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Other question concentrate on most valuable goods but most of good listed would involve local trade - for example alcohol can be easily produced with modern knowledge anywhere (see Prohibition in the USA). In similar way the livestock etc. The only things in answers to that question I saw for long-term traded goods would be salt and spices which cannot be produced locally without modern infrastructure.

However I'm more interested with goods which would form a basis for new continental trade networks, like copper and zinc (in the Bronze Age), famous Silk Road and less famous Amber Road (I've seen some speculating about Jet Road being a source of caps being universal currency in Fallout).

What goods would start traveling across Europe or across America when society collapses and starts rebuilding at level of city-states (with larger political entity here and there)?

EDIT For purpose of this question please consider standard nuclear apocalypse with radiation glowing green and roaming bands of mutants.

EDIT 2 To clarify I'm looking for good which is a) valuable in such setting and b) decentralized. I don't think that ammunition or guns would be found in much larger quantity in east coast than west coast to make the trade route. On the other hand I don't think black pepper can be easily grown in North Canada.

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closed as too broad by Mołot, sphennings, anon, L.Dutch, JBH Nov 10 '17 at 15:55

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    $\begingroup$ Please define your apocalypse. For example if it is zombie apocalypse and somewhere is a huge stash of Z-virus vaccine... $\endgroup$ – Mołot Nov 9 '17 at 17:43
  • $\begingroup$ @Molot differentiation isn't entirely necessary, there are obvious goods that are critical in any disaster scenario: food water power protection $\endgroup$ – anon Nov 9 '17 at 18:30
  • $\begingroup$ @anon all 4 you listed make no sense long distance when there is no infrastructure to make it cheaper than moving people once. $\endgroup$ – Mołot Nov 9 '17 at 18:53
  • $\begingroup$ @Molot so you are saying it wouldn't be profitable to transport guns long distances if their community has more than they need? $\endgroup$ – anon Nov 9 '17 at 18:56
  • $\begingroup$ @anon what for? And if guns are non renewable, crucial resource, why agree to have less and let someone else have more? $\endgroup$ – Mołot Nov 9 '17 at 18:58
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Information

Communications will have broken down so wandering minstrels and the like would make a comeback. Communities need to communicate before they can trade, you need to know what I can offer you and what I need before you set off for the long trip to my town.

If it's post-nuke-apoc, then there's plenty of raw materials lying around in the ruined cities, so zinc and copper trading probably wouldn't take off. You'd need to be able to extract and refine it but almost every pre-apoc community would have had a library.

Services

So we have knowledge and raw materials. Now my community builds a smithy, and trains a couple of folks to use it. Let's say they make the best ploughshares in the area. Your community wants one but doesn't have the time or resources to train a smith and equip him, so they buy one from me. Supply meets demand, trade results.

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It would depend on what level of transport infrastructure had been recovered. I suggest that the level of transport available in this world might be usefully matched to the level of transport available during any historical time period to find out what goods might be traded.

It would also depend on the level of government. If there are city states then they should be able to provide protection for trading by supplying troops to protect against bandits and pirates.

Human only transport
If the only means of transport is by foot then it would only be practical to transport very high value items with very great difficulty. All food would have to be grown locally. This is a similar situation to that of the ancient Maya.

Sailing ships plus horses and carts
Coastal and riverine transport of almost any bulk materials such as stone, leather, pottery, worked metals, cloth and food stuffs are now possible. Away from the coast and rivers horses and cart can be used to transport significant amounts of materials, but food would probably still be grown locally where possible or in locations that are distant from the coast or river network. Materials can be traded over great distances using sea or even river transport, just think of what the Romans were capable of with grain transport from Egypt to Rome.

Mechanised transport
If steam power is available then the restriction on moving materials is relaxed further still and even areas distant from the river network and coasts can be reached by train.

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Batteries!

Although you haven't specified a particular apocalypse, since you mention radiation and aliens I'm going to assume this is an "aliens invade and we use nukes to fight them" kind of scenario. In this case, you'll have massive damage done to infrastructure and electrical grids, but you'll still have all the devices that need power to run- laptops, flashlights, water purification devices, etc.

Batteries would be an enormously useful resource because they're semi-rechargeable, portable, and can be used for a huge number of situations. Also, they're already in pretty high demand- that'd only increase during an apocalypse.

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Books. The ability to distribute information electronically is likely severed by nuclear EMP. So books will be key to rebuilding: physics, engineering, medical, obviously, but also entertainment.

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Manufactured goods.

