Here is a brief overview, followed by a more in-depth explanation of the how and why.
1. There is a $10 annual subscription fee to have the access to create threads in the buy and sell forums
2. Only members that have achieved Members+ status will be given the opportunity to purchase the subscription
3. Existing topics will be left in place
4. The trade forum will no longer exist
5. Any future MSH-branded products will be offered to subscribers before Guests, Members and Members+
As a Members+, you will be able to purchase a subscription by buying it in the MSH Store
Once you click on the link and the PayPal transaction goes through, you will be able to see the Gear Exchange.
Members are able to view the transactions and can buy from a member, but they can't sell.
Anyone that is not a Members+ will not see the link in the Store. Anyone that is not a Members+ and attempts to purchase the subscription will not be granted access and may forfeit their money. Those situations will be reviewed on a case by case basis.
This is something we have debated internally for quite some time and not something we have done lightly. First of all, you have to understand that this site has operated solely off of contributions from a few members and out of the pockets of the mods. Many of our past swag sales, produced very little income for the site and one or two ended up cost neutral for the site, but a loss for me personally.
Most people will make their initial $10 donation value back on the first item sold or purchased. Sellers will realize that for the cost of one eBay auction(or less), you get access for a full year. Buyers will likely save more than the $10 on their first purchase. Several people have asked us how they can donate money to help with expenses; purchasing a subscription will now allow members to do that and get something of value in exchange.
The trade forum will be axed as the majority of "problem transactions" have been trades. Trade-only topics will not be permitted. We still suggest using an escrow service and protecting yourself as much as possible. Get as much information as you need before making a transaction with someone. A name email, address and/or phone number is not unreasonable information to request. Any personal information gathered will be used only for conflict resolution and will not be shared with any outside agency, organization or company.
As with the current incarnation of the Gear Exchange, we are not able to certify anything about the people buying or selling. We will gladly provide whatever information we can if a deal goes wrong, but we do not research or endorse any member that is selling.