In a catastrophe the barter system (trading goods and services for other goods and services instead of using money) will inevitably kick in. It may remain as the new form of currency for quite some time or it may only last a short while, but it is highly likely that bartering will be important especially if the crisis is severe. Don't be caught unprepared, many of the items below are useful in both good times and times of crisis so stock up while times are good!
Often people’s addictions drive them to choose their drug of choice over anything else. In a crisis where they no longer have access to this drug, they will be extremely motivated to trade valuable goods for another fix.
The object of another common addiction cigarettes will be another extremely valuable commodity. History has already proven tobacco to be a valuable trade good. Even today cigarettes are traded when money is not available. Just look at the prison system!
Gold and silver have historically held their value through thick and thin, which makes them great for bartering. The difficult thing about gold, though, is that it is hard to use for small trades since it is often purchased as one ounce coins, which are valued at well over $1k each. Silver is really the better choice for bartering. Preppers prefer to stock up on “junk silver” (pre-1965 dimes and quarters) because they are 90% silver, are in a value range that makes them great trades for smaller items, and people recognize what they are.
How to calculate the value of your junk silver: http://www.wikihow.com/Calculate-the-Value-of-Junk-Silver
Fishing is a great way to provide food for the family during a crisis. Since food will be scarce, any means for acquiring food will be incredibly valuable. What makes fishing gear an even more attractive bartering item is that fishing gear doesn’t take up much space and is relatively inexpensive.
Food is sure to be of huge importance to the barter system, especially foods with a long shelf life! Whenever a serious crisis hits, food quickly becomes a huge issue. Grocery stores will be cleaned out almost immediately, making food a precious bartering good indeed.
Caffeine is probably the most common addiction amongst people in developed countries, coffee being the most common source. When things go south and people aren’t able to hit the local coffee shops, coffee is going to become incredibly appealing.
According to a recent study published by the scientific journal Current Biology, chocolate and opium have a similar effect on the body. When people are miserable chocolate will become a premium bartering item.
Note: Don’t try to separate a woman from her chocolate!
Diapers will become a highly sought after item for those with little children during a collapse. Imagine trying to deal with that mess on top of trying to provide food and shelter, as well as trying to keep your family safe.
Toilet paper, toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, deodorant, and feminine hygiene items will likely run out quickly when a significant crisis hits. Any of these will be highly valuable when people's miseries start to sink in.
As you probably suspected, first aid items and medicine will be critical to posses during a crisis, both for barter and for your own family's needs. There will be a huge increase in injuries and sickness, so the demand for these items will go through the roof.
As all the items on this list, fuel well become scarce but it will be critical for survival. Fuel will be needed for warmth, cooking, and in many cases sterilizing water. You will need a lot of it for your own family, but any extra will likely pay dividends when on the barter system.
During a crisis things quickly descend into disarray and require repairs. Both tools and materials, even if those materials are duct tape and bailing twine, will go a long way for most people. One thing that makes prepping with these items attractive is that many common repair materials and tools don’t take up much space and can be picked up at garage sales and flea markets.
When a crisis hits, there will be panic over food almost immediately. Anything to help people acquire food will be huge . Fortunately, seeds are relatively cheap (at least for now) and take up very little space, making them great for the barter system.
Bullets are another great barter item that many people don’t think about. They are relatively small and portable, and like junk silver their value range makes them a great option for trading for smaller items or portions of things like food. Of course, large quantities of bullets could purchase larger items as well.
Remember the boy scout motto “always be prepared!” A little preparation can go a long way. When a serious crisis hits and things revert to the barter system, you’ll be in a much better situation if you are stocked up on some of these items!