SELCO: The Harsh Reality of Barter and Trade in an SHTF Economy

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Author of The Dark Secrets of SHTF Survival and the online course SHTF Survival Boot Camp

Barter is a hot topic in prepper circles, so I thought we should ask someone who has a lot of real-world experience with trade in a dangerous situation.

If you don’t know Selco, he survived a year in Bosnia when his city was blockaded. You can learn more about it in his book, found here. Supplies were not allowed in or out, and residents were left without utilities and services.

This interview is in his own words and originally appeared in 2018. With times as they are in 2023, it’s an important topic to revisit.

How quickly did people turn to barter once your city was locked down?

It was a matter of a few weeks.

Actually, for ordinary folks, it was a matter of few weeks because we did not get the new reality right at the beginning of everything.

Later when I remembered that period, I realized that even right at the beginning of SHTF there were people who did not want to take money for goods. They asked for valuables like gold, jewelry, or weapon for goods that they had.

Some of them were smart enough to realize that money was gonna become worthless really soon, and even gold and jewelry were only good in the first period, and then only if you had a connection to outside world to exchange it for something useful.

Ordinary folks needed few weeks. It was a process that went from buying goods with money, then buying goods from people who still wanted to take money (at outrages prices) to the moment when money was worthless, and only goods for goods were accepted.

It was rare, but sometimes you could find someone who would sell you something for foreign money but at the 20-50 times bigger prices.

For example if pack of cigarettes cost around 1,50 German Mark (outside of the war region) we could buy that pack for 40 German Marks.

US dollar and Canadian dollar had even worse value.

Obviously, people would accept that money had connection to the outside world, and some of them ended up as millionaires because of that.

Same ratio was for precious metals and jewelery.

For small and quick trades, the usual currency were cigarettes, because of the percentage of people that smoked.

Even values were expressed often like “Oh, that’s worth 10 cigarettes.” In other situations it was ammunition-bullets.

How were trade items valued? If someone wanted to make a trade, who set the terms?

Nothing was fixed.

Through the whole period, the value of goods went up and down based on a lot of things.

For example if a UN food convoy managed to enter the city and some local warlord (usually) took it all, and the majority of the food was cans of fish, you could count on the fact that that month those types of cans gonna be cheaper then the month before. Or if that day’s US airplanes managed to “hit“ with airdrops in our area then MREs were going to be bit cheaper to find.

Sometimes a simple rumor (planted by rival groups) for example about “poisoned“ cans of cookies meant that people did not valued it so highly anymore.

Some things did not change value too much during the whole period, like alcohol, simply because it was available.

Other things’ value was a matter of the situation.

For example, if you had a sick kid at home, and you needed antibiotic and you spread that word, you could expect high price simply because you give that information that you need something really hard and fast.

But usually, we knew the value of things (goods) for that week for example, at least approximately.

What were the general rules of trade during this time?

The value of things and trading “rules on the ground“ were similar to trade rules at normal life flea markets.

A few of those “rules on the ground“ during the trade were:

  1. If YOU need something then the price is going up. (Do not look like you desperately need something.)
  2. Do not offer all that you got in “one hand“ or on one try. (Do not go to trade with your best shots altogether, it looks desperate, and you are losing all the advantage then.)
  3. Do not ever give a reason for someone to take the risk of attacking you because you have way too cool stuff (or way too much stuff) with you. (Have some amount of food, or ammo, or whatever, do another trade at another time with more of that. Remember people will take chances if they calculate it is a risk worth taking.)
  4. Never give info how much of the goods you actually have at home. ( The reason is same as above.)
  5. Never do trade at your home (unless you trust the person 100%) because you never know to who you are giving valuable information about how much you have, what your home look like, how many people are there (defense) etc.
  6. Doing the trade in other trader s home might mean that you are at his “playground“ (or he is stupid) so you are losing the edge. You are risking of being on unknown terrain. Always try to choose neutral ground somewhere that you can control the situation, giving the opponent the chance to feel safe. (But not safer than you).

It is most important that you understand when SHTF (for real) system is out, and only thing that protect you from losing everything is you.

Trade is gonna be a matter of carefully planning. It starts with information about who has something that you need, then checking that information, and rechecking, and then sending information to him that you want to trade, then setting the terms about the place and number of people where you’re gonna do the trade.

Usually, there was a rumor or information about who was safe to trade with. There was information about people who like to scam other people during the trade. If you did a good and fair trade with a man you could “save him“ as a safe trader (to some extent) for future trade.

Everything else is a matter of trust and skills.

Maybe, just maybe, if you are living in some nice small town there is gonna be something like a market, where people freely gonna exchange their goods between each other.

I never saw anything like that because it needs some kind of system to back it. Trade when SHTF is a high-risk situation simply because it is about resources, and there is no law, no system.


Are skills or products more valuable?

In the long run, skills were more valuable, simply because you can not “spend“ your skills.

If you had medical skills you could expect that people over the time (through the word on the street) will hear that, and that you simply will have opportunities to get something for that skill.

I pointed out in an earlier article that when a serious collapse happens, things fall apart around you fiscally, there are no services, so skills for “repairing“ were valuable, and so were technical skills.

Medicines were substituted with home (natural) remedies so knowing that stuff was valuable, making simple cloth pieces was good, and repairing weapons. I knew people who did good because they made very basic cigar holders from wood and empty bullet shell simply because people smoked bad tobacco hand-rolled in paper.

Skills that made the new reality easier.

Skills were also safer to trade simply because by attacking and killing you, the attacker cannot take away your skills from you.

What were the top physical items for barter? Do you recommend that people stock up on things specifically for barter? If so, what kinds of things?

In my case those were MREs, meat cans, alcohol, batteries, candles, cigarettes, weapons and ammo, drugs, and medicines… but if we are talking about the future, preparing, some things need to be mentioned.

There are lists about “100 things to store for SHTF“, and while they are good lists, they may be completely different from “100 things to trade when SHTF.”

Obviously when SHTF you will miss everything, because the “trucks are stopped“ and there are no stores and normal buying.

The basics that you need to cover are something that every prepper already knows: food, defense, water, shelter, fire, medicine, and communication.

Out of these essentials, you go in deeper. Like under medicine you’ll have antibiotics but also some knowledge about natural remedies. Under food, you’ll have cans but also some way to produce food like seeds or hunting or whatever.

If you are PLANNING to store things for trade then you need to have a strategy for that.

Let’s say you are storing huge amounts of food for you and your family for SHTF but you are also planning to trade that food for other items when SHTF.

Some advice for people who are counting to store things for trade are:

  1. Store things of everyday use, nothing too fancy. For example store rice or pasta (if that food is common in your region), lighters, batteries, or candles.
  2. Store small things, or in small packages, stuff that is gonna be easy to carry hidden on you, in your jacket, for example, lighters, spices, cigarettes, quick soups… not cannister of fuel, bags of wheat. I am not saying not to store fuel. I am saying it is much better to carry 20 AA batteries to trade then a 20-liter canister of fuel especially because value might be similar. Remember, do not give reason to anyone to take the risk of attacking you because you have something.
  3. Think about things that are cheap today, may have multipurpose uses when SHTF, and do not take too much space to store (alcohol pads or condoms for example).
  4. Think about things that you can “sell but keep“. For example, a solar panel with a setup for charging batteries for people. You are selling charging of batteries to people.
  5. NEVER be the “big trader“ or the person who has a lot of interesting stuff. Be the small person who is gonna offer good things through the network of a few people. Being big trader means attracting too much attention with too many cool things that you have. Hide your trading activities through a network of other traders.
  6. Understand today’s value and the value when SHTF. Think about the small things that save lives, antibiotics, anti-tetanus shots, povidone pads [iodine]. For example, candles are really cheap today but will be rare when SHTF.
  7. Do not underestimate things that are people addicted to, no matter what you think about it. Cigarettes, alcohol, or coffee (or whatever is case in your region) – the value will go way up.
  8. “Store“ skills and knowledge. It is best investment. Learn skills that are gonna be valuable like gardening, shoe repairing, clothes making. Maybe you can be the person who has knowledge about natural remedies.

Should you have precious metals as a means for buying goods when the SHTF?

Through human history, gold and silver were valuable. They were used for getting goods in all times, including hardest times like wars and similar.

