This introductory article is a biennial exercise to reflect on the stream of subsistence marketplaces as a prelude to the special section on this topic following the Sixth Subsistence Marketplaces Conference in 2016. The call for papers was not restricted to conference presentations. At the end of the review process, the special section contained four articles spanning a diverse set of topics. The authors provide an overview of the subsistence marketplaces stream and a background of the conference series. This is followed by a brief introduction to the special issue. They then discuss the what, how, and why for past and future work on subsistence marketplaces.