Have a "Barter Party"

By James Harvey Stout (deceased). This material is now in the public domain. The complete collection of Mr. Stout's writing is now at http://stout.mybravenet.com/public_html/h/ >



Have a barter party! A barter party teaches people how to trade, and it gives them a real-life chance to try it.

A pot-luck dinner is a form of bartering: trading our food for a portion of everyone else's food. Be certain to tell people what is needed, so that we won't end up with 7 bowls of potato salad, 5 cakes, and nothing else. Remember the salad, drinks, bread, dessert, vegetable dishes, meat, and other foods.

One type of pot-luck is the "moving-on" dinner in which the appetizer is served in one home, and then everyone goes to another home for the soup and salad. We continue to go from one home to another, through the dessert and entertainment.

At the end of the dinner, people can swap the recipes of the food which they brought. And they can trade left-overs. Since we liked Barbara's turkey soup and she wanted seconds and thirds of our banana bread, we can swap those left-overs. (We will return the dishes to the owners next week.) We might bake extra carrot cake or blueberry muffins with the idea of trading them, if other people have also agreed to bring extra food to swap. "At one Christmas party for Barterburg High School teachers," said Martha Sallon, "the teachers brought home-baked Christmas cookies and other holiday goodies, and then traded them."

A pot-luck or food-exchange can have other themes: all vegetarian, all recipes from our mother or grandmother -- or all desserts. (Imagine an all-chocolate pot-luck, with chocolate cake, chocolate milk, chocolate pudding, chocolate chip cookies, and other chocolate foods!)

In Barterburg, John Stacker had a barter party where the guests brought a costume or an item of clothing of a type of person (ghost, hobo, etc.). The guests swapped these things, and then spent the rest of the evening acting out the roles of the clothing. Sally traded for a witch's hat, so she acted like a witch. Bob got a Mexican sombrero, so he talked with a Mexican accent.

A barter party can be at someone's house on the night before a yard sale. All of the goods are already sorted. If the guests bring their own items (or a list of their goods and services), some deals can be worked out. The untraded things can be left there for the yard sale tomorrow. Then the money from each item can be given to the person who left the item.

We can get together with a friend once a month, for a special two-person party. You will agree to take home something which belongs to the other person. The item might be a painting, a vase, or a plant. Keep it for a month and then meet again for a different trade.

The barter party can be a class project in school, to let the kids bring unwanted things which they will swap to the other kids.

The party can be held once a month, to trade more items. People can come with things to swap, or a list of their skills. They can trade what they brought, and leave when they are finished.

At a barter party, we can have a "theme," so the people will bring particular types of goods -- like clothing, or the books and magazines.

Barter parties are good for groups, too, like Boy Scouts.

This barter party is based on two themes: bartering and fun! Everything, from invitations to refreshments to games, uses this theme -- as we spend an evening swapping good times with our friends.

We can have this party at home with our friends. Or we can use this theme at a party at school or at a social club. Or we could have the event at a place like a community center, where the public could participate (with an admission fee, to cover expenses). A public event could be publicized through a newspaper article and some radio announcements.

In the invitation, explain that the party's theme is "bartering'' or "trading." We can say: "Let's make a deal. Exchange your quiet evening for some fun at our 'barter party.' If there is a horse-trader in you, you will love our refreshments and games -- all on the theme of bartering." On the invitation, mention your name, the date of the party, the time, and the place.

To prepare your home and yourself for this party, do some bartering. One barter club has these goods and services for parties: bakeries, bands, carpet and upholstery cleaning, catering, costumes, dancing instruction, entertainment (music and orchestra), equipment rentals (including party supplies), florists, hairstyling, housekeeping, janitorial services, party planning, party supplies, and party surprises.

Of course, we don't need to be a member of a barter club; we can do some direct trades to get these things. Ask your 14-year-old neighbors to vacuum your rug and clean your windows; in exchange, you will give them your old desk. Other neighbors might help to clean up after the party, if we let them use our lawnmower the next day. Trade your tennis lessons, or some of your stamp collection, for the musical entertainment or kitchen-work.

The refreshments can be related to the theme of "bartering":

  1. Orange juice, cheese strips, or another gold-colored food might be labeled "Rumpelstiltskin's Gold." Price: You must trade a ring, a necklace, and your first-born son."
  2. Small chocolates could have a card which says humorously, "Drill a hole into these pieces of chocolate, to make beads. You might meet a Native American who wants to trade Manhattan island for them."
  3. If we serve a meat dish, we can tease our guests: "This meat is from the last horse-trader who passed through this region."

Our party decorations can include string-and-construction-paper beanstalks, with the idea of "Jack and the Beanstalk." One of these decorations can be a "beanstalk" made of rope, with green paper leaves, and jelly beans hanging from it. Our guests will guess how many jelly beans are on this "stalk," and they will put their guesses into a box. The person who comes closest -- without counting -- wins a prize.

These books can tell us how to plan a party. They will help us to write invitations, decorate our home, plot the menu, select games, provide entertainment, and make our party a success.

  1. The Complete Party Book, by Alexander van Rensselaer.
  2. Good Housekeeping Party Book, edited by Dorothy Marsh and Carol Brock.
  3. All About Entertaining, by Kay Corinth and Mary Sargent.
  4. The Fun Encyclopedia, by E.O. Harbin.