One of my long-standing Precepts is
that every prepared individual should be ready for both barter and dispensing
charity. Today, I'll be briefly discussing barter. Being ready to barter
is not just a
matter of having a pile
of "stuff" to barter. While barter and charity logistics are
is what is between
A Bazaar Experience
Bartering takes practice. Dickering is an acquired skill. Short of buying
yourself a plane ticket to Marrakech, I suggest that you start attending gun
garage sales, and
flea markets. Learn how to haggle.
One of my long standing Rawlesian Precepts is having the skills and material
acquired to conduct barter in a post-collapse society. Much has been written
goods to keep on hand for bartering. But precious little
has been discussed in survivalist literature on the skills required to barter
effectively, and how to protect yourself from fraud.
I recommend that you practice bartering on a very small scale at first, to
sharpen your eye for value and your ability to dicker in a manner that will
(Mutually agreeable and mutually beneficial.) The
occasional transaction where you end up slighted is hardly cause for concern.
But unless you develop the proper bartering skills, you'll end up on the weaker
side of bargains
again and again, and thus fritter away your tangible working capital. The attributes
that will put you in a superior bartering position include specific knowledge
about what is being traded, knowledge about who's sitting on the the other
side of the table, and good old-fashioned "horse trading sense".
Knowledge and References
The more you know about the goods being exchanged the better you'll be able
to dicker. Armed with this knowledge, you'll be able to honestly, yet persuasively
talk up the virtues of your own goods, while politely talking down the defects
of your trading partner's goods. Hence, the the greater your technical knowledge
of the goods, the better. Take the time to study and develop an 'appraiser's
eye' for the condition of used merchandise, the relative value of goods from
versus another, and knowledge of the overall market . With that knowledge you
can articulate the scarcity of any particular item in your barter stock. (After
all, as with
market transaction, the key factor in determining value is the supply-demand
ratio.) If you are trading for a collectible item then knowing how scarce
they are can put you
at a tremendous advantage in negotiation. It is important to gather
as many references as possible about the items that you plan to barter.
Francis Bacon said it best: "Knowledge is power." You need to authoritatively
know which maker, model, variation, grade,
year of production, etc. to look for. Product expertise helps makes you a
savvy buyer or
There are dozens
of references on specific types of tool, guns, and collectibles that are valuable
to keep on hand. For example, two of the most important ones that I 've found
Blue Book of Gun Values" and "Flayderman's
Guide to Antique Firearms and Their Values."
Similarly, knowing exactly
how to properly gauge the condition of a used item is quite important. For
firearms, the percentage of original bluing remaining, cracks or wear to a
gun's stock, bore condition, chamber condition, bolt face erosion, action tightness,
headspace, and so forth all make a huge difference in the value of a used gun.
Detailed knowledge is also crucial when determining the value of a rare coin.
of us, that knowledge is too specialized. It can take many years to develop
grading skills, so a novice can get in over his head very easily. The difference
between an MS-66 coin and an MS-68 coin is very subtle, yet that difference
can mean thousands of
dollars difference in a coin's price. I therefore recommend that novices
only trade professionally graded coins that have been graded
and sealed (or "slabbed") by either PCGS or NGC.
A coin dealer Blue
Sheet is a crucial reference for measuring the
value of coins with particular mint marks and dates, in any given grade on
the Sheldon Scale. Even having an out-of-date Blue Sheet is better than nothing,
since it will
show relative values of coins, which change fairly
gradually. Again, this is not for a novice, or part-time
dabbler. (FWIW, even though I have been buying rare coins for more than
20 years, I still consider myself effectively a "novice" level since I don't
ge frequent coin grading practice. Hence, I only buy slabs. ("A man has got
to know his limitations.")
To be ready to barter with bullion gold cons or scrap
gold it is important to have a
touchstone, an acid test kit, test needles, a very accurate scale, and a set of Fisch
coin authenticity dimensional gauges.
When bartering for canned goods it's
important to have a Julian
Calendar (since some packers use Julian dates) and a hard copy of this
chart showing how to decipher date of pack codes from various canners and packers.
For liquid fuel it's
important to know if the fuel has been contaminated or adulterated. (Coincidentally,
one of our newest advertisers, UR-2B-Prepared.com sells
water test strips.
For batteries, it's important to have
a voltmeter. (For the greatest versatility,
buy a Volt-Ohm meter with test probes on leads, rather than a typical tray-type
For examining the the fine details of just about anything--such
reading hallmarks--a jeweler's loupe (magnifying glass) is
For evaluating firearms,
as a minimum buy a 6 foot tape measure and a fiber optic bore inspection
Above and beyond getting technical knowledge is the hard to quantify "people
dickering. Dickering skills can take years to develop. Part of this is learning
how to "read" the face and body language of the gent on the other
side of the table. How anxious is he to unload something that he has, or to
acquire something that you have? How quick they are to make or accept an offer
is a key indicator. And if there is a savvy trader sizing you up,
you have to learn to keep a "poker face", not revealing how excited
you are to see a particular item being offered.
Take your time in carefully
item offered to you. This accomplishes two things. Firstly, it gives you the
opportunity to spot any flaws, defects or signs of wear on the item being offered.
Secondly, the more time that you spend examining the item will lead the seller
to subconsciously start to doubt the value of what he is offering. If you're
in a flea market or gun show situation once you have an item in your hands
you are essentially free to examine it without fear of someone else buying
Take your time!
If you make an offer for an item, and it is rejected or the
counter offer made is ridiculously low than the very best thing you can do
is put the
down on the table. This psychologically distances you from the item, and again,
makes the seller begin to doubt it's value. In the dickering process one of
the most valuable phrases that you can use is "Is that the best
you can do?" If the seller won't budge, and you are close to
an acceptable price, the next best thing to do is to offer to sweeten the
deal with additional goods
offered on your side of the bargain. If you still can't reach an agreement
it probably wouldn't hurt to subtly talk down the value of what's being offered
to you, and talk up the value of what you are offering. "This is a mighty
fine widget it's too bad about this crack and this wear...
