By: Justin O’Connell


Since the U.S. Dollar is the only currency that most people in our country have used in their lifetimes, dickering is a skill few have learned. When we walk into a restaurant chain such as Applebees, it doesn’t cross our mind to point out that, due to lack of nutrition and well-known food industry margins, we are willing to only pay just more than half of the stated price on the menu.

But, in a inflationary environment, such as we are getting a taste of today, saving money becomes losing, and bartering is an instant shield against TEOTWAWKI (The End of The World As We Know It) or even just inflation.  Although things seem relatively cozy today in the U.S., it is not a bad idea to begin saving in vehicles other than Federal Reserve Notes, commonly known as the U.S. Dollar. First, silver coinage and gold coinage is a natural substitute for devalued currency, for these two metals have for thousands of years been considered money.

Above and beyond precious metals, though, it is important to begin viewing 25 pounds bag of rice, water bottles, canned food, knives, flashlights, bicycles, batteries and so on as a form of tangible savings.  As a result of economic law, this stuff, when denominated in U.S. Dollars, will rise in price in the coming years.

In a barter economy, instead of exchanging fiat money for tangibles, you are exchanging tangibles for tangibles, or a service for a tangible, or a service for a service.  Pertaining to silver coin, here is a shortlist of attributes your coinage should have to be most effective for dickering:

  1. Appeal/usefulness to somebody in the market for silver coinage. Although it seems trite, in this instance, silver is not just silver when it comes to your survival. Shiny coins stand a better chance than severely tarnished and scratched coins.
  2. Immediate recognizability is also important when dickering with silver. Stay away from novelty coins such as the privately minted Silver Eagles which come in denominations of half a troy pound and a troy pound, and sometimes do not even come with the proper identifying stamps; such as, .999, fine silver or the weight of the coin. These are ineffective pseudo-collector’s coins not minted by the U.S. Mint.  Plus they do not follow attribute #3 of effective dickering.  This does not mean sticking solely to the U.S. government minted Silver Eagles, which for some have more legitimacy than privately minted coinage. If today, in 2011, Congress has an approval rating of around 10%, then in a hyperinflationary environment you can guarantee that trust in the U.S. government will be next-to-zero.
  3. Easily divisible coins are the best coins for bartering, which is why one ought stick not only to 90% junk silver coinage, which are the true representation of this nation’s currency, but also privately minted 1 ounce rounds. Regarding “junk” silver, up until 1965 dimes, quarters and halves contained  90% silver content or a .715 troy ounce of silver per $1. Since then, all coinage passed in this country have been counterfeit clad versions of those earlier coins.
  4. Compactness and transportability is one thing silver does not offer, which is why it is very important to diversify. Buy as much silver as you would be able to carry between one or two people, depending on one’s situation, and then diversify into weaponry and ammo, canned foods and band aids.Clear quality of the coins means that they are stamped with their purity—in all cases except for junk silver, which will be recognizable if you are dickering with silver—and their weight
  5. If limited availability is what you are after, then silver is the right place to be. But, if you want your silver to be even rarer than everyone elses, purchasing 100 gram European silver bars might come in handy, if this denomination—just over 2-and-a-half ounces—proves useful.

Being ready to barter does not simply mean having a bunch of stuff with which to barter, such as silver. Whilst having a well-crafted bartering repertoire from which to choose is important, what’s more is that which is between your ears. Learning to dicker takes time and practice, for dickering does not come easily to those of us who have led rather privileged lives in the U.S. and Western Europe.

It is a clever idea for all of us to go to gun shows, garage sales and flea markets and learn how to haggle.  At first, practice bartering with things of little value so as to adapt your eye to spotting value and non-value, and also get you accustomed to a fair trade that is mutually agreeable and mutually beneficial.  Be sure that you don’t end up time-and-time again on the short-end of the stick. You do not want to fritter away your tangible labor of the past, which now rests in the form of silver coinage. Also, don’t try and outright screw-over somebody who might have more of what you need for later.

The best way to ensure that your trades are fair—time-and-time again—is to equip yourself with knowledge of those things which will be traded, knowledge about the individual with whom you are bartering, and good old-fashioned horse sense or common sense.

The more you know about the goods being bartered with, the better the position in which you find yourself.  Why? Because you will then be able to talk up the virtues of your coinage in relation to the goods which you are after, as well as simultaneously talking down those very goods—are they worn? Are they not so rare?, and so on.

For this reason, it is important to obtain greater technical knowledge of the goods. Study and develop and appraiser’s eye for condition of used merchandise, the relative value of goods from one maker versus another, as well as knowledge of the supply/demand of the overall market in which you find yourself.

Equipped with this knowledge you are then free to express the scarcity of, say, silver coinage compared with whatever item which you are after.  Gauging properly the condition of a used item is quite important. Perhaps heading somewhere in your neighborhood where used cars are exhibited and inspecting each car and commenting on the condition with the current owner would be a good way in which to increase your knowledge of machines and their condition.

When inspecting guns, 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 on can make a considerable difference in the value of a used gun.

To be ready to barter with bullion gold coins 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. If you are after a good, whilst you’re the gent across the table from you is after your coinage, assume that, if he has the aforementioned tools, he is informed and knowledgeable, and thus tread conservatively so as to learn just what knowledge he has up his sleeve.

If you are after canned goods, it is advisable to have a Julian calendar and a hard copy of the chart showing how to decipher date-of-pack codes from various canners and packers. For liquid fuel, be sure to learn how to identify if fuel has been contaminated or adulterated.  Buy water test strips.

When after batteries, owning a voltmeter is essential. Buy a volt-ohm meter with test probes on leads, instead of a typical tray-type home battery tester.

For fine details, be sure you have a jeweler’s loupe, which is like a magnifying glass.

Moving past technical knowledge, it is important to become a bona-fide people reader. Quantifying the person with whom you are bartering is essential to a good trade. Also note that dickering skills can take many years to develop.

And so, learning to read the face and body of the individual with whom you barter is important. Is he anxious to get rid of whatever it is he holds? Does he seem excited at a possible trade you two are discussing? Does he really want those silver coins that you have? Does he know much about them?

The quickness with which they accept or make an offer is one signal.  If there is a savvy trader sizing you up, it is important to remain calm and cool, moving slowly and thinking long-and-hard about the trades—no matter the item you might receive in return for your silver.

Along with taking your time and moving slowly, examine carefully any item offered to you—really, take your time. Look for any flaws worth mention, defects or signs of wear.  The longer you spend examining an item, the more technical seems your knowledge, and, furthermore, the individual with whom you barter might begin to doubt the value of what is being offered.

If you make an offer for the item and it is rejected, listen carefully to the counteroffer being made. If it is ridiculously high or even just a little high, set the item back onto the table. This will psychologically distance you from the item, not only in your mind, but also in the other individual’s mind. The seller will continue to undermine the value of his item.

About now you say: “Is that the best you can do?” in varying tones depending on the formidability of the counteroffer.

If the seller won’t budge and the price is near-acceptable, the best you can do is offer to sweeten the deal with additional goods offered on your side of the bargain. If no agreement is reached, then very subtly inspect the goods and point out some flaws and defects, but respectfully.  Talk about the positive in the good they are offering, whilst highlighting the bad. Talk up, then, your own silver coinage, and how it has served you thus far. Remember, if it weren’t for that defect on the widget you hold, then the price would be fair.

Learning how to be quiet is another valuable skill. It is sometimes said the last person to speak whilst dickering is the loser. After receiving a counteroffer, silently count to twenty. Long pauses are awkward silences and can cause even an experienced dickerer to want to fill the void.  Oftentimes, that silence will be filled with a more agreeable-to-you offer.

As a last resort, thank the seller and start to walk away from the table. This is the final test of just how anxious the seller is to move his merchandise. If you hear “Wait, wait, wait, come back here…” then you still have some freedom to negotiate down the price or negotiate up the quantity.  There is some risk in this tactic, for if they are able to walk away from the table, then you are basically stuck with the earlier price, since you couldn’t find a better deal elsewhere.

If you are the seller, always make your initial asking price a little higher than what you actually want for it.  Some people will not agree to a deal—even a good one—unless they can talk you down even a little bit, even “pennies on the dollar,” as the saying goes.  Therefore, set a fairly high price, and then negotiate down.

Not only are mannerisms important when dickering, but so too is image and therefore attire. Dress down whenever you anticipate the need for negotiating outside of traditional business: Whilst wearing a fancy watch or designer clothing, it will be tough to talk an individual down, since it appears as if you have the means to acquire that which you want, and that which they have.

What is the value of your silver? Think long and hard about the rareness of silver, generally, in the marketplace, and how many people are without it, and would like to have it. Further, be sure you have other things with which to barter. For example, I would much rather barter away cartons of cigarettes I had stocked up on before I had to delve into my silver.


For more information on some practical survival coins, read more here: Best Survival Coins

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