As Mr. Haney (Pat Buttram) from the television show Green Acres would say, “Have I got a deal for you!” In the spirit of Mr. Haney, I’ve come up with some good barter items. To make the list, the items have to be fairly light, extremely useful, practical, and cheap to buy, now! The items have to fit, and be able to be stored in six gallon plastic pails with a water proof seal. The items also must be available in large quantities now, to get the most for my money and be easily accessible now, at a low cost – yet become very valuable when the Schumer hits the fan. Few barter items can fit Mr. Haney’s criteria, but some items will pass the test.
#1 Matches. Most boxes [of paper matches] contain 50 books with 20 matches per booklet, at about 200 per box. That’s 1,000 lights, right? Wrong! It’s actually double that at 2,000 because with a little care, each match can be split in two. It takes about 4-5 seconds to split a paper match, and I haven’t ruined any in my scores of attempts. During the war in Bosnia, matches were on the list of things that disappeared first. One six gallon pail holds 24 boxes, if left in packages. That’s 48,000 lights!
#2 Seeds. I would fill the second pail with seeds. The type of seeds is a personal preference, but heirlooms seeds are preferred, though more costly. You can give your customer 2 choices: some seeds in packets that are heirloom seeds, and some that are from any store. Over a million seeds can fit in a six gallon pail, and seeds may very well become just as valuable as ammo, but are a lot lighter with a higher quantity able to fit in the same size pail.
#3 Sugar. For your own stock, just pour 25 pound bags into six gallon buckets. For [incremental] barter though, large wholesale food stores like COSTCO have sugar packets with a quantity of 2,000 per box. A six gallon pail holds more than two boxes; and sugar keeps a long, long time. That’s approximately 5,000 individual servings that are pre-packaged, and will last a very long time.
#4 Magnifying glasses. Magnifying glasses are very cheap if you shop around. They are easy to store and are a great reading tool for fine print or serial numbers, can be used as a fire starter and can be used for medical purposes and close examination such as, to aid in splinter removal or to see a mote in someone’s eye. When buying in quantity, you should pay between $1 and $1.50 per pair. This barter item will be excellent in the worse case scenario.
$5 Can Openers. A can-opener will come in very handy for those who can no longer use their electricity. Using a knife as a substitute is not worth the risk of injury to group members which can create another problem (stitches, infections, etc.). Can openers are cheap and can be purchased for as low as .39 cents for a military P-38 style, or $1.99 for a more elaborate one.
There are many other items one could focus on to establish the beginning of your trading post. But Mr. Haney’s five items listed above will wind up being the most popular and meeting some very important needs for his friends and community. The items I’ve listed are light, cheap, easy to store, easily obtainable now in large quantities and will be in high demand later. I’ve left out ammo on purpose because it is more expensive and heavier, and most likely (hopefully) you should already have ammo as a priority.