Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Guidelines for Successful Stamp Trades - Part 1

If you've ever traded stamps with another collector, you know that it can be very rewarding to expand your collection with a wide variety of stamps. But occasionally you will receive a packet of stamps that makes you just shake your head in disgust. It seems that not everyone treats a stamp trade with the same respect that they should.

Today I present some guidelines that will help you conduct a stamp trade. Today's tips will focus on the trade itself, from setting up the trade to selecting the stamps you will send. Tomorrow's post will include tips on how to properly send your trade safely through the mail.

  1. Specify exactly what is to be traded. Both parties need to know what is expected of them for the trade to conclude successfully. Most stamp trades that happen due to a internet post or in a stamp magazine will list the countries that one trader wants in exchange for the countries the trader is offering in return. If you participate in these types of trades, do not expect the recipient to be happy if you don't fulfill your side of the bargain and send some other country.

    By the same reasoning, specify the type of stamp you are looking for. If you expect commemorative stamps and receive definitive stamps, you are going to be unhappy. Make sure that everyone agrees on the definition of used stamp ... canceled-to-order (CTO) stamps are not the same as postally used, even though they have a postmark on them. And the difference between a mint stamp and a mint never hinged stamp can also frustrate a trader.

    Agree to the terms of the trade before sending a single stamp. Once you've become established trading partners, you can probably relax a little, but first time trades need to have their conditions set forth.

  2. Let it be known if you are a beginner. Most stamp collectors are happy to help beginners. However, you need to make sure that your potential trading partner knows this, as they will keep their expectations reasonable. Some traders do not want to take the time for beginners, which is a sad, but true reality. Many will, though, so don't surprise them by holding that information from them.

    Most experienced collectors know that beginning stamp collectors won't have nicer stamps to send. Still, they may conduct a trade with you, if only to help you build your stamp supply with better quality stamps. You probably can't expect anything long term, but they might send a packet or two of stamps your way, just to help you out.

  3. Send only quality stamps. Do not start off a trade by sending your junk stamps to the other person. Doing so will only foster ill will and shows a lack of integrity on your part. Send the best stamps you can afford to send. And by best, it's not so much that they must be rare, but that they must be in very good condition.

    One of the frustrations that I have encountered is that sometimes I receive stamps that have perforations missing, are wrinkled, or a corner is bent. There is no excuse for sending these types of stamps. I do not ship out stamps that way; I do not expect to receive them in return that way. This is unfair. Make sure that you send as good as you want receive.

    I think the biblical Golden Rule -- Do unto others as you would have others do unto you -- should apply here.

  4. Return equal or better stamps. If a trader sends you a packet of 50 stamps, return at least 50 stamps to them. If they send valuable stamps, make every attempt to send equal or higher value stamps to them in return. If you decide that you will "cheat" this person, don't expect another trade. Plus, it will come back to haunt you, especially if your name gets known around the internet as a bad trader.

  5. For trades based on catalog value, send comparable stamps. Some traders use the values listed in a stamp catalog as the basis for their trades. If you do this, make sure that you either use the same catalog, or adjust your values accordingly. Some stamps in foreign catalogs seem to have a higher value than catalogs based in your own country. If so, make sure that you compensate so that you are able to give your trader a comparable value for their trade.

  6. Do not fulfill a stamp trade by sending cheap stamps! If someone sends you stamps that are valued at the minimum price, while you sent better stamps to them, you will not want to trade with them for long. Try to send equivalent value stamps in return.

    For example, suppose I send you 50 stamps that catalog for 50 cents (US) each. I will probably be disappointed if you return 100 stamps that catalog for 25 cents, since the value would typically indicate that they are not as rare as what I sent to you originally.

    There may be times that this sort of trade is acceptable. If, for example, I am starting a collection in a new country and I have nothing to start with, I might rather have 100 stamps, just to fill up more album spaces. You need to make sure this sort of trade is appropriate before you send the stamps out.

Stamp trading is a very fun aspect of our hobby. Who doesn't like to receive a packet of stamps in the mail?

Be sure to return tomorrow for the conclusion of this post where I will focus on how to properly send your stamps through the mail.

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