Coin trading is a fun and inexpensive way to collect coins from around the world. In the simplest trade, you would send 10 to 15 coins from your country to someone overseas, who would send 10 to 15 coins from their own country to you. The exchanges happen simultaneously, and are based on trust. To make the exchanges easier among people who speak different languages, it is best to keep communications very brief and to the point.
Most experienced coin traders make a list of the coins they have for trade, to make finding coin trading partners easier. Here are some tips to get started.
Learn the Basic Rules of Coin Trading
Ioannis Androulakis of Fleur-de-Coin.com hosts a well-written introduction to coin trading. This introduction, written in FAQ format, will give you an excellent start in the coin trading hobby, as it includes links to numerous trading sites and lists, and a few blacklists of bad traders. The introduction details coin trading etiquette, explains how the trades work, and even has suggestions for packaging coins you intend to mail to other countries. I recommend printing it out if you're serious about giving coin trading a try.
Decide Which Coins You Want to Collect
Most of the traders in the world coin trading community trade common, circulated coins. The goals of the traders vary, but most of them are trying to build one of two major types of collections:
- World coins by country - Example: One coin from each country in the world, or one of each common circulating denomination from each country.
- Specific country or region - Example: One coin of each date and mint mark from coins of India issued since 1980, or as many different coins as they can get from countries in Africa.
If you are seeking older coins, Proof sets, rare coins, errors and varieties, or anything else that isn't commonly circulating, it might take you awhile to find world coin traders that have what you want.
Decide Which Coins to Offer For Trade
Most experienced coin traders will expect you to have a prepared list of coins that you have available for trade. It doesn't have to be anything fancy, just country name, coin name and denomination, year and mint mark, and catalog number (if appropriate). A typical entry might read:
United States, Alaska Quarter Dollar, 2008-P, KM#
Don't use spreadsheet programs or word processing software unless you can export a text-only list, because not everyone in the world can afford Microsoft Office with Excel, etc. Ideally, your list of coins to trade should be in a format (such as comma-delimited, shown above) that allows the recipient to easily import it into whatever program he might use so he can compare it to his own inventory lists.
Contact Some Coin Traders
Look at the various lists of traders via the links in the FAQ noted above, and choose two or three to contact. Write each one a brief, personal email, offering to trade coins from the USA (or wherever your coins are from.) Don't attach your trading list, or give a lengthy detailed description, until asked for it.
Keep your inquiries short and write in simple language, because most people in the world do not have English as their first language. Never send the same message to dozens of people; this is called "spamming" and people in other countries don't like it any more than we do here. ;)
Negotiating Coin Trades
The coin traders you contact will send you their trade list if they're interested in what you offer. Send them your list in return, along with some choices of coins you would like from their list, so there is a starting point in negotiations. If you started the contact, always take the initiative in making offers. After a couple of email exchanges, you should have pinned down a deal.
If the trade involves coins other than those in active circulation, you might communicate using catalog numbers, usually the KM#.
Execute the Coin Trade
Once you have settled on a trade, send your coins right away! Don't wait for the other person to send theirs first. If you both waited, no trade would ever happen! There is a certain amount of trust being placed on both ends; always make sure you hold up to your end. Very few traders on the public coin trading lists are dishonest; they're either removed or put on blacklists pretty quickly. Unless otherwise agreed upon, send your coins via normal airmail, and write "hobby supply" on any customs declaration. Never write "coins" because this is an invitation to steal to dishonest postal workers. The FAQ mentioned above has a detailed section on mailing coins overseas.
Join a Coin Trading Group
Once you've done a couple of trades, consider adding yourself to the trading lists and databases that are kept by other coin trading hobbyists. Perhaps the best one is at Fleur-de-Coin.com. You should use a P.O. Box or business address if you plan to post your address on the Web anywhere, though. Some people who keep trading lists will require a reference, or that you do a trade with them first. If you add yourself to these lists, always be sure to answer the resulting inquiries promptly. It only takes a second to write "no thanks" and you can always remove yourself from the lists if you stop trading. Courtesy is a very important part of the multicultural communications that are part of the fun of international coin trading.
Coin trading can be a lot of fun, and you can make friends all over the world. You can build a substantial collection by trading the coins you find in circulation every day. Sometimes you might even trade coins with other people in the same country, such as collectors in the western part of the USA with D-Mint Statehood Quarters who trade with people in the East to get coins from Philadelphia.