What's a Good "Doomsday Currency"?

(Photo: Adam Gault)

A reader named Marcus Kalka writes:

I have a weird question, but a good one. With all the talk about the value of the U.S. dollar falling and the U.S. dollar losing its status as the world’s reserve currency, I am curious to know your guys’ thoughts on what possible temporary alternative currency you believe would be the most optimal for us here in America in a hypothetical future doomsday scenario — i.e., what one should stock a lot of in his or her basement in the event of a [heaven forbid] total financial meltdown? Historically, cigarettes, alcohol, candy, and even packs of mackerel have been used as a bartering commodity currency where cash is not as useful or cannot be used. And so, my question for you is this: From an economic standpoint, which item do you think would make the most ideal “doomsday currency” in the U.S. for this time period? Perhaps cigarettes or wine? Gold or silver coins? Cans of tuna? Baseball cards? Bottles of water? Any thoughts? And any ideas on a potential makeshift currency sign?

Tough one. How about … gems (the old standby), cell phones, iPads, SIM cards, incandescent light bulbs, toolboxes, running shoes …


Guns and ammo.

Ryan Phelps


Bradford McKeown

Salt would be an excellent option.

Joey Gibroni

In a total Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome scenario, cans of tuna and bottled water would be best, but if it's just the USD that's going to have the bottom fall out, switch to another currency. I.e. Gold & Silver.

Roberto Terán Alcántara

Water and canned food?...

Joe A

Toilet paper in the short term. Gold/silver in the long term.

John F



Fuel, food, water.


I can see the reasonale behind gems, but ideally you'd want some currency with lower unit value? Remember what happened to the guy with the $1million bank note (or was it pounds?). In any case, you wouldn't want to change 1 diamond for a herd of cow, when you only shop for a steak.


How about toilet paper? By the square, of course...


Your suggestion of cell phones/ipad isn't great, because technology advances so quickly the "currency" wouldn't hold value.

Good currency is small, holds value, stores easily and is easily transferable. Gems and gold meet those requirements. Tools might be valuable for barter, but aren't usually small. Batteries might meet the requirements.


Canned foods. Because when worse comes to worse no one will care about gold or anything non-digestible.

Axel Kaiser

There is little doubt in my mind that the world will have to return to a gold coin standard or a silver-gold standard. Ludwig von Mises and Murray Rothbard predicted a long time ago that fiat currency system would lead to an explosion of government spending and eventually the collpase of the entire economic system. The reason is simple: without something real backing paper currency governments have no limit to expand the money supply and banks no limit to create derivatives and all sort of financial instruments backed by nothing. Gold and silver were chosen as money by the market after centuries of evolution becouse they proved to be the best commodities for performing the exchange function. And they will be back precisely for the same reason.


Rice would be an excellent choice, coz it doesn't go bad and it needs fewer processing than, for instance, corn or rye. It can also reproduce, something tuna is not able to...



Odin Overland

I always said that in a true "Doomsday" scenario ammunition and weapons would be the best form of currency. You can trade, or use them to find food or defend your family, property, and yourself. Of course if that ever happens in America we won't worry about capitalism at all.


It's telling that this is a real question today.

I'd have to go with Gold (which is why it's so freaking expensive now!).

Mayuresh Gaikwad

Gold, A few guns and ammunition to protect it. Even if the $ falls, demand for gold from other parts of the world will be high

Nobody's Fool

Matt and Ryan Phelps stated three of the 5 things needed: Guns, ammo, gasoline (fuel). The others would be food and water. Any and all of the 5 could be traded or used to "encourage" trade (or discourage theft).


Alcohol. Many uses.