These days, the possibility of a cataclysmic event (natural or man-made) that could send us back to the dark ages is not far off. Considering the prospect of an apocalyptic event that could destroy our way of life and render money worthless, finding a lucrative medium of exchange for goods and services is worth thinking about. In this article, we list some items which can be used as currency should SHTF.

Back to Bartering

In a post-apocalyptic world, the most logical means of trading would be a return to the barter system, or direct exchange of goods and services. Since money will no longer be of any real value, you’ll have to get creative in making or procuring what can be traded for whatever you don’t have but need to survive.

Rule #1. Deal in survival

Items of value in a post-apocalyptic scenario will be anything that could make life more bearable. Food, water, shelter, medical/first aid, fuel, weapons, ammo or the means to make or obtain them will be considered very valuable, tradeable goods.

1. Food, or the means to multiply it

Don’t confine your “currency” to mere MREs, canned goods or stored food. Grain and seeds can be used as money if you have it in sufficient supply, and people still have land for cultivation. Fruit and crops in sufficient quantity can be directly traded for what you need, as can livestock and their produce – sows, cows, eggs, milk, piglets and chicks are excellent barter goods – just be sure to get an equitable trade from them. If you can manage to get the raw materials like fish, fruit, vegetables and meat and know how to process them, these will surely be sought-after commodities.

If you can also make farming implements, utensils, crockery, cutlery or tools with which to hunt, plant, gather or prepare food, these will likewise be good items to trade. Next to means of gathering or hunting for food, food preservation will also be important. Being able to pickle or store food items for long periods of time will be a valuable service, with your “fee” being either other goods or a portion of the foodstuffs being preserved.


2. Water

Access to clean drinking water could be difficult in a post-apocalyptic scenario. If you’re lucky enough to be in a location that gets a lot of rainfall or you have a source of clean water in or near your property, this will certainly provide you with precious H₂0 with which you can barter.. Apart from the water itself, water filters and rainwater-collection systems are likewise items you can make and barter. Take note that unlike most of the items on this list, using water as an exchange medium will be more cumbersome because: A. it will involve large quantities for trading, and B. liquid by nature cannot be compressed for easier transport.

3. Shelter

Extra tents, tarps and cordage, and other miscellaneous ready-made shelters or materials for shelters can be traded for items you need. If you have a property that’s big enough with the proper fortification, you may even designate an area that can house a semi-permanent dwelling and “lease” that out in exchange for goods or services.

4. Medicine and medical equipment

Bandages, Band-Aids, disinfectant, painkillers and other items that make up a first-aid kit can be put up for trade. Any other useful medicines like Epinephrine and antihistamines are good options, as are spare medical kits and equipment. Note that most medicines do have an expiration date. While they can last for years, make sure to use up or barter those with the shortest shelf life, and arrange your stock by their “best before” date for easier tracking.

5. Fuel

Even if cars are rendered inoperable, the fuel in them can still be used to power generators or used for torches, lamps, or made into Molotov cocktails for self-defense. Kerosene, gasoline, diesel and propane could well become worth their weight in gold, probably more so, when SHTF.

6. Weapons and ammo

These are an obvious choice, especially if there’s a complete breakdown of law and order. Trade only weapons and ammo you are willing to part with, and ensure you preserve enough quantity for your own protection or for hunting. Ammo doesn’t have to be restricted to bullets; crossbow bolts, steel shot for slingshots, arrows and spears for a spear-thrower are viable trade items.

How much is enough? Stockpile as much as you can, ammo may be worth more than gold in the aftermath of a disaster. Consider trading any excess of what you have stocked, but be careful with whom you trade (PewPewTactical.com).

Be cautious in trading weapons or ammo; choose your trading partner wisely. As with all trading transactions, don’t let them see any more of your stockpile than they have to, and hold the exchange at a different place other than your residence, to decrease the chances of being raided for your lead.

7. Precious metals

Gold or silver bars are a solid option in case of a total breakdown of civil order, except there’s no way of knowing if there are enough goods to purchase (Apmex.com).

Another obvious choice would be gold and silver ingots or coins. The only caveat with having gold and silver coins and ingots is that the goods available for “purchase” may not match their value. Also, having these precious metals could invite trouble; these are best held in reserve and traded only for goods or services you desperately need.

8. Beverages and alcohol

Any unopened bottles, cartons or cans of beverages can be swapped for more useful items. Soda pop and other drinks with a long shelf life can be traded as “special occasion” drinks, since their fresh replacements are unlikely to produced anytime soon.

Apart from getting you inebriated in more civilized times, vodka can be used as a disinfectant, a weapon component or sedative (Wikihow.com).

Alcohol will be a valuable commodity not only for its intoxicating qualities, but for its potential use as a weapon and alternative use as an antiseptic. A spirit of particular interest is vodka, which doubles as an excellent sterilizer for wounds and may be used as a sedative before performing a major surgical procedure. Vodka and most other strong alcoholic beverages can help manage post-operative pain in the absence of painkillers.

9. Professional expertise

If you happen to be in the medical field, then congratulations! Your career is a post-apocalyptic ticket to wealth. If you don’t have medical expertise, a “blue” collar job, experience, or even passing knowledge is the next best thing, such as in construction, carpentry, plumbing, gardening, or any vocational skill that will be useful once basic services collapse.

Not all crucial services have to revolve around survival – after health and resource maintenance, fields that involve hygiene and human comfort will be prized. The expertise of hairstylists, barbers and haberdashers may yet have a place when SHTF. A shave and a haircut, or handmade clothes can be bartered as “currency” for goods you need. Depending on the circumstances, these services may even be considered luxuries for which you can trade food, water or gear.

Even if living in the aftermath of an apocalypse can be uncivilized, you don’t have to look it.
Barbers and their services could be sought-after commodities after SHTF (VisualNews.com).


10 Miscellaneous items for entertainment

Man cannot live on water and bread alone. Items that provide entertainment can be traded for useful stuff in an apocalypse. Think of morale-boosting devices like record players, if there are still means to power them (TheZombieBlognet.files.wordpress.com).

Board games, musical instruments and other forms of entertainment that don’t require power can be used to trade. If power is still available, handheld consoles and vinyl record players and records could find new life as currency. Printed materials like books (especially how-to guides), comics, and magazines may have some value as well, as will anything recreational that still works and can lift people’s spirits.

Final notes

Though we can’t predict when a real apocalypse-level event will occur, how severe it will be and what living in its aftermath be like, stocking up on the obvious essentials and having a few items in excess of what you might need to barter is a sound strategy. As it will be an unpredictable situation, start with stocking up on food, water and means for shelter, and consider the other items as backup currency.