(Tony Vaccaro/Stars and Stripes)

Pfungstadt, Germany, Nov. 19, 1947: A woman and a young girl “purchase” a pair of shoes at the barter store.

Barter ring stores like this one in Pfungstadt could be found all over the American and French zones and plans were underway for expansion into the British and the Russian zones as well, the article that ran with the image noted. The “ring” system was an elaborate scheme in which a combination of stores, long established in particular lines of business, banded together and created a barter ring. Each was authorized to accept second-hand merchandise only in their specialty, thus ensuring an expert appraisal of the piece and a fair pre-war price.

The former owner would be issued a barter certificate, which they could then exchange for a good they needed in the same store or any of the other stores that were part of the “ring.” This way, a person with an extra bicycle could exchange it for a radio, evaluated and priced by an expert, without having to take their chances on the black market.

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