What is a swap market?

A swap market is a cosy, social, free and environmentally friendly event, where you can swap your things and clothes with others. You bring whatever you want to give away and at the market there will be tables with signs like mens clothing, books, shoes, toys, kitchen equipment etc. You donate your belongings by putting them on the right tables and afterwards you can take anything you need – all is free.

Sometimes the hosts will weigh what you brought in the entrance – not because you need to bring a certain amount, but to bring awareness to how many things we have lying around that we no longer use. Things which might end up in trash next time we clean out closets, lofts and basements. The record for the events we know about is 2500 participants in Aarhus who swapped 7,6 tons of goods with each other within 6 hours.

Have a look at how it went in Copenhagen when a group of volunteers hosted a swap marked at the IT University. The video is introduced by one of the passionate volunteers, Marusa Kefaloukos:


How does it work?
We’re often asked how it works. If you swap one thing to another, or if we value the different items or give coupons. Our experience is that it makes it more diffucult. Who is that one person who wants your Stephen King novel, and has the perfekt shirt you want? And how do you put value on a used toy which someone was going to scrap, but turns out to be the new favourite toy for another child? We’ve tried out different things, but this is now the guidelines we work with:

  1. Find something useful you no longer need or want
  2. Bring it to the market and place it in the right category
  3. Find what you need and take it home

You give what you can, (which is often a lot) and take what you can carry. When everyone swaps with everyone all at once, there is a much bigger chance that everybody can find something they want. Some people bring 20 kg and go home with 5 and are happy! Others bring 3 kg and go home with 10 kg, which is also perfect. Some have collected too many things over the years and get satiesfaction from seeing old belongings finding a new home. Others just moved away from home, have a small budget, came to the country/city and are in great need of cheap/free things. Swapping is also a good habit for shopaholics and others who want new things often, but don’t want to spend more than they earn on fashion, or participate in overconsumption of goods that are more nice to have than need to have.

Other ways of swapping
We’re aware that there are many different ways to swap and there is no right or wrong way to do it. So i this inspires you in any way, do go ahead and try it out or make your own events and systems. Some use coupons or buttons and then you get one button for each item you hand in. This works very well if you want to have a swap market only for high end fashion. Some collect an entrance fee to cover expenses, if they cannot find access to a location which is free and big enough to host the event.

Who participates?
Everybody, really. Retirees, students, families, teenagers, men, women, rich people, poor people. Some want to save money, others want to give away things, some are looking for hobby projects to fix up, children look for toys and their parents for clothes one size bigger. Parents can save tons of money if they reuse clothes from child number one for child number two. If you only have one child, or both a girl and a boy, you can still save the money by swapping.

What happens to the rest?
We collaborate with charity shops e.g. Red Cross, Danmission and others. They pick up the things are haven’t found a new home and sell them in their shops. The things they can’t sell are shipped to other countries where it’s needed.

One thought on “What is a swap market?”

  1. It is a very good idea and I like the explanations a lot. It’s just a thought but I am considering to try and implement the idea of swap markets in my home country too. Thank you for info.

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A movement of swappers

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