Having precious metal for SHTF is big in the prepping community but I need to point out some things.

The value of gold went down during SHTF so much that you need to think about it very hard.

For example, in normal times (I am using these numbers as an example) you could buy with one gold ring 300 small cans of meat. When SHTF you could buy 20, and you could buy 20 if you could find a man who wanted to take that ring from you.

He did not usually want to take it because he could take stuff that he could immediately use, like weapons, drugs, or medicines.

He simply could not do anything immediately useful with it.

Having precious metals is a great idea for later, when some kind of system jumps in, because they are gonna be again precious.

Right in the middle of SHTF, the value of it is poor.

That is one of the reasons why some local warlords came out as very powerful people after everything. They simply took precious metal from folks for a “can of the soup“ value (or sometimes for nothing) and they had enough power to store that metal for the time when it would be valuable again.

Do not throw everything into precious metals. Store immediately useful things.

What were the top skills?

It was simple: skills that you might use to kill people or to heal them.

So fighting, security, medical skills, knowing herbal remedies, repairing a weapon, making a new one.

Right after those skills were skills about food.

Knowing what kind of herbs around us you could eat, or even knowing what kind of tree bark you could eat maybe, how to make some plants edible mixed with other ingredients, how to repair clothes and things in your home.

Were there markets for bartering or did people mostly do this in private?

In one period of time there was something like a market, but it was strictly under control of local warlord, so it was not smart to go there since you really could not know what to expect.

Almost all the trades were made in private arrangments after you got information about someone who had something that he wants to trade.

The best situation was if you knew that person prior the war so you had already built trust from before.

Scams were usual, attacks during the trade happened too, especially if the value of goods was high.

If you need to trade for something, do that in advance. In other words, do not wait to be completely without food and then go to look for food through the trade, because you are under pressure, you are desperate. It is not a good setup for trade.

How did you remain safe when trading goods and services? What were the risks?

The basic rule is not to go alone to trade.

The reasons are very simple because you have resources with you for trade, you are possible target so you need more security – more people.

The trade place usually needed to be checked for possible ambush or scam setup. You needed people for that.

You needed a guard during the trade, someone to check up things during your negotiation with the other trader, someone who was going to watch for things.

The ideal number of people was 3.

The risks are scams (bad goods) or an attack.

You could lower that risk by trading with known people or simply by showing enough force so that they understand it is not worth the risk.

Scams were avoided by checking goods of course. If you are buying batteries you need to check them all. You need to taste coffee – is it mixed with old coffee that was used and dried? Cigarettes packs were carefully opened and 1-2 cigarettes could be missing and the pack glued again.

It was like a chess game. 

What are some myths about barter that most people think are the truth?

Trade is probably the survival topic with largest number of myths.

It is partly because we like to think that somehow the world will collapse but the majority of people will live by the rules from normal times, and partly because we are influenced by movies, shows, and fiction books. 

“When SHTF people simply get all together and help each other, and that goes for trade too.“

No, actually when times get really hard people jump into survival mode, or perish.

For you it may mean that you ‘l be nice, and do only good things, for another, it may mean that he will do whatever it takes so he and his family survive.

That may include killing you over 3 MREs during the trade.

“When SHTF I will thrive because I stored a lot of things for trade, and I will simply be the biggest trader.“ 

It is possible. People did that and survived. And even got rich after everything was over.

But they had gangs around them, enough manpower to protect the goods, the control to not be overrun, and they were ruthless.

Most probably, you are an ordinary person who just wants to survive SHTF. You do not have 100 armed people with you. You just need to be small and careful.

You are not a warlord.

“When it comes to trade it is all about weapon and force.“

Actually, it is not.

It is about the correct mindset to decide what makes sense in that moment and what you really need (and what you do not). Weapons help a lot but do not solve the problem alone.

It is very similar to bargaining at a flea market with the possibility of violence.

Anything to add?

After years of being in the survival world, talking with other preppers, and writing my articles, I found out that a great number of people  think something like, “I cannot wait to go to trade when SHTF!“

In reality, one of the points of careful preparation is to delay the moment when you need to go out and trade as long as you can.


Because you’re gonna need time to scan what is going on and who is who in the new collapsed world. You need to gather information about who is good and who is not, who is trusted and who is a scammer, and what area is safe.

