In a world threatened by EMP attacks, dirty bombs, the threat of social unrest, hyperinflation, or even severe weather, it always pays to be prepared. In times of disaster, paper money can become worthless. Below I have outlined the top 10 Disaster Currencies, a group of valuable, portable, tradable money replacements you could use to barter and trade during a time of disaster.
- Gold – Gold and silver are the most obvious disaster currencies. With a nearly indefinite shelf life, precious metals are perfect money. The high value of gold may make it useful for serious disaster expenses, like buying passage across the Atlantic, but smaller purchases may be more easily facilitated by using silver or some of the other currencies on this list.
- Alcohol – With proper storage, alcohol will last a very long time. It has appeal in most parts of the Western world. Stock up on a variety of sizes and flavors to ensure maximum effectiveness in bargaining. The only downside of alcohol in glass bottles is transportation, so stock up on plastic bottles. The best denomination is the tiny airline-style bottle.
- Ammunition – Aside from being useful in self-defense, ammunition is a great store of value. With an extremely long shelf life and the ability to endure rough transport, ammo is perfect as a currency. Any attempt to stock up for currency purposes should focus on the most popular local calibers. In the U.S. and Western Europe, that means the standard NATO rounds like 9 mm and .223. That said, as in coin collecting, rare rounds in the right caliber might be more valuable to the right person.
- Batteries – With a long shelf life, excellent portability, and a variety of denominations, batteries are nearly a perfect disaster currency.
- Foreign Currency – Foreign currencies may still hold value even if your home country suffers disaster or hyperinflation. Keeping a wallet with a diverse group of small-denomination foreign currencies might be helpful. For U.S. readers, I would definitely recommend having Canadian dollars or Mexican pesos, depending on which border you are closer to. Buying a bus ticket at the border is a lot easier if you have currency, and so is bribing a border guard (I am not recommending breaking the law).
- Canned Food – Heavy but essential, canned food is an absolute necessity when it comes to disaster preparedness. Canned foods last a long time and come in standard sizes, making them easily tradable. Don’t depend on canned goods for your currency needs in a post-disaster world, but be aware that they could be used as such.
- Water – The most essential of disaster needs, water gives you bargaining power that nothing else will. The drawbacks of water are that it is very heavy and is subject to contamination. Keep it bug-free and in small containers to get the best currency value out of your water supplies.
- Household Goods – If you’ve read or watched 1984, you know that razor blades are a good disaster currency, but any number of toiletries and other household consumables will fill the bill. My wife remembers standing in line for hours waiting to buy toilet paper in communist Poland. And when you could get it, you stocked up as much as possible. Think of soap, deodorant, shaving cream, shampoo, tampons, and pretty much anything else you might use up as possible bartering tools in case of major disaster. You might think about buying an extra box of your favorite brands so you’re not the one using gold or silver to buy soap. New parents should be thinking baby formula and diapers here.
In Poland under communism, consumer goods were scarce. Poles stocked up when they could.
- Gasoline – With a shelf life shorter than that of most other items on the list, gasoline isn’t the best currency, but in a post-disaster world you can bet it will be in high demand. Using chemical stabilizers and a proper cycling method can give you the best chance at having potent gasoline for use as a barter currency if the worst ever comes.
- Medicines – Obviously drugs of many kinds already play a large part in the world’s black markets. Expect that level of involvement to increase in a time of disaster. Drugs are easily portable and essential for many. For your own personal use, you should stock up on as many months of essential drugs as your doctor will prescribe you, taking into account the drug’s shelf life, of course. Remember to cycle out older supplies for newer. (Again, I am not encouraging anyone to break federal, state, or local laws regarding drugs or anything else.)