What Can We Trade?

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

When Rollie Simpson of Barterburg wanted a new bicycle wheel, he tried something different: he bartered. Bartering was a great way for him to get the wheel, because he had no money. Rollie didn't pay a cent; instead, he offered to wash his neighbor's car twice. In exchange for the car-washing, the neighbor gave Rollie a wheel from of the old bicycle which was just gathering dust in the garage.

Bartering can be a great technique for us, too. We know how to buy things with money: we give a few coins or dollar bills to a store clerk, and then the clerk gives us something (like a candy bar or some floppy disks).

But bartering is different. We are not using money from our wallet or purse. It is not money which has been given by our parents, or earned from our after-school job. No, it's not money at all.

What can we use, when we barter? We can trade:

  1. Things which we possess. They might be our old catcher's mitt, an outgrown dress, the toys which no longer interest us, a Christmas present which we never liked, and the junk in our closet. Another "thing which we possess" might be spare time, which is worth a lot to someone else.
  2. Things which we do. We don't have to be really talented. Nearly anyone can rake leaves, do errands or house-cleaning or window-washing. There are many simple chores which we can do for people.
  3. Things which we know. We can teach a younger child (or even an older one) how to ride a bicycle, how to dance, how to do difficult math problems, or how to do simple computer repairs. In Barterburg, Barbara Stiner found tutors of cooking, guitar-playing, skiing, chess, and other subjects.

Bob, a 12-year-old boy in Barterburg, says, "Sometimes, I see things that I'd like to have. I used to tell myself, 'I wish I had money to buy that.' But now I don't just walk away. I think of what I could trade for it. There's a video game system in Jules' Electronics Store, and it's just what I want," Bob said. "There's no way I could buy it with cash, since it costs $150. But I can barter for it. The owner is letting me sweep out his store every day after school. And on weekends, I straighten up his shelves, and wash his windows. After I do that for a few weeks, the owner will let me keep the game. He promised. It's a fantastic deal for me, and it feels like I'm getting it for free. But I'm working hard, so the owner is getting a good deal, too."

We can trade away: arts and crafts (jewelry, sculpture, photography, poetry, macrame, etc.), cooking, baking bread and cookies, plants, flowers (fresh and dried), massage, furniture (tables, chairs, bookcases), ironing, toys and games of all kinds, laundry service, vegetables from our garden, and odd jobs.

Also ... vacuuming, oven-cleaning, yardwork, leaf-raking, grass-cutting, bicycles, sports gear (fishing pole, soccer ball, baseball mitt, frisbee), old clothing, knitting, sewing, mending, animal care and sitting, animals for trade (dogs, tropical fish, etc.), dishwashing, and clowns and magicians for parties.

"I run errands," said Paula McEtten, who attends Barterburg High School. "I do it for a couple of hours every weekend, for a man who owns a grocery store. When the job is done, I can have a bag full of the food which I want; I love oatmeal cookies, granola bars, and other sweets. I take the snacks to the park, and I eat as much of it as I want. Then I swap some of the food to my friends there. And I save one candy bar to take home to my Mom, who likes sweet food, too."

We can trade our labor, musical performance (piano, guitar, etc.), radio, popcorn popper, banjo, car-washing, bead-craft, candle-making, crocheting, wood-carving, embroidery, ornaments (for Christmas, Easter, parties, and other occasions), story-telling (for younger children, or for adults who want companionship), the watering of house plants and lawns, nature walks and neighborhood guided tours, telephoning, silver-polishing, and shopping.

We can teach math, reading, science, history, guitar, piano, dancing, tennis, bicycle-riding, ice skating, chess, skiing, and other skills.

Here is another list -- of things which we can get by bartering. We can add our own ideas to this list. We can get airplane rides, knitting, baked food (cookies, blueberry muffins, etc.), boat trips, books, cake-decorating, camera repair, cameras, clowns for our party, costumes, dog grooming, doll repair, rocking chairs, hair cuts and styling, hats, homemade toys, horses, strawberry jam and grape jelly, and jewelry.

"My friends trade their jewelry with one another, said Sara, a 13-year-old girl in Barterburg. "I become tired of my rings after I wear them a few times. And I always like to put on different necklaces. We never traded until our history teacher spent a class-period talking about the pioneers, who used to barter. He said that we should try bartering. My friends do it now. And Tom Lindsey is starting a barter club in school."

We can get many other things by bartering, when we learn how to do it correctly. We can get musical instruments, music lessons, oil paintings, parrot-training, party help, peacocks, pet care, photography, piano tuning, pictures, pool tables, puppet shows, radios, shoes, sign painting, speech therapy, swimming-pool use, tape recorders, tents, tools, TVs, wallets, waterbeds, candy, cots, desk lamps, eye glasses, film, swim-club memberships, and computer hardware (a keyboard, a faster modem, a bigger hard drive, etc.).

Also: stereos, watches, picnic tables, delicatessen treats, gifts, luggage, pet food, microscopes, telescopes, dress making, posters, story telling, party planning, plant care, kite making, bows and sharp arrows, printing, stained class, and balloons.

A list of skills and talents which I can trade. For example:

  1. I can do yardwork. I will rake leaves, pull weeds, cut grass, and do other jobs
  2. I can sweep floors and clean a house.
  3. I play the guitar well, so I'll give lessons.

My list of skills of talents which I can trade:

A list of things which I can trade. (Things I own and things I can make.) For example:

  1. My old football.
  2. Clothes that are too small.
  3. My old books
  4. The leather belts that I make.

My list of things which I can trade:

A list of people who could be my"barter partners." (After each name, I can add the things which I want to get from the person .) For example:

  1. Mrs. Johnson. I would like to have some of her pecan pie.
  2. My brother. I want one of his model airplanes. He can teach me the card games which he plays with his friends. And he can let me use his camera.
  3. Young World Arcade. I want to play on their pool table. (To pay them back, I could offer to sweep their floor and do other chores.)

My list of people who can be my barter partners:

A list of things which I want to GET by bartering. For example:

  1. A new bicycle.
  2. Some swimming lessons.
  3. Someone to fix my radio.

My list of things which I want to get by bartering: