Artist Trading Cards - ATCs for Artists Artist Trading Cards - ATCs for Artists FAQ

Here you can find answers to questions about how the board works. Use the links or search box below to find your way around.

Who Can Host a Swap?

Swaps are a vital part of this site, and we encourage and appreciate anyone who is interested in hosting and meets these basic guidelines:

You must be an active member of this site or AFA for at least 3 months prior to hosting a swap. You must also have a positive iTrader rating of +15. Your stats from (AFA) also count on iATCs.

All new hosts must send their contact information to an Administrator (AnnD, themuppet, or Amerasu) via PM. You must include your full name, your address, your email, and a telephone number where we can reach you. There are no exceptions to this rule. The information is not stored online and is not shared with anyone.

How Many Swaps Can I Host?

You may host no more than 6 swaps at one time across the 2 affiliated websites, and

First time hosts: You may host only one swap your first time hosting. Once that swap is complete and all cards have been mailed, you have the same hosting privileges as other members.

Swap Lengths - Setting a Due Date

Most swaps should only require 90 days; however, hosts may have up to 150 days as needed or desired, especially for swaps like PATs and CATs. Note that this 150 days MUST include the 14-day grace period. Apart from gift swaps and collaborative journal swaps, NO swap may exceed 150 days between the time the swap is posted and the time returns are mailed.

How Do I Start a Swap?

Swaps must be started in the Open Swaps Forum. Please open a thread with the name of your swap as the thread title.

Put at the top of your swap thread:
  • Swap Due Date - Month Day
  • Sign up by date - Month day
  • Withdraw by date - Month day (same as sign up by date or later)
  • Number of Items - 3 for 3, etc.
  • Number of participants -
  • For your thread title, please use this format: "Medium: Swap Title DUE Date." Examples include "P&P: Animals Down Under Swap, DUE June 16," "ALL: Oddball Portraits Swap, DUE February 12, and "MMA: Seven-Layer Casserole Collage, DUE September 7." (If you don't do it correctly, our helpful Moderators will fix them for you as they find them)
  • Please add your swap due date to the Calendar
Remember to ask PERMISSION before you post links to other people's art!

If this is your first time hosting a swap at this website, please remember to supply your full contact information (including email and a telephone number) to an Administrator. Your information will not be made public or shared with members of this site. Your contact information is only required in case we need to contact you offline regarding your swap.

Swap hosts cannot impose a penalty for withdrawing from a swap on or before the withdraw-by date. Only Pick-A-Theme, Choose-a-Theme, moley, gift, and other specialty swaps carry a no-withdrawal (or no-withdrawal after a set date) rule.

In a swap where each participant makes an item for every other participant, hosts are required to include a Sign Up/Withdraw-by date so that participants will know exactly how many items they must create. Hosts are encouraged to offer a Waiting List so that withdrawing participants can be quickly and easily replaced.

International Participants in a Swap

Please note that we have a different policy here on iATCs than what some are used to on Hosting costs money and you must be prepared to cover postage for international participants who cannot send you stamps or $1 to cover mailing costs. If you are low on funds and still want to host, then you may limit the number of participants in your swap as a whole, not by reducing international player spots. Swaps on iATCs must be open to everyone at all times. If funds are tight, we recommend limiting your swap numbers to 10-15 participants.

Hosts: Rules to Follow

Hosts have the right to:
  • Return poor art quality cards received in swaps but please refer to our section on Sub-Par Cards before doing so.
  • Return damaged, flimsy or falling apart cards, cards that are not on theme, etc.
  • Swap quality for quality or whatever other swapping method you want to use - random, out of a hat, etc.
  • If low on funds, hosts may limit the number of participants in their swaps as a whole - not by singling out internationals.
Hosts cannot do the following:
  • Turn anyone away from a swap because the host thinks their art isn't good enough. Everyone got in here fair and square so all swaps are open. If it turns out that the cards submitted are sub-par, then please refer to our FAQ on sub-par cards.
  • Turn away a swap participant because they're new and don't have an iTrader rating (unless it's a PAT of course or other swap where iTrader is required by iATCs).
  • Set your own iTrader ratings for swaps. Please refer to our iTrader Requirements List. If your type of swap is not listed there, please contact an Admin for help.