If you need to go out on the 10th day in order to trade something, maybe you are doing something wrong?

What are your thoughts?

Is this in line with things you’ve considered about barter and trade when the SHTF? Will you change your strategies based on this information? Do you have anything you want to add that we should think about with regard to barter?

Let’s discuss it in the comments section.

About Selco:

Selco survived the Balkan war of the 90s in a city under siege, without electricity, running water, or food distribution. He is currently accepting students for his next physical course here.

In his online works, he gives an inside view of the reality of survival under the harshest conditions. He reviews what works and what doesn’t, tells you the hard lessons he learned, and shares how he prepares today.

He never stopped learning about survival and preparedness since the war. Regardless of what happens, chances are you will never experience extreme situations as Selco did. But you have the chance to learn from him and how he faced death for months.

Real survival is not romantic or idealistic. It is brutal, hard and unfair. Let Selco take you into that world.

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Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived, and 3), an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. She is widely republished across alternative media and  Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses. You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

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  • When I lived in an apartment, it didn’t take long for word to spread that the ” guy in apt. G6 was a paramedic”. They seemed to be attuned also to my work schedule (24hrs on-48 hrs off). Parents sent their kids over for me to bandage the usual scrapes. A woman whose husband had high BP., and the occasional battered wife/girlfriend. My point is that, certain skills will be in even higher demand when the normal services are unavailable. Learn a skill, and now you have something of value that cannot be stolen. ( unless the local warlord kidnaps me to treat his soldiers.) But then ,now he has to feed and protect me.

  • I have always thought skill sets were the most valuable asset to have. Try to be well rounded and not a one trick pony.
    Review your skills into a resume like format and try to identify where you may be lacking and fill those holes.

    The thing about PMs was a bit surprising. The few prepper sites I have lurked at, the debate of the real value of PMs in a post SHTF event lead to some heated discussion. Some even devolving into full out name calling. RIght up there with “Which is the best (insert name of rifle/pistol/caliber/knife here)?”
    Regardless, good insight.

    • Probably depends on the situation. I know In Venezuela they use gold as currency after theirs collapsed. I recall an article describing shaving pieces off for haircuts etc.

      • Gold in my thought is a small item that will in many cases arouse a lot of intrest, people still thinking in the past will want it so it is barter worthy, or
        just plain senseless greed, also, when things go well again it can be a boost for restoring your life… what is what…?
        If i have to run a gold coin ject might get me something that 20 cans of tuna wopuld not, like a boat crossing….the one in charge will likely have enough fish at hand….trading bullets and especially guns or other weapons for food is risky at best, to get them for food is also tricky, deactivated guns might not be safe to use, same with the ammo….fill a cartridge with primer load or block the bullet/ seat it really tight and you do not have a good day….

        i love this forum/website, much to learn here….

  • What a great article! Really brought up some good to think about points that I had not considered. Thank you for sharing!

    • I likewise thought the article was very good for raising issues I had not thought of yet. Informative and easy to understand. Best of luck to you and yours.

  • He got all the way to the bottom and said what I was going to…..prepare so you don’t have to trade – it’s a dangerous proposition.

  • Smart money says? Try to have enough supplies to hold out for 8 months to a year.
    Yeah… You’ll never think of everything, but the longer you can delay and defer the dangerous exposure mentioned above? The better….
    Have a gray vehicle on hand as well… A bona fide beater with a torn up paint job, unwashed, dented and unremarkable. If you HAVE to go out, doing so in a shiny clean late model car that looks like you’re still making payments on? Is gonna attract unwanted attention. And dress like a real trod-down as well. The goal again, is to look like you’re NOT worth bothering with… Just another schmoe trying to find stale breadcrusts.
    If you have young girls with you and they MUST go outdoors with you or to town with you? Get into the habit of dressing WAY down. Easier than it sounds… Most young girls don’t OWN anything they wouldn’t normally wear… But in a situation where the rule of law has gone bye bye? Is the WRONG time to look hot and attract unwanted attention.
    Again, it is not as easy as it would seem… They’ll fight you on it for starters. Maybe get their aporoximate measurements and spend an hour at Goodwill and grab some baggy unremarkable garments for em and tuck em away. Hats or hoodies to cover hair, etc.
    Just my 2c

  • Although Selco is probably right that PM will not be as valuable during the middle part of SHTF, smart individuals will take advantage of that to come out of SHTF rich. So don’t plan them for barter, but to cashe them for after things start to get back to more normal times. Also he mentions jewelry, not true Precious metals.Which is another difference.
    A ring or a gold watch has little value unless you really like it, During SHTf you don’t dare even wear it unless you want robbed. But a bar(or coin) of gold or silver has a verry different appeal. You expect to secret it away for better days.

