What Services Will Be Valuable For The Purpose Of Barter?


No one person has the abilities and skills to do everything. Today we trade our services for ‘money’ (currency) and we then use those FRN’s (federal reserve notes) to buy the things and services that we need – which we otherwise do not have or know.

When that system breaks down (e.g. ‘economic collapse’) and/or when we’re thrust into a new post-collapse world (for whatever the reason), the way we exchange for services will not be the same as the old way (for the most part). Chances are that the old money will either become practically worthless (or worth much less) or it will become entirely unavailable.

After the initial shock of collapse, those who make it will begin anew. They will trade and barter services (for ‘things’ AND for other services). We recently asked your opinion for the ‘items’ which might be valuable for barter. Today, we’re asking for your opinion for the ‘services’ which might be valuable for barter…

For those who are ‘prepared’, there will be a time during which you will not need much, if anything, regarding items or services following an initial collapse of some kind. That said, there might be some services during the ensuing chaos which you suddenly discover that you need.

Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, when the ‘dust settles’ from the initial shock wave and chaos, and before a time when (if) a new ‘system’ takes place, you WILL need some services. While some may be more adept at self-sustained living than others, there will be a cross-section of needs for a variety of services in this new post-collapse world.

What will they be? And/or what services (skills) will be good to have during such a time?

Let’s hear from you, and then after there’s enough input I will list them all for a Poll to discover their apparent ‘value’.

Remember, SERVICES, skills, abilities, for BARTER (not ‘things’).

That said, many or most of these ‘services’ will require their ‘tools of the trade’, but my assumption will be that those with a given service, skill, or ability, will already have their associated ‘tools’ if required.


  1. Knowledge of weeds and natural plants/trees etc which can be edible/used for medicine. Also safe instructions for harvesting and use and storage.

    This would be a great skill/knowledge to have, and great to barter, as suspect most weeds/wild plants will escape the average person’s notice and will be plentiful. Also, they tend to nicely “replant” themselves.

  2. I am a Master Farrier which is A Blacksmith and A Horseshoer,I feel that my services will be able to do a lot of bartering.

  3. Any of the building trades
    I believe that any skill will have value

  4. A few barter skills that come to mind:

    Gunsmith (not counting actual repairs, but how many people are capable of cleaning their weapons beyond initial field stripping)
    Ammo reloader
    Mechanic (auto and otherwise) assuming the crash wasn’t caused by an EMP
    Water purifier
    Cook (people that can make food taste good have been in demand all throughout history)
    Barber (maybe not a high value barter skill, but hair doesn’t care about a collapse, it’s gonna keep growing)

    1. I read the report given to the government regarding EMP attack. Cars & trucks may survive depending upon robustness of the electronics & proximity to the conductors. No fuel is the issue. But a mechanic with the ability to build a wood gasifier will probably do alright. I suspect their will be a lot of wood burner & alcohol conversions made post collapse.

      1. @jayjay
        I thought about adding that one, but I think that after a collapse passing on skills to the next generations will be through apprenticeship programs. For awhile anyway, till things normalize somewhat, whatever the new normal will be.

        After thinking some more about it though, if there is any kind of lack of electricity, entertainers will be needed. For general morale, and for some, just a reason for living. Singers, dancers, story tellers, musicians, magicians, artists, you name it, people always need an escape from monotony. Cavemen drew on cave walls for a reason…

      2. No one ever mentions books. Without TV or radio, books will be greatly in demand for enterainment, as well as information.

  5. What skills are useful for the purposes of trade are largely contingent upon a) the depth of the collapse and b) the length of the collapse period and c) the type of the collapse.

    Say it were a mega drought but solely in the USA, then while horrific in terms of lack of useful skillsets in the survivors, survival in a weather based scenario is highly dependent upon a) outside aid assistance and b) supply chains c) how many countries are active and to what degree.

    Whereas if it’s a worldwide pandemic, then there might be abundant specialists with skills, but dispersed across vast distances, and unable to connect the supply chain to make both skills and services work.

    But let’s take the tack of a general post-collapse in which the supply chain is merely broken for two years in duration. This results in massive deaths from utility loss, lack of materials, and movement of key personnel to restore areas of needed skills since it’s happening across the breadth of an entire country.

