Why Radio Gear Just Might Be the Perfect Barter Currency

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By the author of The Faithful Prepper and The Prepper’s Guide to Post-Disaster Communications

‘Transitory’ inflation never was. This was permanent from the beginning. Inflation in the US is here to stay and is only going to grow worse. While precious metals are great, I think there’s much to be said for preparing for a barter economy as well. And as Selco pointed out in a prior article, this very well may be the area that the US is headed for patriotic Americans.

Many people understand the importance of barter in a collapsed society and store silver coins, ammo, alcohol, and so on in order to be prepared for such.

But what if there were something other you could store?

Something that may not be as dangerous to be known for storing as a warehouse full of booze? I think that one of the most important things you’re going to want post-disaster is a reliable means of communication and receiving news from the outside world.

For such, you’ll need a radio.

Other people are only going to learn this too late, and if you’re the radio guy in a barter society, you really have the potential to do pretty well. So without further ado, here are my thoughts on bartering off your radio gear.

Bartering your radios

Radios are going to be in short supply after a massive disaster. The cool thing about bartering them is that they’re a portable, compact, and practical unit of currency in a barter society. Unlike a gold coin worth $2000+ US dollars, which you’ll never be able to trade fairly for a day’s food, a radio can easily be involved in daily transactions.

Here are my thoughts on what you should consider with bartering a radio.

Shortwave receivers

These serve as a fantastic source of information from the outside world, and if you end up in a situation where the world has gone dark, that’s exactly what people are going to crave. I consider a disaster without one of these similar to backpacking without a watch – the lack of information drives you crazy.

Should there be an internet shutdown, grid failure, or so on, these will still let you hear what is going on in the rest of your country (at least from the ham radio operators and stations that are still on air).

Walkie-talkies

The first thing you need to know about walkie-talkies is that you will never get the range out of them that they advertise. Think maybe a mile, as that is what you can realistically expect. That can prove perfect for retreat security, however. Out of all the radio options out there, I think walkie-talkies easily could prove to be the easiest to barter option.

I don’t foresee these being something you have to worry about sitting on your shelves for long. People are going to immediately know what they’re for and want them post-collapse.

(Food can easily be bartered post-collapse. Check out our free QUICKSTART Guide on building a 3-layer food storage plan to get yourself well-stocked.)

President Adams CB radio

For those looking at setting up a comms network on a larger scale, I think CB radios work great. They’re about as straightforward and intuitive to use as possible, they give you a respectable range, and you can get them fairly inexpensively right now.

While I personally like models that are single sideband (SSB), you can get some very affordable units out there without SSB that could prove of benefit with trade. Quality-wise, I’m a fan of the President brand. Uniden is well-known within the world of CB as well, but they don’t seem to hold up for as long as President does.

If you’re living in a world where there is no law, you probably want to avoid ticking people off by trading them a radio that’s only going to break in a year’s span.

HT (handy-talky) units

bartering your radios
Courtesy of Wikipedia

Why not stock a few extra of these for barter? If anything, you could use them for your own survival retreat. Should you decide that you can spare a few of them in exchange for food, fuel, healthcare, or the like, then you’re all set to do so, and you very well may have just added another node to your community’s radio network in the process.

Bartering radios is a win-win for you here. If you do decide to choose a different model than the UV-5R, I still highly recommend that you stick with the 2m/70cm bands. These are where the majority of the traffic is going to operate. Also, keep in mind that this would have to be a WROL situation for you to use ham radio bands without a license.

Antennas

The radio is really only as good as the antenna. A lot of people don’t realize this until it’s too late, and I can guarantee you that there are preppers out there who will come to the same conclusion after a disaster. Here are my thoughts on bartering antennas.

Whip antennas for HT units

Whip antennas for HT units work great for boosting one’s range over what they would have with a stock HT antenna. If I’m sitting at my kitchen table in the evening listening to local nets, these are fantastic.

If I’m out backpacking, they’re rather annoying unless you keep the antenna stowed away until you need it. It won’t take long with a stock ham radio antenna for people to realize that they’re going to need an antenna upgrade, however, and a supply of these could easily prove to be a source of barter for you in a disaster economy.

Adapters and cabling

If anything, this is the most overlooked aspect of radio preparedness. You can have the fanciest radio in the world, but if you can’t connect it to your antenna, you have an expensive box. Here’s what I would look into…

Adapters

These are really beneficial if you’re building your own antennas or are trying to make use of the infrastructure already in place you’ve found around you post-collapse (e.g., you find an antenna setup for a ham radio, but the ham radio is gone). The only people that are really going to need these are those who know how to do such. This will mainly mean that it’s going to be ham radio operators that will be looking for these.

