Sunday, September 02, 2007

Swap Etiquette and Guidelines

This information used to be on the StampHappy website, since I edited/composed most of these with Sharon Ready, I thought I should put them here, as it is a great reference for those who are new at swapping or at hosting swaps.

Swap Etiquette and Guidelines

Listed below:

How do swaps work?

If you are the Participant
How to register for a swap
Sending in your cards

If you are the Hostess
Proposing a swap
The swap is now official
The cards start arriving
Sorting the swap cards

International Swaps
International Reply Coupons (IRC)


How Do Swaps Work?

There are two important factors in a swap: the Participant and the Hostess.

The participant joins their chosen swap and makes their cards according to the theme. Once the cards are finished, they then send them to the hostess for sorting.

The hostess organises the swap. She chooses the theme, and participants all send their cards to her. Once all the cards are received, she sorts them and sends each participant a different set of items to the ones they sent.

This is the general idea of swapping - so participants (and the hostess!) get different ideas for their creativity from like-minded stampers.

If you are the Participant

How to register for a swap.

To participate in a swap, select a swap theme that appeals to you. Contact the hostess and ask for your name to be added to the list of players.

Make a note of the hostess' name, email address, and the due date of the swap.

Let's assume you have joined a Christmas Card Swap, and the hostess requires 6 for 5. This means that the host requires you to send in 6 cards and in return you will get back 5 different Christmas cards that were created by the other participants in the swap.

What happens to the 6th card you ask? Well that one is for the hostess so that they can have a sample of each card that was sent in.


Sending in your cards.

You should attach the following information to the back your card:

Name of the swap
Date of swap
Name of the Hostess
Your Name
Your email address
Stamp credits
Technique used (optional)

Include a stamped self-addressed envelope so your items can be mailed back to you. Usually the same amount of postage it costs you is sufficient. You might want to add one stamp if your items might be lighter than the average items for the swap. The hostess will return extra postage to you.

(Please see this section if you participate in a swap that is not held in your country!)

Package your cards so they won't get folded, or wet. It is your responsibility to supply the hostess with adequate return packaging. It is the hostess' responsibility to use what you provided.

Make sure your cards reach the destination on time, hostesses are not required to wait for swap cards that arrive after the deadline and can return them to you using your return envelope.

Notify the swap hostess if you cannot make the deadline, as soon as practical.

All items received in swaps MUST be acknowledged to each person you have received an item from. Messages should not be sent to the StampHappy list unless you have scanned and uploaded your items and are sharing a link to view the items.


If you are the Hostess

After you have participated in a few swaps you are bound to feel like hosting a swap of your own. It is recommended that you participate in one or two swaps before you host one of your own.


Proposing a swap.

Think of a theme that you think people would enjoy doing. For this example we will pick: Tea and Coffee.

Send an email to StampHappy ( to notify everyone that you are proposing to host a swap, and to invite players to join.

In your email make sure you mention the following information (text in pink is a sample of the type of information required):

In the SUBJECT line make sure you write:
Swap proposal: Tea or Coffee Swap

Inside the email:

Your full name: Ima Stamper
Your email address:
Swap Name/Theme: Tea or Coffee
Type of swap: Card or Bookmark
Due Date: 20 July 1998
No. of Items to be sent: 6 for 5

Description of what you should make: Must stamp an image that is associated with Tea or Coffee such as a teapot, cup and saucer, coffee beans, tea bag etc.

Normally the due date of your swap will be 4 to 6 weeks, or more, from the time you propose it.

If after two or three weeks you do not have at least 6 participants, you should remove the swap from the list and notify anyone who has registered that the swap is being cancelled due to lack of participants. Sometimes there are too many swaps going on, you can try proposing it again in a few month's time.

You do need to have at least five participants to ensure you will have enough cards to swap around. You can also have four players and become a player yourself and make a full set of cards.


The swap is now official.

When you have enough players to make the swap official, you can email the list again and mention that the swap is now official. Each group has their own method for keeping track of swaps, if you are unsure what else to do, you can contact the group's owner or one of the moderators.

Keep a note of all of the participants' email addresses. You can do so by creating a special Swap address book in your email program, or taking notes in a note book by hand, or in a text file on your computer.


The cards start arriving.

The swap is official, you will start receiving cards from the participants.

When you receive the cards from the players:

Check the cards:

Adequate number of items
Return envelope
Sufficient postage
Make sure you keep the packaging supplied and any extra stamps the player might have sent in a safe place.
Make sure they have submitted the required information and that it is on every card for the swap.
Make sure they have included their email address on their items - if not the hostess should provide this with the item.

Let them know personally (privately) that you received their cards.
Place the cards in a safe place where pets, and children, cannot get to them.

Notify participants if you are delaying the closing date for any reason.

