In an urban setting, where food and space are limited, it is crucial to figure out how you’re going to trade with other preppers. Paper money and government-backed assets could become worthless in a long-term disaster, so you can’t count on stashing cash away. You could opt for amassing extra food, but only so much non-perishable food can be stored without a granary, and remember that we’re talking about an urban survival setting, not the countryside.
Fuel and armaments are another option. Even though everyone will need them in some quantity, facilitating trade in bullets and buckets of gasoline may not be feasible. Moreover, you can only stockpile guns and ammunition to a certain point before it becomes cumbersome, overly expensive, and a bit of a nuisance when confronted by authorities.
With fuel, it is much the same: Where do you store it safely? How do you transport it quickly? Unless you already operate an oil rig or you happen to strike “liquid gold” in your backyard, it’s unlikely that petroleum will be the most effective commodity for exchange.
Instead of the gooey black liquid stuff, what about real gold? You’ll hear a lot of people talk about gold and silver as real money, or its usefulness as the ideal barter item. But are these claims true? How sensible is it to stockpile precious metals?
For the rural survivalist, it’s not nearly as effective. Nonetheless, even a family that can subsist off of its farm ought to keep a small amount of precious metals in case of an emergency or climate-related catastrophe. Unfortunately, urban dwellers don’t have the advantage of growing and producing their own food and resources.
The advantage they do have is living in close proximity to others, increasing the likelihood that someone in the area will be able to swap for the product or service they need.
In such a scenario, it is important to be able to trade something that everyone wants. The inherent flaw of barter is that in some cases, your trading partner won’t want or need the item you have to offer. A good prepper will have a number of different barter items, but stockpiling a bit of everything should already be part of your preparedness plan.
It’s simply not feasible–except for the fantastically wealthy–to stockpile enough of everything in order to operate a post-apocalyptic version of a pawn shop. This is where precious metals come in.
Gold and silver have the advantage of being universally desirable; everyone recognizes their value. This is one of the main reasons why gold and silver emerged as the ideal form of money to begin with.
Because they are valued in essentially every corner of the world, irrespective of culture, they make a very good intermediary for exchange. Before the rise of a powerful central banking system, precious metals were the preferred form of money around the world.
Gold and silver have other advantages as well. They are durable and non-perishable, meaning they can be stored indefinitely with no loss of metal or decay over time. Because they are metals, gold and silver are easily portable, which is obviously a must for any commodity you plan to trade with.
Simply put, precious metals can be indispensable in a bind when your trading partner wants none of your other barter items, or vice versa. They are a useful medium of exchange that is free from the disadvantages of fiat money (paper bank notes), which are intrinsically worthless, lose their purchasing power over time, and are worth literally zero in a time of real crisis.
Another prepper will almost certainly take gold or silver in exchange for whatever they’re trading because they know it will fetch them a fair value of something else down the road.
Especially for the purposes of the survival-conscious urban dweller, stockpiling silver and gold is the most efficient means of conducting trade in the uncertain future. Buying different sizes, including small fractional size coins or bars, is particularly important when doing business for low-value items or portions of a product.
In general, you can use gold for big purchases and silver for smaller ones, but it is always helpful to have fractional amounts of each metal on hand so you don’t have to melt, divide, assay, and weigh your bullion all over again when a trade can’t be made perfectly symmetrical. In addition, coins and bars made from precious metals are rather compact, designed for stacking, and thus are easy to store.
If you’d like to be flexible in an emergency and are concerned with planning ahead for the necessity of reliable barter items, then buying gold and silver is a sensible option for the urban survivalist.
Contributed by Everett Millman, lead content writer at Gainesville Coins, your online leader for silver and gold.