Letter Re: Advice on Silver or Gold Jewelry for Barter?

Hello Jim,
Been learning a lot from Survival Blog, thanks for the great work. I’m just wondering if sterling silver and 14 karat [gold] jewelry (plain [rings or chains], or gemstones would make good bartering items? Have been thinking of selling them and using the money for preparedness, etc but wondered about this.

Thanks very much for all the useful information. – Mrs. H.

JWR Replies: Although at first blush keeping jewelry on hand might seem practical, in actuality its drawbacks outweigh its benefits. Perhaps metals, but gemstones are a definite no. Gemstones–either diamonds or colored stones–will not be trusted by 99% of your potential bartering partners. Gold or silver chains might be trusted by some trading partners, but only if they were clearly marked for their purity, and if you were to carry a compact pennyweight scale, to establish the weight of the chain (or a chiseled-off length of chain).

Parenthetically, I should mention that as first popularized by the “Flying Tigers” (AVG) in China, early in World War II, some military aviators, Special Forces soldiers, and mercenaries have habitually worn heavy gold bracelets. They have worn these with the intention of being able to trade links from these chains for assistance from villagers, if they should become stranded in Third World countries. This is a sort of a “Get Me Home” insurance policy. These chains are often flaunted at VFW halls and have been touted by a few armchair survival writers, but I have my doubts about them working well in post-TEOTWAWKI First World countries. Ironically, your average First World urbanite or suburbanite is actually far more ignorant about precious metals and testing their purity than the average “ignorant” Third World peasant. (Many peasants know how to use a touchstone and even and more sophisticated merchants would know how to do an acid test, while the average American would be clueless about any of that!)

In my estimation the “precious metals chains” approach to barter will have very limited utility in most anticipated post-collapse situations, The biggest problem will be convincing your bartering partner that the gold or silver that you are offer is genuine, confirming its purity to the nearest half-karat value, and establishing its weight and hence its value. It is far far easier to have a pocketful of widely recognizable pre-1965 mint date circulated “junk” 90% silver US dimes, quarters and half dollars. And of course there is always “Ballistic Wampum.” Someday soon, common caliber ammunition may become the coin of the realm.

My advice to anyone that has set aside any “extra” (non-heirloom) jewelry, earmarked for barter: Sell it, and use the funds generated to buy pre-1965 90% silver US dimes, quarters and half dollars,.