If it weren't
for that, I think your asking price would be fair."
The next most valuable
thing you can learn to say is to say nothing. After making
an offer and receiving a counter
offer, silently start counting to twenty. There is something about a long
pause that causes all but the most stalwart dickerer to want to fill that
silence And nine times out of ten, they will fill that silence with another
offer, usually one that is more agreeable.
As a last resort, if you are still
at an impasse in
reaching an mutually-agreeable trade, your tool of last resort is to thank
the seller and start to walk away from the table. This will be your final gauge
how anxious the seller is to move his merchandise. If you hear "Wait,
wait, wait, come back here...", then you know that the seller still has
room to negotiate on price or quantities. Keep in mind however, that this is
tactic. Once you walk away from a table without he seller voicing
objection, but return later, you have subconsciously boxed yourself into the
you come back later for the same item, the seller will know that you are
anxious to purchase it, and did not find a better deal for a comparable item
elsewhere, so they'll probably hold to the same price.
When selling, keep in mind that
you can negotiate downwards, but not upwards. Always make your initial asking
somewhat higher than what you really want out of it. Some people will not agree
a good deal, unless they can extract at least one price concession from you.
So, set a fairly high price, and then negotiate downward.
If your counterpart brings an item to offer to you, but that item is of
no interest to you, always thank him for his time: 'Thanks, but
interested in that right now. Do you have any X available?", describing
what you are looking for in trade. Remember, a sales venue is an opportunity
to gather information about other items a seller may have available, but may
not physically have with them. It may not hurt to make arrangements to see
them at the next
event, reminding them to bring those items so you can make a deal next time.
When going to attend a flea market, gun show, or horse trading session,
it is important to "dress down". If you wear a fancy Rolex watch,
or fancy designer clothes, consciously or unconsciously your counterpart will
you up as being made of money. So dress very casually, including your shoes.
Leave your jewelry, pens, and nice watch at home. Wear your cheap plastic-cased
digital watch for these excursions.
You also need to learn to be observant about your counterpart. Is he a collector,
that happens to sell on the side, or is he a journeyman salesman, who makes
a livelihood at the business. Is he retiring and selling off inventory? Is
he someone selling merchandise on behalf of a friend or relative? The bottom
line is: just how anxious is your counterpart in making a deal?
Timing and Rapport
When approaching a vendors booth or table for the first time it is important
to first wait until the vendor has finished dealing with any previous customers.
Don't interrupt a man when he's making a deal! Smile and make eye contact,
and if appropriate for the venue, introduce yourself and shake hands. If you
a fellow vendor, it's important to wear your badge, or otherwise make it known
that you also have a table or booth. This lets the seller know that he is talking
to a wholesale rather than retail customer. This can make a tremendous
difference when negotiating price. Even if the vendor appears to have a pile
junk on his table (with perhaps a few nice items of interest) make a point
of expressing your admiration for his merchandise. Say something like "You've
got a real nice inventory here" or "I can see that you have good
taste in widgets". This is an important step in developing rapport
with you counterpart. While it doesn't hurt to point out a defect on an individual
while negotiating for it, do not "run down" the
quality or condition of everything that you see. Doing so could skunk the entire
process. OBTW, don't be shy about pointing out defects in your own merchandise.
"Oh, in case didn't noticed, there is one dent here..." That lets your customer
know that you are reputable.
Another key aspect of understanding buying and selling psychology is the "stage
of the game". At the beginning of a show or sale most journeymen sellers arrive
inventory rich, and cash poor. Near the end of the show, they will likely have
more cash (or precious metals) on hand and then will be in a better position
to make offers. Although some of the best items may have already been sold,
times to make a purchase or trade is near the end of a show, when some sellers
have had a "slow show" At flea markets and gun show wait until just
before the vendor's "tear down" and pack-up time begins. Depending on
their situation they might feel desperate to make a good sale or a couple
swaps so that
they can feel that they've made the show worthwhile. So, if you saw an item
earlier in the show, and could not negotiate an agreeable price, wait for
the end of the sales event. This, BTW, is particularly valuable tactic if the
item in question is particularly bulky
heavy. It is
the unspoken goal of every seller to "go home light".
If you encounter a seller that has the sort of merchandise that you
think would be of future interest, then it's important to get that seller's
particulars so that you can contact him later. Take copious notes. The same
applies when you encounter a seller that has a particularly valuable area of
or a rare stock of items--especially spare parts. These are people well worth "networking" with.
Never Trade Hard for Soft
When negotiating a trade, keep in mind the absolutely fundamental rule: "never
trade hard for soft". This means, if what you are offering in
a trade is a compact, valuable, durable, tangible item, that is in short supply,
or highly valued,
the don't make
the mistake of trading it away for items that are less durable or desirable.
Otherwise, at the end of the day, your counterpart will be going home with
the better goods than you.
The only exception to this rule would be if your counterpart is willing to
trade a much greater quantity of his items and that you know that
you have a ready market for them. A corollary to this rule is, that it
is better to trade
your bulky for his compact. (Or as one aging gun
show vendor I met in put it, "Don't never trade away handguns for rifles or
That is simple yet sage advice.) This is particularly important in venues where
space is at a premium, and you are paying for the use of that space.
In closing, barter takes time to learn. Invest that time. Also invest in
the proper references. Lastly, invest in a stock of top quality barter goods
that you predict will be sought-after in a post collapse world. With the right
goods and the requisite knowledge, you and your family will never starve.