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    -   by George Campbell    (

Every collector, over time, acquires minerals which are surplus to his or her collection. This may occur through upgrading of existing specimens, self-collecting in the field, purchases of specimens in quantity, or a change in the type of collection.

Fortunately, every collector's surplus is different. That opens the door for exchanging specimens with other collectors, a time-honored way to add new specimens to your collection while distributing your surplus specimens to others. In some areas of collecting, such as micromount collection and systematic collecting, trades and exchanges are the primary way of obtaining new specimens. It's almost impossible to buy some specimens, particularly of rare minerals in any other way.

Trading minerals happens in many ways, from the simple trades done at your mineral club or society meetings, to an international network of collectors, who exchange specimens by mail. Most advanced collectors maintain a formal or informal list of specimens available, along with lists of minerals they want to acquire.

Besides the obvious advantage of building your collection at little or no cost, trading offers a wonderful opportunity to meet other collectors, either in person, by mail, and, increasingly, through web sites and email. Long and solid friendships among collectors who exchange specimens are common, and trading can build relationships all around the world. In many cases, collectors who exchange specimens visit each other in their travels, opening up even more opportunities.

So, how do you get started with mineral exchanges? The first step is to create a list of the specimens you have on hand that you're willing to exchange for other specimens. Second, create a description of the type of specimens you're seeking, or even a list of specific minerals or specimens you would like to add to your collection. If you can do this on your computer, the lists are easy to maintain and print out at a moment's notice.

If you have a personal web page on the Internet, you may also want to post your lists there, making it easier for others to see your lists. Chances are that your Internet Service Provider offers free web space to its members, so check with them. Even if you're not planning a full-scale web site, you can still post your lists and let others know how to reach you.

Finding Trading Partners

Next, you'll need a way to find other collectors who are interested in trading specimens. Fortunately, the Internet offers some excellent ways to locate other collectors. The links below will take you directly to popular pages where collectors who enjoy trading post their information. You can contact any of those who list their email addresses, sending your trade list and want list as attachments to an email message. As you explore the Internet, be sure to check Links pages on all mineral-related sites you visit. You'll often find links to collectors who love to trade.

Bob's Rockshop's Rock Trader Classifieds
Amateur Mineralogy Virtual Quarry
International Thumbnail Mineral Collectors Club
Association Francaise de Micro-Mineralogie

Trading Rules To Live By

While trading is a popular way to build collections, it's easy to make mistakes which make trading more of a hassle than a joy. If you follow the simple rules below, however, you'll be well on your way to building relationships with other collectors and enhancing your collection and theirs.

1. Start Small -- When initiating a trade for the first time with a new partner, make it a simple trade for just a few specimens. Both parties need to learn the other's preferences.
2. Take the Initiative -- In a first trade you propose with a new trading partner, you should be the one to send your specimens to the other party, waiting to see whether they approve of your offerings before they send you the specimens in exchange. Once a relationship exists, you may be able to send exchanges simultaneously.
3. Propose Reasonable Trades -- When you propose a trade, be specific about what you want from the other party, and what you have to offer, describing the specimens clearly and accurately. Don't try to swap a poor quality specimen of a common mineral for a rare specimen of high quality. Also, pay close attention to the stated wants of your partner, and stick to those minerals.
4. Be Prompt -- Send packages promptly when it's your turn. If you're not ready to trade, wait until you are before proposing a trade. If someone sends you a package for your approval, reciprocate immediately to fulfill your end of the trade. If the specimens you receive aren't acceptable, return them at once, with a clear explanation of why you don't want them.
5. Pack Carefully -- Nothing is more disappointing that receiving a box full of broken, bruised specimens. Wrap all specimens carefully, using plenty of soft tissue and don't try to fit a group of specimens in too small a box. Thumbnail specimens need soft tissue inside the perky box, unless they are very fragile, in which case they should be securely mounted.
6. Label Accurately -- Include a complete label with each specimen you send, specifying the minerals on the specimen, the locality, as precisely as you can make it, and any other pertinent information. Be sure the label can't be easily separated from the specimen.
7. Ship Well -- In the U.S., use Priority mail for all shipments. For International orders, use Postal Service Air Mail Small Packet shipping. It's reasonably fast to most parts of the world and relatively inexpensive.
8. Avoid Customs Duties -- When filling out customs forms for international shipments, identify the specimens as "Mineral Specimens for Study," and declare their value as $0, No Commercial Value. Such shipments normally pass through customs without any problem and, since no money is changing hands, the value declaration is truthful. However, use caution if you are sending specimens of high monetary value. These packages can be inspected and may be confiscated if untruthful customs declarations are made. Before trading expensive specimens, check with your partner on customs practices in his or her country.
9. Maintain Balance -- Often, beginning traders send too much to the other party, making the trade uneven in value or quality. While this seems to be a nice thing to do, use caution, since it may embarrass the other party, who may not be able to reciprocate. Try to make the trades equivalent. In established trading relationships, of course, surprise gifts of additional specimens are common.
10. Be Patient -- Especially with international trades, transit time for mail may be quite long. Wait a reasonable interval before assuming your package isn't going to arrive. After a reasonable time, say 3 or 4 weeks has passed, you can contact the trading partner to inquire.
11. Acknowledge All Trades -- When a package arrives, examine it at once and determine whether or not you're satisfied with your end of the trade. Either way, contact the trading partner right away. Fortunately, email makes this easy.
12. Be Polite Always -- Even if you're dissatisfied with a trade, be polite about your dissatisfaction. Explain the reasons you're not happy with the specimens, and return them promptly. If, on the other hand, the other party does not like the specimens you send, accept that decision graciously and return the specimens sent to you promptly when yours are returned.
13. It's Not Over Until It's Over -- No trade is complete until both parties are satisfied with the trade. Don't even consider adding specimens from a trade to your collection until you know that the material you sent is acceptable to your partner. Once you've both communicated your satisfaction, the specimens are yours, but not before.
14. Be Cautious with Recommendations -- Traders introduce each other to other traders all the time, but make sure that an introduction is appropriate. If you've had problems with an individual, keep it to yourself, but don't introduce that individual to others. There's no need to say nasty things.