    Also Americans are more attracted to Jewelry and PM than Central Europeans are. America is a totally different culture than the rest of the world.

    The other thing was that during His SHTf, they were getting Aid drops and Aid Convoys. Don’t expect that, during what is coming. No Country will have anything to spare or share.
    So in an absence of those goods, (food, cigerettes, ammo, etc) coming into the country, this will change the dynamics of what is valuable and it’s duration. It will go from a civil war torn, SHTF to a different kind of SHTF. One we have not seen before. But it will settle down quickly as there will be nothing to sustain it. Unlike in a long drawn out war, which is being supplied by outside countries and war profiteers.

    • One other thing is that with silver PM (coins, bars), it can be made into colloidal silver, it can also be made into utensils and such. Or you can just invest in a real set of silver utensils.
      Most people will not know the difference, (hiding your PMs in plain sight sort of thing, just don’t polish them, use them for everyday use, not set aside in a cabinet or some where.) Tarnished, plainly designed silverware does not look valuable to most people.

      Also some PM, (other than Gold or silver) are a good choice for storing larger amounts of wealth. 1 Oz Rhodium Bars, for instance, peaked at nearly $30,000/ounce in 2021. You would need 15+, 1oz gold coins to secure that same amount of wealth. It is much easier to transport and hide 1 oz of metal rather than 15+ ozs of metal.
      Precious gems(diamonds and such) are also a good way to store more massive amounts of wealth. This is about holding on to your wealth, not what you would use for barter, etc.

      • I should think that precious metals and gems would be useful for bribery of soldiers, public officials, police officers and so forth.
        Think it would be better to have plain gold wedding type rings and junk silver coins, so as to not appear like a metals dealer, but rather like a poor, desperate person who doesn’t have a stash of gold at home.

  • I don’t think I will have any luck with bartering. My nearest neighbor is 5 miles away. The nearest city is over 100 miles away. My nearest town has a population of 7 people living in it and the next town (25 miles away) has about 600 people. I live on a small ranch. Bartering out here won’t be easy. It is more like go hunting or use the cactus for food. The one barter item that I think will be important will be salt. Not so much for preservation or flavor, but we need a certain amount for our health.

    • Good point about salt.
      We NEED it for basic biological function.
      There is a great book called Salt: A World History, by Mark Kurlansky. Highly recommend it.

      • I did read that book. A friend gave it to us and I thought what a dumb book. Then I read it! I enjoyed the history. Being a retired army food inspector I enjoy learning about food.

      • There is the problem of getting feed for animals. A bike for the highways although a long distance is a better idea. This is not like the east where there is grass and trees.

        • I think that depends.
          You can train a goat, even cows to pull a cart or small wagon and they can eat dang near anything green, especially goats. Mine are all on pasture both goats and cows. Cows are a bit pickier.
          Come winter, that is a different story. I NEED hay! In the past I have cut good grass with a scythe, raked it, cured it, then bagged it and put it up into the hay loft, enough for six goats for three months.
          So, for that, I would trade/barter for others to help me bring in hay in exchange for, say, cheese, bacon, hard cider or apple jack.
          I can bicycle, but with our hills, NOT easy! Even walking!

    • paradise you say…..salt is good, cheap and usefull….repairstuff would be good, all kinds. When you get down to the basics there is not so much you need to stock, personal hygene ( soap, chloride, toothpaste) and food, some medical things…i always say that what you can carry is enough….all else is more….

  • Great Article Daisy. Now, totally off the subject, but do your readers know about the FEMA Nationwide Emergency Test that will be conducted on Wed. Oct. 4th? All cell phones, radios and tv’s will broadcast and emergency notification. There are a lot of conspiracy theories going around about this event.

