bartering during SHTF

Bartering During SHTF Has Its Problems…

Bartering during SHTF. Lots of preppers believe that this will be a solution to some of their supply problems, should the issue arise. I’ve read (and have written) articles on what may be of particular value for barter. And these lists have some value as food for thought. However…

There are a few problems with the concept of bartering during SHTF.

First, when I say SHTF, I’m referring to a period of time whereby systems are, or have, collapsed around us. On a grand scale. Such that many people are struggling for food and supplies. Survival. Think it can’t happen? It has happened all around the world throughout history. But it’ll never happen here in America, right? I hope not. However, is the writing not seemingly on the wall?

With that said, I would like to present two particular problems with bartering during SHTF.

The Bartering Place

Here’s the first one… This concept refers to the notion of ‘a place’ where people go to barter. Maybe it’s Ned’s barn. Or the ball field at the old school. Or the town common. Wherever it is, here’s the problem (particularly bartering during SHTF).

Lets say that Jim is hoping to trade in order to get his hands on some antibiotics. Someone at home has an infection. Knowing that a number of preppers have acquired this product, Jim is willing to trade some of his rice or toilet paper or alcohol to get some. He heads over to Ned’s barn…

There are three people there. Jim begins to talk with them, one at a time. But unfortunately none of them have what Jim’s looking for. So he departs in dissapointment. Little did he know that later in the day, someone was there who actually did have what Jim was looking for. But they both weren’t there at the same time, so the trade wasn’t made. This is what’s going to happen for lots of things.

What if Jim leaves a bottle of bourbon with Ned, so that when someone else happens to come in who has ‘Fish Mox’ – Ned could make the trade…? Ya right… How much does Jim trust Ned? Or that it won’t get stolen? Or what if the ‘Fish Mox’ guy doesn’t want to trade for bourbon?

You might say, well, maybe Ned keeps a list of what people are looking for, and those who visit may check the list. However this is going to present quite a security risk. Well, what if only Ned know’s who’s looking for what, and what others have to trade? Sounds like Ned’s a prime target for information – another security risk. A problem will be ‘trust’. During SHTF, there will not be much trust going around.

Bartering Paints A Bullseye On Your Back

Here’s the other problem… Jim goes to Ned’s barn, bartering during a time of SHTF. Several others are there, milling about. A few of them recognize Jim, although they don’t particularly know him. They think to themselves, “Jim has stuff to trade”. “Jim has stuff”.

Say that Jim walked in with a 5-gallon bucket of white rice to trade with. “Hey, Jim has extra food”…

Remember, it’s SHTF out there. Kinda the Wild Wild West. Do you think that most people are going to be nicey nice? I don’t…

What’s your opinion? Are these thougts overblown? Or can you think of additional risks to bartering during SHTF?

[ Read: The Most Valuable Items For Barter After The Collapse ]

[ Read: What Services Will Be Valuable For Barter After Collapse Or SHTF ? ]


  1. IF i barter it will most likely only be amongst friends and neighbors, IMHO best to not go to far outside ones normal circle.

    1. Agree with Kulafarmer. It is best to know who one is dealing with. Even then be vary wary.

  2. Ned has a pretty good looking barn ;-)
    He should probably have some form of security detail if he’s going to run a barter market there.

    1. And how does that stop someone from following Jim home. I think the point is barter won’t be as easy as people think

  3. Good food for thought Ken. I think everybody will be desperate and security will be on steroids-for everybody.
    I also think people will be going to their neighbors first to try and get what they need. If you know your neighbors, you might know/have an idea who may have what you need. Finding a “common trade” item might be the biggest problem (you have this to trade but, they don’t want it-or they want too much for it. They want this but, you won’t/can’t trade that item). Also, if you go to a place set up to do trades who, says they are not gathering intel. on who has what and how much. Or people might be there to see who has what and than follow you home, or take what you have from you on the way home.

