Bartering Makes a Comeback in Bismarck of All Places


In my search for barter and trade related news I stumbled on this article from the Bismarck Tribune about a group of people that used to get together in the park to swap whatever they had for the stuff that they wanted, back in the ’60s and ’70s. Now they are using Facebook as the medium of contacting each other.

It’s highly interesting to me to note how barter really is becoming mainstream, but not like I had always imagined it. I used to think that barter and trade exchanges were going to become as mainstream as banks and credit unions. Instead, in our cashless economy, people are just finding each other and doing business without currency.

I still have yet to find a good example of a barter company, besides internet startups, that is taking full advantage of what is going on right now in the economy. Will that exchange be yours?

So I wasn’t completely shocked to stumble upon the Bismarck Bartering Network on Facebook. Constant readers will recall that Facebook is the world I live in now.The BBN, as it were, harkens back to at least the 1970s and, before that, the pre-industrial agrarian lifestyle.The system is simple: Make or do something. Trade it for other things that you need or want. No money changes hands.The variety of goods and services is impressive for such a fledgling endeavor. Need legal help? Need a massage? Need legal help after a massage? It’s all there.

Bartering makes comeback

And what is it going to take to make sure that your exchange wins? If bartering is as easy as finding someone who has what you want right now, how are you going to attract long term customers? Have answers? Let me know…

If you don’t, I have some for you.


  1. What are some of your answers? I for one think places that use faux currency are missing the point.. this is not barter! How is this any different than selling your items / services? I’ll tell you how, you can’t buy groceries / pay the rent with your newly acquired points, and if you can’t find anything you want with your points before the site goes under, you just got nothing in return for your items / services.. not a very successful barter. Imagine if only a very very small subset of our country accepted the USD, and there was no guarantee that the USD would hold value 6 months from now.. how eager would people be to work jobs, sell their homes, etc in exchange for the USD?

  2. Tyler, thanks for your comment. I like your line of thinking. Let’s apply the same criteria that you apply to a “barter” currency to any other currency. Let’s start with Zimbabwe dollars. If I accept Zimbabwe dollars in my business in America, I am going to have a hard time using them anywhere but Zimbabwe. I won’t be able to buy groceries with them, I won’t be able to pay rent with them, and if I can’t find anything I want before the currency tanks, I just got nothing in return for my goods and services. Not a good trade, wouldn’t you say?

    Now, let’s apply that same criteria to the US dollar. If I accept US dollars in my American business, I should have an easy time using them. There are many businesses that accept them. I’ll be able to buy groceries with them, pay rent with them, and find lots of stuff to use them with. A good trade…but what if I’m using checks? That just limited the number of places I can use my US dollars. What if I only have US dollars with American Express? That just limited the places I can spend my dollars even more…and what guarantees the value of the US dollar? Nothing. You can’t exchange it for anything tangible at a bank. It’s only as good as the goods and services it has the power to purchase, just like a barter currency.

    A barter exchange, in the traditional sense, is an alternative currency. You’re absolutely right. All currencies are is a medium of exchange. Any exchange you do could be considered a barter, if you were being strict. I barter my services for US dollars. That’s the trade. That being said, trade exchanges have a very valuable place in the world, especially right now. Cash is tight, credit markets are stuck, banks don’t lend unless you have stellar credit. What is a business owner to do? If you want to finance an expansion, where do you go for capital? Friends and relatives? Strangers? Solicitations on Twitter and Craigslist? Why not use an alternative currency, a barter currency if you wish, to finance your expansion? Yeah, the spending power is somewhat limited depending on the exchange you belong to, but if you need advertising and the exchange you belong to has advertising, then you just did a great trade.

    I’m an advocate of checking out any trade exchange before you join. Ask the sales person for some references and call them. Find out if the brokers call their clients. Take a look at their list of clients and make sure there is a match. If you are dealing with good, honest trade brokers, they will tell you what they can and can not do. Do business with reputable, established exchanges and you should be just fine.

    As a side note, in my experience, you can trade for groceries and pay rent with barter dollars. I’ve seen it a number of times. Not widespread, but it is possible. It takes a patience and a finesse that few have, but it is possible.

    I’m excited for your rebuttal.