Art Swaps – How the Numbers Work

[Note: I  may earn a commission if you purchase something I’ve linked to.]

SwapsWhen you’re participating in art or crafts swaps through an online group or community, the numbers may confuse you.  Here are some tips to help you understand how swaps work.

(These tips apply to swaps exchanged through the postal mail.  For a typical digital swap example, see my article, Artistamps – digital swaps.)


When a swap is 3-for-3 or 10-for-10 or anything like that, it means you’ll receive the same number of items that you sent.  You’ll send four items and receive four in return, or whatever.

It does not mean that you’ll receive one item from each player.  When hosts organize swaps, they have no idea how many people will play.  So, a 5-for-5 swap means you’ll send five items and receive five in return, even if 150 people are in the swap.


Many swap hosts figure that organizing swaps is enough work.  They don’t necessarily want to make something for the swap, too.

Those kinds of swaps will be announced as 5-for-4 or 10-for-9, or something like that.  The first number is how many items you’re sending.  The second number is how many items you’ll receive in return.

You’ll send the requested number of items, and the swap host will keep one of them (as a thank-you gift) before sorting the items to send out.

At the present time, most swaps seem to be organized that way.  So, if you sent 10 items but received 9 in return… that’s exactly what you were supposed to receive.


Some swaps are organized for fun, but also to benefit a specific group, usually a women’s shelter or a children’s hospital, or something like that.

The charity is always specified in the swap announcement, and a link usually helps you understand why this is an important charity or organization to help.

However, we’re generally careful not to sound like we’re trying to recruit people to join or support the charity.  It’s a fine line, but an important one when the charity is related to a particular religion or political group.

Generally, if you don’t want to contribute one swap item to that charity, you should not participate in the swap.  It’s considered rude to say, “I’d like to swap with members, but that’s all.”

Those swaps may be something like 5-for-4 or 10-for-9, but they may be 7-for-5 or 10-for-8, or something different.

So, you might send 6 items and receive 4 in return.  One of your items might be kept by the swap host as the usual thank-you gift, and one of your items will be donated to charity.


Though I can post tips like this, every swap is different.  Always read the rules carefully, and follow them to the letter.  That will make the swap more fun for everyone, including the swap host and you.

Swaps are great fun, and a wonderful way to meet other artists and see their art in person.  I encourage everyone to get involved in swaps… and to host swaps when you can.

[Note: I  may earn a commission if you purchase something I’ve linked to.]

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