Maxia, a police officer who became a stay-at-home mom to spend more time with her kids, met a boy playing with LEGO Bionicle toys in her chiropractor’s waiting room. Maxia told the boy that her son, Jacob, 8, preferred Godzilla toys to his own Bionicle figures. When Maxia learned that this boy had Godzilla toys at home that he didn’t play with, she suggested a trade the following week.
"What else can we trade?" Jacob asked when Maxia told him about the swap.
With that prompt, and backed by her experience selling items on eBay, Maxia registered her Web site in August. Since then, Maxia says, 150 users—from as far away as Canada, Australia, New York and Montana—have registered.
"How many times does a kid have to open a toy he won’t play with just because he got it for his birthday?" asks Maxia. "There’s a need to recycle toys."
Toy Swap simplifies the need. Users make a list of the toys they want and a list of the toys they want to give away. The Web site then pairs users together for swaps. While membership is free, users pay $1 each time they buy, sell or swap. One of the first swaps occurred between users in Oak Park and Tinley Park.
There are, of course, ground rules. Users must ship toys within five days of their agreement and choose the same shipping method. There is also a color-coded price system that helps members match toys of similar values. But Maxia says swapper satisfaction is more important than the suggested price scale.
While Toy Swap employs Paypal and a user feedback system similar to other online marketplaces, Maxia says her Web site distinguishes itself by pitching an even swap rather than an auction.
Toy Swap also includes a page for members to donate unwanted toys to charity, a link to view consumer product recalls and a forum for parents of children with special needs. Maxia hopes that by including a message board, it will give other parents suggestions of good toys to buy for kids with special needs.
Yet Maxia says her dream is for struggling families to benefit from using her Web site, especially during the holiday season.
"If [someone] can give their children a Christmas just based on what they already have, that’s priceless," says Maxia.