  • Good blast from the past article.
    As I mentioned in my Feb2018 post, write down all your skills into a resume like format. See where your strengths are and where you have have holes. Play up to your strengths or expand on them and try to fill the holes.

    A note on “warlords.”
    In Afghanistan, we would call people “warlords,” but did not understand the context of what they really were. We used the word as we were ignorant. Most of the time what they actually were, were the leader of a tribe. This tribe could be a very large, extended family or a group of families. Most of the time they held territory by means of force, arms and numbers. They did so as a means to defend themselves and their territory from other tribes. Some tribes would form some kind of pact not to attack each other, or come to others aid. If this all reads like some kind of historical past of Native American Indian tribes, the Celts, medieval times, etc. that is what it is. Just happening now or up till the Taliban returned.
    According to some reports out of Sweden, the immigrant gangs are operating under something similar.
    The enemy of my enemy is my friend, kinda thing.
    There were also some areas where rather than have a single leader, they had a council of elders each representing a tribe to make decisions together.
    Regardless, one thing they all agreed upon, commerce. They were some of the best capitalists I have ever seen. Even rival tribes would keep the peace to keep commerce flowing. War is expensive and not good for trade. The would even trade with one other if it was in their common interests.
    The point of all of the above, if SHTF, fuel in short supply or unavailable, look around. You might have to ban together and form your own tribe/s for survival.
    You might even become a “war lord.” 😉

    • “You might have to ban together and form your own tribe/s for survival.
      You might even become a “war lord.”

      i was in a 1% motorcycle club in Europe for 12 years, and forming a council is great but the differrence in how to and whatever else needed decision was enormous, and some members wanting to be that warlord, the cock of the walk because ego’s were bigger than the boots they wore….always some form of power struggle going on, others just looking for a strong leader would go along with their own hanging if asked……..some scheming behind everybody’s back….before a group is truely thight it takes years or a lot of shit in a very shot time….and to see who will work together with others and who just wants to b we protected and will run anywhere if the grass seems greener….

      i think a couse in psycoligy and how people think and how to see what is on their mind should be learned young…saves you a hell of a lot of crap later…

      • I promote for insights, from various functioning intentional communities (ic), on such things as conflict and group dynamics! Very worth reading, and don’t forget to check out their free ‘e-handbook’ listing worldwide communities seeking more folk! (Covers all groups, including Rightwing, Left, etc.) Note: I am not affiliated with them!

  • We are collecting pints of alcohol, lighters and tubes and tobacco to make cigarettes. Some medicine(OTCs) but we won’t barter food other than rice or beans. Maybe small bottles of oil and shelf stable milk and definitely sugar. We just started talking about this the other day while I have been stocking for months.

  • Approximate quotation from memory. Senator John Jay Engals of Kansas delivered a speech to the floor in the 1800’s in which he stated the following. “Gold is the most cowardly of all metals. It flees from the country at war to the country at peace. It never paid any soldier or sailor. It was worth the most when our economy was in peril, but it did not help us. It is the money of Kings, dictators and misers. In times of national disaster gold shirked it’s public responsibilities and refused to pay it debts.”

  • Another really good article by Selco. We can learn a lot from his experiences and wisdom.

    Of course I’ll be the fly in the ointment. As you note at the start of the article – Selco survived a year in a city cut off from the outside world. He was trading with and for things supplied by the U.S./UN from the outside (MRE’s, canned fish, whatever). There was always an outside world functioning on a more or less normal level, continuing to produce the necessities, and supply them.

    As 1stMJ notes, there are heated discussions on PM’s on some sites. The idea of PM’s presupposes that the collapse will be of short duration with some form of overall monetary system coming into play backed by something? Someone? Don’t get me wrong, PM’s are a much better choice than any paper money.

