Don’t Wait for the You-Know-What to Hit the Fan, Barter Now

A surplus of oranges to trade
Use barter to get rid of excess goods and create goodwill.

I’ve posted about barter occasionally, usually as something you do after the SHTF, when printed Federal Reserve notes (dollar bills to most of us) have no value. Today, I’d like to talk about it as something you can do right now.

You know the air compressor and the 18-gauge brad nailer I use to build frames for my beehive? I did not buy those, but I traded for them. (I bought the narrow gauge stapler.) A drill press I had inherited was sitting in my storage unit, and I did not want to move it. I knew another fellow who works at Lowes, which gives him early access to returned items and clearance goods. He was interested in the drill press, so we traded my drill press (free to me) for his air compressor and brad nailer set (low cost to him.) We both saved money and walked away happy.

Currently, I am looking to trade my high-end Festool orbital sander for a full size nail gun suitable for framing. I also have a Senco drywall screw gun I am looking to unload because my current log house uses very little drywall. Yes, I could sell these on eBay, but that’s a hassle and generates income that must be reported. I’d rather trade if I can find someone who wants one or the other of these items and has or can get the item I want.

Trading Your Preps

Even before the end of the world as we know it, you can use some of your prepper stash to trade with others. For example, last year, canning jars and canning jar lids were in short supply. I traded four dozen regular canning jar lids for something I needed. My original cost was probably about $12 or $13, but because no one could find them, I got what I would consider $20 worth of value out of them. The key is that the trade satisfied both parties. I have since replaced than at $3.60 per dozen. So not only did I come out ahead, this trade eventually resulted in new lids with fresh rubber seals.

These days, ammunition is in short supply. If you have 20,000 or more rounds of 5.56 or 9mm, I would not blame you if you trade some for something you need. A thousand rounds of ammo that you originally spent $300 on now has a value of $750 or more. That means you could probably trade 1,000 rounds for a new gun.

Some of my ammo stores are in ammo cans for long term storage, but I also keep some in their original Federal or Remington cases. When you show up to trade with someone and you have a case of ammo that has never been opened, the other party gets a very good feeling about the trade. When they see those giant metal staples and the glued box flaps, they can be positive that you are not giving them reloads.

Determining Price or Fairness

If the product in a barter deal is new, I just look up the price online. When dealing with used products, I often go on eBay and see what the average rate for an identical product is. Then I evaluate the condition of what I am trading or what I am trading for and adjust accordingly.

When you come right down to it, the value of the item (and fairness of the deal) is in the eye of the beholder. If you have something they want, they will trade you something they don’t need, even if the actual value is greater.

For example, I have the tool box off my totaled truck. It does not fit my new truck, so to me it is worth only what I can get for scrap value for the aluminum. However, if I can find someone who has the correct size truck bed, its value would be higher for them. That’s how successful win-win trades are made.

Likewise, if I replace my.30-06 rifle with a new rifle in 6.5 Creedmoor, then my stash of.30-06 ammo no longer has much value to me. But if I can find a prepper with a Garand, a M1903 Springfield, or one of the many other rifles that chambers the.30-06, then we may be able to do a trade in which both feel we came out ahead. That’s my objective: Get something I want in a deal for something they want, so we are both happy.

The Importance of Good Will

In my opinion, you should never rake the other guy over the coals. Don’t make him pay through the nose with a lopsided trade because one day he may turn the tables on you. In the long run, an excellent reputation as a fair and trustworthy person is worth far more than resentment and anger. Generosity is a good thing.

I was talking to a friend about our gardens, and he said that as a kid, they planted four rows of corn and usually ended up with enough ripe corn to fill a pickup truck bed. That was far more than they could eat, can, and freeze, so they would give the excess it away. What a great idea! Who among us would not feel kindly to those nice neighbors who dropped off a dozen or two ears of corn every summer?

Sometimes trades can be three way. Person C has something you want. Person B wants what you have. B and C trade. Then you trade with B. All three get what they want.

Trades can also be fore services.  Remember the hobos in the great depression who would chop kindling or do chores for a meal. You don’t have to wait for the bad times.

Where to Find Trades

I think a friendly trade between friends and acquaintances is the best trade going. Next best is with a friend of a friend. You tell your buddy you are looking to unload some.30-06 ammo. He doesn’t need any, but he has a friend who does. Before you know it, his buddy is changing the oil and tuning up your four-wheeler in return for three boxes of ammo, and you both feel you came out ahead. Maybe you’ll even make a new friend and go four-wheeling or shooting together.

If your local network or extended network doesn’t work, look at Craigslist for someone selling what you want. Email them and offer a trade. Worst case, they won’t answer or will decline. Just shrug and move on to the next listing. Eventually, you might find someone willing to make the trade.

There are also websites dedicated to trading and bartering. Some are for specific items–like books–while others are unlimited. Not having used any of these, I’m not going to recommend a specific one, but here a list that looks pretty comprehensive:

If you’ve made a great trade, tell us about it in the comments, below.

For more on barter, read How to Prosper in a Barter Economy.