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Running a no-ship math trade

Eric Engelmann
United States
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Congress of Gamers conventions
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Microbadge: Citizenship Recognition - Level I - One small step for geek... One giant leap for geek-kind!Microbadge: I sell board games for moneyMicrobadge: EurogamerMicrobadge: "The mob is the mother of tyrants." —DiogenesMicrobadge: Congress of Gamers attendee
If you are not familiar with Math Trades, read up on them here:

then return before thinking about how you might run one at your con.

OK, how best to organize and execute a math trade at a small convention?

Getting a volunteer to create and execute the trade
It's best to delegate this task, but you may need to do the first one in your area yourself. There are two major software systems for running trades ( and If trades have taken place at a convention within driving distance of yours, there's some advantage to run the same system, since the learning curve appears to be substantial for many of the potential participants and the volunteer is more likely to be familiar with it (and so more willing to volunteer to run the trade).

Marketing the trade to traders and attendees
The first basic principle is to start the trade early enough that your con marketing campaign follows it. The second is to make sure there are enough games offered when attendees first visit the trade list to persuade them to add their own. Posting games for trade does take some effort, and some people won't want to invest the time on a trade that doesn't look promising. How do you do that? Start by posting some of your own games. Remember, you don't HAVE to trade them. Get a friend or two to seed some trade material. Beg them to do so EARLY, so that the first traders don't visit a ghost town, and not return.

Exchange methods and benefits of each
1. Drop off before 2pm, pick up after 2pm - This is what I use at my cons. Print a sheet for each successful trader, including trader's BGG name (the one they traded as) and the games they get and give. Place the sheets alphabetically on a table or floor area. Requires traders to drop off games next to each sheet BEFORE 2pm, then pick up their games any time after 2pm. Advantages are minimal time taken away from gaming (gamers can drop games just before they start an 11am game, for example, and pick up when their game ends at 2:45pm. Disadvantage is that your games are left unattended for a brief time. "Shrinkage" has never been a problem in any of the math trades I've seen. I generally place the trade area next to the con's vendor, to encourage traffic in that area.

2. Real time drop-off line - As traders arrive at the 2pm trade location, the first arriving trader stands in the first position in a growing line, places their games in front of them and holds up a sign with their trading name. As additional traders arrive, they hold up their own sign and traverse the line, picking up and dropping off games with traders who arrived before them, then taking their station at the end of the line, their own sign. This works well if ALL your traders show up on time, have their signs prepared, and know what they are trading and with whom. If that's not the case, this gets pretty messy. I don't recommend this for any real-world group of gamers.

3. Real time assembly and shout out - Traders gather at 2pm. The Trade organizer then does a roll call of traders. As each is called, the givers and takers step forth and exchange. This works well for small groups when all traders show up on time, but still pulls them away from any games in progress.

Problems and suggestions for managing them
1. Help attendees hook up outside the scheduled trade time Some traders REALLY want to play the game they traded for ASAP. Sometimes personal emergencies prevent arrival at the swap time. It may also happen that the seller discovers pieces/parts/condition issues they were unaware of at listing time or the buyer discovers a problem after the trade, but before leaving the con. Each of these could benefit from giving traders the ability to easily contact each other DURING the con. The trade organizer could offer traders the option of submitting mobile phone details in a BGG personal message to the organizer, who could then share them on the trade sheets (see #1 above), on a clipboard at the trade location, or in a non-crawlable page (for example, here's this page's link with spaces added. https:// boardgamegeek. com/blogpost/71771/ running-no-ship-math-trade
You could also remind traders to exchange contact info with each other, but that's a lot of duplicative work for participants.
2. Traders may want to sell the games that don't trade
To help them use the con's auction store or auction for this, post the trade results BEFORE any Auction Store and/or Auction submission deadlines.
3. A very small portion of traders won't show up for the trade.
I'll guesstimate this at one in 30 ("Life" can happen to anyone!). Broken trades are generally resolved by the missing trader paying to ship the games he's getting and giving, or compensating other traders with cash.
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