  4. I am not sure who Ned is. One of my primary rules for trading with anybody is to use neutral territory that is known to both parties for the exchange and watch your rear view on the way home to ensure you are not being tailed. I exchanged primers a year ago when things got weird at my local members only gun club. I exchanged numbers with a club member that is looking for a pound of Red Dot powder to reload 45 ACP. Last year, I had a weird encounter with some young men that were looking to buy primers at every retail outlet b/t their home in Idaho and the Coast. The folks at the shop I was at were getting concerned enough to begin placing weapons nearby their work stations if they went sideways. They sensed the chill in the air and left shortly thereafter.

  5. Or you could leave a dead person outside of your door and tell them he was not honest, are you? This will be a hard one. I recall when early covid first had necessities disappearing and you were only allowed one toilet paper, eggs, milk etc. that there were larger groups of people shopping together. Especially the Hispanic’s. There was a new atmosphere about the whole store. Picture that plus a 1000 with an empty store.

  6. in a long term situation like that, the first thing i’m going to do is ask everyone for food and supplies, that way they won’t think i have anything. i will trade labor but never BBB. when those things are gone they are not coming back, except maybe the bullet’s.
    it depends on the situation. we have hurricanes here and tornadoes, that’s somewhat of a short term thing and we stick together, get things put back together and help out others AMAP. but in a long term problem, as in a “it’s not coming back situation”- no.
    i may be wrong again, but in the event of a CME or EMP strike or something similar i’m going to hunker down for a month with my DW and MIL. no one in or out, this is something we can control, and then venture out to see what’s left.
    i have said this many times before, but potable water or the lack of, is going to thin out many in short order. as in weeks, through lack of, or drinking contaminated water.

  7. The culling of the unprepared and the desperate (drug addicts, etc.) must come first. Read ALAS, BABYLON by Pat Frank. It is dated, vis-a-vis current times, but it will give you plenty of food for thought. Their system was a bulletin board in the center of a small town and if Joe needed something, he posted it and Jim made contact with him at a designated time and place. There were plenty of pitfalls, road agents, and other disasters. You will need a tribe.

  8. I live in western PA rural area. Everyone here is nosy and love to gossip. One word about what you have to trade would be spread all over the area in a short period of time. I have one dirtbag neighbor who has his buddies inquire as to gun ownership for example. Its weird and leaves you wondering about burglary. I had another one comment on an engine hoist i have. I was dumbfounded how they knew cuz i dont leave my garage open . Its like they all take inventory around here. Cant wait to move !!.

    1. Romeo Charlie, im afraid your right. Our county jails are maxed out in capacity. Burglars and drug types just get court date alot of times. We have learned just not to be very social in our neighborhood. Looking for a place to retire if possible. We are done with Western PA !

    2. Romeo Charlie: We are north of Ballground and south of Talking Rock, so you must be near…I enjoy reading all of your posts~

      1. Yellow Rose,
        Just down the road from Bigun’s BarBQ! That’s a great area and a good place to eat. I’m northeast of Ellijay and South of Blairsville so we’re neighbors. Glad I can keep you entertained😄

  9. Romeo Charlie –

    The SHTF barter store is already here at Lima Alpha. MacArthur Park, 7 nights a week from dusk until dawn miscreants from all over SoCal meet there to umm … barter… everything. They do it because of LA DA George Gascon. They know the police are defunded and demoralized. They know that even if LAPD trips over them in the commission of a crime and they decide to make an arrest; they know that Gascon’s policies will have them sprung before the officer completes his report. Yeah, it ain’t mountain men from the 1800’s down there; you got that right.

    1. 100% agreement………when the event happens there will be mostly sheep, many wolves and in my humble opinion very few sheepdogs… the adage goes ‘in time of economic and social upheaval human life is the cheapest commodity.’ I have always tried to “ pay it forward “ and I am to old and to damm mad to change.