That considerably shortens your market, but these are going to be something people are going to truly need. They’re cheap, take up virtually no space, and are indispensable. I see no reason why they couldn’t serve as a fantastic radio barter item post-collapse.

RG-8X coax cable 

This is another item ham radio operators are desperately going to need post-collapse. Nobody ever seems to have enough of this on hand. If you want to make your own antennas, you’re going to need coax. If you make sure that the type you pick up already has the type of adapters on the end that you need, you’ll save yourself a bit of trouble.

Charging equipment

People are going to need ways to keep their radios topped off, and Chinese stuff tends to break. Given that Chinese radios are everywhere in the US, it makes sense to keep an available supply of charging equipment.

I personally wouldn’t go overboard in this department – I would look at radios first and foremost – but this is a potential option for barter post-collapse.

Charging dock 

Two is one, and one is none. These things break, and when they do, you’re straight out of luck if you only have one. I personally don’t think I would stock a lot of these for barter purposes, but a few extras may be something worth considering.

Massive charging dock 

These would work best for trade with the large survival retreat. Here are my thoughts on bartering something like this. First, it has massive potential. Somebody with a retreat full of UV-5Rs would want it. It’s going to be the most efficient and organized method they could have to keep their radios topped off.

However, I think you do need to consider whether or not a retreat that has radios already would have thought of getting one of these already. I think you could create demand here by having a steady supply of radios to introduce into your community via barter – new survival retreats are going to pop up amongst non-preppers – but that’s going to be something you’re going to have to weigh the pros and cons of.

It does no good to have radio gear prepped if you don’t know how to use it.

This is all the more reason to check out my most recent book, The Prepper’s Guide to Post-Disaster Communications. If you’re more cartoon-minded than engineer-minded and have been putting off getting your communications preps in order because the bulk of the information from radioheads you find is too abstract, you’re going to want to check this book out.

I’m far from being an engineer. My brain just doesn’t work that way. If you’re looking for as simple of an explanation of disaster radio as possible (complete with cartoons drawn by yours truly) you’re going to want to check this one out.

Bartering your radios (the extra ones) could help keep your family fed.

Barterable goods and skills are vital in economies where money no longer exists, cash is outlawed, or certain people are prohibited from making transactions without particular papers. As such, I think this is something preppers throughout the world need to strongly consider.

What do I have that could help my family get the goods and skills we need post-collapse? How could I continue to function in a cashless society?

For you, radio very well may be an option.

Just food for thought.

What are your thoughts on bartering your radios? Is there other radio gear you believe would make a good choice? Do you think this is a viable alternative, to begin with? Let us know in the comments below!

About Aden

Aden Tate is a regular contributor to TheOrganicPrepper.com and TheFrugalite.com. Aden runs a micro-farm where he raises dairy goats, a pig, honeybees, meat chickens, laying chickens, tomatoes, mushrooms, and greens. Aden has two published books, The Faithful Prepper and Zombie Choices. You can find his podcast The Last American on Preppers’ Broadcasting Network.

Why Radio Gear Just Might Be the Perfect Barter Currency
Aden Tate

Aden Tate

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  • This is a good idea. Also, bartering HAM knowledge and teaching others how to use HTs, as it’s not as straightforward as walkie talkies.

  • I’m a long time “Hamster,” but I purchased your Prepper’s Guide to Post Disaster Communications” yesterday. Excellent book! I consult for about 5 Prepper & Survival Groups in my area of the state. I’ll highly recommend it to all of them. Thus far, I have suggested they pick up a pair of GMRS radios for $60, and if they go for a Ham Radio and License, I like the UV-82 with extra features and power. In the USA, RT-SDR is a no-brainer as well, plus the hand crank short wave radios.

    Thinking through the SHTF comm needs, most people just need to communicate with their family, friends, and prepper group. There’s always a need for 1-2 people in each group to be able to use the Ham frequencies to their full extent, but having a GMRS for everyone is easily affordable. And wise! It is also within the ability of each Prepper Group to put up a GMRS Repeater, which is a tremendous boost to your comms, in more ways than one.

    Very well said, and thank you for sharing your wisdom!

    • Hey RBI,
      You mention GMRS radios for $60.
      What would the make/model of those be?

      And could you recommend GMRS units for heavy woodlands and rolling hills?

      • 1stMarineJarHead,

        I like this GMRS the best:
        https://www.amazon.com/P11UV-Rechargeable-Emergency-Flashlight-Charging/dp/B09DFYZ17R ($59.99 for two)

        There’s an equivalent Baofeng radio (G11S), and I own several of each. The Pofung P11UV is better equipped in terms of cables & power supply and things like that.

