A trio of characters are stuck in the past (1691, Salem), without any supplies, except for the clothes they are wearing and the items they have in their pockets. They don’t have any food, and their clothes aren’t appropriate for the time period. But, luckily they stumble upon a merchant with everything they need.

They have no money though. What modern day items that people commonly carry around would be best for trading with the merchant?


  • It must be something that isn’t too advanced, ie no cell phones or calculators.

  • They can trade the clothes they're wearing as well.

  • They don’t care if the item gets found in the future, so that isn’t a problem.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ it seems their best bet could be to sell their knowledge, if those were engineers working on a time machine, they sure could come up with some simple appliances to make the day to day live better. $\endgroup$
    – Sasha
    Feb 19, 2018 at 21:20
  • $\begingroup$ @sasha Yeah that is a good idea $\endgroup$
    – Bryan
    Feb 19, 2018 at 21:21
  • $\begingroup$ @Bryan - why Salem, Mass in 1691? Are you planning for them to be arrested as witches? Remember that in those days there were many witch trials in Europe, Salem was merely the most famous one in the English colonies. And if you aren't planning a comedy, study the witch trials. $\endgroup$ Feb 19, 2018 at 22:34
  • $\begingroup$ It’s supposed to be a comedy Golding $\endgroup$
    – Bryan
    Feb 19, 2018 at 22:38
  • $\begingroup$ I've voted to close as off topic because this appears to be asking what characters might do, rather than about the world they're in. $\endgroup$
    – rek
    Feb 19, 2018 at 22:54

5 Answers 5

  • Work for dinner.
  • Gamble using some kind of knowledge of events but take into account that chaos has diminishing returns based on their
    influence in this timeline (accuracy of events happening starts to
    degrade). Let's say this timeline was in the memory of a webpage on a cell.
  • Velcro straps
  • Pocket Knife or key chain appliance
  • Reading glasses
  • Sell a story about a blockbuster card or something silly about a laminated card in the wallet.
  • Fake costume jewelry that seems cheaply made in future time but back then they wouldn't know.
  • Food recipe for mayo or ketchup
  • A "Never Ending Quill" aka ball point pen
  • $\begingroup$ Correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t ball point pens run out of ink eventually? $\endgroup$
    – Bryan
    Feb 19, 2018 at 22:08
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Bryan Before 1800 people used inks and qills. The fountain pen was vely small tank of ink which was worse than modern ink. So ball point pen would seem as eternal for people at 1690th. It would end after weeks of using which is extremely better than quill. $\endgroup$
    – ADS
    Feb 19, 2018 at 22:26
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Bryan shhh don't tell the merchant that ;) $\endgroup$
    – Rafe Smith
    Feb 20, 2018 at 16:33

The same things that have value now:

  • Wedding gold ring
  • Watch (although a cheap watch would be traded for roughly the same value as a 500'000 $ Breguet). This is probably the most valuable item they might have with them in the eye of a 17th century merchant.
  • Gold or silver earrings
  • Good shoes/clothes

Assuming they can avoid getting accused of witchcraft and executed, and the merchant is reasonably open-minded? Really, more or less anything they have would be worth trading.

  • Pencils, pens, and thin Sharpies--no endless dipping of your quill into the inkwell!
  • Reading glasses--no more squinting while reading last week's ledger!
  • Matchbook--instant flame, whenever you want it!
  • Swiss Army knife--highly versatile, usable for just about anything!
  • Colonge/perfume--want that pretty-looking lass down the street? Just a few sprays and she's yours!
  • Paracord--50 feet of strong, durable, all-purpose rope, all in one small bundle!
  • Handheld mirror--incredibly valuable, the quality far surpassing the current-day mirrors!
  • Flashlight (plus batteries)--no need to light a candle when working at night anymore!
  • Asprin, ibuprofen, and similar medicine--easier and far more effective than making a traditional herbal remedy!

It could be something cheap and common in our life but never seen in 1690.

Like this pencil, for example. Also, remember that aborigens bought beads for extremely high price just because they never see something like that. With that condition, an yo-yo toy or pocket knife that @Rafe mentioned or even cigarette lighter could wonder a merchant.

  • $\begingroup$ Note all those existed in the 17th century although they would be very different. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Feb 21, 2018 at 4:58

Their shoes. Strong durable rubber soles! Fine leather work. Strange fabrics.

Windbreakers, especially hoodies. Wait, you can wear this thin layer and stay dry?


The usual stuff mentioned by others, like watches, pens/pencils, flashlights, pocket knives.

If someone's clothes have machine-made lace, it would be worth a fortune. Lace was handmade and quite expensive. While a lot of women could make it, quality varied. The machine stuff is meh to us today but would take hundreds of hours to make by hand for enough to cover a shirt, say.

Elastic hair ties. Do you know how hard it is to get hair to stay tied with just ribbon?

Hair clips of all sorts (they'll have some but not all types).

Elastic in waistbands, underwear, belts, etc.

Underwear (panties, men's underwear, bras, etc). Unlikely that anyone would wear them but they'd make good novelty items and could be used by brothels and etc.

Tights/nylon stockings with elastic waistbands and stretchy material. GOLD!

Paper. It existed but was thick and expensive. Pull out a little spiral notebook and watch the bidding begin.

Water bottles that aren't stinky skins.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .