At one time in human history, there was no paper money, and even further back, people didn’t even trade in gold or silver. The very first medium of exchange was barter. And if things get really bad, that’s what we’re going to have to go back to.
Yes, I know that gold and silver will probably always be considered valuable commodities and could possibly be a viable medium of exchange after the SHTF – but not right away. It really depends on how bad things get.
If there’s some semblance of an infrastructure and a rudimentary market system left, then gold and silver may still have purchasing power. It’s also a great way to preserve some of your wealth if the U.S. dollar suddenly turns into wallpaper (which it almost is now). But in a post-collapse world where things go completely sideways and we have to slowly rebuild our society, precious metals will take a back seat to what is most immediately in need – such as food, water, clothing, tools, etc.
With no stores from which to purchase the things you need, you will have to obtain those items from other people, and they will have needs as well. A starving family can’t eat gold, and a silver coin won’t keep you warm at night. There are two factors that make a commodity valuable: scarcity and demand. Scarcity alone does not equate value if nobody needs it.
As a fellow survivalist once said: “I’d rather trade in lead when the SHTF… At least I can make bullets out of that.” (Despite the Lone Ranger mythos, silver makes lousy bullets).
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not one of those who dismiss precious metals altogether. People will always perceive value in gold and I don’t think there has ever been a time since the dawn of civilization when precious metals – especially gold – haven’t been used as money. Even in the wake of the economic collapses in Argentina and Zimbabwe, gold was still coveted, even as people were shooting each other in the streets for food. Also, precious metals may come in handy when the person you’re trying to barter with doesn’t need any of the items you’ve got to trade. However, I also hear of too many people who’s entire preparedness plan is simply to buy up as much gold and silver as possible, with no thought of storing food or other essential items. Their theory being that after a collapse, they can just use their gold to buy whatever they need. I think that’s a big assumption and a big mistake.
The bottom line is; you should make sure you have the supplies and gear that you need first. Then think about surplus for trading with or helping out others. Then, think about precious metals.
Here’s a list of barter items of value in a post-collapse situation:
Canned, dehydrated or freeze-dried food
Grains and Beans
Water and water filtration/purification
Firearms and other weapons
Tools (building, gardening, mechanical, utility, etc.)
Fuel/Oil (gasolene, diesel, propane, kerosene also veg oil, biodiesel and ethanol)
Power (Got a generator or solar panel? You could trade generator time or battery charges, etc.)
Toiletries (soap, toothpaste, toilet paper)
Medicines (either natural or pharmaceutical)
Medical items (bandages, gauze, clotting agents, forceps, suture, etc.)
Alcohol (both for drinking and sterilization)
Warm clothing, cloth and blankets
Work and Protective gear (gloves, ponchos, helmets, body armor, etc)
Pots and pans
Glassware (jars, bottles, containers, etc.)
Shoes and boots
Rope, wire, plastic sheeting, etc.
Miscellaneous equipment and specialty items
This list could go on and on, but I think you get the point. Also, don’t forget that you can barter skills and services as well. Can you perform work or have any specialized knowledge that would be useful in a post collapse world? Such as:
Also, if you have any equipment like a grain mill, textile loom, fire kiln, steam engine, or any other essential or time-saving equipment that requires no electricity, or can’t be easily built or improvised, you can either provide those services yourself, or “rent” the equipment in exchange for items that you need.
Again this is just a partial list. Unfortunately, too many people in our society have absolutely no productive skills. Over the last 70 years or so, we’ve lost out sense of self-reliance as a society. When we need food, we go to the supermarket or a (ugh) fast food joint. When we need clothes or other necessary items, we go to the mall, or China-Mart. In our culture of rampant consumerism, we don’t produce anything ourselves anymore and the products we buy are cheap and of low-quality. And when something breaks, or wears out (and they always do) we don’t even try (or know how) to fix it, we just throw it away and buy another one. These days, the stuff is such junk, it’s probably not even worth fixing anyway (when was the last time you saw a TV or appliance repair shop?).
I remember when I was a kid and visited my grandparents, nothing in their house was new. Not because they bought everything second-hand, but because back in the day, when you bought a blender, or a power tool, or a piece of furniture it was built to last a lifetime! No plastic housings, no cheap, weak motors, no press-board… Just solid, heavy construction with quality materials.
Hell, they even had a microwave oven that looked like it was made back in the early 60′s. All covered in chrome (slightly dulled with oxidation) looking like something that people in 1963 must have thought was “futuristic” – but it still worked. And yes, they did have microwave ovens back then, but they were HUGE and rather expensive – intended mostly for commercial, rather than household use (food service, airlines, etc.).
Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that we live in a disposable culture, with disposable skills. The days of the craftsman and the tradesman are almost gone. And if
all you know is marketing, or lawyering, or how to run the intercom at the drive-thru, you might want to consider learning some skills that will be useful in a more self-reliant society. Otherwise, you’re gonna be S.O.L. in a post-collapse world.