For coin collectors intent
on collecting the world, the task may seem
Sisyphusian, but it needn't be. Several
Internet sites provide information for
people who want to trade coins with
like-minded collectors from around the
Don Norris has been trading coins with
fellow collectors internationally for nearly
10 years. He says that he's completed
several hundred trades.
Norris, who operates the Web site
www.worldcoingallery.com where he posts
images of newly issued coins (along with
thousands of other world coin images), said
there are many benefits to trading coins
with international collectors. (Some of the
images are of pieces Norris has in his
collection, including pieces that he traded
Norris said the practice is efficient,
saves him money and is educational about
world geography and new coin issues.
More important, he adds, are the friends
he's added since he began.
Trading online rather than requesting a
list on paper from a dealer or searching
through binders and bins of coins creates a
list that is always electronic. This makes
finding desired coins much quicker, Norris
He joins an Excel database he created for
his collection with a list of the coins
available for trade, and when they are
merged, the program highlights available
items not already in his collection.
"I can complete this process in a matter
of minutes, reducing an initial list of
thousands of coins down to usually less than
one page of ‘keepers' to be printed and
examined more thoroughly," Norris said.
For collector Yiannis Androulakis, who
lives in Greece, trading coins using online
resources is more than a matter of ease.
Though his father was director of the
national Mint in Greece, Androulakis had few
collecting opportunities after becoming
interested in coins as a young child.
Androulakis has never attended a coin
show, having only read about them in coin
collecting books, so using the Internet to
trade coins with other collectors was the
best option to expand his involvement in the
hobby beyond the foreign coins relatives
would bring home from trips, and the U.S.
coins an uncle in Florida mailed to him, he
There's value in trading
Trading coins allows collectors to grow
their collection affordably.
Norris said, "I have obtained lightly
circulated, great condition coins at near
face value that would have otherwise only
been available in pristine Uncirculated
condition from dealers at quite a markup."
The best example of this is the entire
series of Austrian commemorative 20-, 25-,
50- and 100-schilling coins issued before
Austria adopted the euro, Norris said.
Another benefit to trading coins
internationally is that it makes you more
conscious of world geography, Norris said.
He posted a map next to his computer, and
now knows "instinctively" what countries can
be found in certain regions.
"As I reply to e-mails, I often find
myself scrutinizing the tiny islands of the
South Pacific, looking for Tuvalu, Vanuatu
or New Caledonia," he said.
Awareness of new issues
Norris counts the awareness of what new
coins nations are issuing as another
"When Canada issues a new circulating
commemorative quarter or Poland circulates a
new 2 zlote or Western Europe issues a new
€2 design, I know about it right away," he
As well, his coin trading friends are
always anxious to trade their new issues for
the latest State quarter dollar or
Presidential dollar coin.
Norris said: "You simply can't beat
having friends around the world to keep you
posted on new issues. So be sure to pick up
a roll or two of each new state quarter at
your bank. You're going to need them."
As you get to know people through repeat
trades and regular correspondence, you can
develop real friendships, Norris notes.
"I now have great friends in Bulgaria,
Israel, Hong Kong and Vietnam who send me
holiday greetings, snapshots of their
growing families and news of the current
events in their countries," he said. "After
the attacks of [Sept. 11, 2001], I received
dozens of e-mails from friends around the
world, expressing their sympathies."
How to get started
Several resources will help you begin
exchanging coins with other collectors.
Perhaps the most thorough is the guide
written by Androulakis and Marcel Zumstein,
maintained at www.fleur-de-coin.com/trade/tradefaq.html.
Androulakis provides an exhaustive guide
for would-be traders at this site.
The site addresses how to find collectors
who are willing to trade (and which ones to
avoid), and what are "good manners" when
exchanging coins. The guide gives tips on
how to package the coins, as well as what
type of postal services to use.
The site is born of Androulakis'
experiences trading coins through the mail.
In 1997 Androulakis began building his
first Web site, which mentioned his hobby.
He added information about his collection
and soon found coin collectors with whom he
started exchanging coins, he said.
The Internet expanded his numismatic
world dramatically; until he went online,
the only coin exchanges Androulakis took
part in were those with a friend a block
away, he said.
The proportions of his trades inverted
though, and soon 99 percent of his exchanges
were facilitated through the Internet.
He added sections to the Web site to
assist others in being as successful with
trades as he was.
Finding people to trade with
Though Androulakis has stopped exchanging
coins due to lack of time, his site remains
a literal, and virtual, clearinghouse for
collectors searching for people to trade
Androulakis said: "There is a thriving
coin collectors community online. There are
literally thousands of coin collectors who
are in the habit of exchanging coins using
A database on this site provides links to
numerous lists and e-mail addresses of bona
It is found at www.fleur-de-coin.com/trade/coincollectorslist.asp.
As with any online endeavor, collectors
should be cautioned about potentially
negative experiences with would-be traders.
Androulakis said: "There is a trust issue
there (exchanging coins with people you will
never actually meet)." His site includes
links to numerous databases of people
collectors should avoid exchanging coins
Some people could have added to such
"black lists" unjustly, either for spite or
by mistake, but "finding someone's name in
several different lists is a serious
indication that he is not to be trusted,"
according to the site.
Androulakis has created a five-star
rating system for his database of
collectors, "because there have been
incidents with ... well ... thieves. I hope
[the evaluation system] will enable people
to start exchanging higher value coins," he
Simplifying the process
To simplify your trading endeavor, you
should create a list of coins that you're
offering for trade. Many collectors list
coins by nation, date, denomination and by
the catalog number assigned by the
Standard Catalog of World Coins by
Chester Krause and Clifford Mishler.
Unless otherwise stated, most collectors
are assuming the coins you're trading are
lightly circulated or otherwise
"acceptable." If they are heavily worn or
have defects, be sure to indicate that.
At the top of the list, include contact
information and any explanation of symbols,
colors or definitions you may have used.
Androulakis suggests creating an ASCII
text version of the file, instead of using
Microsoft Word, Excel or HTML.
"It produces very small files which can
be viewed by non-commercial programs on all
digital platforms, and it doesn't carry any
viruses like the proprietary document
formats mentioned," he said.
If your list is in another format, you
can export it to plain or ASCII text. You
could also offer your trading partner a
choice of formats.
If the file is too large, break it up
alphabetically, by region or even topic.
Make sure you actually have all the coins
you say you do.
"Finding out you are missing a couple of
coins after you have reached an agreement
could cause a great inconvenience and it's
irresponsible," Androulakis advises.
He suggests a Web-based e-mail account
like those offered by Yahoo or Hotmail,
because you won't have to change it even if
you change your Internet service provider.
Collectors should have a working
knowledge of a widespread language like
English, he said. Online translation
services are available to assist those with
language barriers, but the text can
sometimes be unreadable or hard to
Once you've met those requirements, you
can begin trading.
Good trading manners
Use the lists of collectors that trade
coins to find one that might work. If the
collectors have posted a list of available
coins, check that against any "wish list"
you may have to see if it's worth contacting
Be brief. If your list of coins for trade
is short, you may consider including it, but
otherwise you should simply mention that a
list is available.
In stating what you want, too, be
specific and brief. Focus on the exchange.
Androulakis said: "We don't need to know
anything about you, your past, education,
occupation, etc. If someone asks you for
this [information], then by all means, give
it to him; otherwise try to stick to the
Many of the "good manners" suggested by
Androulakis relate to e-mail: Don't send
large e-mails, and don't flood potential
traders with mass e-mails. Don't send large
attachments, unless requested.
Respond to e-mails quickly, even if it's
simply to decline a trade offer.
Packing, shipping coins
One of the major issues with using the
Internet to trade coins is trust,
Once the trade is confirmed, send the
coins promptly. Waiting for your coins to
arrive before sending out the coins you're
trading is a precarious linchpin in the
trading process; if you're both waiting for
the other coins to arrive, the deal will die
very quickly, he said.
You may have a "bad feeling/indication"
about a transaction, so if you wait to
receive the coins before sending yours out,
Androulakis said, it is sometimes fair to
send your coins using an express service to
make up for some of the delay. "It will cost
more, but why should the other person ‘pay'
for your own mistrust?" his site reasons.
Coins should be packaged securely for
shipping to protect them from being jostled,
and to conceal contents from possible
Don't use tape directly on the coins, and
wrap the coins carefully, making sure they
won't slide out from packaging. Specially
made corrugated mailing inserts work the
best for small packages.
Bubble mailers, while excellent at
concealing the packages' content, may be
excluded from certain U.S. mail classes, the
Before sending a package, give it a good
shake, testing for sounds that would
indicate coins unsecured.
Sending packages outside of the United
States requires a customs form. Androulakis'
site suggests using a vague description,
like "hobby supplies," so as to avoid theft
and possible postal restrictions. "The U.S.
has postal restrictions against sending
coins or currency to many countries, but the
postal agents seem quite content to deliver
‘hobby supplies,' " the site said.
Deciding which service level to use is an
important decision, the site said.
As noted earlier, an express mail
delivery may make sense in an instance where
you've waited to receive coins first, or if
you've been otherwise delayed.
If the value or number of coins being
traded is large, registered mail is
sometimes necessary, though that can
significantly increase the price.
The final note, the site said, is, once
you've received the coins, to notify and
thank the sender.
All of these guidelines fall under the
Golden Rule: treat other collectors as you
want to be treated. That, and some common
sense, will go a long way in creating a
positive coin trading experience.