Mailing Returns and Dealing with Late Cards


Host are obligated to send swap returns within 14 days of the due date. No exceptions. You cannot wait for cards beyond the two week mail out date.


Late Cards in a Regular Swap

Artists should make every effort to ensure that cards or other mailart arrive ON or BEFORE the DUE DATE. Hosts do have a two-week grace period after the due date, which means that hosts MAY wait up to 13 days for late cards. The grace period is optional, however, which means that the decision to wait rests entirely with the host. In cases where the cards were mailed on time or where the swapper has experienced a true emergency (e.g. a sudden, unplanned hospitalization), we strongly encourage understanding, patience, and full use of the grace period.

Late Cards in a Specialty Swap (e.g. a PAT, CAT, or Any Other Swap from which Withdrawal is Not Permitted)

Artists who do not finish their PAT or CAT cards on time must mail cards to their individual group members. More specifically, late senders must take responsibility for collecting addresses from their group members, as well as paying to send each card owed. The host should not provide swap returns to the late sender until this has transpired and been confirmed by each other member of the group.

The host should also make group members aware that they have the option to give the late sender a neutral iTrader rating.


Hosts of regular swaps may, at their own discretion, assign neutral ratings for 1) cards that were mailed on or after the due date; and/or 2) cards that arrived too late to be swapped out. Again, in cases of serious life emergencies as well as postal mishaps that delayed the arrival of cards sent prior to the due date, we do encourage compassion.

For cards mailed on or after the due date in a PAT, CAT, or similar swap, it is the site policy that hosts assign a neutral rating. Yes, that means you have to. If for some reason the host does not assign a neutral rating, the late sender will receive an Administrator neutral for holding up the swap.

What if cards or other mailart for a specialty swap NEVER arrive?

If a swapper signs up for a PAT, CAT, moley, gift, or other type of swap from which withdrawals are not permitted, the swapper is making a firm commitment, one we take seriously. After the deadline passes, the host should attempt communication with the late swapper. If the swapper does not answer and/or does not mail within a reasonable period of time, the host should assign a negative iTrader, as should all affected group members. If the swapper makes good at a later time, those negatives can be changed to neutrals by an Administrator.

If you are the host of a specialty swap and have a player who is neither sending nor communicating, you can feel free to reach out to an Administrator for help and support.

What If My Swap is Smaller than I Expected?

We understand that a small swap turnout can be disappointing, but it must still be treated as a regular swap. If you have only one swapper come through with cards, you must swap those cards with your own, even though that's effectively a 3:3 trade between you and the swapper. If you have two swappers, each swapper will receive two cards from one artist and one from the other. You may not return an artist's cards exclusively on the grounds that a swap was too small.

Commitments of Hosting

Hosts must be prepared for the time and financial commitment of hosting a swap. Most players in the same country will send you a SASE for their returns. However, international participants will not be able to do this. You must be prepared to cover the postage of returns to international participants. If funds are short, please limit the total number of participants in your swap rather than not accepting international participants.

Hosts who do not send out the cards received from swap participants will receive negative ratings. If you are unable to fulfill your hosting duties, whatever the reason, just contact us and we will take over your swap for you and pay to get the cards from you to a new host. We do want to help if you're having a problem. Please don't run away with other peoples' cards.

Hosts who take off with user's cards will need to do a few things if they are to become active members again:
  • Return all cards to players immediately. You have 30 days to do this. If you need addresses, either PM the players or send a PM to AnnD, themuppet, or Amerasu.
  • Although you are welcome to trade once you have returned all cards to the players, you will be unable to join any swaps for 3 months.
  • No hosting swaps for at least 6 months.
  • All negative ratings will remain on your iTrader, even if you return the cards.

