Besides the smith trade the Roma and Sinti were and still are related to peddlers and traders. Certain groups have fulfilled an important economic and social function as nomadic traders for a long time. The rural population in remote areas, who had difficulties in reaching the market in town regularly, had to rely on the services of the Roma. They provided the farmers with the most necessary everyday items.

Some Roma groups linked craft work with trading (e.g. spoon makers – Lingurari) where the women sold the products produced by the men. Other groups acted as interim-traders and traded with all kinds of items. These are the most appreciated trades of the Roma. These days only a few Roma still work as horse traders. Provided that the conditions allowed, they changed to professions where at least they could fall back on their sales experience. Many Austrian Lovara who in the period between the two World Wars were working as horse traders, worked as carpet traders after World War II. [Die Stojkas]

A further important trading field, which is to be considered part of the trading professions, is gathering food (mushrooms, berries, snails etc.). Many Burgenland-Roma had this occupation until the period between the two World Wars. In this way they could cover their own requirements and still sell or exchange the remaining products. Due to cheap prices offered by supermarkets this kind of occupation has become almost obsolete; in the best of cases it represents an additional income. On the other hand, the gathering or the purchase of scrap metal and of thrown away Hi-Fi items has become increasingly more profitable; these items being repaired by Roma and sold on markets.

Although some traditional trading professions such as horse trading, have lost their relevance, trading with "second-hand" as well as new goods, on the streets and on the markets represents an increasingly important source of income. Due to the dreary economic situation in the southeastern area, an "unofficial" market, tolerated by the authorities, has been developing. This is usually situated besides the official market, which in most cases is too expensive for the majority population to afford.

The Roma’s experience as traders and their knowledge about where and when products are best bought, results in the fact that on the markets of Eastern Europe they are present to an unproportionate extent. The Roma still have the reputation of being able to provide all kinds of goods in a fast and cheap way. For example, film producers from Belgrade rely on the Roma’s help in case they need props that are difficult to be procured. [Current situation]


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Image Printable version
Image Big secondhand market at the borders of Begrade where mainly Roma are selling different goods (Serbia-Montenegro)
Image Big secondhand market at the borders of Belgrade (Serbia-Montenegro)
Image O gažo či las o colo – The gadžo didn't buy the carpet (dialogue between mother and son)
Image Amare čhave arabanenca džan taj bikinen – Our guys drive cars and sell
Horse-dealing (England)
Dealer of scrap metal (Romania)