    We have built a very pretty, complex, and intricate house of cards. When it finally goes, I believe it will go big. Not national, or regional, but global. Martial law – you bet, but only for as long as the powers that be have the supplies and materials to sustain it. Devolving into chaos as millions, if not billions, face the reality that there is no government, inside, or outside the country, coming to save them. All of our pretty technology that allows our present society to function will be pretty much useless. As per the EMP commission – 9 out of 10 Americans dead in the first year. Translate that to worldwide and realize how bad it could really get. Keep your head down for the first year if possible and see what’s left. Barter? Barter with who? Barter with what? What you can scrounge out of what’s left, with the few people that are left? Gangs, tribes, warlords, whatever you want to call them, they will be the new normal. People that band together to survive.

    • Lone Canadian,
      That was a great post.
      We get into WWIII, I absolutely think we will see and feel the effects here in the US even if the fighting is taking place in Eastern Europe. EMP/cyber attack on the grid or even a physical attack on the grid and it is back to the 1800s for us. Toss in the social tensions going on now as is, I could see both WWIII and civil war going on at the same time. As you note, a mass die off could occur.
      If so, than I question the value of PMs or other items we think as valuable now. 90% of the population dies off, you could just walk into a house and look for things like jewelry, diamonds, PMs, guns, etc. Who is left to trade with? What market? How long would it take to rebuild an economy to the point where trade using any form of currency paper or PMs becomes viable? 10 years? 20? 50?

      Then you get back to the base levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

      • Exactly my point. You may be able to simply wander through and pick things up – but what will be left that’s worth the trouble? Three days of food in the average city. Grid goes down – no water, OR sewer. Within the first thirty days most things will be used up. Eaten. Drank. Or looted. And unlike “The Last of Us” you ain’t starting cars with 20 year old gasoline.

        What I post is often very grim, and depressing. But unfortunately I don’t have faith in the government or the inherent goodness of my fellow man. When it comes down to starving, or watching your family starve 99% of people will do whatever they have to. Take away the Hollywood, and the Rambo’s, and all the fiction and that’s what I see. It’s not pretty. A future where a cut on your finger could literally kill you. Will I survive? Does it really make a difference? I’ll just do the best I can, for as long as I can, and after that it’s up to the good lord above.

  • As Selco would tell you, it all depends on your surroundings. He has insight into SHTF in an urban area. Those things don’t always hold true if you are rural or VERY rural. There are no gangs or ‘war lords’ in my area. That’s not to say that there aren’t ‘bad people’ or people who would slit your throat for a bag of beans BUT, we know who those people are right now BEFORE it all goes to hell in a hand basket. If you’re urban are you in a large city or a small one and that TOO is subjective. To me, a large city is more than 100K but less than 200K since the largest city in my State fits right in there. The largest population in my county is the county seat which has less than 3K and the closet incorporated city to me has 76 people (no, there is no “K” after that!) My own ‘community’ (we aren’t a city) only has 46 people. MY situation is completely different to Selco’s and most of yours’. Just understand that what works in one area won’t necessarily work in another.

    • “Just understand that what works in one area won’t necessarily work in another.”
      That is a good point.
      Some of us are trying to get ahead of the power curve and lay the ground work for what we THINK a SHTF like event would look like in our immediate area. We have been doing trade and barter for a few years now. I know most of my neighbors and we have a good reputation. As Selco mentions about trading with someone who you knew prior to SHTF as a good person, that reputation may go further in SHTF. When we have excess eggs we give them away to our neighbors and friends further establishing our reputation.
      For the most part we know who is sketchy and would be weary of them. But things get bad, we may see a different side of people we have never seen before.

      I agree about urban areas. Heck, some of them now look like some post apocalypse movie.

      • I’ll add a caveat. Even people that were good people, or people you can trust before SHTF may not be trustworthy after. People you’ve known all your life will turn on you for a can of beans if it means one more day for their family. When there are NO MORE supplies coming. When that level of desperation hits can you truly trust anyone? Can you even trust yourself? Can you trust that at that time you will not betray your own morals and standards to feed or protect your family for one more day? Anyone that can say that has either been there and passed the test, or they haven’t, and they have no clue what they or anybody else is willing to do to survive.

  • Absolutely invaluable Selco.
    This applies universally.
    Especially the wise phrase “Don´t be the guy with lots of interesting stuff”. You would be surprised how fast this can become a nightmare.