  10. Last week I decided to practice bartering with a neighbor. We don’t know them well, but we’ve visited and I’ve brought them baked goods during the holidays. We have a pair of ducks and our female has had issues recently with laying shell less eggs. Our egg supply is depleted and I thought this was a perfect opportunity to trade with these neighbors who have an abundance of duck eggs. They would have given them to me for free, but I offered homemade jam in return which they accepted.

    I knew they don’t care for duck eggs themselves. That should have been my first clue. They had a bunch of cartons sitting on the counter and she gave all eight dozen to me. I asked how fresh they were and she said they should be fine since they keep longer than store bought eggs. I asked if she wanted to save some for someone else. She said no one else they know likes duck eggs.

    I figured I better get to work processing them. I think you know where this story is going. Egg after egg was rotten! The eggs were stuck to the shell or the whites were runny or there was green or black mold growing inside. Cracked eggs were in there too and most of the eggs stunk to high heaven!

    If this was the quality of the eggs they regularly give away, no wonder no one wants them! I have the feeling they don’t collect them daily, don’t keep track of the dates they collect, and let them accumulate on the counter for weeks, if not months. Ugh!

    It’s a good reminder that quality and care matters. Now I’m pondering if I should diplomatically clue them in about the poor quality of their eggs since it appears no one else has.

    Anyone else have stories like this? Meanwhile, our sweet swedish blue duck laid her first nice big egg today after several weeks. I appreciate her all the more now!

  11. So many factors involved with bartering after shtf. As many pointed out, the amount of danger increases with the perception of how much “stuff” you got. You can’t just say “I’m poor, don’t have anything ” while driving a new truck, and sporting good clothes and a nice sidearm on your hip. (Hence our rituals of being the hairy- eared dishelved “gray man” with a busted tractorvin the front yard. You got to live the part all the time to be convincing). I think word of mouth bartering would be safest. Just let your close circle of neighbors/friends know you need something. Don’t mention what you have for trade, keep that to yourself. If someone has what you want and comes to you to trade, make them ask for what they are needing, don’t offer up anything. Even if you can see a good exchange, don’t jump into it…act like it’s a big deal to part with what the other guy wants. That will go along way to eliminating 2nd thoughts after the exchange. Agree on a spot for the exchange in an open place, and recommend that you each get to inspect the others goods before accepting the trade or not. Also point out there should be no hard feelings if it does not work out.(putting this out as a possiblibility befor hand will keep everyone from getting their hopes up, and will help reduce bad feelings if the bartering does not go through.) Don’t barter booze or ammo, it will always come back to you in a bad way, and don’t let people know you have them.

  12. Once things calm down a bit it maybe possible to have a third party barter/exchange setup. I think of something like a church with a trusted pastor or very small committee having a “wanted” list. Only they would know who wants what and what the other party can trade for it. The exchange person knows what I need and what I can offer in trade but know one else and they setup the trade.

    This can be fleshed out and modified to fit the local situation. Again this would require a “trusted” person/group to work at all but would keep the face to face trading to a minimum until things settled out…or not.

  13. One alternative is pre 1964 silver coins. Used in small quantity’s it will be difficult for the bad guys to figure out what you have. Keep different amounts of cions in different pockets so no one see’s how much you have.

  14. I was reading Michael Yon’s dispatch from today, on the collapse of Sri Lanka. He speaks about the stages a region goes through when experiencing collapse/famine. Highly recommended reading. michaelyon dot com/dispatches/panfawar-report-sri-lanka-cannot-buy-oil/
    Will it be different here? I don’t know, but human nature being what it is, I imagine it will be similar. In which case, it may be a while before bartering in any broad sense of the word, outside of immediate friends and family, may not be prudent until things settle down, however long that takes.

