This newsletter has warned repeatedly that digital crypto-currencies backed by nothing are inherently speculative and vulnerable on many fronts. Those warnings have recently been vindicated. On Monday, February 10th, Bitcoin values dropped more than 27% from the previous Friday close as technical glitches forced a top Bitcoin exchange to suspend trading activity. The Mt. Gox Bitcoin exchange stated in a press release, “A bug in the bitcoin software makes it possible for someone to use the Bitcoin network to alter transaction details to make it seem like a sending of bitcoins to a bitcoin wallet did not occur when in fact it did occur.”
That’s a pretty significant “bug”!
If your aim is pure speculation, then something like the Bitcoin exchange-traded fund that is in the works might suit your purposes. However, if your aim is to be able to exchange actual goods and services outside the purview of the banking system without relying on the U.S. dollar or other national currencies, then you’ll need to hone your bartering skills.
Trading Directly with Other Individuals Has Never Been Easier
Fortunately, the Internet has vastly expanded the marketplace for bartering and trading. And you don’t have to use gimmicky Internet-based currencies or credit cards or other traceable means of payment.
You can either barter indirectly with people from anywhere in the country (or potentially the world) or barter directly with local folks you may meet up with via Internet sites that help facilitate genuine, real world, peer-to-peer transactions.
Are there risks to barter transactions? Of course. The more “underground” you go, the greater the risk. The federal government recently shut down Silk Road, which facilitated drug and other illegal transactions that were typically conducted in Bitcoin (all Bitcoin transactions are logged in publicly accessible files and can be traced back to individuals with a little investigative work).
Most barter and trade is totally legal, and reputable Internet sites will prohibit the offer or exchange of illegal products. For example, on Craigslist (http://www.craigslist.org) millions of people post free classified ads offering everything from old dishwashers to help with yard work. Craigslist has a “barter” section under the “for sale” heading. Here individuals and businesses can describe goods or services they are willing to offer and make requests for what they would like in return.
The new site PidBid (http://www.pidbid.com) serves as “a platform where you can trade stuff for other stuff” without the hefty middle-man or transaction fees of payment processing sites.
The more established Freecycle Network (http://www.freecycle.org) claims nearly 7 million members worldwide. By joining, you can connect with people locally who want to give/exchange items that would
otherwise be discarded.
Other useful bartering web sites include:
• http://www.backpage.com – a free classified
ads service similar to Craigslist.
• http://www.goswap.org – trade land, houses, or
• http://www.ioffer.com – buy, sell, or trade just
• http://www.meetup.com– here you might find
barter clubs/networks meeting up in your
area, groups for parents who might swap out
babysitting or dinner duties, or other groups
that operate on the premise of mutually
• http://www.barterquest.com – barter for goods,
services, and real estate.
Sealing the Deal Face-to-Face with a Handshake: Still Something to Be Said for It
When you’re searching for bartering opportunities “on the ground” the old-fashioned way , local swap meets, auctions, and flea markets are still great real-world platforms that present none of the privacy or counter-party risks associated with using online platforms. “Junk” silver coins and standard one-ounce silver rounds can be used as money. You may find some people will accept only U.S. dollar cash, but some may prefer silver.
You can even try bartering for big-ticket items such as cars, boats, or even real estate in order to eliminate banks and paper money trails from the transaction. Some sellers may accept gold coins in lieu of cash. When it comes time that you want to sell some gold coins in order to purchase something, think about the cost-saving potential of actually using your gold directly as payment. You could avoid the transaction costs, hassles, and privacy/tax risks associated with selling gold to a dealer.
Think creatively! Far from being obsolete, bartering is making a comeback in this economy – and for good reasons. The opportunities to barter will only increase, especially if you’re looking out for them.