Why You Should Stockpile High Value Barter Items
We discuss the idea (and importance) of stockpiling a lot on this site. In this article, we’re going to focus more specifically on the best items to stockpile for bartering…
When TEOTWAWKI (see the survival glossary if you don’t know what this means) happens and society as we know it has collapsed, you’ll be extremely glad that you were a prepper or survivalist. That’s because chances are, you’ll have a decent stockpile for survival… and to use for bartering.
Today we’ll talk about the best bartering items to stock up on in preparation for the end of the world, and the aftermath of SHTF.
Some of these items will be of immediate use to you, especially if you find yourself in an isolated situation where you have absolutely zero access to supplies; but since this is an article specifically about barter items, all of them will be great tools/items for bartering with other lonely survivors in whatever collapsed society you find yourself in.
We won’t get into specifics about why exactly you should stockpile stuff specifically for bartering if we’re trying to plan for the end of the world… chances are you’ve already thought about this and you have a pretty good idea, otherwise you probably wouldn’t be reading this in the first place.
The main idea here is that even in a post apocalyptic world, if there are other survivors, then trade will happen organically. If you manage to survive the worst of whatever disaster occurs (and you want to avoid the need to constantly scrape and scavenge for resources), then having access to a pile of stuff that other people might want is a good way to ensure that you’ll be able to get the things that you need.
Not only will you be able to trade items from your stockpile for other items that you need, but you will likely be able to trade your items for services. Having access to resources that others want or need is how you set yourself up to avoid being powerless in whatever new society emerges from the ashes of the apocalypse.
For example: if you need a doctor, you might be able to barter trade a carton of cigarettes or a gallon of drinking water for medical help.
The possibilities are endless. The point is, when the world comes undone and money loses its value, then the things that will be valuable will be the things that are useful and the things that provide pleasure to people.
Just watch out for your stash. If other survivors get wind of the size of your stockpile, who knows what might happen. Remember, the rich and powerful in our current world are (mostly) protected by laws and civility. In the post apocalypse, neither of these are likely to exist.
Keep in mind that while this list is vaguely “in order”, it’s not exactly ranked. We’ve grouped different types of barter items into different categories. In our view, #1 is will prove more valuable as a barter item than #15, but #10 might not necessarily more valuable than #11. Hopefully that makes sense. The main point is that everything on this list – 1 through 30 – will prove valuable to you in any kind of post-apocalyptic society where bartering once again becomes common.
Best Barter Items for SHTF
Essentials: The Very Best Barter Items
#1: Guns & Ammunition: A body can only carry so much ammunition and so many weapons. If you find yourself well-stocked with rifles and handguns, it could be worth it to stockpile a few extra cheap .22 rifles for bartering with. And don’t forget the ammo. Even a single box of ammunition could be traded for something very important. Bullets and guns will be in huge demand. Don’t forget, in a real SHTF situation, it’s entirely possible that neither bullets nor guns will be produced any more – so they’ll be a very finite resource. Add to that the fact that in the absence of law and societal expectations, weapons will literally be the only thing that the weak can use to protect themselves from the strong. Any person who wants to be able to defend themselves or their family from harm will want a firearm and ammunition
(Note: if you do own guns, make sure you’re being responsible – that means knowing how to shoot, store, and maintain them. You should also try to learn a bit about gun anatomy so you know the possible malfunctions that might occur.)
#2: Medicine: This is another big one. Medicine is up there with gun and ammo as potentially lifesaving. Try stockpiling cold and flu medicine, antibiotics (did you know you can make your own pencillin?), disinfectants, vitamins, pain killers, OTC medications, and even allergy medications. It’s also worth stockpiling specialty medication like insulin, anxiety medications, and other popular meds people won’t be able to get when everything goes down. Obviously we don’t advise you to break the law to do this (you have to survive in the current as well). But if you can find a way to stock up on the most common essential medicines, they’d definitely be in very high demand in a barter society.
#3: Water: This should be obvious. Water is the most important commodity and has been for centuries. By stockpiling more than you need, you can trade water for food or medicine. Water will always be more precious than anything else. When stuff starts going wrong, be sure to fill your tub, your sinks, every pot and container in your house. And it’s recommended to stockpile a few years’ worth of (safely stored) water. Some forms of water storage have a shelf life, whereas otherwise can practically last forever. You want the latter, as storing water that’s not safe to drink could be dangerous to you, and it makes that water ineffective as a barter good.
