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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Crisis, Martial Law, and Black Market Operation

Crisis, Martial Law, and Black Market Operations

In the coming years, I think there is a strong possibility that there is going to be crisis and martial law in the United States and in other nations as well. During such periods, the items you need to survive will become increasingly scarce, especially if the crisis and martial law goes on for an extended period of time.

This article could have well been entitled How to Be a Successful Criminal, because what we are talking about bartering during cisis and/or martial law. In crisis and martial law, bartering of goods will be considered a criminal act. As such, if you barter you will be a participant in the black market (at least in the eyes of the government). Remember, during crisis with martial law, you can be arrested for just about anything.

The rules I cover in this article come from the book Black Market Operations: Marketing Theory and the Fencing of Stolen Goods, A report by Ted Roselius and Douglas Benton, associate professors in the college of business at Colorado State University. The book was published by the now defunct publisher Loompanics Unlimited. You may still be able to find the book on some internet booksellers. The book’s ISBN number is 1-55950-017-4. If you can get a copy, I recommend you add it to your preparedness library.

For the record, I do not support criminal behavior during normal times. However, during periods of crisis, especially prolonged crisis with martial law, you have to do what is necessary to survive. Just because the martial law government labels your bartering a “crime” does not make it unethical or evil. On the contrary, your first duty is to provide for your family. (See 1st Timothy chapter 5 verse 8.)

In the book listed above, the author’s list some characteristics of goods that are best for selling and trading on the black market. Let’s examine those characteristics in detail and how the principles will apply to a pure barter economy during a prolonged crisis with martial law.

1. “High Value-generates more cash per risky transaction.”

Selling and trading goods on the black market is always risky. It is especially risky if you are under martial law, as you can be executed for essentially anything. Therefore, if your taking a big risk, you want to make sure that there is a big reward for taking the risk. In crisis or under martial law how much value your barter items have will determine how many goods and services you can trade them for. Some items that will have a high trade value include guns, ammunition, freeze-dried food (see # 2 ), antibiotics, narcotic pain medication, liquor, knives, batteries, and radios Under normal conditions bartering items like narcotic pain medications and liquor could be very risky. However, during crisis and martial law, the bartering of anything can get you arrested and possibly shot. So in crisis with martial law, bartering anything is a high risk activity. Make sure your barter brings enough rewards to justify the risks involved in bartering.

2. “ Low bulk and low perishability”

Any product you sell on the black market will have to be transported and will have to be in useful condition at the time of the transaction. Therefore, perishable items are out in most situations. The same is true for large, bulky items. However, what constitutes large and bulky will depend on your own situation. If you have a large pick up truck, you will have the advantage of being able to transport large items that those without large pickup trucks cannot transport.

Most food will perish very easily. However, freeze-dried food, dehydrated food, and to a lesser extent MRE’s (meals ready to eat) will make good barter items. So will water purification supplies

3. “Branded items”

Here we are talking about items with a brand name on them. People trust branded merchandise. In fact, people trust branded merchandise so much, the criminal class has started branding merchandise like heroin and cocaine by putting them in packages with brands on the package so that users will make repeat purchases of their product.
Imagine this: John Smith has a case whisky he is going to trade for a rifle. He goes to the meeting point and produces a clear glass container with a light brown liquid inside and there is no seal on the top of the bottle.

Now imagine: Peter Sloan has a case of whisky he is going to trade for a rifle. He goes to the meeting point and produces a glass container with a label on it that says “Crown Royal” and the seal on the bottle is in tact.

Imagine if you were the man trading the rifle for the whisky. Which of the two people listed in the paragraphs above would you be more inclined to do business with? The correct answer is Peter Sloan, because Peter Sloan has branded merchandise. John Smith might have cooked up some grain alcohol in a still and put some brown food coloring in it and called it “whisky.”

If the crisis and martial law last long enough, and you can produce useful goods, you should consider coming up with your own brand and putting that brand on your product.

4. ” Non-sized items”

This means items like clothes and shoes are not good items for trading or selling, because you have to find a buyer who fits the clothes you have. This is a GENERAL RULE. (A general rule is a rule that applies between 7 and 9 times in 10) There are exceptions. For example, lets say you live in a relatively remote area and you are having an extremely cold winter. You manage to find someone who wishes to trade a supply of military parkas for items you have. If you are in a situation where you can barter sized items and benefit, do the deal!

5. “Established and well known price”

This rule applies more to the black markets during normal periods than crisis periods and martial law periods. Remember, criminals pay zero for their items because they steal them. (I do not endorse criminal behavior) Let’s say a criminal stole 4 cases of vodka, and the normal price in the legitimate retail world is twenty dollars a bottle, the criminal should make it know that he is selling the product for less than the normal price twenty dollars a bottle.

