A swapper is a person who trades items through the post as a hobby and to supplement their collections. The majority of swappers, according to the ones who sign FBs I receive, are females over the age of 20 who like arts and crafts and correspondence. Swapping is usually associated with the hobby pen palling, and most swappers will send a small note with the swap. Swapping has recently become an e-mail based hobby too and people trade computer based items are called e-swappers.

The appeal of swapping is similar to that of letter writing and pen pals. Having letters and packages gives the feeling that someone cared enough about you to send you something. It is also a hobby that can be personalized heavily with stationery, rubber stamps, special ink pens, etc. The trade of paper swaps also allows pen pals and swappers to find new people to write to and advertise their own swapping and pen palling needs.

The basic paper swap is called an FB, short for Friendship Book. Most FBs are made with a sheet of colorful paper, one or more stapled sheets of stationery, or craft paper scraps and an artistic cover. The creator will include the title or theme of the FB if there is one, the headings “To:” followed by the name and address of the eventual owner, and “By:” which includes their own information. Other things that the owner may have on the front are specific rules for the particular FB, and any FB making game rules. On the bottom of the back page the maker might include a short reminder to send the completed FB to the address beside the word “For:” on the cover. Signers stick on return address labels or write down their addresses and then write their status below. Stats almost always include the date of signing, age and sex, weather or not they are looking for more pen pals and swappers at this time and what kind, what they like to swap, and things that they are interested in. In this basic type of paper swap it is common to include a sticker or other decoration with the signature. Many frequent swappers have made stickers that include their address, profile, and stats along with a picture or sticker in order to save time.

An address sheet is specifically a friendship book with only one page.

A cram is exactly like a friendship book. The main idea of a cram is to fit as many names and addresses onto the sheet/booklet as possible. Any additional information or decoration is not allowed and taking up excess space is discouraged.

The word “lyrix” refers to a friendship book that requires each signer to add their favorite song lyrics along with their standard signature.

The word “deco” is an abbreviation for Decorated FB. Decos give the signer an entire page to fill with his or her decorations in addition to their standard signature. Decos can be themed or unthemed and decorated with any medium. Decos are a very popular variety of FB, and have been referred to as mail art. There are many locations on the web dedicated to images of exceptionally decorated Decos.

A slam is traded in the same way as an FB with a different signing procedure. Slams can be themed or basic. The first page, known as the “sign-in” is the place to put return address labels and names. On each following page is a question to answer. The last page is often a “sign-out” to write the date. Often the maker will request that each signer puts a distinct symbol beside their entries in order to make them more easily identifiable.

Paper swaps are fun to make and sign, but I don’t suggest trading them if you are the least bit impatient. Any type of paper swap usually takes anywhere from 6 months to 5+ years to complete. I only have one full FB that I received by a stroke of luck in 1/04, and it was created 10/00. Many paper swaps are lost somewhere in the signing process.

Other things that most swappers will be willing to trade include stickers, stationery, stamps, international coins/bills, and postcards. Most swappers have a set list of things that they trade and collect. Swappers usually try to trade items that have something to do with the interests of the person they swap with.