Games For Our "Barter Party"
r Any Other Time

By James Harvey Stout (deceased). This material is now in the public domain. The complete collection of Mr. Stout's writing is now at >


I Know How to Trade Away This Cup, But You Don't

We pass an empty cup to someone, and we say, "I know how to trade away this cup, but you don't." Then we let him pass it on to the next person. If he doesn't do it properly, he must give it back to us. (And then we try it with someone else.) The trick to doing it properly is to clear our throat before we say the words. The game continues until everyone does it properly, or until our guests give up. (Some people never catch on.) Instead of clearing our throat, we might do another action: blinking our eyes twice before saying the sentence, or scratching our ear, or doing something else.

The Story of the Swap Which Didn't Stop

One person starts to tell a funny story, and then each person adds a few more sentences. In each person's turn, there must be some kind of a swap. For example:

"When I was walking into my house yesterday after school, a man ran up to me, and he offered to trade his big gold nugget for my left shoe. I didn't know why he wanted my shoe. But the deal seemed to be a good one, so I traded my shoe for the nugget. I gave him my shoe, and then I walked into my home. When my Mom asked me why I was wearing only one shoe, I told her ...

(The next guest continues the story.) "... I told her that I had met a Native American who wanted to trade a sackful of beads for Manhattan Island. I explained to him that I had been to Manhattan once, and I had bought my shoes there. He offered to trade his beads for my shoes. But I wouldn't do it. So he knocked me down, and he grabbed one of my shoes, and he ran away before I could stop him. My Mom didn't believe my story. She just laughed at me for losing a good shoe. And she said that I would have to make a deal with her. The deal was that she wouldn't stop laughing at me unless I ..."

(The silly story continues from one person to another.)

What Did I Get?

The players put their chairs into a circle. The first player says something like, "When I bartered, I got a shiny new ring." The next person says something like, "When I bartered, I got a pair of glasses," (or a pair of pants, or a baseball cap, or whatever is within her reach). The object must be something which can be touched from where we are sitting: perhaps the chair, or our shirt, or a ring being worn by the person next to us. No article can be called twice, even if the people are wearing two of them (like shoes or necklaces). If a player cannot mention an item within a few seconds, he or she is eliminated from the game. The last remaining player is the winner.

Bartering Words

Give a piece of paper and a pen to all of your guests. During a 3-minute period, they will make a list of the words which they find within the word "bartering." The winner is the person who can find the largest number of words. The words must be at least four letters long. Our list might start like this: Ring. Grin. Tiger. Train. Rain. Brat. Barn. Tear. Bring. Barter. Bear. Near.

I Traded Away My New Car

The guests are in a circle, with one person in the middle. (Let's call that person, "Sam.") Sam walks to one of the guests ("Sarah"), and says, "I traded away my new car for a bucket of dog fleas." While saying this statement, Sam humorously scratches at those fleas. The idea is to make Sarah laugh, while Sarah tries not to respond. If Sam is able to make Sarah laugh, Sarah goes into the center, and says the phrase to someone else. If Sam fails to make her laugh, then he tries with the next person.

Guests' Gift Swap

All of the guests bring inexpensive, wrapped gifts. After the gifts are placed on the floor, we sit in a circle around the room. One person unwraps a gift. Then the next person unwraps another gift. That person has the choice of keeping the gift, or trading it for the first gift. Then the third person unwraps a gift, which can be swapped with either of the other two guests. One by one, each guest unwraps a gift, and decides to keep the gift or trade it with someone who has already unwrapped a gift. (If someone wants our gift, we cannot refuse to trade it.)

Betty Wants To Barter

The leader says, "Betty wants to barter her umbrella. What can we give to her?" The next person has to name something. Only the leader knows the secret to giving a correct answer: the word must have a "u" in it, because "umbrella" starts with that letter. The response could be "a gun" or "a tuba." The leader can give another clue: "Betty wants to barter her sun-dial. What can we give to her?" After a few minutes, someone will notice that the correct words all have the letter "u."

I Bartered For Anne's Apple

This is another word game. Each person must give a person's name and an object with can be bartered; both words must start with the same letter. For example, the first person will say, "I bartered for Anne's apple." Each guest takes a letter, all the way through z. "I bartered for Zachariah's zebra." If someone can't come up with a new name or new object within 3 seconds, that person is eliminated from the game.

Popcorn Swap

In this game, popcorn is put into bowls for each guest. The people pair up in chairs opposite one another. Then they are blindfolded and given large spoons. After the command, "swap the popcorn," the players start to feed popcorn to their partners with the spoons. The winners are the people who finish first, with the least amount of popcorn spilled on the floor.

My Uncle Will Trade

In this word game, we say, "My uncle will trade his carrots, but not his radishes." Then we add, "My uncle will trade his barrel, but not his bucket." Can our guests make a correct statement of their own? "My uncle will trade his wallpaper but not his paint." The trick is that the uncle will only trade things with double letters (like "rr" or "ll.")

Crazy Telegrams

The players write a funny telegram with six words in it. Each word starts with a letter from the word, "barter." The first word starts with "b"; the second word starts with "a"; etc. An example is, "Be at Reno, to eat rats." Or, "Buy a rusty teacher excellent rainfall."

Nutty "Want Ads"

Each guest gets a want-ad section from a newspaper, plus some paste and scissors. (If we don't have enough scissors for everyone, we can let the players do this one-at-a-time, while the other people play other games.) The guests choose words from different ads or news articles, to make a nutty want-ad. The words are cut out, and then glued onto a piece of paper. The players start each ad by writing the words: "I want to barter"; those words are written with a pencil (instead of being cut from the newspaper). When all of the guests have made their ads, they can share the ads with the group. Imagine the funny ads: "I want to barter: Chevy van with horse transmission. Great for electrician or polka-dot technician." Another silly ad: "I want to barter: my parakeets for mobile home with unemployed front yard."

I Barter

First person: "I barter with an a because it's an apple and it's appetizing." Second person: "I barter with a b because it's a boot and it's big." Continue through the alphabet.

I Don't Barter

We say, "I don't barter for shoes (or another item of clothing). What should I wear?" The next person has to name a piece of clothing which doesn't contain an "s," because the word "shoe" starts with an "s." The person might say, "I don't barter for a necktie. What should I wear?" Then the next person has to name something which doesn't start with an "n." As we continue through the group, anyone who can't think of an item of clothing is eliminated from the game.

Let's Make A Deal

After the games have been completed, and most of the prizes have been awarded, we can play one last game. In the TV show, "Let's Make a Deal," the winners have an opportunity to trade their prizes for "what's inside this box." At our party, we can let people barter their gifts for hidden surprises, and for one special "grand prize." They can also swap their prizes with one another.