Bartering Through the Ages

Getting down to business without cold, hard cash

GIANNI DAGLI ORTI/CORBIS

13th or 12th century B.C.

Agamemnon, commander of the Greek army during the Trojan War, sacrificed his daughter to the gods in exchange for wind

1200 B.C.

You could buy anything you wanted in China, as long as you had enough cowry shells, the only accepted form of currency

17th century

During the early years of Harvard University, tuition could be bartered for with lumber, livestock, or construction stones

1846

General Vallejo exchanged 4,000 acres of land in northern California for five years of piano lessons for his 16 children

1939

Hitler dabbles in bartering, offering to trade German machinery, harmonicas, and barbed wire to the U.S. in exchange for several hundred tons of lard

1550 to 300 B.C.

Phoenicians bartered with the Tartessians by laying out their goods on the beach, then rowing back to their boats and hoping for the best

1492-1763

Colonial Americans bartered with wheat, musket balls, and the very first “barter bucks,” deer skins

1636

Tulips were so valuable in Holland that a single bulb could be exchanged for a house, a ship, or farmland

1930s

The Great Depression brings bartering back into style, spawning bartering clubs like the 34,000-strong Unemployed Citizens League of Denver

2005-06

Kyle MacDonald started with a single red paper-clip and, through a series of online barters, ended up a year later with a two-story farmhouse in Saskatchewan

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