are plenty of possibilities here. But the payment system for trading is a different problem. My take is, this board should work to close the agreements. A digital handshake, if you like.
Your landlines still work in a grid down situation because local area networks (LANs) have remote backup battery power in exchange central offices (COs). All cellular towers are tied in array from these COs by fiber optic cables from a central splitter. As light selection is divided within a light cabinet individual light frequencies are deposited into transport cables through switching computers to its nearest terminal receiving CO via FO transport cables distributed through the light cabinet to the splitter and sent to the proper closest tower via data tower FO’s.
In other words, take everything in I just wrote and know this system will continue to function as long as the deep cycle batteries have juice and the generators still turn. When the generators run out of fuel outside your exchange CO your phone signal will not get outside the CO (on an analog system). If you are tied into a T1 transport supported system of FO system, any generator anywhere in the LATA exchange COs, the entire system fails because switching mainframes are no longer in COs.
Same thing goes for any system dependent on LAN resources, be it analog copper or T1 lines.
Bartering after a true SHTF event will be as dangerous as going into any inner city at night and conducting a drug deal. Those that are HAVING to barter will be desperate and those that have anything to barter will be extremely vulnerable before and after because the mentality will be, if you have enough to trade then you must be sitting on a stash. Once word gets out that you have “extras” you will have a target on your back guaranteed.
Even if you knew the person before and have a no-contact prearranged trading system it will still be extremely risky. I would never barter ammo or alcohol. Never arm a potential enemy (goes back to if you have enough to barter you must have a ton) and alcoholics will be desperate, extremely unpredictable. Feeding their addiction would be like feeding a stray rabid dog that now will never leave.
My idea is to survive, not profiteering, with as low a profile as possible drawing no attention to myself, avoid contact with others especially strangers and bartering being a last resort. JMHO.
That is one way of looking at it.
Me and more than a few of my neighbors have consider what things will look like post-SHTF.
One thing we agree on, is to try to keep a semblance of normalcy at a local level. This means communicating with everyone within a given area (we figure about half a days walk, if there is no gas to be had and most are walking). Make them aware of what is going on in the local community. Let them know they have a voice. Draw up our own version of the Constitution (clear up some of those issues we see currently like the 2nd, or enact term limits). Everyone gets a say or vote (again clear up those issues). Same goes for law enforcement (preferably with previous experience), or a judge (again with previous experience).
Set up a daily “farmers” market, where anyone and everyone is encouraged to set up a booth to do trade and commerce. Normalize the open carry of not only handguns but long guns. If someone really does do something stupid to cheat, or bully a person out of their goods, they find themselves surrounded with an entire community of guns aimed at their head.
For those bandits, make sure they come to a end of life event, up, fast and in a hurry. While I do not like the idea, leaving their bodies hang as example, could be beneficial to the community.
The whole point is to make everyone part of a community. And a sense of security with those of your community. You may form a militia to ensure the security of your community, where everyone within a age group to include sex, defends the community.
That is how it was back in the frontier days of the mid to late 1700s.
As Jose points out, “No man is an island, and this principle most certainly applies post-SHTF. You’re not going to be able to produce everything you need for yourself, and eventually somebody is going to have something you desperately need. Barter is what will get you your medicine, crutches, or Mason jars in this type of event.”’
If you are a non-known actor in trading, you just might find yourself with a lot of speculation, or those not willing to trade with you. I mean, why would I when I can trade with someone who is a known and trusted entity?
Actually, it is not that hard to produce. I have made hard cider in the past. You can make alcohol from various fruits and even potatoes. That addict knows their supplier and wont do anything to cut off their source of their addiction. For that matter, fermenting alcohol can also make disinfectant.
You just need to think outside of the box and be willing to work within your community.
“While I do not like the idea, leaving their bodies hang as example, could be beneficial to the community.”
oh you’re going to be a fun sheriff.
do you contemplate any kind of legal system? or will it be “he cheated me!” “ok, hang him!”?
Well, maybe this example works: when my mother got the Chinese virus last July, I tried to barter some power tools. Nothing. Nada. Zero. Anyone wanted to exchange those tools, more than adequate for any workshop. It was not for profit, just an emergency and we didn´t have the cash but some of my tools I had left in a small workshop in my folks´ home. They´re still sitting.
As you can see, bartering is NOT going to be easy. And getting profits out of it, well…
Jose and 1MJH,
Good points and not having been in your particular situations I cannot say for certain what I would or wouldn’t do. My point was there seems to be this fantasy idea in the prepper community that bartering will be like the old mountain man rendezvous where everyone will come together for an afternoon of trading, story telling and fun. I seriously doubt that will be the case if people are desperate which over 90% will be especially in urban and suburban areas. Rural areas or in the mountains where I live it may be more doable if there are a lot of close families in a particular area but I have very few neighbors in walking distance and the calorie burn used to meet may not be worth the effort.
I was in the Philippines during the Marcos revolution and saw just how quick things went to crap, people turned against one another depending on whether they supported Marcos or Aquino and the daily uncertainty that goes along with a political uprising. Revolutions are a lot more intense and destructive than what they show on the 5 minute clip on the evening NEWS.
I personally believe barter should be a last resort and not something you plan to rely on, instead have as much put back as possible. Can someone have everything they need or have planned for every contingency? No. Sometimes we will have to do without or decide the risk to barter is worth the item needed. Every situation will be different and there is no right or wrong as it will depend on where you live, your neighbors, what your needs are and what you have to offer.
Best wishes to you both
Ah, I posted with situation bias from my position.
I could/can see how within urban or subrban areas with desperate people things could go badly.
I do wonder if, after a mass die off, would those remaining not form up into new tribes or what we call gangs now, into tribes?
Myself and my neighbors are of the mindset it is better to get control of the situation at the get go and not let things degrade into a Mad Max like situation. Side note, Mad Max, Beyond Thunderdome, they had laws: Two men enter, one man leaves. Break a deal, face the wheel.
But then we are a small, rural community. And as I noted, we do trade and barter now.
It sounds as though you have a well thought out AO and your neighbors will be assets instead of liabilities which isn’t by chance, but through effort and goodwill on your part. That’s a smart move and I am sure it will pay off in the future should you ever need them.
I believe survivors that are unprepared would form into roving gangs as desperate, hungry people have no limits and boundaries will be determined by violence. The broad daylight smash and grab robberies we are seeing today is a precursor to what will happen, but on a massive scale, when the lights go out along with rape, pillage and random burnings. Not a situation anyone would want but we plan for the potential.
I have a few very good friends I can trust that live on other mountains but it’s a good 3-4 hour hike on a good day over to their places. We help each other out now when needed (cutting trees, working on vehicles, constructing buildings etc ) and would do so in a SHTF so I guess that would be a bartering situation.
Thanks for the discussion as it has made me think and realize that I do have friends (a network if you will) that I trust and bartering may be in our future! Even an old squid like me (US Navy 82-88) can learn a thing or two from a Marine!
You are welcome RC, and thank you for the interesting discussion!
Glad this JarHead could add to the conversa-look! Crayons! Yum! The green ones are my favorite! 🙂
“if you have enough to trade then you must be sitting on a stash”
well selco did say to not be the guy who has something, but be the guy who knows where to get something. that makes you valuable without making you a direct target.
don’t know if playing that role will always be successful ….
We do trade and barter now with neighbors and friends.
I think a persons reputation as a fair dealer will be worth a lot post-SHTF. Known as someone who tries to get one over on people, or cheat, might not find anyone willing to trade with you.
As Michael points out, if someone tries to bully someone out of something, they just might find themselves surrounded by the rest of us.
Just read an article about a Chinese providence (we are talking millions of people) on lockdown, people there trading various items for food.
When looking at barter you need to decide first what you 2ant second what you will trade willingly for them.
