Barter, The Underground Economy, and the Unicorn of Post-Apocalyptic Commerce

I bought an AR-15 with Silver bullion once. It was 2016 and a friend of mine who owned a pawn shop in Wyoming needed some Silver because he had a bunch of preppers who were hot into buying bullion, and the local coin shop owner had decided to retire. He had an AR-15 he didn’t need, and I had some excess silver bullion and coinage. We checked the spot price, a deal was struck, and we did a swap. I later swapped the AR for a Ford Taurus and a .410 shotgun. I think I got the better end of the deal. I needed a car, post-1994 ARs are illegal in this state, and a .410 shotgun is a much more practical firearm for the rural Northeast than is an AR-15.

The problem with using Precious Metals in present commerce is three-fold. First is that you can’t just walk up to an ATM machine and have it spit out 1 oz American Eagles. You have to procure them from a specialty dealer at a premium over spot. Second is that you have to find someone who is interested in swapping PMs for whatever. Third is that the value of said PMs is variable on a day-to-day basis. If you buy silver at $18/oz. yesterday, and go buy something tomorrow when it’s at $15/oz. you’ve screwed yourself to the tune of $3/oz. So while it’s a neat hobby to go swap PMs for stuff like in the old days of specie currency, it’s not very practical for day-to-day stuff, unless Wal-Mart decides to start accepting it for purchases.

Cash used to be king, but coin shortages resulting from the latest pandemic had a lot of smaller places wanting either exact change or only accepting credit/debit cards. Larger stores such as Wal-Mart simply rounded down to the nearest dollar and took the loss, or asked you if you would like to round up as a donation to some charity. I often said yes to the latter, as a lot of people took a major hit from COVID and helping even a little seemed the neighborly thing to do. You know, neighbors? The people you should at least nominally look out for to help make your community better, but you often say are gonna get a bullet when they come to steal your preps. Speaking of bullets, those of you who say they’re stockpiling lead and brass as precious metals have identified yourself as one of two types. The first type are BS artists who are talking out their ass. The second are those who have basically advertised their intent to engage in banditry. The former we don’t care about except for the fact that they mislead novices to the wrong direction. We don’t care about the latter too much either because some of us are familiar with the content of FM 5-31, and know how to pull nitrates out of farm soil (as well as where to get Sulfuric Acid). If things get bad enough have no problems with leaving presents where assholes will find them, if you catch my drift. If 9/11 and COIVD are any indication, I suspect the decent people in their communities will band together, and a local community watch group turned militia or posse will either incarcerate or eliminate anyone who comes to town to start shit.

Some preppers like to think that once the great TEOTWAWKI Apocalypse occurs, all the “sheeple” (a pejorative for non-preppers) are going to die, only leaving preppers and bandits. The former are then going to kill off the latter, and everyone is going to have an economy based on precious metals specie currency that all the survivors have been saving for this very moment. That’s a neat fantasy, and history has proven it to be a load of bullshit. What’s going to happen is that some natural disaster is going to temporarily knock out communications systems (either the customer premises equipment or the network) used for debit transactions until the service providers can fix it, and businesses affected will be forced to use cash. The other situation will be similar to COVID-19 where debit/credit POS transactions will become the preferred method of purchase. Note how precious metals don’t figure into any of these. In fact, the last guy who tried to promote PMs as alternative currency was convicted of counterfeiting, and now runs a church that promotes the spirituality of cannabis. You know, just like that woman who discovered religion and “went Galt” after being found guilty of fraud, but I digress. During a disaster, people will go with what’s safe and familiar for them, and won’t care about or accept your $30 1 oz silver round for a package of toilet paper or case of beer. You’re better off just selling all your PMs right now, and converting them to a form of currency that normal people actually accept.

By now you should know which places prefer credit/debit and which don’t mind cash. Use the former whenever you can, and save the latter for when you need it. You should, if possible, have enough cash for a couple days worth of expenses, at the very least gas money to get you to/from work until the next payday. Go through your coin bank at home before shopping, and pull $1 in coins out for each visit to a place that doesn’t mind cash. This way you can pay with exact change and put those coins back in the local economy where they’ll do some good. At least around here many local small businesses are hurting for change, and helping them out is the proper neighborly thing to do.

Once you get past having an unforeseen emergency fund, one of the better survivalist investments to have is extra stuff you normally use, like toilet paper and food. People look down upon hoarding, which is grabbing extra stuff in mass quantities during a disaster, and most places initiate purchase limits during said times. A couple extra of an item during one’s normal purchasing, however, is a different story, especially when spread out over a few different stores that might have it. Eventually you’ll have a nice little stockpile that’ll help you past any future supply chain issues we’ll encounter.

For what it’s worth, this family buys consumables in bulk from places like BJs and Costco, and resupplies when we get down to about half of our previous purchase. This has so far helped us avoid the worst of the past two years.

Author: Ticom