    In such a case, while initially the postmodern medical skills of allopathic medicine are crucial for survival, without getting the needed materials from point A to point B to point C, then most would die from practicing that now temporarily obsolete form of routine medicine.

    So while in those two years, if allopathic medical supplies could be found and transferred, then the stanard allopathic medically trained technicians (physicians, RNs, LPNs, Respiratory techs, etc) would be honestly useless.

    You see, it almost always comes to the supply chain personnel. In history that meant river bargemen, drovers, cartwrights, teamsters, etc. Then of course any skills that fed into these forms like equine vets, carpenters, sailors, ship builders, etc.

    Herbal medicine would become mainstream as it was for the pioneers.

    Completely new forms of practical teaching in the form of mentors would 80% of the time pass along ancestral skills to the younger generation survivors, but only based upon some barter for these teachers to have room and board. There would be no public education anymore, and probably 95% of current teachers have little useful practical skills for teaching.

    Well diggers and Biosand filter makers and people who can take the same information used currently in South America and Africa and India villages to make sanitation work again in America. The greatest change to public health in American history came about through proper water sanitation.

    Agriculture would be something everyone would be doing, but you’d likely have overseers and a quasiform of serfdom to equate to harvested produce as payment.

    Wood-gas generators could be added to carburator based trucks, so a specialized essential skill. It takes a pound of wood to run a mile (based upon poor BTU transfer versus the joules released by gasoline). You run into engineering issues for smaller vehicles versus fuel capacity. This means actively replanting forests to have the wood to utilize as fuel.

    Alternatively you have skilled growth of canola as a fuel supply and any skills feeding into that.

    Over 95% of present skills would be superfluous. Other than agriculture, you need one person who knows enough to do it all…versus a widget maker.

  6. grist mill
    medical, especially orthopedic and dentistry
    seed collecting
    teacher of skills
    electrical generation
    fabric maker
    ammunition reloading

    1. Being able to manufacture a “quern” (hand operated gristmill) would indeed be a useful skill. Being able to mill lots of grain would be a very special skill, almost certainly requiring a flowing river and significant engineering to construct a working mill…plus maintain it too!

      The old pounding method is significant work, but then there’s no stone grit in that versus a quern. One method with pounding worked by suspending the tool among tree branches to allow it to bounce back up and halving the amount of mechanical energy to pound grain into flour.

      The rolling method used by mestizos in the Americas also results in a heavy amount of grit and dental loss too.

      I’ve yet to see a good way to grind the grain outside of the hand operated mechanical mills or bicycle peddled ones. If you think about it, it’s a lot of effort for a nominal amount of calories. In other words, it would be better to make a porridge recipe instead (likely with white clover flowers added to stretch out the wheat harvest).

      It would take a ton of work to make fabric. There are significant technological reasons why fabric was a luxury in history. Obviously it means running either a wool operation or flax. Some old prepper novels have remarked how finding sewing needles will be all but impossible post-collapse.

      I’ve long told folks to learn how to convert old discarded tires to making shoe soles (and or making replacement roofing tiles). Both will be very valuable skills post-collapse.

  7. is such an interesting topic that I have been thinking about for some time. Having had parents,& in-laws that came through the depression & having farmed for a number of years between DH & myself we have a number of skill that could get us through some tough times but not all that I wish for.

    Things I think we need more of include:

    1. While HD & I are both trained in 1st aid we don’t know how to make medicine from nature. Therefore we would either have to trade for the medicine or the knowledge of how to make.

    2. Saving seeds. While it is easy to save some seeds like peas, beans, & vines, carrots, turnips, beets etc would be harder.

    3. While I can & freeze meat I have never made hams, bacon, sausage etc. so this is something I’d need to barter for if the collapse comes before fall. In the fall we are buying 1/2 a pig from a neighbour & we plan to work together on learning these tasks.

    4. I can dehydrate using an electric dehydrator but if the power is down I would need help knowing how to do it on a car dash without having bugs lay eggs in it.

    1. One way to learn some of these skills you mentioned is to seek out a trade of skills with someone who knows them. Another way to theoretically learn is to read how your ancestors did these things in history. What I see too often is people thinking that they can use the modern items they can source today in stores, and then therefore do some task or skill, but that means they are entirely dependent upon that item. See the problem?

