There are many online places to join to discuss ATCs and/or to do swaps, whether they are private trades or group swaps. I only have experience with Yahoo Groups! If you go to www.yahoogroups.com and use the search box with the keywords "artist trading card" or "ATC" you will see many groups come up.
I have seen websites with online bulletin board style chat in which people can sign up for swaps. I find reading those formats difficult so I am not a member of any of those type of groups.
If you join a Yahoo Group! there is a photo album area at which you can view other people's ATCs. This is a good way to see all the different styles and unique artwork that people make. If you join the list you can create your own photo album and add scans of your ATCs. If you upload scans of your own ATCs that are available for trading you can arrange private trades with other group members. Usually you view scans of the other person's ATCs and you make private arrangements for which ATCs of theirs that you want.
There are themed swaps that a person can join. You must read the terms of the swap to get the details. One person is the host and you mail your ATCs to the host. After all the swaps are received, the host divides up the ATCs and will mail you ATCs that other people made. I call this a 'blind swap' because you don't know what you will get. You have to follow the rules for the swap with regard to the number that you must mail in and the number that you get back. There are rules about what kind of envelope to use and sending postage for the return ATCs. There are special rules if a person lives overseas, since the swapper can't provide postage from the host's country.
Here is a quick primer on trades. A 1/1 trade means you send one and you get one. Some swaps are 4/4 which means you send 4 and you get 4 back. Sometimes the swap is 5/4 which means you send 5 and get 4 back--the host keeps one of yours for herself.
Some people send the hostess one extra ATC as a gift. Some people send the hostess a little goodie bag for a thank you. Examples of goodies are some unmounted rubber stamps, some scraps of paper, scrapbook paper, pages from books, stickers, little embellishments, fibers, and anything else you can think of that you may already own and have too much of.
I have hosted two swaps in the past and currently am hosting two. I can tell you that it takes many hours to be a hostess. I have to answer lots of emails from people over the course of the swap. It also takes organization and good record-keeping, to keep track of who signed up, whose ATCs were received, etc. When it comes time to swap them out it can take one or mour hours to ensure that no one gets their own ATCs back and then the time to spend to package them up properly, seal the envelopes, affix postage, etc. I weigh each envelope as sometimes people don't give enough postage. In that case the money comes out of my pocket, to make up the difference. I also must pay for overseas postage out of my pocket. What I personally do for overseas participants is ask for 1 ounce of ephemera in exchange for it. Since the ephemera I ask for costs no money I don't feel this is asking too much. Before I asked specifically for 1 ounce I got very little such as two small cut out's from a magazine, another person sent a small sheet of stickers with about 15 tiny stickers on it. What I like to get is anything printed in non-English language if the country is not primarily English speaking, cancelled postage stamps, maps, and even food labels.
There is a special list for trading ATCs that other people made that we don't care to keep. That list is on Yahoo Groups! and is called "2ndGenATC". It is that group which I wrote about the 'art boxes'. Of course any person on any list may work to see if the list owner would allow 'art boxes' to be made, either second generation or else one's own ATCs.
I hope this is enough information to get you started!
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