        I live in the mountains, and get good reception (line of sight) out to about 1-2 miles, and of course quite a bit further with the Repeater. I’m not sure about heavy woodlands.

      • Yep I have several Midland FRS radios for just short range comms on my 10 acres. I have several BaoFeng and a Kenwood for my other comms. I live in a heavily wooded area and rolling hills. I have a 40 Watt vehicle Ham radio that can be powered by standard 12 Volt 100 ah batteries which I recharge via solar. I really need to work on my comms, but I am just too busy with other “stuff” right now…I use to do a lot of comms…improvised antennas, etc. Just not enough time in the day to complete everything I have going on right now. If I was retired this would be a non issue. Just need to find a stash of Spanish gold on my property…..

  • Their usefulness as a barter item will be short lived in most SHTF scenarios of any duration. Assuming that there was not an EMP event to wipe out any unshielded electronics and that there is still electricity available with battery power, then a few Hams might still be operational. Hams having large, visible antennas systems will probably be targeted by looters in the early days of SHTF.
    Mostly it probably will be mobile units with limited antennas and range. Radio Repeaters, like are common on the 2 meter band, often operate only on grid power or with a very limited battery backup. So that will limit communications
    over a longer distance, even further.
    So line of sight or 20 – 30 mile range will be common communications ranges.

    Finding some one with a working radio, that would reach far enough to reach distant loved ones, that might find another person with a usable radio on the same frequency, that would let them use it, is highly unlikely.
    Preppers should have these already, so what will a non prepper have, that you will be bartering for, that would be fair trade for a radio?

    Basic Medical supplies will be in much greater demand. When an untreated scratch can turn deadly, or if you are already sick, they will be like gold.
    Band-Aids, gauze of all shapes and sizes, Antibiotic ointments and such, OTC pain relievers, Anti- Diarrhea and other OTC meds. The kind of stuff we all have in our homes and take for granted.
    Bad water and bad food will create a great demand for OTC remedies that help treat such conditions.
    So really, which is the better item to stock up on for bartering?

    • The usefulness of a radio is in its ability to broadcast. A looter that wants a radio just would want the ability to broadcast whatever it is that they want to broadcast. There are two options: either you agree with the aims of the looter, and would be happy to share the radio, or you don’t agree with those aims, in which case you have a bigger problem than just possibly losing a radio and have to deal with it accordingly. What I’m trying to say is that a radio is not for a person or for a family, but for a community. If your community can’t defend itself from looters with different aims, you have a serious problem. If you think that you want to keep the radio for yourself or for your family, then the problem is your way of thinking, and the “looters” will be the community that you should be offering to help anyway.

  • Barter is typically the Plan B when money is unavailable or unusable for various possible reasons. In ancient societies in a pre-money age, barter ruled. In modern societies money has often been ruined by counterfeiting by criminals or governments (such as the German Weimar Republic, Zimbabwe, Venezuela, eg.) where hyperinflation steals all possible purchasing power from the fiat money (not backed by commodities of value, including precious metals).

    This article is one of many that describes the basic characteristics that money should have:

    https://www.reference.com/world-view/six-characteristics-money-1cce7b304e353dfe

    When money fails or is unavailable for various reasons, commodities such as grains, alcohol, or even chocolate (used as money by the ancient Maya civilization) have been used. (I read recently that during the American Revolution even George Washington owned a huge distillery alongside the Potomac.) Prior to 1820 grains were often used to facilitate trade when money became scarce, etc.

    So where would radios fit into such hard times? They fail the basic test of divisibility — in contrast to grains, alcohol, small amounts of silver, etc — but they could be an intermediate store of value that could be traded for divisible money substitutes — like many other items that could serve as such intermediate stores of value. In that sense you might label that as a form of barter.

    –Lewis

    • I’ve seen Washington’s still and beer making operation at Mount Vernon, just outside Washington DC along the Potomac.

  • This certainly isn’t the first item to stock in your preps. But AFTER you have water, food, alternative shelters, defense, medical, etc and you still have funds, do you want those rotting in a bank account at minus 2 to 20%+ after inflation?

    Next you get silver and maybe alcohol coffee or tobacco for barter. And then this would be a great idea if you are a ham already and know what you are talking about with it.

  • I have 9 very expensive base station ham radios. I guess I could barter them one day. PS that radio in front of the ash tray? Good luck. Very few people want a radio that smells of nicotine.

    • You are describing EROL, not WROL. Even then, the Feds would have a few bigger problems to deal with at that point, than to mess with the band plans. In WROL, the Feds will be virtually or entirely non-existent.

