Trading patches is a fun way to get rid of your excess, duplicate or unwanted patches while providing the opportunity to get new ones. Prior to the arrival of the Internet, patch trading relied on word of mouth and collector organizations such as the American Society of Military Insignia Collectors (ASMIC) in order to find fellow traders. The Internet has made it much easier to network with fellow collectors using forums/discussion boards and social media. Go to the Forums/Discussion Boards section of this website to find places to meet fellow collectors.
The mail remains the backbone of trading. In the old days collectors compiled trade list of patches that they would send via the mail out to fellow collectors. Collectors who had access to a copier would send out black and white photocopies of their trade stock. The hope was always for a return letter with a list of patches the individual wanted and a copy of their trade list. This was followed by patches going into the mail with a list of patches you wanted in return. Trades done purely by mail often took several weeks to complete because of the back-and-forth exchange of mail. Remember, back in those days long-distance phone calls were not free (and quite expensive), so the sending letters was the way to go. Exchanging letters back and forth has now fallen out of favor due to the convenience of e-mail and social media. But the same basic premise as outlined in the previous paragraph still exists. It’s just a lot quicker to finalize the deal.
Here are some general rules I follow when trading:
- Initiating a Trade Request. Contact the other party via letter, e-mail or social media messaging and provide a copy of your trade list or images of your trades. Provide any special terms (e.g. – 2 for 1, subdued for subdued, etc). If you are responding to an online posting of trades, let the other party know which patches you are interested in from them. Give the person a reasonable time to respond. Remember, most of us do other things than collect patches! If the other party hasn’t responded in a week, contact them.
- Receiving a Trade Offer. If you receive a trade offer, be sure to respond even if you don’t want to trade.
- Negotiating the Deal. Review the initiator’s trade request and determine what you’d like from their list. Not all trades should necessarily be 1 patch for 1 patch, especially for rare or older patches, so don’t be afraid to ask for 2 (or more) for 1 when appropriate. There usually several days of back-and-forth negotiations required to work out a deal.
- Finalizing the Deal. Once you’ve worked out a deal, you should verify that all your traders are available. After that, I recommend summarizing the deal (to include a list or pictures of the patches being traded) and sending it to the other party to get a final approval. Once finalized, you should not renege on the deal unless there are extenuating circumstances.
- Sending the Trades. The initiator should send their trades out first, generally within a week of the deal. The other party should wait until they receive the initiator’s trades until sending theirs out. This is especially important for the first trade or first several trades with an unknown individual. There are still a few unscrupulous individuals who initiate a trade with no intent to follow through. If somebody does not agree to this, I recommend you void the trade. As you develop good/trusted relationships with other collectors, it is good form to send out the patches as soon as the trade is agreed upon. It is customary for both parties to notify the other when the trades have been placed in the mail and when they are received.
- Mail. Trades should be sent out First Class mail (or equivalent) unless other arrangements have been agreed upon. Each individual is responsible for postage costs. Although a little more expensive, I recommend paying for tracking so you can confirm delivery. For high value patches, it is in both individual’s interest to pay for insurance. Remember, delivery times can be unpredictable so please allow some time for patches to arrive. I’ve had some domestic trades take up to a month. Some of my international trades have taken almost 2 months!
- Problems. If there is a problem with the trade (e.g. — patches were not as advertised/pictured or a wrong patch) you should notify the other party immediately. For the wrong items the other party should offer to send you the right items and provide a self-addressed stamped envelope to send the wrong item back. For other problems, the individual should offer an alternative or send back the traded patch(es) in exchange for their patches being returned.
- Lost in the Mail. In over 25 years of trading, I’ve only had a couple of instances where trades have been lost in the mail. Both parties should not hold each other accountable for a one time occurrence. However, if this occurs more than one-time with the same individual, I generally will stop trading with that person.