      Say it’s something like baking bread. Well in history there’s mainly yeast bread from either wild yeasts like sourdough, but also (and mostly forgotten except by chefs) is making yeast for baking from yeast from grapes. If one has milk, then you can make salt rising bread. If one had a source of tartaric acid, then one could make an aproximate baking powder. That stuff will run out, so thinking about making biscuits is rather out of the question for most everyone post-collapse as the baking powder and tartaric acid runs out. Most people won’t have milk, so salt rising bread is mostly out too.

      So a valuable skill would be learning how to harvest grapes (or similar items like persimmons as our ancestors did), knowing the trees and the time of harvest, and then how to naturally dehydrate them. Because dehydration is the most likely the best skill to acquire, and one that needs little technology, then dehydration is a skill taught to villagers in 3rd world countries by using the sun and drying racks. Hot air moves over the produce, wicks away the humidity produced from this process, and cuts down on mold formation.

      If you did both harvest the persimmon, dried them, then you could also harvest some of the yeasts from them and make bread from that yeast that formed…or you could ferment them too.

      What’s more, persimmon can be used as an ink, a coffee substitute (without the kick), an astringent, an antiseptic, or shuttles for looms, great wedges for splitting firewood, or even gunstocks!

      Every skill builds upon another with Nature, ancestral knowledge, and good old common sense. Now we think of this special packet of yeast to make our bread rise in a predictable way, but that is NOT how our ancestors did things.

      Doctors and nurses today are taught strictly how to use this carefully sanitized item or drug, to treat that kind of condition. It’s mostly about diagnosis and remedy and there’s very little medicine anymore to it. As such, the average doc or nurse frankly knows just about nothing about practical post-collapse medicine. Why? They won’t have access to their tools like sterilized bandages, antibiotics, diagnostic tests and equipment, computers, etc.

      Even if you happened upon a trained person, and somehow lucked into a cache of these medical items, they would run out, expire, or be a wild guess since they lack testing facilities to identify the primary causes.

      If one today knew what medical herbs were located around their neighborhood, herbal history, gardening, harvesting, making tinctures (which means knowing how to produce alcohol), then maybe, just maybe that person could then mentor others post-collapse. And at least one person in our family/tribe will have to know all of these skills or it directly affects them all come the first serious pentrating wound while cutting firewood or infection or exposure to trench foot (also known as immersion foot), or merely from drinking bad water or eating snails and getting parasites.

      1. You have so underestimated the skills and knowledge of the medical profession it’s is offensive. Those who have been in the profession for years and years most of the time can diagnose most ailments with no tests, little equipment and simple technology. For example an experienced doctor or nurse can identify remarkably well many specific bacterial infections just from the smell. They’ll run the test but it just confirms what they highly suspect. Grid down, getting it right 90% of the time just using observational skills and comparing to their mental database of thousands of data points will be highly valuable. And don’t underestimate just how much many in the professions know about alternative treatments… Clients that want those today are pretty typical and the professions try to accommodate as possible.

  8. Herbal Healer
    Leaders (who can organize and supervise)

  9. Doctors, Dentist, Blacksmith’s, Carpenters, and Cobblers will most likely be the most needed. I would also add Auto Mechanics but that would depend on if there has been an EMP or even how long gas will be available. The same with electricians. Herbalist for the long haul after conventional medicines are gone. Maybe someone that has the knowledge and know how to build a steam engine. There are others that might not be need for awhile until the current resources are exhausted, like wool spinners.

  10. All survivors will be required to posses a functional brain and the ability to properly employ critical thinking common sense. Merely possessing a functional breath reflex will no longer be sufficient for survival. A great number of Americans are going to discover that their existence is superfluous.

    Skills aside, I believe that 6-12 months post collapse, their will be some common mental attributes. Adaptability, ability to focus, self learner, critical thinker, relatively healthy, and possibly emotionally stable.

  11. Most small farmers repair just about everything that breaks on the farm. I think that a jack of all trades and master of none will be in high demand. My dad was a farmer and he said many times never pay a man to do something that you can do yourself.