Will need main item and then some sweeteners to get deal done if hesitant person on item you need. Small items like matches candles lighters fishing hooks seeds ect
You will also have a walk away price (take away trade) if cant be done in am nothing says by evening it’s not ok after a day of no trade.
Plenty of folks around here will be strung out from drugs, pharmaceutical withdrawal and booze, others are simply lazy or lost. Any trading setup will need some level of organisation and security to keep deals square and civil. Who organizes the trade fair, and who pays to keep it safe? Sellers, their pals, or the local boss/warlord and his crew? What’s a reasonable cut for them? 15%, 50%, free chicken?
In the event of disagreement, is there an arbiter or system to work it out?
How is pricing determined? Is fiat or old silver coin usable as an intermediate exchange medium (like chips at a casino) or is there a direct exchange (1 chicken = 1 tire change = 100 .22 lr). Will there be standard pricing or is every deal negotiable?
Are valuable/sensitive/dangerous items salable, perhaps in a segregated space? What items would be no-go?
When I beefed up our preps last year, I invested in a “trade bag”. Things we can barter, essentially. While mostly practcal to a SHTF, its also necessary stuff. Toiletries- small toothpasre tubes, like what the dentist gives at a vist, same with floss. Travel size shampoo, conditioner, soap. But also things thst can be broken down into portions- instant potatoes, dried milk, etc. Invested in some felts naptha- having lived in drought and other denied places, feeling clean goes a long way…re Book of Eli.
alcohol, tobacco, chocolate, coffee, coca cola
vitamins, salt, infant formula
jeans, sun hats, wool caps
aspirin, ibuprofen, motrin
isopropyl .7, iodine, hydrogen peroxide, neosporin, bandaids
batteries, solar lights
duct tape, plastic sheeting, plastic bags
matches, bic lighters
I just ran a search on YouTube for barter related videos. Here are the titles that came up. You should be able to search on whichever titles are of interest to you to pull up those links:
Barter video titles on YouTube:
Top 10 Barter Items
Why Bartering is a great business strategy in uncertain times! Barter and trade
Barter Items for SHTF
A Wise Prepper’s Guide to Bartering Skills and Supplies
Barter Items For SHTF | Lightweight Inexpensive Trade Goods For Preppers
SHTF Portable Bartering Kit
I think the most important thing is to start planning now, and maybe even start doing a little bartering now while things are kinda normal..
“…the payment system for trading is a different problem. My take is, this board should work to close the agreements. A digital handshake, if you like.”
Jose, your mention of a “digital handshake” inspired me to do some digging into satellite phones — especially after I spotted the webinar announcement below about how and why to use SatPhones. That article opened my eyes into some advantages I did not know about … that supercede smart phones in multiple ways. Admittedly SatPhones are not cheap, but compared to uber-pricey and short fuse scheduled obsolescent smart phones … SatPhones just might be a prepper’s shoo-in.
SatPhoneWebinar.com – register now to attend Feb. 3rd free educational webinar on how to use satellite phones, how they work and why they are such essential backup communications devices for emergencies and natural disasters, Wed, January 26, 2022, by: Mike Adams
The event takes place on Thursday, Feb. 3rd at 1:30 pm Eastern Time and will likely be from 1-2 hours in duration.
“Don’t invite in those who can’t be trusted”
how extensive can the barter network be if you include only those you specifically trust?
you need to have select barter goods – crap from the $1 Store won’t be getting you very far and prove useless ….
you’re a prepared prepper – better be or you shouldn’t be thinking barter & trade >> you need to have your own premium SHTF goods stocked & secured – it’ll be near to impossible to barter for them and the $$$$$ will be dear ….
saying that – Who will you be bartering with and for What? – forget the sheeple unless you intend to get into the precious gems & metals trade – anything you need as a prepper will require something premium – a spare part or services like medical care ….
instead of putting your $$$ into special barter goods – think more about expanding your own ready supply to include plenty of excess for necessary bartering ….