This paper examines the revival of ‘trade artefacts’ in Kashmir to reflect on the intersections between political contestation and commercial regulation. I juxtapose two forms of trade, one contemporary and one devised under colonial and princely rule. Against current impasses of the “cross-LOC trade” at the Line of Control between the Indian and Pakistan held parts of Kashmir, I revisit colonial disputes around “bonded” trade as it was conducted on the Central Asian trade corridor carved through the erstwhile princely state. While both artefacts attempt to cast sovereign authority as the control of flows of people, commodities and ideas, they also reveal the intense resistance that such projects face in the attempt to subsume frontier spatiality and mobility into tight jurisdictional regimes. I suggest that attending to efforts at regulation, their failures and unintended consequences, reveals an aspect of the region’s unassailability expressed in specific histories of trade on the high Himalayan terrain in tandem with changing laws, proscription and control. While the management and short-circuiting of frontier trade networks conditioned boundary-making by the kingdom, the empire and now the nation-state, traders invoke distinct poetics of mobility and exchange whose traces persist in everyday life and political imagination despite state efforts to efface them.