Barter Theater, Guitar Trade, and Other Barter Agreements

This installment of an ongoing feature about barter agreements includes a short history of the Barter Theater in Abingdon, VA and a guitar trade a Pennsylvania man negotiated for a saxophone.

| November/December 1978

  • Rather than buy a guitar, Jim Jordan of Glenmoore, PA arranged a saxophone-for-guitar trade at a local music store.

Bill Wodraska shared some of his thoughts regarding one of mankind's better ideas — barter — and offered up an interesting suggestion: "I'd like to see a continuing feature on barter agreements and skill-and-labor exchanges," said Bill. "You're on!" MOTHER EARTH NEWS replied.

Barter Theater

Here's a really unique successful swap—one which began during the Great Depression and remains in operation today.

Robert Porterfield was a struggling, out-of-work actor who, apparently prompted by memories of his prosperous old Virginia homestead, created a barter-based market for his own talents and those of his fellow artists. How? By putting on quality plays with those other artists and allowing local farmers to attend the performances in exchange for fresh produce. The idea was simple and worked extremely well: The actors were able to feed themselves and practice their art, and the neighboring countryfolk were provided with good entertainment for their bartered farm produce (the only thing they had an excess of in those hard times).

The Barter Theatre exists today in Abingdon, Virginia and Old Dominion State farmers are still enjoying quality drama—at Barter's Playhouse and the Children's Theatre—in exchange for fresh farm produce.

Thank you, Robert Porterfield! You've proven that barter is a viable way to exchange our goods and services and avoid the clutches of the established economic system.

Dennis W. Anderson
Abingdon, Va.

Guitar Trade

No matter how simple you try to keep your lifestyle, you end up accumulating lots of "excess baggage" throughout the years. My back room, for instance, recently housed a collection of musical instruments, none of which any longer held any interest for me. On the other hand, I did long to learn to play the acoustic guitar, but couldn't scrape up the 200-plus dollars I found I would need to buy one.


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