You can get an idea of what settlers in the wilderness would need by looking at the things salvaged from the sunken steamboat Arabia. This was a steamboat that sank outside of Kansas City in 1856 and was preserved with its cargo in the deep mud. It was carrying goods for pioneers in the western territories.

http://1856.com/arabias-story/the-arabia-museum/ the Arabia museum

I am impressed that nearly everything recovered from the wreck was manufactured goods: ceramic dishes, matches, metalware like forks and knives. Glassware. Loads of ax heads. Huge numbers of shoes and boots. Textiles. Also and not really manufactured goods: preserved and pickled fruits.

Manufactured goods have always been trade items. Manufacturing is a way to add value to a small item. Manufacturing is centralized and the goods need to travel. Manufactured goods are usually not perishable. Textiles were traded at great distances across the ancient world and ever since - silk is the example you read about but Indian cotton has been recovered from ancient tombs in Mongolia. Porcelain came great distances from China and the same for Roman glassware. Iron tools were and still are valued trade items - iron plows, knives and axe heads are so much better than wooden or stone tools but you cannot really make your own iron on the farm.

Your places where civilization has come back to some degree would be centers for manufacturing and trade routes would exist to carry materials to outlying areas. Don't forget your outlying areas need to have something nonperishable and of worth for the traders to bring back: e.g. scavenged relics, furs, whiskey, marijuana, tobacco, slaves.

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Luxury goods. The immediate concern a after a Apocalypse Is the are necessities (Food water clothing and so on ) Once that's taken care of people began looking for more Usually better clothes better food extra . Through out history most long distantrade trade has been based around luxury items Silk, Spices, Dyed clothing, Tobacco, Sugar And so on. I would expect that Once trade slowly starts up again these type of items would again become very valuable and make up most of the transatlantic trade .

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Salt It can only be gained from salt deposits or from saltwater (assuming that all your local supermarkets have long been looted dry). However, it is very important in a low-tech world for food preservation.

Animal products I'm assuming in your post-apocalyptic world humans have retreated to safe places, which means they probably cannot use open fields to rear animals, or not that many. But nature will survive and localized places will produce different species who survive the apocalypse with the help of certain mutations. It is likely that your humans will hunt them and there will be different animals surviving in different locations. Some will have thick pelts, some will have hard bones which can be carved into implements, some will have other useful parts, like stomachs of ruminants for cheese making, musk glands, horns and hoofs for gelatin, feathers for pillows, and whatever else.

Geiger-counters Not many people today would be able to manufacture one, so it is likely that not many will have retained the knowledge in the future, and people who make them won't just give away the secret. Also, they would probably need specific technology from pre-apocalyptic installments, which probably wouldn't be very portable.

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The currency of the world in any post apocalypse is commonly known as

"Lead Bullion" aka rounds of ammunition

because in the absence of society and laws he who can enforce his own laws survives.

EDIT: apparently it appears there is a common knowledge gap of a popular modern sub-culture.

You should all look into doomsday preppers.

For obvious reasons I am not going to cover the breadth of knowledge in doomsday prepping. Suffice it to say plenty of people have plans to make bullets in the event of any global disaster precisely because ammunition will be the currency of the land. It's why it's called lead "bullion" lead is a cheap toxic metal otherwise.

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    $\begingroup$ Can you provide any reasoning why this would be the case? As is this looks like a comment not an answer. $\endgroup$ – sphennings Nov 9 '17 at 18:02
  • $\begingroup$ @sphennings its fairly straightforward, if you are in a starving land of lawlessness, bullets can buy you protection, bullets can buy you food, bullets can even buy mates. No other currency will have near the same value. Gold probably wont buy you food neither would diamonds. $\endgroup$ – anon Nov 9 '17 at 18:15
  • $\begingroup$ The question asks for trade goods not currency. $\endgroup$ – sphennings Nov 9 '17 at 18:18
  • $\begingroup$ @sphennings its both, a good is something useable and potentially consumable. A currency is merely something that holds fairly universal value. Everyone needs bullets $\endgroup$ – anon Nov 9 '17 at 18:20
  • $\begingroup$ 1. Somehow black markets thrive despite being actively hindered by society and laws. Ok, they might not function perfectly but significantly better than 'lead bullion' standard. 2. There exist society in question - world already recovered to have a city states... $\endgroup$ – Maciej Piechotka Nov 9 '17 at 18:40
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Human resources.

Guilds would prosper. Roving craftspeople would go from place to place, like the stone masons of old. I suspect they would primarily be technicians.

Manpower would be at a premium, so I suspect there would be some form of slavery. Employee-employer contracts would be rare, as there would be insufficient resources for payment. If payment is in room and board food only, then that is pretty much servitude. I suspect slaves would not be bought and sold, as in a slave trade, it would be more like mutual dependency ('apprenticeship', for example). The economy would be a return to very early concepts - you sell what you directly produce. Individual entrepreneurial spirit. Individual proprietorship of all business, if you will.

So one of the biggest trade commodities would be in manpower.

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