The exchanging of goods or services directly for other goods or services is known as bartering, and has been around long before the establishment of currency. It was how people used to do business, though in some parts of the world it is still practiced regularly. The benefits of bartering are simple, if you have little money and need items such as fresh water, you trade something you have for what you need.
They key to bartering is having something in your possession worth offering. You need to have items that others will want or might need in order to have any hope of receiving goods yourself.
Below I list the items that I believe would be valuable in a situation where currency no longer matters, where someone would rather have a few cans of beans or painkillers than a piece of green paper that happens to have the number 20 printed on it.
A major economic collapse would mean devastation to the country, whether it is the United States, England, France, or any other country in the world. People depend on goods and services to keep them alive and when those are taken away, chaos takes place.
Things that can directly affect this are big government overreach, strenuous taxes and regulations, and the fall of small businesses. These are all very familiar to many of us and may not seem disastrous to some, but events like this have the possibility of leading to devastating outcomes. For example, American household wealth has declined by one-third in just 10 years, while water, food, fuel, electricity, and tax costs have risen by as much as 100%.
There are natural causes to a collapse as well. Events such as hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, volcanic eruptions, solar flares, and earthquakes can all have a big effect. Some scenarios may be more localized and some may not last as long, but we’ve all seen news reports of rioting and looting just over a current murder trial.
Other events that could mean disaster economically include:
wars (nuclear or non-nuclear)
nuclear reactor meltdowns
complications with the production and/or delivery of oil
disease (e.g. the Black Plague)
power grid failures
political anarchy or revolution
EMP (electromagnetic pulse) event
There’s a lot that can go wrong any day. It is up to you to prepare yourself as best you can. Here is the list of items you should consider stocking up on in case the time ever comes where an MRE and a bottle of water is more valuable than gold. While some of these items are obvious, some of them may surprise you.
water purification tablets (as well as filters)
flint fire steel
fuel (gas, diesel, propane, kerosene)
disposable razors and razor blades
alcohol (spirits such as vodka, rum, bourbon, gin, whiskey)
topical pain relievers
batteries (AA, AAA, D, solar battery charger, any rechargeable batteries)
plastic sheeting (heavy plastic sheets, tarps)
fishing supplies (various-sized hooks, lures, wire)
knives (kitchen knives, box cutters, fixed- and folding-blades)
how-to books (cooking, gardening, woodworking, fishing, first aid, survival)
tobacco (chewing tobacco, pipe tobacco)
cigarettes (as well as rolling supplies)
pens, pencils, paper
empty spray bottles
mylar blankets and tents
socks (various sizes)
sewing kits and supplies
food (long-shelf life = MREs, canned food)
ammunition (.22LR, 9x19mm, .45 ACP/Auto, .556/.223, .308 Win, 7.62×39, 12 ga)
There are undoubtedly more items that could go on the list and depending where you live (tropics, arid environment, snowy environments) you could add to the list items that would fit your particular area such as sunscreen or heavy winter jackets.
My personal basic recommendations would be to first stock up on first aid items such as bandages, painkillers, and other medicines, food, water and water purification, cigarettes for those who would give anything for a pack, and ammunition (and the means to defend it all).