  • Well, if the world has gone dark, then I would have to have my own infrastructure to power that radio. So would the other person I am trying to communicate with.
    Driving around down in town, I can see two HAMs based off the antennas they have above their homes. They do not appear to have any meaningful off grid power production. Gas generator is only going to last so long.

    My family lives over a thousand miles away. They are not set up for survival of a SHTF situation at all. As harsh as it may seem, I put their survival chances as very low. That is just a fact of the matter.

    If the S has HTF, not really sure I am going to care what is happening in DC, or on the other side of the world. As reporting has been coming out of the Ukraine/Russia war, more than some of it has been fake or propaganda (using gaming videos as reporting?). Heck, look at how much misinformation/disinformation our own MSM puts out: Four years of Russiagate, two years of Hunter Biden laptop denial. Why am I to believe anything over the air waves is reliable post SHTF? Our own government, re: Border Patrol and whipping. Why would I care anyways as those are those big circles Selco talks about. Be concerned for the small, local circles I can affect.

    Not so sure one of those handhelds would be a lot of good in heavy woodlands and rolling hills. Again, along with the cost of even slightly better radios, or a HAM ground station, I still need the infrastructure to power them.
    Might be better to accept the late 1800s like lifestyle early then trying to expend the time, effort and energy trying to maintain the 21st century. If there are some parts that are viable, bonus. But I would not bet my life on them.

    • 1stMarineJarHead you really are a Luddite aren’t you.
      – you have poopooed having a solar power setup for laptops and tablets to reference 10s of thousands of stored books in PDF.
      – now you poopoo radios that require electricity
      – You have also poopooed any possible use for gold or silver. Like I have said many times, you use silver dimes and quarters to barter with, NOT one ounce gold coins.

      Just because you can’t see the need or can’t afford to purchase these items, doesn’t make their use a bad idea. You sound just like a troll sometimes. Try not to be so negative.

      • Scarlet,
        Not being negative.
        Being practical.
        The number of homes with solar arrays within a 20 mile radius: 3.
        I have a small solar panel. On a sunny day, I hooked my cell phone up to it. It took 4 hours to go from 12% to 50%. Time it takes me to open a physical book, the time it takes me to cross the room.
        How many radios do not require electricity?
        There are countries that are already experiencing serious food insecurity due to inflation and the Ukraine/Russia war. They are not concerned about bartering for the use of a radio, reading a book on a tablet. Even that shiny coin is worth less when they and their families are going hungry.
        Survival, real survival, will be measured in energy of the calorie kind, access to fresh water, and sanitation.

        What are you doing to prep?

    • There are plenty of hams that have solar power for their equipment, and some for their houses as well. I’ve got a small panels to charge a deep cycle marine battery and also have a 16.5KW solar system with a Tesla Powerwall for night time when there is no sun light to power my house.

    • “Be concerned for the small, local circles I can affect.. Might be better to accept the late 1800s like lifestyle early”

      Sounds sensible to me. I’ll be interested to see how well solar and laptops work when you can’t get parts to replace them. 1stMarineJarHead? You sound like you would have fit in very well when the wild wild west was being settled. Surviving like the amish, while having the training to be able to camp anywhere as well as protect yourself/family from marauders. Exactly the type of neighbor I’d be glad to have when things go south.

      • Lee,
        Just being realistic about the possibilities.
        While I do not consider hope to be a course of action, I expect the and prep to the best of my abilities for the worst.
        I would gladly be your neighbor.

  • Looks like there’s still some good in that cigarette in the ashtray in front of that base station. Put that thing in a bag with a few more of the same kind with an oxygen absorber and vacuum seal it with 59 more just like it. Future trade material for nicotine addicts (like me).😁

    I’m a big believer that communication is a survival skill, and there are people that own those skills and equipment to do what the article suggests. I know a guy with a ham station. I also know he smokes. I’ll trade him half butts for info. But, I don’t have time or energy to ham. Radio, like social media is addictive and I don’t need another vice.

  • What are your thoughts about the BTECH UV-5X3 Tri-bander?

    It seems like a step up from a UV-5R, plus it can use some of the same accessories.

    Also, do you always keep your batteries on a charger, or do you remove them after they are charged… and then, how do you check up on their charge level if they sit for awhile? I.e. do you just randomly plug one into a charger? Does the charger act as a battery maintainer?

    I wonder what the life expectancy of the batteries will be… I imagine those AA battery case adapters might be useful to have, and a few dummy batteries. Idk.

    I got your book, read your recommendations. Now I just need to read the whole thing. I should be doing that now.

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