A week before the due date of the swap put out another email to the players to remind the "stragglers" that they have one week to go. If you find that the due date comes by and there are still participants who have not sent their cards in, then email them to find out if they have posted them or not. If they have not already posted the cards it is up to you to decide whether you are willing to wait or not. Don't feel bad if you decide you don't want to delay the swap. Just notify those participants that the swap has been closed and you cannot wait for their cards.

Once the swap is over be prompt with returning the items to the participants. This should be done within two weeks.

So now you have all the cards that are going to be "swapped". This is the fun part. You need to make sure that the card sent in by a participant is not sent back to them by accident - they will not be impressed to see their card again no matter how lovely it is!


Sorting the Swap Cards.

There are a few methods of swapping cards, below is a simple one.

Lay each stack of cards next to each other making sure that cards that are too similar in design are not next to each other. This will ensure everyone gets a good variety of images when they are swapped.

It is important to not swap advance players with advance players and beginner players with beginner players, and that everyone gets a selection so that beginners can learn from experienced stampers and experienced stampers can be reminded of simpler techniques.

Place all the cards on top of their return envelope with all furnished return packaging such as zip lock bags, cardboard to prevent folding, etc. It's a good idea to have some cellophane envelopes, or extra zip lock bags when it's the wet season. Nothing worse than holding a great swap and learn the cards arrived to destination completely soaked.

Place all the participant's cards side by side on a large table. Some hostesses have been known to use their lounge room floor for particularly large swaps.

When all the cards are placed on the table, take a quick look to make sure that not all the purple ones are together, not all the ones using the similar stamps are together, and make sure that all the intricate ones and the simpler ones are intermixed to ensure everyone gets a good sample of cards.

So let's say the cards are on the table and we have


Take the return envy for A and place a card from B, C, D, E and F in the envelope, with the packaging as well (don't put the cards in the plastic bags yet but make sure all the bits remain together).

Put the envelope aside, unsealed (a box where the envelopes can stand upright is a good safe way of doing this).

Take the envelope from B and put a card from C, D, E, F, G in it and put it aside.

Repeat this process until you get to I's envelope in which you will put a card from J, K, L, M and A; J gets K, L, M, A, and B, and so on until every envelope has been filled.

When the envelopes are all filled, take your check list and look at the contents of all the envelopes, write down who's cards are going in A's envy, and make sure you repackage the cards in the bag, with protective card if it was supplied, etc. If there's no such thing provided, it's always worth the extra effort to provide a plastic bag. This is also a good time to place in a thank you card if you made one. Seal the envelope, repeat for the rest of the players, and you're all done.


International Swaps

Sometimes you will want to participate in a swap that is not in your country, or you will want to hold a swap and some participants will be from another country than the one where you reside.

The most important thing to remember is that Australian stamps cannot be used to send mail FROM New Zealand, or any other country, and the reverse is also true. Stamps from another country are, generally, of no use to hostesses. Keep that in mind when you participate in a swap held by someone in another country, or if you host a swap where some participants might not be in your country.

In some instances hostesses will accept the same amount of stamps as it cost you to mail your swap to them, in stamps of your own country. Some hostesses like to do this as they plan on participating in swaps held by someone in your country and want to send the appropriate stamps for their return swaps. But not all hostesses like to do this. So it is preferable to ask the hostess what she would like, before you send your cards to her.

International Reply Coupons (IRCs)

International Reply Coupons (IRCs) provide someone in another country with a prepaid way to return items to you when you are responsible for paying for postage. IRCs are exchanged for postage stamps at a post office. IRCs will be exchanged in all countries which are members of the UPU (Universal Postal Union). Each IRC is equivalent in value to the minimum postage rate for an unregistered airmail letter. The purchase price of an IRC is usually more than the price of the stamp it replaces.

Swap envelopes, where you send 6 or more cards may require 2, even 3, IRCs to be sent back to you. Make sure you inquire with the Hostess and at the post office so that you send the appropriate number.


Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for the information on swaps. It is very detailed and good stuff to know!

Lori said...

Thanks for doing this...fantastic! I wish I would have had this information years ago! Very well put together and you should be proud of your work.
Lori Reinholz

France said...

Here are some comments received via email:

"A thought for your already great swap rules may be to indicate whether or not the hostess requires all of the swap items to be identical. [...] Hope this may help to polish off your document. Thanks for sharing this piece of great info."
Some swappers don't like making more than a few items the same, some hostesses prefer hosting when all items are different, and some (players and hostesses) prefer when all is the same.

and this comment:
"I thought the article was very well written. The only important thing I would like those new to swapping is to make sure the postmistress DOES NOT put a postage TAPE on the return envelope. It has to be actual stamps on the return envelope as the tapes are dated and the PO won't accept them on the return. I know this from experience. LOL At least I learned a lesson I can pass on."

I agree, always send stamps, and if unsure, just put them in a plastic bag (a very small one) or an envelope, mark your name on it and what is in the envelope (5 50c stamps) and attach that to the envelope, the hostess can then affix the right postage and return the unused stamps to you.