February 5, 2013

Bartering - how do we do it?

Lately I've been thinking a lot about bartering. As many of you ladies know, i love to barter. as do you. it's what we do best. it is so logical, so simple, so mutually beneficial, and no one is drained. it is, i think, an extremely positive exchange. 

however, i've noticed that often times a barter exchange is guided by the monetary/retail value of said items. i.e., "i would sell this for $20, so i can trade it for something worth $20." i know this is not always the case - but i do experience it a lot. perhaps i should speak only for myself. but in any case, even in speaking only for myself, how do we break this habit? how do we determine the worth of an item or service outside of its cash retail value? are some things more valuable than others? based on how long they last, how hard they were to create?

what are your thoughts on this? is it possible to remove bartering from the cash guidelines entirely? if so, what do we have to unlearn? perhaps this is a simple question and i am overlooking the answer. i would love to hear your thoughts on this. or stories. or memories, histories, ideas. 

and yes, i'm talking to all you brilliant, crafty, bartering babes who read this blog. 



  1. oh my gosh Sadie! Not only do I owe you mad barter goods but I LOVE THIS TOPIC. I have to run but when I get back expect MONSTER COMMENT. xoxo

  2. Interesting question. I have never really thought about it. I have a vintage shop on Etsy and I have a shop making natural body products by hand. Which is mostly what I barter. I really only barter at shows, we generally look at the price listed, and barter equal value, but this poses an interesting question. I do not have relationships with these people. However with My friends and family generally end of with a lot of free or very cheap swag from me, we are more and more bartering with trades people for signage etc..Something to ponder.

  3. oh boy and then the internet ate my monster comment!!! here goes once more with feeling.

    This past fall we (the skill share/free school/ local knowledge school I helped start) hosted a preserve swap, something I haven't been around of since grandma's day.

    A barter-based olden time-y exchange of compotes, jams, pickles, fermented items, keeper crops, condiments.

    we had a little talk about bartering before the exchange started just to combat the competitive mentality that folks can have about these things. Here's the gist of what we said:

    1. Do not think of your or anyone else's goods in terms of what they'd sell for in the store, what you could sell them for, what it would cost to make them.

    instead think of

    2. What something someone else made, collected, grew, concocted, is worth to you. For instance my boring old mustard (to me) can be traded for exciting and new fig jam! Which is someone else's boring old fig jam.

    3. Don't think of the time it took you to make your stuff, think of the time it took the other person to make theirs. This will increase your appreciation of it.

    4. When you buy, you tend to think of need/want. Here you have the opportunity to explore and satisfy your needs and wants. New is just as valuable as tried and true. You get to try fig jam instead of raspberry.

    5. Non monetary gains of bartering with friends and neighbors (or strangers). Connections, community building, local, organic, loved items.

    6. This is pretty much one of my core beliefs and informs a lot of what I try to do in my own community: TIME IS NOT MONEY. Ever. It's so shocking to me that people think of their own personal time as having value x therefor if it took them time x to make something its worth value x. Sure we all have to make rent and buy food, but beyond that we should do what we do out of love and fun and not think of it as billable hours.

    7. Therefor, be fair. That's the only way this thing will work. Do not rejoice in a barter bargain unless it was a bargain for both parties.

    In the end everyone had a great time AND we had a bunch of stuff left over, which I took to mean that everyone felt they had gotten plenty . We gave the leftover preserves to our boss who let us use her space. This whole thing is a little different since we just had open tables with stuff rather than person to person bartering. People tend to be less selfish in these situations.

    oops it's telling me my comment is too long!!?!?!

  4. so I had to brake it in 2

    When we go to Barter Fair, which sadly does not live up to its name these days, I usually have two barter lists:

    Need/ want
    Come what may

    The first list consists of things I would pay money for, like honey, seed garlic, books (there's a kick-ass alternative bookstore there).

    I try to barter for these things if I can, BUT often end up doing partial barter-money exchange.

    the second category consists of jewelry, clothes, candles, veggies, books, anything and everything. If someone likes my wares and wants to barter I usually accept what they have to offer even if I don't need it or want it, I'm usually able to trade it onward. Sometimes the most fun is to try to procure what the other person wants. Last time I found a gunne I wanted and asked the seller what she'd like. She said granola. I didn't have any but bartered a friend a big bag for one of my clips. The seller was stoked, my friend was stoked and boy was I stoked.

    But if we look at the the monetary value of things it doesn't quite add up:

    my clip: I sell them for $15-22, but have bartered them for items worth as little as $5 and as much (relatively) as 30. Realistically it takes me altogether (in phases) about 45 minutes to make one and the materials are about $2.

    granola: it was about 5 bucks worth of yummy homemade granola. a big bag and made with love but just enough for a few breakfasters.

    the dress: we all know what you can sell gunnes for- $50-100. I'm pretty sure she hadn't paid a lot or anything for it, but this does not change it's monetary value.

    So in the money equation the seller got a really bum deal and my friend and especially I got a really good deal. But based on how we all felt and how freakin' excited she was about sharing the granola with her friend on the 3rd admittedly scuzzy morning of the fair I think we all got a great deal. That's the beauty of barter, I think.

    Thanks for this awesome topic! you are really inspiring me, girl. Love

  5. Barter is awesome esp. when everyone feels good about the exchange.
    Love potlatch give aways, paying it forward, to see what comes back at another time.
    Money is cleaner which is why it was invented.

  6. barter is awesome esp when everyone feels good about what they walked away with

    love the potlatch pay it forward to see what comes back at another time

    money is cleaner you either agree to pay the price or not

  7. I LOVE trading and bartering. I love the thought that our craft is not tied to a monetary system, but something much richer. I would love to see more trade happen in the handmade community, and not just in the small things, goods that would perhaps be heirlooms. I love all the work people are doing with ancient traditions, leather, and beautiful pieces that are from another generation. I think quality is a really important aspect as far as trades go. Love this post, and for raising some awesome questions!


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