    1. BTW, the saying is, “Jack of all trades, master of ONE.” Not “master of NONE”. It means to have one thing you’re really good at, but be competent at many things.

      1. I don’t know what part of the country that you were born in , but in the south GOD COUNTRY JACK OF ALL TRADES AND MASTER OF NONE MEANS THE PERSON CAN DO MANY THINGS BUT MASTER OF NONE. There are very few real masters around but a lot of people can do many things but they are not a expert. My dad also said YOU WILL BE SURPRIZE WHAT YOU CAN DO IF YOU WILL JUST TRY.

  12. Accomplished sewing person for repairs and construction.

    Accomplished shoe repair person with supplies.

    Hatmaker for sunhats, winter hats, etc. Same with glovemaker.

  13. Welder. I have a generator to run my welder and at least 100 gal of gasoline in my tank. Also have two wells.

  14. A way around the need for yeast or leavening of any sort is to learn to make flatbread and crackers. They can be savory and sweet and used for wraps and rolled sandwiches. Very easy and very tasteful. You really only need flour and water, but can dress them up with herbs, spices, seasonings, nuts and/or seeds.

    1. I agree Margie on flatbreads. They were the common way that all civilizations worked around the problem of rising breads. As hunter-gatherer societies stopped roaming with the wild game, and to harvest the surrounding wild edibles, and then switched to beginning cultivation and herd animals first, then grains became an important aspect of a daily meal. That often meant flatbreads of one kind or another.

      An adaptation of this during hard times like the Civil War in America or even just the Mountain Men who largely learned fur trapping and hunting as a skill (hint hint), was making hardtack versus standard sourdough bread. You can find a great youtube video by Dave Cantebury on making hard tack while living in a yurt. Because your flour can go bad, and you don’t know when due to weather conditions (like higher humidity) or weevils or whatever, then the skill of knowing how to make hardtack is immensely useful. A pinch of wood ashes was often the leavening for this.

      The people of Scandanavian countries have a version called Knackebrod which is rather like a dessert. Some Native Americans made fry bread as a smart way to load the bread with calories and not waste the drippings. The Irish were being starved out and they mixed what flour they had with white clover blossoms to make Irish spoonbread too. Of course there’s variations like panfortte made by medieval Italian crusaders that’s really an early form of vegetarian food bars as a dense flatbread, or foccacia made over a grill.

      All of these things mean you have gatherer wild edibles, cultivated various plants, harvested and preserved them, plus have the cookware to make these outside. That’s a lot of skills.

      It’s my opinion that people who can make rocket stoves from discarded tin cans and those who can make outdoor cob ovens (from clay as the name is a misnomer) can both market these skills for barter, but ALSO help themselves too. Why? The rocket stove idea burns twigs as fuel. The cob oven means a central place to bake food. Both mean far less forestry work is needed to replant and plan thinning out existing forest. That translates into more wood to harvest for tools and construction (or wood-gas generators) and not wasted by regular outdoor cooking.

      Making a cob oven means that someone is skilled in communicating the idea, knows how to harvest clay from the ground, and can sell the idea as a community project. Making things from clay is a very useful building material skill as it’s insulated, stays cooler, and it’s the major component of the soil made stronger by the addition of grasses.

      One of the biggest problems in say even a rural community making it will be too many bosses and not enough people willing to admit that their skills are no longer useful. Much of pioneer life was grunt work, harsh physical labor that could literally lead to early onset arthritis, so many potential survivors will want to boss others around rather than learn ancestral ways of coping. You do more work with less food and that equals grumby starving survivors. That leads to anarchy and survival of the strong preying upon the weak.

      Christianity in pioneer history led to rural homesteaders passing along their hard won skills to others out of Christian charity and living into the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats. Without some unifying central purpose like spirituality, and similar mindset and ethos, then community is just a theoretical concept. Christian preppers can either model it early on as the collapse progresses by mentoring and sharing skills, or expect rising safety concerns and constant threats by their neighbors.

  15. Alright, I’ll be the one that goes there.. The book One Second After touched on it a bit but when unprepared women who are without a significant other and desperate for them and their children, they will likely be bartering themselves for what they need. Sad but true..

    1. just a heads up

      a sequel entitled ONE YEAR AFTER is coming out in September of this year

  16. Bicycle repairer. Remember how many people in Europe rode bicycles after the end of WW2?

  17. Mortician/ undertaker skills or knowing the proper methods to properly care for the deceased. With the potential for mass casualties, being especially prepared in this area may help reduce/delay pandemic of assorted diseases.

  18. Haven’t seen Veterinarian yet. They have excellent surgical skills that can be useful for humans and we’ll need to keep our livestock healthy.

    What a bunch of thoughtful people! Fun article!

  19. Leather work
    Sewing and upholstery
    Farm services
    Equipment repair
    Welding and fabrication
    They are NOT the same,,,
    Tool making

  20. Hunter
    vegan dietary deprivation therapist

  21. If you get the Boy Scout survival handbook…I think that just about sums it up. One little book has just about everything you need in it. Everything else you barter for. Having said that….

    after a true collapse…having a sort of library of material to trade with would be good. Obviously some of the material would be nonfiction, but kinda like the book mailboxes now…people sometimes like to escape their everyday life and dive into a book. It’s a little luxury that would be easy to trade with

  22. solar and wind energy specialists
    occidental & oriental medicine practitioners
    weapons specialists
    nuclear, chemical & biological specialists
    food gatherers

    1. Finally, the mention of power! Thank you :) solar and wind will be huge!

  23. While all the skills mentioned above are good skills to possess, I doubt that in tough times, that someone would be willing to trade their limited supply of something for many of them. Maybe a trade of labor for labor would be more realistic. But for someone to trade something tangible, something that they might never be able to replace, that would require a real desperate situation. This is why the top of the list should be doctor/vet. People would trade just about anything for their loved one to get medical treatment should they require it, or for their food providing animals to be treated. Also the skill would be always in demand no matter what world we are living in. People will always be getting injured and sick, same for food animals.

    1. I don’t agree that people won’t trade things that can’ be replaced. As I get older I can’t do what I could as a younger man. Everyone would need to put a personal value on what they had to barter. I may not be able to replace and axe but might be willing to barter it for someone to cut a few years of firewood for me. Another example might be to trade something to get a chunk of land cleared and prepared for a garden. Irreplaceable, IMHO, would be in the eye of the beholder.

      1. poorman, either you are more trusting than me, or …

        personally I would not trade anything (axe or other) in exchange for a “few yrs of labor (cutting wood)”..

        personally, I have learned the hard way that although you might get the first yrs labor, after that the “help” is likely to disappear/axe break through bad use, etc…

        keep your axe, and ensure the wood is chopped on your land, maybe in exchange for taking some of the wood home..

        keep your tools.

        1. @Anon I don’t trust people very much as people are weak and while they may have the best intentions they don’t always follow through I agree. I mentioned trading certain things to make people think about the fact that what might be important to them might not to others and that all people will put different values on different things. Since you focused on the wood if you read what I said I never mentioned anything about people coming back. I said that you might trade an axe for a couple of years worth of wood, In my case that would be about 6 cords. I also never said that this would be my only axe. I believe in backups to backups.

  24. Didn’t see it here when skimming the comments:

    Tanning animal hides

  25. Small engine repair, welder, knowledge of animal husbandry with skills in veterinary medicine. Farming and gardening skills and ability to preserve and can your harvest.

  26. How about septic tank pump out guy? He’ll be able to live like a king.

    1. I think some people will likely build an outhouse at that point.

  27. People will be people, I have often heard that a man will spend his last dollar (or supply) on a drink. After TSHTF and it settles down, a man and some women will be looking for that magic elixir called “booze”.

    Having the skills of a Brewer (beer), Wine maker, Distiller will be invaluable. Knowing how to find the ingredients to Brew and Distill will get you probably any of the above “workers” you will need to succeed in the survival life. Additionally the distilling aspect is good for making all kinds of “cleaning, medical, and Fuel” supplies. (for those that don’t drink)


    1. These type of people, who would trade whatever they have for a drink, would soon have nothing, provided they had much to begin with, and they would likely try to kill you to take that drink away from you.

