Let’s trade

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, many bird enthusiasts were collectors of eggs and “skins” (skins include the feathers, beak, and legs but exclude the bones and soft tissues). Eggs and skins were bought and sold, but they were also traded. This post is about the latter.

Classified advertisements provide a sense of what this collecting was about. Below is the entire text of 3 such ads. I did my best to duplicate the capitalization, punctuation, and abbreviations.

This appeared in the March 1895 issue of the Nidiologist:

TO EXCHANGE—Handsome geodes for first-class, desirable birds’ skins. Also 8 vols. complete of Ill. Geol. Repts., illustrated, for a first-class skin of adult California Vulture. CHARLES K. WORTHEN, Warsaw, Ill.

The June 1898 issue of the Osprey included:

CALIFORNIA CONDOR—A fine pair of fresh skins of this species for sale, or would take part payment in desirable rare skins. F. H. HOLMES, Berryessa, Cal.

And from the Oölogist for 15 October 1913:

WANTED.—Skins of California Vulture, Whooping and Little Brown Crane, Trumpeter Swan and Falcons. Cash or good exchange. A. H. Helme, Miller Place, New York.

In 1922, R. Magoon Barnes, the editor of the Oölogist, published The American Oologists’ Exchange Price List of North American Birds’ Eggs. This was “compiled by a committee of twenty-five prominent American oologists” (at the time, oologists were egg collectors). The book’s purpose is explained in the introduction:

It must be understood that these prices following are relative and not intended to represent cash values. They are to be used as a basis for the exchange of specimens …

The list of prices takes up 47 pages. The eggs of a cardinal are listed at $0.10 each and those of a turkey vulture at $1.75 each. A California condor egg is priced at $750. So if you wanted a California condor egg but only had cardinal eggs, the “committee” said you’d need 7500 cardinal eggs.

The first 30 pages or so of the price list provide information on the hobby of egg collecting, including details about documenting specimens and many photos of collections. The last 10 pages or so is advertisements, including one for “oologists supplies” such as “egg drills” and another for subscriptions to the Wilson Bulletin (now known as the Wilson Journal of Ornithology).

The price list ends with this full-page advertisement :


I have the largest list of duplicate eggs for exchange in North America.

I have sources of supply UNEQUALED by any other collector in North America.

For Rare Specimens my opportunities are GREATER than any other Oologist in North America.

My private collection is the LARGEST collection of North American Eggs, outside of the U.S. National Museum, in the World.

I am always in the market, to buy or exchange, for specimans [sic] of Eggs or Skins of Birds desired by me, and am willing to give the highest price in Cash or the best exchange for what I want.


A related post is Seeking specimens and information.