When SHTF, money, and currency are likely to become worthless quickly as our banks fold and our cash loses value
My partner and I have written this post to explain how bartering works, why it’s so important, and what approach we take to stockpiling SHTF bartering items. We’ve also listed the 101 items we personally stockpile in our home. This is a pretty big deal – we’ve never let anyone see our list before, and we’ve been working on it for years!
So here goes: the ultimate list of the best SHTF barter items.
Before we had money, society used bartering for distributing goods among people. We’ll likely return to a bartering system when money becomes worthless.
Given the high likelihood of this, it’s worth starting to stockpile SHTF bartering items now. Many items which may become high-value SHTF barter items are currently cheap and plentiful, so the sooner you stockpile them, the better.
My personal theory is that if SHTF, there will be a timeline during which different things have different value. It’s worth thinking that through now, because it should shape what you expect to stockpile.
Here is my concept of the potential timeline. You may disagree.
Immediately after SHTF, money may still have value. The most valuable barter items will essentially be the kind of things you have in your bug-out bag – water, food, basic survival gear, fuel. People will want to cover their basic needs to ensure their survival.
After a few days to weeks, people will begin to take stock of what they do and do not have. More long-term prepper barter items will increase in value. Think basic sanitary items, diapers, medical supplies, radios and batteries, water filtration equipment and so on.
Within a few weeks to months, survivors will be focusing on becoming self-sufficient and ensuring their long-term survival. Whilst basic staples will still be highly valuable, so too will tools, weapons and fishing gear. People’s clothes will begin to wear out or the seasons will change, so clothing, textiles and sewing kits will become important.
In the medium to long term, I think people will settle into groups and will be wanting tools, livestock and clothing. Whilst there may still be vigilante groups and gangs stealing basic supplies, I am hopeful that at least in rural areas, people will attempt to become self-sufficient and essentially go back to living as our grandparents did.
In the long run, currencies and precious metals will probably regain a good deal of value. If enough communities set up, we would probably have a decent market system running within the year.
If – and this would be a little hard-nosed of you – you wanted to profit from SHTF, you could probably barter your cheap basic supplies such as food and water for jewellery and other precious-metal items during the initial panic, and then cash in when metals become more valuable again.
However, let’s not start taking advantage of vulnerable people and making them barter their wedding rings in return for water for their children.
Now, let’s get stuck into the list we have been compiling and guarding for years. Basically, every time we’ve found ourselves running out of something and realized how important it is to us, we’ve added it to this list. That way, we know it really is something people genuinely really want and need.
The 101 SHTF Barter Items
I’ve split this list of 101 SHTF barter items into cheap basics, more complex and expensive gear, things you can produce yourself in the long term, and then highly valuable long-term items. It’s by no means an exhaustive list. I’m intending to spark off your own inspiration and discussions of what is important to us, and what we can trade.
(It’s technically 107 items, but some of them are repeats in a different context.)
I’ve put my own intuitions on why each barter item would become important to people after SHTF – let me know whether you agree.
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These barter items are the sorts of things you can easily stock up on for not much money, and which will become highly valuable immediately after SHTF.
In many SHTF scenarios, and even just in a flood, water will become a premium item. If you have plentiful stocks on hand, you may be in a position to directly use it to trade.
Liquor is on many SHTF barter lists. Historically liquor has often eventually become a valued barter item, such as during the Prohibition. It’s stress-relieving and antiseptic. It’s also cheap and easy to stock up on.
A word of warning, though – alcoholism is likely to become a huge issue after SHTF. My personal view is that would make developing society again more difficult.
Similarly to liquor, tobacco can be a comfort item in times of stress. Smokers will be desperate for a calming smoke after a few days of mayhem.
After a few days, coffee will be a highly desirable luxury. Due to the high fat content, it keeps well. Instant coffee will probably do.
As with the snacks section below, sodas are a luxury and a reminder of civilisation. Water may be the more sensible beverage, but imagine how excited people will be for a sip of Coke or Pepsi after months of devastation. Stock up on classics such as Coke, Pepsi, orange sodas and energy drinks. Due to their contained nature and high sugar content, they should last years.
6. Popular Snacks
Similarly to the above, popular American snacks will be a welcome touch of civilisation after a while. Think all the most popular grocery store snack isle items. You want stuff that keeps for a long time and also has ‘sentimental value’ in being a beloved childhood comfort food.
Pop-Tarts as an example of a comforting and iconic long-lasting snack food (image is an affiliate link!)
Chocolate keeps well, is versatile and is calming in stressful situations. It’s also very very difficult to make at home – considerably more so than other sweets such as toffee or hard candy.
Salt keeps pretty much forever. It’s necessary for your body to function, and it will make bland post-SHTF food taste far better. It’s a very useful preservative.
Also keeps pretty much forever and is invaluable in preserving foods.
