Gas Masks and Geiger Counters
Forms of Currency
In December of 1979, the mortgage interest rate was a crushing 12.9%, which in a way was good news for homeowners across America, as within weeks of the war ending, it became abundantly clear that the world financial system (and by extension, all debt) had ceased to exist, along with a lot of other things, like functioning supply chains for food, gasoline, or clean water, or civil order, or the concept of the nation state.
Forty years later, money is effectively meaningless. Dollars and coins are little more than curiosities, sometimes of sentimental value to a few aging or eccentric individuals, but effectively useless as a medium of exchange. A few items have filled the gap to replace money, mostly because of their scarcity and utility:
Turntable needles: it’s been forty years since anyone’s made a new record player, released a new album, or made any spare parts. The average life of a record player needle is only about 600 hours, which means that for those enterprising survivors who managed to scavenge a source of electrical power and keep it running at least part of the day, they only have an album a day for two years before they need a new needle. Needles are light, easy to carry, and irreplaceable for the right people. Elsewhere, ancient 78 RPM records looted from abandoned rural homes can be exchanged for goods and services in towns with older hand-cranked turntables, but these are bulkier and less portable.
Ammunition: It’s comparatively easy to make gunpowder or even loose bullets, and spent cartridges can be reloaded, if you know what you’re doing and you have the tools, but even as they slowly become more scarce, most people prefer to rely on pre-war bullets scavenged from ruined cities. Plastic cased shotgun shells especially are a wasting asset — plastic hulls only became common in the late 1960s, and the millions of paper-hulled shells still in circulation in 1979 have spent forty years deteriorating outside of climate controlled environments. A bullet can usually buy a meal and a bed for the night.
Labor: This one’s a classic. The fertility crisis that followed the war is long over, despite salacious traveler’s stories and rumors, but plenty of communities are willing to trade supplies for physical labor or specialist work.