#4: Canned Food & Dry Food: Any non-perishable food item should be stocked from floor to ceiling in your bunker or survival encampment. As with water, food will always be extremely important. When modern manufacturing and production stops and mass agriculture collapses in upon itself, some of the only food remaining will be canned food, dried goods, and if you’re well prepared, freeze dried survival food kits. Crackers, biscuits, canned vegetables, canned beans, and every other easily storable food that won’t perish should be stockpiled in your cellar, barn, bunker, or wherever else. Enough for you, your family, and anyone who wants to barter.
#5: Livestock: If you have been prepping for some time and you have the means, then you might have access to quite a bit of land. If you don’t have any livestock already, we suggest you get some. Even just having a dozen chickens and a few pigs can make a serious difference. If agriculture is gone, people will be desperate for livestock. Chickens are an infinite source of eggs (and more chickens), pigs will be worth their weight in gold when there is no fresh meat, and even donkeys and mules can be used as pack animals. Basically, have yourself a small farm and keep the animals for trade… and a few to eat. Animals take upkeep, but in a world where food is scarce they become exceedingly valuable. There’s a reason why in many places in history, wealth was measured by how many animals you owned.
#6: First Aid Supplies: First aid supplies are almost on par with medicine. You will for sure have several first aid kits, but you might want to keep a few spare ones to barter with. Things like antibiotic cream, bandages, gauze, stitches, needles, splints, ice packs, and anything else a body can use to heal – these would all be exceedingly useful in any survival situation, and that would make them valuable as barter goods.
High Value Barter Items: “Vice” Goods
#7: Cigarettes: Even if you don’t smoke, cigarettes will definitely be one of the greatest bartering tools for the end of the world. People love smoking, and even if it’s lost its luster in recent years, you can bet the stress caused by the literal end of the world is going to push a lot of folks to crave a nicotine fix. Saving six or seven cartons of cigarettes will get you farther than you know. They don’t even have to be the expensive kind!
#8: Alcohol: Let’s not for a minute think alcohol won’t be extremely valuable once liquor stores go out of business. A few bottles of whiskey, vodka, or even rum will go a long way when bartering. Moonshine and hard liquor are what the people will want – so you better have a surplus. Also, learning to brew your own alcoholic beverages (anything from cider to moonshine) at home is another invaluable skill, because it will make you valuable to others, which in turn can act as protection.
#9: Coffee: Coffee will be an irreplaceable luxury that most people would pay a fortune for if the world goes wrong. Think about how much coffee the average person drinks, and imagine what a luxury good it would be if it weren’t widely available. Be sure to keep good amounts of instant coffee packets and bags of grinds. Someone might trade you a whole lot of useful stuff for a supply of coffee in a world where none is available.
#10: Drugs: You may not like it and you may not agree with it, but people love drugs. It doesn’t even matter what kind. All we’re saying is that it’s an undeniable fact that drugs will be extremely valuable to certain kinds of people in SHTF – just like drugs are valuable to some people right now. Obviously we aren’t going to recommend that you stockpile anything illegal. If marijuana is legal in your area, it might be worth building up a stockpile of that for barter purposes. For illegal stuff – we won’t say anything other than if you do stockpile them, do it in a way that’s smart, secure, and can’t be linked back to you. Any survival plans and preparations that you make will be pointless if you end up in prison.
Commodities and “Trade Goods” For Bartering
#11: Batteries: Batteries, all of them. AAA batteries, AA batteries, big D batteries, and even car batteries if you have some to spare. Batteries will be extremely valuable, as without an electric grid to power outlets there won’t be any recharging. Batteries will be used for flashlights and radios, plus a dozen random everyday appliances people might be using. While electronics won’t be essential, being able to power a small appliance for any period of time will be considered a great luxury, and because of this batteries will be highly valued.
#12: Fuel: This one is self-explanatory. Stockpile gasoline. If you can, fill an entire reserve tank with gasoline somewhere on your property. People will need gasoline to power their machines, their tools, their vehicles, and their generators. Generators are a big one, and people will pay good in trade for a constant supply of fuel. Stockpiling generators themselves would be another good move, but obviously they’re expensive and take up a lot of space. On a separate note, we highly recommend you get one of the recommended best portable solar generators (for preppers) for your own family – that way you’ll almost always have some kind of access to a power source, even if its a temporary one. Also, you might want to add siphoning gas to your arsenal of survival skills as an additional way to scavenge for barter-able goods.
#13: Gold, Silver, and Precious Metals/Gems: No matter what kind of cataclysmic event shakes the world, people will always love shiny metals like gold and silver… If you have gold or silver, hoard it. People also love shiny things. Watches, rings, necklaces, and other precious jewelry (or even just precious gems) can likely be traded for things of value during the apocalypse. If the idea is that we’re reverting to a more primitive world… well, gold and silver have historically been sought after by many different primitive civilizations and cultures. (For a deep dive into this, read our article about whether you should be buying gold and silver for survival or not.)
#14: Salt, Sugar, & Spices: The only thing worse than eating rats, tiny birds, and even roadkill is eating it without seasoning or spices. If you have a small stock of common spices handy for trade, you could make someone’s next meal more than just bearable. Also, keep some sugar handy. Remember, a huge amount of “bartering” in the ancient world was driven by things like spices. In a world without mass production, it’s likely that salt and spices will once again become incredibly valued.
Health & Hygiene: Items That You’ll Also Use Yourself
#15: Soap: Hygiene will go out the window quickly. Having a dozen or so bars of soap stockpiled is a smart idea. The filthier the average person gets, the more people are going to want soap. Bars of soap are super cheap now and will likely be very valuable later on if SHTF. Soap also lasts for ages when stored.
#16: Toilet Paper: This one isn’t too important, but you could probably do some good trading for a few rolls of toilet paper. Even if people start going in the streets or in the woods, they will definitely appreciate some fresh toilet paper rather than an old rag or dried leaves. It’ll be a luxury item rather than a necessity, but certain types of people will definitely be interested in bartering for toilet paper.
#17: Hygiene Products: Everyone needs to stay hygienic. We’re talking about toothpaste and toothbrushes, floss, wet wipes for cleaning, shampoo, etc. It won’t be people’s #1 priority, but these things will still have some value. Additionally, feminine hygiene products will likely be very valuable to women.
#18: Baby Supplies: Wherever there are men and women, there will be babies. While primitive people certainly managed to survive without modern baby supplies, there’s little doubt that things like diapers, baby food, and so forth will be highly in demand for any survivors who have a baby to take care of.
#19: Condoms & Birth Control: If most people are focused on survival, and doctors are no longer widely available, then the vast majority of people will try to desperately avoid having a baby in any kind of extended apocalyptic scenario. After all, in a genuine life or death situation, having to take care of a baby can only really hurt your chances of survival. The various forms of contraceptives and birth control will be highly sought after by men and women alike.
SHTF Gear and Tools (That Other Survivors Will Want to Trade for)
#20: Radios: If you have extra radios, even ones made for kids, don’t throw them away. People will always need a way to communicate, and radios will be a huge, in-demand item. Maybe pick a few kids’ short-length radios for a few bucks and keep them handy. Obviously you’ll want a set of radios for your own use as well – see our articles about the best hand crank radios and best survival two way radios.
#21: Survival Tools: This one is important. By survival tools, we’re talking about general survival equipment. Machetes, survival knives, fishing tackle, fishing line, tarps, e tools, flints, matches, hatchets, multi tools, duct tape, trapping gear, etc. The list goes on and on. Anything you can think of that would be handy for surviving in the wilderness – have two! One for you, one extra for bartering (or if the first one breaks).
#22: Portable Gear: Extra bags, backpacks, duffel bags, storage tins, mason jars, weapon holsters, plastic bags, garbage bags, suitcases, purses, fanny packs, and other gear that can be used for transporting items is invaluable. You might be surprised to find someone offering a whole lot of their own goods just for a backpack with both straps, or something to store their food items in.
