Survival Barter Trade: Unveiling the True Value of Precious Metals, Food, Medical Supplies, and More in a Post-Apocalyptic World

Survival Barter Trade: Unveiling the True Value of Precious Metals, Food, Medical Supplies, and More in a Post-Apocalyptic World

Barter trade

From time to time, individuals inquire about the significance of precious metals as a means of trade in the event of societal collapse. Owning some silver or gold is certainly not a bad idea if you have the means, but there's a crucial aspect to consider if you plan on relying on them in a post-apocalyptic economy: you can't consume them. Precious metals might be useful for bartering only in the early stages of a prolonged disaster. Other commodities like food and medical supplies hold greater long-term trading value.

In the initial days following a collapse, people might not yet comprehend that "money" may lose its value in terms of long-term survival. Initially, your paper money might have some worth, but you can expect that it will take more and more to buy basic necessities. Although crimes are committed daily in "normal" times to acquire money, it's essential to remember that currency is merely paper, easily printed by the government as needed. Wise survivors will recognize this sooner or later (you could even use a stack of it as fire starter or makeshift toilet paper).

Subsequently, silver and gold may replace paper money for a while. The duration you can use your precious metals will depend on how swiftly the collapse unfolds, but ultimately, even gold and silver will become mere decorative pieces of metal.

Food, defensive items, and medical supplies will eventually emerge as the most valuable surplus items for successful bartering. If you reside in a dry climate, water should also be added to the list.


Once supermarket shelves are depleted, everyone will prioritize obtaining food. Those who have experienced true hunger can attest to how challenging it is to think about anything else. Relying solely on hunting to feed your group? If there are many proficient hunters in your area, wildlife populations will diminish rapidly.

The solution is to cultivate your own food. However, few possess the seeds or knowledge to grow their own vegetables, and even fewer can produce enough to sustain their families, let alone a mutual assistance group.

Gardening presents a steep learning curve influenced by factors such as rainfall, extreme temperatures, soil conditions, and pests. Despite these challenges, mastering successful food cultivation can provide significant bartering power.

While Nurse Amy and I are fortunate to live near a freshwater source, water availability is not the sole concern. Untreated water may harbor disease-causing organisms, posing a significant threat to your group. Materials for water purification, including sodium hypochlorite (household bleach), could be highly sought-after in barter transactions. Unfortunately, household bleach loses potency within 6-12 months. Alternatively, calcium hypochlorite crystals, used in pool additives, have a longer shelf life and are easier to portion out. When properly stored, calcium hypochlorite remains effective for over 5 years.

To disinfect water with calcium hypochlorite:

  1. Mix one heaping teaspoon of calcium hypochlorite with two gallons of water. This creates a "bleach" solution. Do not consume this solution.
  2. Add one pint of the "bleach" solution to 12 ½ gallons of water, or half a liter to every 50 liters of water, to make it potable. Essentially, you are making drinkable water by adding one part of the chlorine mixture to every 100 parts of water.
  3. Pour the water from one container to another to help decrease the chlorine taste.
  4. Wait for at least 30 minutes before using the treated water.


Defensive items are crucial for protection in survival scenarios, and some individuals stockpile extra ammunition specifically for bartering purposes. If you plan on accumulating ammunition for barter, it's essential to determine the popular calibers in your area. In most states, 9mm is the most prevalent handgun round, and .223/5.56 is common for rifles in the U.S.

Engaging in barter transactions involving ammunition can be especially risky, as someone might simply complete the transaction by loading their firearm with your ammunition and resorting to violence. Any barter exchange should be undertaken cautiously and with sufficient backup. If ammunition is the item to be traded, it should be securely packaged to prevent immediate access.


Food and ammunition are natural barter items, but medical supplies can also hold significant trade value. The reason is straightforward: anyone can inflict a wound with a loaded weapon, but few possess the items required to treat one. Bandages, antibiotics, blood-clotting agents, and other medical materials become invaluable in a world without hospitals or emergency rooms. These items, along with the knowledge to use them, will be essential in both the short and long term.

You can never have too many medical supplies in your survival storage. A single major bleed can consume numerous dressings. Moreover, you won't be dealing with wound care temporarily until you reach a hospital—there won't be a hospital. In a true survival scenario, you will be responsible for the entire process from start to finish. Bandaging materials, antiseptics, and other wound care items will be highly sought-after, as will antibiotics.

Understanding how to provide medical care in austere environments, including stopping bleeding, splinting orthopedic injuries, performing long-term wound care, and treating infections, can make you an invaluable asset in your community. The knowledge and skills you possess may have significant value, potentially increasing the chances of your family's survival. Over time, your expertise might be so highly regarded that your community is willing to allocate resources to protect you.


As time progresses and commercial supplies become scarce, knowledge of herbalism can be invaluable. Familiarity with local plants that have medicinal properties can enhance your long-term value to your group.

While food, water, and shelter are paramount in survival situations, medical supplies and the knowledge to use them are of great importance, perhaps even more so than ammunition (although this may be a biased perspective). Keep this in mind as you build your stockpile, and feel free to share your thoughts on valuable barter items and skills in a post-apocalyptic world.

Joe Alton, MD

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