ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

What is Bartering?

Updated on February 26, 2011

Barter is the exchange of goods or services without the use of money. The earliest trade, before the invention of money, took the form of barter. Among non-literate peoples in many parts of the world, barter is still widely practiced; however, the use of money in the form of national currencies has everywhere tended to replace ancient barter customs.

Bartering chickens for an annual newspaper subscription.
Bartering chickens for an annual newspaper subscription.

Early Trading

Barter was the earliest basis for the development of markets, where the concept of "fair value" or "equivalent value" emerged even without a standardized medium of exchange. Such concepts as "value" and "price" generally developed in the process of bargaining or haggling, a way of arriving at a fair price by consensus. A man wishing to exchange a surplus of potatoes by barter must find someone who, first, needs his potatoes, and, second, has something to exchange that the seller needs. A man wishing to acquire potatoes must find someone who has potatoes to dispose of and wishes to acquire something the would-be buyer has available.

Then the two men must bargain to decide how many potatoes will be exchanged for the other commodity.

Anthropologists have found more examples of barter between tribes and communities than within such groups, This is most likely explained by the fact that internal exchanges often represent social and ceremonial gift-giving, whereas intergroup barter is a means of meeting economic needs. Tribal peoples, like nation-states, are seldom economically self-sufficient and must find ways of complementing what they themselves are able to produce.

Silent Trade

The most striking type of barter is the so-called "silent trade," in which no direct contact occurs between the parties to the exchange. One group leaves trade items at a designated place. Members of the second group come later and if they Rnd the items desirable, leave goods of their own in place of those they take. Such barter has occurred between groups that have hostile relations or no relations at all with each other, and between people of mutually unintelligible languages.

Examples of silent trade were reported by ancient and medieval historians such as Herodotus and Ibn Battuta. Modern anthropologists have observed silent trade among tribes of California Indians, Pygmies and Bantus in the Congo, natives of New Guinea, and others. These examples show how the need to trade overrides what might appear to be insurmountable difficulties.

Trading Chains

Inter-tribal trade frequently involves the development of trade partnerships, some of which form chains passing through many groups and across hundreds of miles. Examples of this sort of barter have been found among Australian tribes in modern times: stone axes from southern sources are known to have been distributed in this manner to northern tribes.

Such trading chains probably also explain why such items as barracuda jaws from the Gulf of Mexico and mica from the Rocky Mountains are found among the archaeological remains of the prehistoric Hopewell peoples of Ohio.

Even in industrialized societies, some bartering still goes on. In the United States, for example, "swapping" through the medium of newspaper columns is barter in pure form.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)