Letter Re: Pseudo-Currency: Items You Can Trade Like Cash Or Use Yourself if the Balloon Goes Up

Hello Jim,

I just wanted to comment on the article, Pseudo-Currency: Items You Can Trade Like Cash Or Use Yourself if the Balloon Goes Up. I have been stocking up on most of the items Scott mentioned for my own use, but had not considered them for barter. I’ll be looking at them differently, now. One which I have given thought to bartering is tobacco.

Your readers can forget stockpiling commercial cigarettes, they will go stale, shortly. As Scott mentioned, you’ll need to know how to roll your own, or purchase an inexpensive rolling machine. Cigarette tobacco can be bought in sealed cans and one-pound bags, though I can not attest to their shelf life.

My suggestion, should one want to stock tobacco for barter, is pipe tobacco. Like some wine and cheese, it improves with age. I have a friend who smokes pipes, and frequents high-end tobacco shops for good tobacco. But he is tickled pink when he can find a 3 or 5 year old bag of cheap tobacco at Wal-Mart. He says it is as good as the more expensive brands (which you are probably paying the manufacturer to age for you).

Pipe smokers are also picky about their pipes. The type of wood apparently makes a big difference. But they have a secret: The lowly corn-cob pipe smokes as well as the high-end pipes. Its only drawback is that it does not last as long. Corn-cob pipes could be stockpiled, also. And, if there is a market after TSHTF (i.e. someone in the area is producing tobacco), learning to make the pipes could be a small business.

Thanks for a great web site, – Stew in Missouri

Mr. Rawles,
With regard to the article, “Pseudo-Currency: Items You Can Trade Like Cash Or Use Yourself if the Balloon Goes Up, by Scott in Wisconsin” from July 11, I have some suggestions:

1) Standard coffee filters. These can be used to pre-filter water that is full of sediment or other debris, so as to lengthen the life of one’s primary water filter. Even if one doesn’t have a primary filter (like a Berkey-type ceramic filter), it will help with whatever other method is being used in a SHTF scenario to purify water. These are available for far less than $0.01 per filter, especially at dollar-type stores.

2) Mason jars – cheap at roughly $1 a bottle in case quantities, these will always be of use for canning or for storage of dehydrated food (and, yes, there will be canning and dehydrating post-SHTF).

3) Mason jar lids and rings – self explanatory; no lids means no canning, and the lids are single-use items. Boxes of one dozen are usually price from $1.75-$2.50, but you can almost always find these on sale somewhere.

4) Steel wool – to use with salt to help preserve food. Take a small quantity of steel wool (maybe 1 cubic inch or so) and an ounce or so of salt, put them together in a napkin or coffee filter that’s tied together with string or a rubber band (string will last longer, as it won’t dry out), and you have a quick-and-dirty oxygen and moisture absorber when sealed inside of a good barrier (like a 5 gallon bucket). Steel wool absorbs oxygen, salt absorbs moisture. Lesser quantities are needed for smaller containers (like Mason Jars). Steel wool is very cheap at most grocery and big box stores like Wal-Mart and Target.

5) Salt – for use in food directly (for flavor and nutrition – Mayor Bloomberg notwithstanding), and also for food preservation (by direct salting or with steel wool, as described above). Available in the blue cylinders for less than $0.50 in many stores (certainly for the store brands) for 26 ounces (cheaper at the big warehouse stores). An alternative is the little salt packets that you get at fast-food stores – these can be purchased for about $6 per 3,000 (yes, you read that correctly) at a warehouse store. Yet another alternative is to put salt purchased in large quantities (e.g. 25-pound bags, available for under $5 at a warehouse store) into cleaned ½ pint plastic water bottles. Post-SHTF, I’m quite sure that no one will care much that the little bottle may have had some germs before, and in any case those germs won’t survive contact with all of that salt. Regards, – Paul from Texas