      1. I do not disagree with you there Z. that’s some/most of the problems with bartering, heck even in the movie Mad-Max bartering was a way of life though. :-( I was pointing out that people are addicted to their habits and will trade whatever they have for that last drink, last cigarette, last “fix”, last(I hate to say it)sexual encounter. It’s human nature what people will do.

        As far as someone killing you for whatever you have to barter with, yes, that’s a very very good probability. Hence I most likely would not enter the Bartering Game unless extremely needed.

  28. I think that depends on the rate of population die off and the amount of “waste” that will need pumping. In a fairly populous suburban area that isn’t connected to the sewer system perhaps. But in less populous rural areas something that only needs cleaning once every year or two might not make anyone rich. Plus the pump truck would need to be in working order, i.e. it wasn’t affected by an EMP and gas is still available, and someone keeps it in working condition.

    A step down from that but probably more practical would be outhouse digger and builder. In a time of scarcity who is going to want to waste water flushing a toilet when it could be used elsewhere. Another big one might be someone who could set up humanure composting systems and humanure toilets. Sawdust would become a commodity because wood chips don’t work.

    If times are tough, people aren’t going to pay someone to pump a septic system, they’ll just dig a hole themselves for an outhouse.

    Aim higher up the necessity ladder if you’re looking to get rich off other people’s misery:
    Health/Medical, Dental

    Any skill that supports any major “need” will be in demand. It’ll be years, maybe decades before people start worrying about luxuries once again. Even then, it’ll have to be something difficult or monotonous for someone to want to barter for labor for something that most will just do themselves. What those eggs or chickens will be worth will depend on what someone “can’t” do. The idea of not wanting to do something will go out the window the first time they’re hungry after giving away food in exchange for labor. They’ll learn quick to start doing things themselves. Until, they start to amass an abundance of, anything. For a long time the only abundance anyone will have is their time and labor.

  29. Most of these comments have great ideas, but they are based on the ability to move from place to place, freedom to barter, and freedom to store extras. From what I see coming and the laws already on the books, in the event of martial law, all food, utilities, water, basically everything we own becomes ” property of the state.” If we have more than what is reasonable, it will be taken from us. no hoarding will be allowed. Bartering will be curtailed and will have to be done in the sly. Our freedoms will not be what they are now! Look back at the previous wars. The goal of this one will be to ” thin the herds” . If we are put into Fema Camps, your home and supplies will then be the property of others. I hate to burst the bubble of happy little scenarios of helping our neighbors and trading supplies, but I just don’t think thing will turn out that way.

  30. Assuming it is a Prepper who already has a years worth of food storage on hand…

    1. Tactical security(actual training and practice not just at a gun range…)

    2. Medical-family doctor. Can do everything from knowing what sickness you have to deliver a baby(people will trade an arm and a leg to save their life or their child’s life)

    3. Handyman(knows a little about cars, building, power and electronics, small mortors, carpentry… Etc…)

    4. Horticulture, including native and non native plants. (Includes what many call edible plant…)

    5. Last but not least a trained mind set of business, negotiating skills. (This would allow one to actually work with others and find the needs of those around them in order to actual barter)

    Many prepared people are not risk takers and cincical of others by nature and will have a hard time being willing to actual barter and “start a business”.

  31. Moonshiner.
    Cannabis cultivator.
    Brothel manager.
    “Motor Trade”.
    Homeopathic Herbalist.

  32. Knowing how to / having a old fashioned Treadle Sewing Machine (and a few spare needles/parts)

  33. To: Smoke Jensen:

    Did you just say Brothel Manager?

    Where I came from, we call these people: “Pimps”

    Nice thought though my wife would kill me and take all my guns and reloading gear.

  34. Nurses with diverse backgrounds in:
    Primary Care
    Medical / Surgical
    Critical Care
    End of Life Care
    Pediatric Care

  35. having a supply of barter items would be useful, they can be traded for goods and labor. people have their vices also, alcohol and tobacco. alcohol can be made from most anything. i planted some tobacco several years ago just for fun.
    it grew well and made some very pretty wide leaf plants. i wouldn’t mind having some close to the house.
    tobacco is planted VERY differently than most everything else so do your research before you start.
    paper, gold and silver may or may not be a commodity for exchange one day, but goods and services will always be in demand.

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