Bartering in the SCA

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This page is a subsection of SCA Without Breaking the Bank.

The general method for bartering

Some people might be thinking in too small a scope when I say "barter." Certainly, if you have a SCAdian skill like sewing or carpentry, you are well on your way to having successful items to barter. This is especially true if your skill is something needed (like making clothes) or unusual (candle making or soap making, for instance). If you're a bard, how about writing a story or song about their generosity and kindheartedness, or about some of their accomplishments? If you're decent at it, you might even get people buying things from you!

However, you can still barter, even if you don't have one of these sought-after skills. How? You already have skills that you're probably not acknowledging. Can you babysit for an overworked parent, perhaps even at an event? What about washing someone's dishes for the next event you go to? For larger items, what about being their lady-in-waiting / valet for the next several events? What about carrying their purchases the next time they go on a garage-sale run or down merchants' row? If you're looking for help with armor-making, how about helping that fighter carry his armor to practice or around events? What about typing up their documentation for them for an A&S event? If you can cook, you can offer to help someone cook at events or even cook a few meals for them. If you don't cook that much, payment in cookies (or other goodies) is usually a good bribe... I mean barter source.

I'm sure you have other ideas for things you can do, even if you don't have a "SCAdian" skill. Just asking some people whether they would accept a service instead of money is usually a good way to broach the subject, and you'll be surprised how many people will say "yes." They might even have suggestions for things you can do. Besides, barter is definitely period!

Barter stories

Submitted by Lord Edward Little

I have no real talent but my mundane work takes me away from our shire so I check out garage sales for possible SCA related items. Many years ago when I first joined the SCA at my first Tourney I set up a table to merchant. One lady came by many times purchasing every time. Her last visit she wanted some items but had no more money to spend. However, earlier that morning, this is a camping event, I took a walk and saw one campsite with a waffle iron. I really like fresh waffles. So I asked her if she was the one with the waffle iron. For the last 6 years I trade with her for Saturday morning waffles for myself and the family at the event, and usually set it up for the next event. Always 1 year ahead planning! I have even had her run my booth one year because I was too busy.

This same lady also does belly dancing. One time she wanted some items that I had but complained she had nothing to barter with. Needless to say through bartering with her and another person our Household had, at a camping event, fresh waffles for breakfast, free range organic duck cooked on site for dinner with belly dancing entertainment. Just goes to show whatever you may think you can do or not do someone, thinks what you do has value and is willing to trade for it.

Submitted by Ernst Nuss von Kitzingen

Rather than bartering an item, barter your services. I've seen many folks do this especially at Pennsic. You could offer to be a lady-in-waiting/man-at-arms, demoiselle/assistant to someone. They person doing the hiring need not have a coronet or be a peer. It's getting harder and harder for me to set up my own camp so I would certainly consider feeding someone and paying their way into an event if they were to help set up and tear down my camp and maybe help with the heavy lugging and toting. The relationship could be as intensive or not as the relationship requires. For a long event, like Pennsic, I've seen students offer to babysit X number of days for the price of admission and ground space for a tent. If the people involved come to enjoy one another's company it might even turn into a long-term relationship or something more formal.

How do you find these folks? ASK! Post a note on a local mailing list or even the East Kingdom web site. One year I posted a note on the Known World Newbies mailing list for a Royal Photographer. That person got into all the royalty parties, back stage during court and into all the exclusive gatherings that most newbies don't even know about. She had a ball and I got several megabytes of digital pictures out of the deal.

Submitted by Donal

Brewers always need bottles to store their hand-crafted beer, wine, mead, liqueurs and vinegars. I have been very happy to barter different items I make for cases of empty beer and wine bottles as well as cut glass containers for my cordials. Secondhand stores are wonderful places to obtain interestingly-shaped or colored bottles.

Submitted by Lady Catalina dell'Acqua

I have no marketable SCA skills whatsoever. I have lots of friends who are seamstresses, and who have children. If you can't sew, can't cook, can't brew, can't woodwork, etc., offer to babysit for garb. So far, I have gotten an Italian Ren dress, 2 fencing shirts, and a doublet. All I did was pay for the fabric and babysit a couple of nights.

Submitted by Heather

I was just reading over your tips and I realized that you forgot my favorite SCA shopping spot when I first started participating. The absolute cheapest and easiest place for SCA shopping is Club Mom! I spent a little time going through old boxes at my parents' place and found tons of useful items. Usually all I had to do was just ask for it, however there were times I had "barter" for it. I know it isn't something everyone can use but some might not have thought of scavenging through family homes.

Submitted by Lady Sorcha

I have made my FIRST barter deal two months ago. Another SCA Lady had a hide and a half she wanted to sell. I contacted her and we ended up bartering for it. She gave me the hides and I made her a velvet pouch with a beaded Cheese Wheel on it. We are both happy with our "deal". Since she is into Cheese making, the pouch shows off her "trade". And the hides have furnished me with a heavy fighter full chest plate (front is metal back is leather) armor, a full Gladiator type skirt (for both heavy and light fighting), and a metal and leather bra-type armor (for lights). And I still have enough leather to make a nice sized pouch.

Submitted by Llv Waldrondottir

My very first event was a day trip and the only money I had was to get myself into the event (I didn't even know up till the last minute I could even make it, so I surprised my shire when I did!)

I was browsing the merchant booths when one lady's table atracted my eye with a rather lovely mock opal necklace. We got to talking and she told me the necklace was 10 bucks. I told her I was broke and the first thing she said was "Barter is time period!" I was thinking on what I could do barter with. She of course wanted my knife. I have a rather nice belt knife which was a gift from some freinds in Texas and while it looks lovely on my hip it's in no way barter material! Though it did give me an idea and I told her I would take that necklace (which she admitted to having on her table for a long time and not having gotten rid of), for what I had in my pocket.

I think it amused her. She accepted the bargain and received a handful of pennies, half a bag of Jelly Bellies, and a few beads with Hemp string of a project I was working on. (I braid hemp as one of my hobbies.) She admired the hemp piece (and let me keep the rest! LOL). I finished out the piece for her and in return not only did I get the necklace but she gave me a lovely celtic knot broach! I went out to my car, got some more hemp and produced several more bracelets at that kind Lady's booth. I left my first event with more money in my pockets than I came with! I met a lot of interesting people and received a sewn emblem of my shireÊand a rather lovely sandalwood fan that has gone with me to many a hot event since.

I also ate feast at that event dispite not paying for it, because when they where calling out for extra volunteers I just jumped in and said "Give me something to do! I'm bored!" They realised later I was REALLY new and next I knew someone set up a spare spot at one of the tables and I was sat down with a plate and a bit to eat.

Overall I had a grand time! My braidings are still popular, and I've added to that drawing portraits and heraldic symbols, as well as eching glass mugs and goblets for people's feast gear. My shire's local merchant sells most my items for me at his booth, that way I can run about and enjoy the rest of the event without being tied to a booth, or even being at that event.

It is how I gain most my stuff and supplement my really insanely little income. Let alone I stay busy and have a grand time at the events.