Non-monetary Trade

specul8

Ad Honorem
Oct 2016
2,531
Australia
#1
How did 'change' work ?

If a sack of lentils was traded for two pairs of leather sandals .... or whatever , you took miscellaneous goods to markets in your 'wallet' ? They kept 'accounts' or ledgers ?

What about 'change' ; you buy some fish, but you 'pay' for them with something worth more than the fish ( say, a vase which cannot be 'divided' ) and you get a pair of sandals 'change ' ?

What about going to market with produce, you go home with a range of goods ?

I imagine there were stable commodities that held value like money, eg 'koku' of rice in Japan , but aside from this , which is just really a 'money' / common exchange commodity , how would barter work considering the different value of things and the idea of receiving 'change' though a large range of commodities ?
 

stevev

Ad Honorem
Apr 2017
2,676
Las Vegas, NV USA
#3
A barter economy is hard to imagine in anything other than in a very local and limited sense. The complexity of deciding what is a fair transaction is the limiting factor. The next step is to identify a medium of exchange. This would something that people are willing to hold as a "store of value" that others would be willing to accept. Beaver skins were used at various times and places on the US frontier. They had intrinsic value and could be held for long time. Gold or silver coins from any source always had intrinsic value. It was only in the 19th century that fiat currency became common (banknotes, treasury notes). The advantage was that economic growth on a larger scale was not limited by the supply of gold or silver but regulated by the supply and demand of goods and services.
 
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stevev

Ad Honorem
Apr 2017
2,676
Las Vegas, NV USA
#5
Soooo .... no answer to my questions then ?
Without some common store of value its hard to see how pure barter would work on a large scale. You would need to have a small number of trade items where ratios or "change" could be defined. Say you want my horse and will trade your rifle. I say my horse is worth 2 rifles like that. You offer one rifle and an ax. I say give me your hat too and it's a deal. What do you say?

If items were purchased it's easier to do "barter" but it's not really pure barter anymore because you'r relying on a purchase value even when factoring in condition and depreciation. Tradition may be a factor. How many sheep is a potential wife worth? Depends on the sheep. Depends on the potential wife. Depends on the culture.
 
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stevev

Ad Honorem
Apr 2017
2,676
Las Vegas, NV USA
#7
It would seem that hides were a common way of calculating.
Yes, but I assume that hides are a store of value that one can hold or use to purchase other items priced in hides. I'm not sure the OP understands that. When hides or whatever are used like money, it's no longer barter. Even the last example I gave (sheep for a wife) would not be barter if sheep were generally used as money and not just for a few things like a wife.
 
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Ichon

Ad Honorem
Mar 2013
3,453
#8
There is still the buyer's needs vs the seller's needs so if the buyer really needs a replacement flint knife he could be willing to trade his fine bow and a nice hide because he knows with the knight he can make another bow and get more hides while the seller knows he can take the bow and use it himself while trading the hide for another knife some weeks travel away so both come out ahead.

Large scale barter does not work as well and you can see the development of early forms of currency in shells, salt, hides, obsidian, etc.

The classic example is usually Phoenician traders who drop off some goods on a beach, go back to their ship and wait a few hours then row back to the beach and see if the natives left some goods and took their offer. If their stuff is still sitting there they added some more to the pile and kept going. The native people would normally be trading something relatively valuable to the Phoenicians but not so difficult from themselves to acquire so the Phoenicians normally happy with most offers- if not they could sail away to the nearest tribe and work with them instead or sometimes there were established ways to ask for more though most of the time both sides of the trade would be aware of the 'normal' value of the goods and if the Phoenicians were shorted one time they would expect some extra on the next trip and the other party would normally want to keep the trade ongoing and take the first offer the Phoencians made at the following year's voyage.

There is also this; https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/02/barter-society-myth/471051/
 
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M.S. Islam

Ad Honorem
Jul 2012
2,787
Dhaka
#9
Full-fledged barter system will work efficiently only through a centralized vendor who would maintain an array of stores/produces, where people will go with their produces/wares and exchange them for what they need.
 

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