by Daisy Luther, The Organic Prepper:
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. Supplies were not allowed in or out, and residents were left without utilities and services. This interview is in his own words.
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:
- If YOU need something then the price is going up. (Do not look like you desperately need something.)
- Do not offer all that you got in “one hand“ or on one try. (Do not go to trade with your best shots all together, it looks desperate, and you are losing all the advantage then.)
- 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.)
- Never give info how much of the goods you actually have at home. ( The reason is same as above.)
- 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.
- 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 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.
Read More @ TheOrganicPrepper.ca