  • Thank you for re-posting this article Daisy. So relevant for what we may all be facing soon no matter where we live. Even though I have been a prepper and self-sufficiency person for about 13 year now I never really gave it much thought about how barter would work in a SHTF scenario. My goal has always been to not need to go out looking for anything and just stay home, grow my own food and wait for society to start back up again.
    Of course there are always some desperate, selfish, and evil people out there that will screw up my plans. You know the kind that say things like, “Why should I prepare? I will let you prepare and come steal your stuff later”. I guess that is when my 32 years of military experience will come into play. I was hoping I was done with using those types of skills. Hope is not a strategy. Time will tell. God Bless.

  • I agree about skills being useful, but once I covered my bases on buying items I started buying EQUIPMENT. The only PM I care about is silver because I can make silver based antibiotics (also good against fungus and bacteria) at home in small batches. I also bought a small alcohol still because of it’s sanitation and trade value. My dad has ammo reloading equipment. I can grow and make basic herbal medicine and next on my list is learning to make fabric and get a loom.

    So as long as I make people think it takes experience and skill to operate the equipment, I should be a little safer than regular trade, right? I still won’t trade at my home. My bro is already professional security, so if I can feed him and his kids, he’ll have my back.
    I’m also learning to be a midwife, a rarer skill that may come in handy when birth control pills run out. I looked to history and found the best paid businesses on average for women were weaving cloth, midwifery and brewing beer.

    I’d love to be a tribal ‘queen’ and take care of the 100 people I can trust. I don’t want to have to do EVERYTHING myself and have to be on-guard 24/7 as a single woman 😉

    Where is the best place to attract and create a network of these communities so we can more safely do trade and travel when the systems have broken down? Rumble? I got blocked from Facebook for loving the constitution…

    • You’re not alone in trying to find a community to be part of. As a single, older, female, with skills, supplies, equipment, etc, it’s VERY difficult and there’s no way we can do everything. I do the best I can and have to let the good Lord take care of the rest and try my best to keep my relationship with Him, the forefront of all that I do. I fail miserably at times, but I do try. I can have all the preps, skills and equipment in the world, but if I don’t have a relationship with my Lord and Savior, I have nothing.

      I’m in several groups, for years… from all avenues, and it’s normalcy bias… or they focus on one thing instead of being well-rounded. MANY are scared to even start a conversation. People that have a spouse, kids or family on the same page, don’t get why we singles (male or female) want to be part of a group and shut us out.

  • I haven’t bothered with precious metals—I think the metals that will be most in demand will be steel and aluminum. Add copper pipe. PVC pipe will also be useful.

    Along with those precious metals will be the supplies to make use of them, such as solder to sweat pipes or glue to join PVC.

    Above all, skills and tools to make these precious metals into useful items.

    Those who collect gold and silver assume that society will return to “normal” after not too long a period. But there was a report that came out a few years ago, the Deagle report, that gave an expectation that by 2025 the population in the U.S. would be about a quarter of today’s population. Our present society will NOT recover after such a population implosion. Freeways will crumble. Bridges collapse. Supplies limited. Much present technology will be unsustainable.

    My preps mirror my expectations—spend money on supplies and tools. Food that will last from three to six months, skills and some supplies that will be useful for the rest of the SHTF, then hopefully have the skills in demand during the recovery phase. I have tools that I bought, but so far have not used. I pulled out a couple of tools for the first time today, then took some aluminum bar stock to design and make some specialized brackets. Not the prettiest, but they do their job. I expect that during the reccovery phase, the greatest demand will be for taking raw materials (e.g. bar stock) and making them into products that may no longer be available in stores.

    My skill set may be my greatest protection during SHTF and afterwards (I’m no use dead), and the greatest asset for barter.

    That’s my 2¢. I may have chosen the wrong skills. But something tried is better than just being a couch potato.

      • Nope.

        There is a way to weld aluminum using a torch and keeping the stick within the flame of the torch. However my main use that I expect goes the other way, namely machining then using screws to hold things together.

  • just remembered, decades ago i was in Portugal, constipation hit me after eating catus figs and maybe some of the hairs on these as well…, nowhere anything to solve the problem. From being blocked up to pain in extrema, feeling the bowels being torn slowly to the limit and over….constipation is deadly and constipation pills are cheap…store….the feeling of relief when you do get something that helps….like an explosion….and it was…

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