Everyone knows about bartering – a system of exchange of goods or services directly for other goods or services without using a medium of exchange like money. Bartering is an age old practice and was in existence long before money in the form of coins and notes came into play - as early as 6000 BC during the time of the Phoenicians. Goods like sea shells, beads, salt, tea, spices and wool were commonly bartered. As the new world formed, early explorers traded blankets, tools and other trinkets for fur with Native Americans. Settlers also traded with Native Americans for land. Imagine trading goods for the island of Manhattan. Colonists traded corn and tobacco among themselves. Even George Washington had to barter for supplies for the Continental army during the American Revolution. Bartering also happened during the Great Depression of the 1930s when money was scarce.
I asked "G" (my husband), who grew up in a rural village in India, if he recalled bartering. He said it was quite common in his village, mainly grains, fruits and vegetables in exchange for the labor of harvesting. For example coconuts were cut down by especially skilled coconut tree climbers, who in return for their labor went home with a bounty of coconuts. Farmers and fisher-women traded for fresh produce and fish.
Why the sudden interest in bartering other than it being an origin of money? It began with Mayil scarves barters at bazaars. I often barter scarves for other vendors’ creations. It’s so fun to barter and take home pieces of jewelry, knitted mittens, soy candles and more. I have also bartered Mayil's scarves for design services, photography sessions and more. My most recent barter was on Etsy for a beautiful mandala design magnetic scarf button in exchange for Mayil’s black tie-dye scarf. Bartering is still alive. It has found a new venue on the world wide web, in the form barter exchanges, handmade goods exchanges, auctions and swap markets. Looking forward to more bartered loot this fall festival and fair season.