Uneven Swaps

Hosts cannot host uneven swaps. If the artist is required to send in 3 cards for the swap, then they must receive 3 cards in return. Please do not ask participating artists to send you extra cards in lieu of postage. An extra card is a gift should the participating artist want to thank you for hosting.

Hosting PAT Swaps (Pick-A-Theme)

Make sure that you are REALLY committed to running a PAT swap. These swaps are a huge undertaking and you will have to stay on top of things every single day, be super organized with your lists and mail arriving at home. There is no such thing as too much communication.

You must be very clear about how it will run. Give all the details that you can think of and ask for help if you are not sure about something or need input. Ask someone to proof read the information to be sure that it is clear.

Experience has taught us that we will need to have:
  1. Your real life name.
  2. A real home address.
  3. A real working phone number that we can contact you if we need to.
You must submit this information before you are approved to host. If you will not give us this personal information we are sorry but we can not approve you to host a Pick-A-Theme swap.

You need to require participants have an established positive trader rating of +5 in order to join these swaps because if just ONE person flakes out in a group you will have a problem. No exceptions! (Even an experienced member can flake out but this will keep a new member with little or no experience from causing a calamity.) Those with the required iTrader ratings at will be allowed to apply their positive iTrader ratings to an PAT swap.

You must have a signup date deadline and a mail by date deadline. Strictly enforce your deadlines.

Your groups will be easier to manage if they stay at 5 participants per group. They can join more than one group if they want to. (Each group will produce 20 cards total.)

No more that 8 groups per PAT swap. That is a lot of cards (160) to keep track of. Certainly you can have less than 8 groups in your swap.

Like other swaps, PAT cards should be mailed out within two weeks of the swap ending date. Occasionally, members of a PAT group within the swap will mail early, resulting in that group's cards being turned in well before the ending date. In such a case, swap hosts may choose to swap out individual groups as soon as all cards are received. In no case should mailing a PAT group's returns be delayed beyond two weeks after swap closing date.

When a participant misses the deadline, you need to let the late sender know that SHE or HE is now responsible for mailing those cards. The late sender must get addresses and pay for postage to mail each other group member the required card. You should still give the late sender a neutral rating, and you should also let the late sender's group members know that they have the option to assign a neutral rating.

Hosts are limited to hosting only two PATs at one time.

Feel free to direct participants to these guidelines if they try to ‘fudge the rules’; please don’t risk your good standing to accommodate them.

Returning Cards: Sub-Par Art and Quality Issues

Cards should be returned to participating artists for the following reasons:
  • Wrong Theme: The card is not the right theme or medium for the swap.
  • Wrong Size: The cards is the wrong size. ATCs are always only 2.5 x 3.5 and that's it.
  • Poor Construction: Card is made of light paper only (flimsy), bits are falling off or it's not cut straight, there are broken bits, the card is stuck to the sleeve and won't come out, etc.
  • Arrived Damaged: The card has been damaged by the post office.
Concerns about Sub-Par Cards - What to do as a host

Craftmanship: This is a juried site and artists' artwork should reflect that. If an artist's work exhibits a lack of effort or poor craftsmanship, hosts can contact the Art Panel who will assist in returning the cards to the artist. Please do not return cards without consulting the Art Panel. We want decisions to be as objective as possible and that is better achieved with 7 people rather than just 1.

Decisions about sub-par artwork must be based solely on what we know the artist is capable of compared to their other gallery offerings. DO NOT compare their artwork to the art of others.

Send PM to an administrator or mod.
  • AnnD
  • themuppet
  • Amerasu

Hosting Open Swaps - Special Considerations

Open Swap forums allow members of both divisions (P&P and MMA) to participate in swaps together. However, participants must submit artwork for the swap in the medium for which they were accepted. If they are a member of both divisions, then they can submit any medium they'd like. We guarantee to our members that everyone has been juried in to this trading site which is why we insist that people submit work only in the mediums for which they were accepted. If one of your participants submits cards in a medium that they were not accepted for, please contact an administrator (AnnD, themuppet, or Amerasu).

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