During crisis and/or martial law, normal pricing rates will go out the window. The prices for everything will go up. However, if the crisis and/or martial law last long enough, established prices for goods and services in the barter economy will develop. By making your barter price slightly below the “established” barter price that develops for a particular good or service, you may have more success than the individual who sticks firmly to the established barter price. Notice I said make your price slightly below the barter economy established price. Say five percent lower than your competitors. If everyone else is trading their extra rifles for 100 bottles of whisky, trade your extra rifles for 95 bottles of whisky. Pricing your barter goods slightly below the barter economy price may give you an edge.

6. A. “Products should not be subject to post purchase dissonance.”

Here the authors were talking about people who changed their mind and want their money back. In simple terms, buyers remorse. During crisis and/or martial law, ALL SALES AND TRADES ARE FINAL..........unless you can get something of more value in the return/exchange process. If the situation is very bad, you should always be prepared to enforce this rule with bullets.

B. “ Low traceability.”

The items you trade should not be easily traceable. Guns are a good example of items that are easily traceable, because virtually all guns produced in the last 30 or so years have serial numbers.

Suppose you trade a pistol to John Smith for 50 freeze-dried meals. Later John Smith is captured by the martial law troops and they find his gun. The serial number on the gun will be traced, and you will soon have government troops knocking on your door.

If you sell or trade anything in a crisis or martial law scenario that can be traced to you, to the best of your ability remove anything from the item you are selling that allows it to be traced, such as serial numbers or identifying marks.

C. “Marketing opportunities increase substantially with and increase in the range of consumer types.”

That is a fancy way of saying with a more varied customer base comes more opportunity to sell and trade. If your dealing with people who need food, having guns to trade is of little use. If your dealing with people who need medicine, having food to trade is not going to help.

With this in mind, I have two recommendations:

1. Provided you have the means, start building a supply of items you can barter. Determine what items are of most value to the people in your area or region. If you have extra money, stockpile items that are of value in your area, provided you don’t break any of the previous rules.

2. Get to know as many people as possible in your area. DO NOT discuss your preparedness plans with them. You simply want to get to know them socially so that in the event a crisis and/or martial law, you will have a larger base of people to trade with. A bonus with this is that you might find some decent people and make new friends.

One last thing: Try to be decent. Get a fair trade when you barter but DO NOT ruthlessly exploit your fellow human beings. Also, if you have large supplies of goods, do a little charity and give away some things to sick people, old people, orphans, and others who cannot fend for themselves. But only do this if you have large supply of goods that will more than take care of you and your family


  1. thanks good sugestions, would coffee be an acceptable barter item?

  2. You had also better be armed and ready to use deadly force to protect your barter items and yourself. Bartering should be done away from your home. Dispense charity through a second party, like a church or you may be asking for trouble. Be careful how you advertise your barter items.

  3. A very informative article. I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on security, particularly for those who intend to regularly barter for more than personal use. Once word gets out that you always have something to trade then the powers that be will find out eventually. This is particularly the case if your acting in the place of a whole-saler. The 'retailer' will inform on you. What percentage could be expected to be allocated for bribes and payoffs? Much can be learned from the drug paradigm. It is a ruthless business with high risks and rewards. If you have any thoughts I'd like to hear them.


  4. Charles Darwin was the master intellect regarding survival:

    Survival EQUALS ability to adapt to environment EQUALS ability to choose correctly EQUALS freedom:

    THINK about it:

    The greatest survival good is YOU and your ability to be of service to those who have what you want.

  5. Very good info. Thanks. I started making a list of things to buy in advance that won't perish, things to buy if I think a crisis is close that will perish and things to get with barter in mind.

  6. Hey! I found your blog today and I think it is one of the best articles on bartering I have ever read. You have a good brain up there between your ears. Your insight into the human mind and trading is unique and well formed. I will mention you in my blog, for sure.


  7. Hi,

    Homemade wine, while not necessarily branded it fills most of the other criteria.

    Burr Rabbit

  8. Excellent points on both substance and style.

    Personally, I have started a small "warehouse" of OTC medicines, mainly name-brand pain and allergy types - a combination of living in the SE and an aging population. Also, a whole loaded box can belifted with one hand. Couldn't do that w/a case of 9mm. Or whiskey. Or wine.
    Am also looking into duct tape, WD40, basic folding knives.

    Thanks for an informative, insightful piece.

  9. John Williams is the brain behind He believes (and has the numbers to prove it) that the U.S. is toast, like a dinosaur that has been slain but whose tiny brain doesn't know it yet.

    By the way, he says a great small-change barter item is the mini scotch the airlines use.

  10. Nice site, very informative. I like to read this.,it is very helpful in my part for my criminal law studies.

  11. Something which is not usually included on barter lists but should be is (are?) tampons. Like the airplane mini-bottles they are easy to store and carry, and trust me, for a woman in need they can be gold. A serious prepper should include at least a couple boxes.