White rice in particular keeps well, whilst brown rice goes rancid more quickly. Nutritious, versatile, easy to prepare.
Noodles don’t keep as well as rice, but should last up to several months.
11. Peanut Butter
This lasts a while and is highly nutritious, as well as being a valuable source of protein. There’s a reason why the trapped Chilean miners had peanut butter down there with them.
Lightweight, travel well, last ages. Excellent emergency source of carbs.
13. Trail Mix
Similar to crackers. If you can grow fruit, you can dry it to add to trail mix.
We always get gigantic bags of this stuff.
It’s hard to get hold of many types of nuts, with only a few types growing well domestically. They last ages and are nutritionally extremely dense. Incredibly useful.
15. Baking Soda
Baking soda last for a long time and has so many uses. Obviously, you can use it for cooking and baking. You can also use it for cleaning both yourself (it works surprisingly well as a shampoo) and your home.
16. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar (also known as ACV) has both health and cosmetic uses. Use it as a rinse after washing hair with baking soda. Add a teaspoon to food to aid digestion and general health.
17. Cooking Oils
Good oils are going to be worth gold. Extra virgin olive oil will be invaluable to keep people healthy. Add it to protein-dense meats such as rabbit to avoid protein poisoning.
18. Toilet Paper
One of those things you don’t notice you don’t have, until you don’t have it. Surprisingly difficult to live without – there won’t be much paper generally after SHTF, and using rags instead is labour intensive. Obviously stores very well as long as you keep it out of the damp.
19. Baby Wipes
Not only useful for those with children. Highly multi-purpose. The only difficult thing with baby wipes is that they take a long time to biodegrade, so disposing of them could get tricky.
Soap isn’t just a matter of nice, civilised cleanliness. Keeping yourself clean is a matter of life and death when you haven’t got great access to antibiotics. Stock up on antibacterial soap in particular.
If you’ve ever tried to clean clothes with hand soap, you’ll know the result is often not pretty. Detergent will help clothes last longer.
Whilst bicarbonate of soda will do in a pinch, keeping your teeth clean will be vital after SHTF. Dental issue are extremely difficult to take care of without expert support.
See above. Whilst you can technically brush your teeth with a flannel, take it from me – it doesn’t work as well.
24. Dental Floss
It may look like I’m pushing this dental hygiene thing too hard, but seriously – you do not want your teeth to be rotting after SHTF. It can kill you.
25. Feminine Hygiene Products – particularly tampons and menstrual cups
It is highly difficult for women to deal with periods without access to hygiene products. If you’re thinking that women in third world countries manage perfectly well without luxuries like tampons, think again – scores of women without access to stuff like that end up not going to school or work when they’re on their period, because it’s so difficult to work around otherwise. This stuff is vital.
Menstrual cups are worthwhile because they are reusable, as long as you have the means of keeping them clean. Tampons and pads are multi-use – they can be great in keeping bloodflow under control when somebody is wounded.
26. Disposable Diapers
Immediately after SHTF, very few households with kids are going to be thinking of switching to reusable diapers. Disposable diapers will be like gold to anyone with a baby.
27. Reusable Diapers
Disposable diapers probably aren’t going to cut it in the long run, unless you have access to an unlimited landfill site. Reusable diapers take a ton of getting used to and are difficult to manage, but will be more useful over time.
28. Nail Clippers
Until everybody learns to use knives instead, they’re going to be wanting these.
Shaving may seem like a luxury after SHTF, but people will be clinging to any semblance of civilization. Besides, razors are invaluable in medical situations.
30. Shoe Laces
Most good boots are laced, and also next to useless without the laces. These will keep almost forever, so get a few good, long laces and keep them away from mice.
31. Reading Glasses
Even slight visual impairments will be a huge hindrance when SHTF. You can’t buy out an entire optician’s store, but you can stock up on the most usual reading glasses strengths.
32. Band Aids
Will be wanted for every basic first aid kit.
Sterile bandages are literally life-saving when it comes to stopping wounds from getting infected.
Again, sounds frivolous, but it really isn’t. Without easy access to contraception, it’s very difficult to practice birth control. Many families and individuals will want choice in whether they bring more children into a post-apocalyptic world.
More easily transportable than hairbrushes.
Anyone who has had a power outage and no flashlight to hand will know the power of these.
37. Matches/Fire Lighters
Fire is possible the
I’ve put this quite low down on the list because I don’t necessarily think you’re going to want to hand out knives around the neighbourhood from the get-go. However, it is almost impossible for most people to make a good-quality knife, so these will be invaluable.
Once people start trying to make their own clothes and other basic essentials, scissors will become increasingly valuable.
This includes pins, sewing needles, knitting needles and possible even crochet hooks. If you can supply them with thread, that’s even better.
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Again, very hard to make yourself. Get a good stock of cheap, plain paper.
42. Pens and Pencils
You can write with charcoal, but not very well. Pens and pencils will run low surprisingly fast.
43. Plastic sheeting
Very useful for basic survival. This can be used for anything from an emergency shelter to a water collection setup.
44. Plastic Tubs and Containers
Ideally, get these out of food-grade, clear plastic. They stack well, so get a bunch of different sizes and stack them somewhere clean.
45. Duct Tape
Good duct tape works wonders. Once peoples’ homes and tools start falling apart, they’ll be wanting this.
Good, sturdy rucksacks in particular, but even cheap shopping bags may come in handy.
Few people will be vacuum cleaning, as that uses up tons of electricity from a generator. Decent brooms should last years.
48. Gas cans
Keep these rust-free and other people will be wanting them as soon as their own fall prey to rust or theft.
Specialist Prepper Barter Items
These SHTF bartering items are more expensive, harder to store, harder to come by or simply less commonly stocked than the above items. Most of them are still relatively inexpensive though. I would recommend checking yard sales and junk stores for these items.
49. Water purification supplies – purification tablets, filters, containers
These will be wanted pretty much immediately. I’ve listed them as specialist because good water purification supplies can get expensive, and most people don’t have them.
50. Fuel of all kinds
Anything from gas to firewood – just make sure you have the capacity to store it safely.
Both for listening to the likely emergency broadcasts and for communication.
Even when SHTF, the sun won’t go out. If it does, we’re dead anyway, so it doesn’t really matter.
53. Any solar powered devices
54. Painkillers and pain relief remedies
Possibly one of the most basic med kit items; also one of the longest-lasting.
55. First aid kits and first aid remedies
Everyone will need one of these – the more comprehensive, the better.
56. Prescription drugs, especially antibiotics
Antibiotics in particular are literally a lifesaver, especially if hygiene is less good and injury more common post-SHTF.
57. Hand Tools – especially hatchets, axes, saws, machetes
Be a little careful here about who you barter these essential survival tools with. Everybody could use a machete, but you may not want everybody having one. Save them for trusted neighbours.
58. Pepper Spray
This is one of the few self-defense items I would not mind my neighbours having. That’s not to say pepper spray cannot be highly effective if used well, but I think it’ll less likely to become the staple item used in gang violence again survivors.
59. Fishing equipment
Personally, I would far rather barter this than ammunition and gun supplies. Fishing equipment is genuinely useful and will help people get food, but is not especially dangerous to you in the hands of other.
I probably would not barter guns or ammunition myself, except to trusted friends and family, but you may wish to. It will certainly be wanted.
61. Cans and Canning Lids
These will be worth their weight in gold when it comes to everybody stocking up food to store. Have plenty on hand for your own use, and encourage others to create their own food supplies.
These are a great survival store item to barter because they lead to more food being made and preserved, which you can later buy yourself.
62. Sewing Supplies
If you also know how to sew, offer to teach as part of the barter.
63. Animal Traps
This is a wide-ranging area, but anything from vermin traps to bear traps could come in handy.
Stock up on maps of your local area and of any areas you intend to travel to. Learn how to use a compass.
Not everyone will still be in their own home within a few weeks of SHTF. Tent cities are a common response to any large disaster.
High-quality wood, fabric and ceramic glues will be useful within weeks, when people’s survival gear is falling apart.
67. Pots, Pans, Ceramics
A mainstay for cooking and eating.
68. Cast Iron Cookware
I’ve listed this separately to pots and pans. That’s because cast iron cookware can go directly on a fire. This makes it much easier to use than ordinary pots, which require a stove or at least a camping stove.
Good rope is invaluable for survival and very difficult to make. Buy in a few different strengths and sizes.
Not a frivolous item if you need to travel, work or even fight on a day with high sun glare.
71. Good Boots
Have you ever been hiking in poor-quality boots? I’ve kept all my military boots for a reason – they’re so much more comfortable, hard-wearing and endurable. Good boots are the cornerstone of survival, and everybody will be wanting them.
72. Waterproof Clothing
Clothing in general will get increasingly hard to come by, but it is especially difficult to make clothing waterproof. Decent outdoor jackets, especially warm thermal ones, are excellent.
73. Warm Blankets
There’s a reason these always get handed out at the scenes of disasters. They keep people warm, they ward off shock, and they can be a great comfort.
74. Fire Extinguishers
I expect most complex communities will be focusing on community safety eventually, and fire extinguishers are a useful tool in this.
Never underestimate the power of WD-40 as long as mechanical equipment is still in use by humanity.
76. Bicycles and Bicycle Repair Equipment
Especially in the case of an EMP or an extreme fuel shortage, methods of getting around quickly will be highly valuable. Bicycles are repairable, maintainable and allow travellers to move more stuff, more quickly.