#23 Clothing: This is something every prepper should know. Never throw away your clothing or your family’s clothing. Even when your kids outgrow their shoes and their shirts, keep them in storage. Doing this throughout your life may seem totally ridiculous, but in the end if you have a giant stockpile of clothing, you can use it all for trade. Clothing in stores won’t last long, and clothing on people’s backs will last even less time. By saving your jackets, shoes, jeans, underpants, socks, pajamas, hats, bandanas, gloves, boots, t-shirts, winter gear, and every other piece of clothing, you will be a full department store ready to clothe other survivors – at a price.
#24: Candles & Flashlights: Candles are cheap. Flashlights are cheap (even some of our recommended best survival flashlights are actually pretty affordable). When the electricity is gone, people will still need light. Stock up on flashlights, and keep a moderate stock of candles. You will need them for yourself and you can also trade them to others. Buying a whole box of candles won’t cost more than a few dollars.
#25: Sewing Supplies: Let’s say you run out of clothing. You traded it all, it’s all worn through, and now you’re basically naked. Having sewing supplies, such as needles, thread, fabric, yarn, can help you mend your clothing. You can also trade sewing supplies, like a single roll of thread. Alternatively, you can barter with people and get stuff in exchange for mending their clothing. A few tins of food for a few hours of sewing will sound a lot better if you’re short on food.
#26: Maps: Maps are important. Without the Global Positioning System and cell phones, people are once again going to rely on paper maps. If you can, scoop up a few local maps every time you’re at a new gas station. Most places still sell paper maps, and these are going to be critical for moving through back roads, back country, and even between major cities after the collapse. You can use these yourself, and you can trade them to other people looking to find their way. An alternative to buying maps is to print out detailed maps of the country and main counties, then keep them stored for later use. Be sure you print out enough for yourself and to barter with.
#27: Survival Guides & Other Books: Books will never lose their flavor. Having an extensive library of books can be useful for bartering. This is kind of similar to “entertainment” which we’ll talk about later. In times of struggle, you bet people will need an escape, and books have been doing that for hundreds of years. Survival guides are particularly useful. If you’ve read lots of different survival guides, be sure to keep them around so that you can trade them with other people. Having a guide that tells you how to survive in the wilderness is much better than sending someone off with an axe and a fishing line. You can even write your own guides using your extensive knowledge and trade them for goods. Imagine how valuable a book about edible wild plants would be for a person who’s run out of food.
#28: Gardening Equipment: Without agriculture and supermarkets, many people are going to be relying on growing their own food. Stockpile seeds, fertilizer, and other gardening tools to help maintain your garden and to trade with others. Seeds will be especially valuable, so never throw good seeds away. You can keep them in the freezer. Read more about the best survival seeds here.
Other High Value Barter Items
#29: Entertainment: Believe it or not, various forms of entertainment might be worth something later on down the road – once things have calmed a bit and life, while not “normal”, is at least peaceful and reasonably safe. Things like board games, decks of playing cards, sudoku books, and even old books filled with crossword puzzles will be worth something for trade. Everyone needs time to blow off steam, and things like playing cards could be especially useful.
#30: Skills: Nothing trades quite like skills. This is indeed something you can “stockpile”. Continue learning all about survival, keep practicing different methods, and never stop taking on new projects. Being an amateur medic, hunter, moonshiner, chef, baker, gardener, blacksmith, tailor, etc. will be crucial to staying alive. Trade your skills for tangible goods. Your survival skills are one of the only things that can’t be stolen or taken from you. Stockpile key survival skills now and you can use them for bartering when SHTF. This might be #30 on this list, but only because it’s not an “item” that you can stockpile. Learning more survival skill should absolutely be a priority for you if you want to be prepared for this kind of SHTF situation.
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Dave from San Antonio says
Weapons and ammo. ‘IF’ you are going to barter or trade these…you better be able to trust ‘that’ person with your life. Maybe in your ‘group’, but not a stranger. Bill Murray said he doesn’t trust people for two reasons.
1. I don’t know them.
2. I know them.
Could be words to live by when SHTF.
Secretive Survivalist says
agree with you. In my head (but not explicitly in the article) I am imagining most bartering occurring within small communities that have a degree of trust with one another. Not with strangers.
If you live in a town long enough with the same people you get to know who’s reasonably honest and who’s not