  15. 1. Never take all your stock with you of any one item
    2. Never take multiple items that make it look like you’re well stocked
    3. Never go by yourself – if you can have a scout watching over your shoulder with a LR rifle, all the better
    4. Never go unarmed
    5. Never tell the truth on how you came across it – “I traded the bourbon for some weed that I had leftover”
    6. Never take the same route home – if you can have a scout set up in a pincher area to snag followers – even better
    7. Never assume anyone is your friend or has your best interests at heart
    8. ALWAYS watch your back and practice situational awareness

    1. Great post. On my weekly shopping,yes i’m retired, I look for items in 2 categories. !. Things I need to increase or replace, ammo, food, socks etc. 2. alcohol(Costco vodka its cheap), tampons, canning supplies etc. There is some over lap and when in Dollar store plenty of items like flash lites. Like Buckeye said Operation Security and not showing your full hand are very important, plus you don’t want people to track your team back to your location.

  16. I’m with Farmgirl on this. Until things settle down, my stuff stays hidden. I can see making an exception for a skill – like emergency medical care. Who knows whether what I would count as extra today or tomorrow might not be enough for next week’s needs. Besides, just among neighbors and within the MAG I expect there to be lots of swapping and trading going on. . .
    There’s a reason the local pawn shop is the most heavily fortified building in the neighborhood.

  17. I have witnessed bulletin boards in public areas stating what they desire and what they are willing to trade. If somebody is interested, they post the time, date they will be there to trade on the same note. Usually, a counter offer is first written on the note and if accepted the time and date is then haggled over until accepted on the note.

  18. Good replies. Actually everyone has contributed more than the article in my opinion. I haven’t visited this website for a long time, it’s still a good one. I’m known on many boards as Michigan Swamp Buck or on social media as Buck Marsh. I’m ATS more than others and used to frequent SHTF Plan and Survival Blog.

    Thanks to all your insights.

  19. Mr. Ree, re “As far as bartering anything (food, bullets, silver, etc.): What is everyone’s approach to bartering?” Moving conversation to article for posterity. I agree with NRP “If you are needing to “barter” within the first 6 months of a TSHTF event you’re looking for trouble for sure.” I’d even say within the first year. By then your MAG will be settled. You’ll know the rate at which you are using up irreplaceable items. You’ll have a seasonal year practicing replenishment and sustainability. You’ll be aware of other functioning households in your immediate area. And the Blackjack trading posts (Jericho reference) and rudimentary banking/assay services will be springing up. Until then, anything I’ve set aside for bartering will stay secured away. ..
    Some outside items or services might be needed, however. For example, there are medical people in the neighborhood. So I’ve stocked up on dental and medical tools and supplies. Figure if I ask for their help I should have what they’ll need on hand for their use.

    1. Agree 100% AnonyMee
      When everything starts crashing its time to dig in and shore up any and all defensive measures. Bartering is not on the list at all. Dont care who needs what it aint happening. We can go a long time just making do with whatever we can produce or harvest off our land and there will be no end to projects that increase that self reliance and security.
      Going out to barter will show your hand and invite problems. If people are still chugging along after a year then they are either resourceful or at the least were somewhat prepared and knowledgeable. The things they will want to barter at that point would most likely be extra eggs for some squash or smoked meat for some kimchee or some such thing,
      Bartering bullets? Someone wasnt paying attention and wasnt thinking

  20. Kula, my posting about bullets is a what if……let’s say in the moment that bullets and food become the new money and those who only have one gun and one box of bullets will be the first in line to TRY and barter other things for more BULLETS. people tend to think they will never use their bullets as barter, but the shortsighted who need bullets will be glad to barter for them.

    1. Realist,

      You and I are probably on the same page about bartering bullets. My “MAG” (mutual assistance group) is just a few likeminded folks who have their heads on straight and have agreed we will all have to work together to survive if what we see coming comes to fruition.

      My ability to return “favors” with manual labor is decreasing at a rapid pace. I have no problem repaying a favor with some ammo. I’m guessing they already know me well enough that they may already plan on me as being their go-to guy on that commodity….just as I’m depending on one of them for his backhoes should the need arise…or another who has all the equipment to make a butcher shop proud…or the stout back when mine fails. My ammo stocks and reloading capabilities are just a means for me to contribute to the effort.

      Folks outside the circle…no.

Comments are closed.