Clean towels are not a necessity, but they are a desirable comfort. Anybody who has forgotten their towel whilst travelling will know the value of a good towel. There’s a reason why towels are mentioned in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – and whilst that book is firmly tongue-in-cheek, there’s an element of truth there.f
78. Religious Books
This may be an unexpected item on the list, but the Bible is likely to be a mainstay and a great comfort to many. Speaking from military experience, field bibles can be a wonderful resource.
79. Informative Books
With no Internet comes a huge loss of information and informative resources. I’ve made an article on my post-SHTF library. The knowledge contained in these books is tremendous and will be a great help.
80. Fiction (especially survival fiction)
Think about which books are useful and comforting to you. Chances are they will have the same use to somebody else.
Get a ton of cheap notebooks on sale. Keep them away from light and insects.
SHTF Barter Items You Can Produce
This is mostly self-explanatory. These bartering items are ones that you can produce yourself, if you have the capacity, once SHTF. This makes them especially valuable, because you can have a continuous supply of them.
82. Your Own Skill – medical, dentistry, blacksmithing, carpentry, plumbing, child care
In many ways, this is the big one. When SHTF, good old technical skills are going to be in huge demand once more. That’s excellent news if you’re a doctor or a carpenter, less so if you’re a stockbroker or an editor.
Give yourself a head start by learning some skills now. Even just a first aid course, some basic carpentry and plumbing knowledge and some knowledge of growing plants and raising animals will hugely help you post-SHTF. You kind of need to train to be a handyman.
You can’t just get firewood by heading into the woods and chopping a ton of trees down. Firewood has to be dried and cured in a long process of at least 6-12 months. If you can produce large stocks of decent firewood, others will want to barter for it.
84. Hay/Livestock Feed
If you have access to a meadow or if you can grow grains, then you can produce this.
Essentially, you need oil and lye to make soap. You can make your own lye from hardwood ash.
86. Fruit and Vegetables
Get a vegetable garden set up as soon as you can, even if you don’t currently have much space.
We have a little herb garden with medicinal and edible herbs. I expect this may be in huge demand, both for food and medicinal purposes.
88. Herbal Medicines
Learn how to make these. I’d recommend getting a good book on herbal medicine.
Liquor takes time, but you can turn fruits and vegetables into decent alcohol within a few months with fairly basic equipment.
You’ll want heirloom seeds, which you can produce from your own plants.
Chickens, goats, cows, sheep and pigs are all excellent sources of meat, and some breeds aren’t too difficult to look after.
92. Eggs, Milk, Cheese
You need a milking animal for these. We have goats and cows on our homestead.
Bees take some time getting used with but are worth the effort in my view. Honey has so many uses and lasts forever.
Another huge bonus of keeping bees. Wax is great not only for making candles, but for waterproofing fabrics and preserving food such as cheeses.
Make these with your beeswax.
96. Livestock – especially chickens, pigs, goats
In the long term, being able to breed your animals is very useful.
If you have multiple dogs, you should be able to make more dogs. Dogs make excellent companions and guards, even more so in a post-SHTF survival situation.
Produce these from the wool of your livestock.
Leather is a little tricky to make yourself, but is worth it for how sturdy and durable it is.
100. Warm clothing and blankets
With wool and sewing equipment, you should be able to produce these.
Good bags are tricky to make, but possible if you’re producing good-quality material.
If you’re living in an area with clay soil, growing vegetable may be more tricky, but making ceramics is a possibility.
High-Value Barter Items
These are not the sorts of barter items most people already have piled up in their homes. They’re a little less common and you’ll have to think carefully about whether the financial outlay is worth it for you. It’s likely to take quite a while before these become valuable for bartering when SHTF.
103. Cash in every currency you can get hold of
For at least a few days after SHTF, cash will probably still hold value. My personal belief is that it eventually would again, because cash-based systems are just so useful. Keep an especial eye out for coins which are made of high-grade metals.
104. High-quality liquor
Brand-name, high-quality liquor will get better with age, and be more valuable with age.
The easiest form of gold and silver to reliably buy and store.
Whenever financial crashes happen, people return to gold. This has been the case throughout human history – there’s just something about gold that humanity loves.
Cheaper than gold but arguably more versatile.
Well done for making it to the bottom of this list – it’s a long one, I know.
These 101 barter items are obviously just my own suggestion – you guys may have tons more. Let me know, and I’m happy to make an additional list of your suggestions. We are always looking for new items to stock up on.
Also, I highly recommend this book to everyone. 300 pages, color, paperback. The Lost Book of Remedies is helping Americans achieve medical self-sufficiency even in the darkest times using the time-tested methods of our grandparents without spending lots of money on toxic drugs and without side effects. A great asset when doctors and hospitals won’t be available anymore. You may not be Claude Davis, but you can make use of his procedures and techniques to increase your chances of survival!