The rise of the “value” trader can be directly attributed back to Pack To Power, which Jon Medina started in the summer of 2010. After that, everyone thought they were “value traders.” Not only are the majority of these people either terrible at trading or just out to shark people (which also falls into the “terrible at trading” umbrella), it made things a bit more complicated for the rest of us.
The backlash has been growing. For instance, at States last weekend I wasn’t able to do as much trading as I wanted, since I was playing Solar Flare and taking a lot of time in the rounds even though I play quickly (went 5-1-2, losing out on Top 8 in the last round).
However, the tournament was a fun experience, mostly because people are awesome and someone loaned me the entire deck to play. The person who loaned me the deck? Someone that I met through trading, incidentally, proving that the point of trading is not just to make money — it’s to make friends.
But back to the story. After missing out on Top 8, I began finally hitting the trade tables, and doing some pretty good work. As I’m trading, some jerk I don’t know walks up to me literally three different times and yells “what’s up value trader?” loud enough that it was clear he was trying to cause a scene.
I have no idea what prompted this, who this guy is, or if he has a problem with me or is someone who just recognized me. Either way, it was both annoying and rude. Not one of my trade partners at this time said anything about it, and we went on to complete trades that were both profitable to me and helpful to them. In short, everyone was happy, as every trade should accomplish.
As I said, some d-bag calling me a value trader is annoying, but it’s not offensive.
Because “value” is not a dirty word.
So I traded for value. Who doesn’t? Does the guy who ships me $10 retail in cards for $7 of mine not get value from the fact that he has now completed his deck for the PTQ? What about the guy who picks up Liliana “at a steal” just to have its price plummet the next week? (Which it did, as we all warned you).
“What do you value this at?”
I’ve seen multiple articles pop up in the last week or two claiming that anytime someone asks “what do you value this at?” you’re immediately supposed to label them a “value trader” and stay away.
This is flat-out ridiculous.
I trade for value a good deal of the time (though not always), but I will trade anything out of my binder and the same people come back to me time and time again knowing full-well how it’s working. They get what they want, and that’s all that matters to them. Numbers on a web site really aren’t the end-all, be-all for most people, since they aren’t going to do much with those particular cards outside of either playing them or keeping them in their collection.
I completely understand the desire to not want to “lose” in a trade, and I have no problem with people bringing out the smartphone. You can still make trades you want to make while coming out even or even losing “value.” Know some people who want EDH? Trade your $5 Standard card for their $4 EDH card that you know you can easily move later. I’ve written about having the right audience before, and making these connections means you don’t have to “win” every trade to make it worth your time.
An even more objective defense of the “value” question is this. If I ask you what you value Solemn Simulacrum at, what’s your answer? The card retails for $12 on SCG, the TCGPlayer mid is about $10 and the low is about $8. CFB sells it for $10, and you can get them at about $7 on Ebay. That’s a $4-5 difference (30-50%), and I’ve seen regular players on the floor price out cards on every one of those systems.
And that’s on a low-variance card like Solemn. If you go bigger and look at something like Liliana of the Veil, the difference is even more pronounced! $60 on SCG, $54 mid on TCGPlayer, $44 low, and the card is closing under $30 on Ebay! How can you even begin to trade with someone worried about “losing” a trade if you can’t even find out what price system they affix to their cards?
With this in mind, the question is not how can a person dare ask another what they value a card at, the question is how can you not!?
I will allow that the majority of people who open a trade conversation like this are out to make money from you. But sometimes that’s okay. Down $2-4 theoretical dollars? Deal with it. You got what you wanted without giving up a single dime out of your pocket. On the other hand, if you don’t want to deal with this hassle (and with many of the people who think they’re “value traders” these days, it is a hassle), then just don’t trade with them. That’s fine. But don’t be afraid to start throwing around prices with your trade partner, it doesn’t mean they’re only going to shark you and it doesn’t mean that they’ll think you’re trying to shark them.
I could go into even more ways that “value” is misused, but I’ve done it before and Chas Andres, former QS and current Channel Fireball writer, has covered it recently as well. I’ve covered a ton of the ways this breaks down in the past (here and here for a few examples), but today I want to look at a particular trade I made at States that illustrates quite a few important things to keep in mind.
Before we get into it, I want to relink this article. It’s one of the works I’m most proud of, and applies perfectly to this topic.
I made this trade with Trevor Hunt, the Oklahoma 2010 States champ, who also just missed Top 8 this year.
Foil Brimstone Volley
Tell me, without prices yet, who do you think gained “value” in this trade? Which side of the trade would you rather be on? Is that the same thing?
Now let’s try it with prices (SCG used)
($20) Geist of Saint Traft
($45) 3x Hero of Bladehold
($45) 3x Consecrated Sphinx
($5) Foil Brimstone Volley
($10) 2x Tempered Steel
($10) Stromkirk Noble
($16) Chandra, the Firebrand
($12) Solemn Simulacrum
($75) 3x Wooded Foothills
($60) 2x Mutavault
($15) 1x Cascade Bluffs
So tell me again — who won this trade? I’m happy with my end of this deal every time.
But here’s the important thing about this trade: we both knew exactly what was going on. Trevor sought me out (literally hounded me all day) to “take his expensive cards.” Why would he do this? We all know that getting Legacy staples is much more important than picking up Standard cards, and Trevor knows this as well, so why would he seek me out to do this deal, and why me?
The important piece of information here is Trevor works a store in a different city and said they literally cannot keep the Standard cards in stock. He’s going to take those cards home and move them very quickly at retail.
On the other hand, I love picking up Legacy stock. The buy price percentage from dealers is terrible on something like Stromkirk that is used only in Standard compared to something like the foothills, when I know I can get 50-60% of retail in cash when I sell it. And I don’t have to rush to move them. I’m happy to take a sizable loss in “value” because it fits my business model, just as the Standard cards fit his.
There was no arguing over prices, we were operating as two dealers helping each other out. We used “in” prices while making this deal so as to avoid the mess with different pricing schemes I explained above. I set the prices on everything using the one system I care about most — buylist prices. He agreed or negotiated a small change on each and we both walked away extremely pleased, even though we both knew he made the “value” in the deal on the surface.
In case you’re wondering, the final tally using SCG buylist prices is this: $69 for the stuff he got, $73.50 for the stuff I got. See what I mean about how meaningless the concept of “value” is? This perfectly illustrates the point that so many people miss, both “value traders” and regular players alike who are wary of traders.
I’ve seen multitudes of “value traders” brag about how they made $10 in some sick trade, only to let the cards rot in their binders for months until they lose value. Newflash: You’re not making a cent if you’re not selling cards. You may grow the monetary value of your collection at that moment, sure, but if you aren’t constantly moving cards for cash or you deal exclusively in the eternal market (which is so very few people), then you aren’t making any real money, regardless of how much “value” you think you’re making.
By the same token, I see players all the time cry about how a trader took them for $10 and whine and say it ruined trading for them forever. The money they “ripped you off” for? Probably something like $2-3 in actual cash. I gave a man on the street $2 today. I also spent $2 on a soda I didn’t need. I waste two bucks all the time. And guess what? So does the guy complaining as he casts the Akroma’s Memorial he got “so ripped off” trading for.
Another thing I wanted to touch on regarding the above trade. Trevor sought me out in particular for this deal. Why? Because he was told by multiple people that I was “the trading guy” in Oklahoma. We’ve seen each other around tournament before, but haven’t spoken much and certainly weren’t friends beforehand.
But he came to me and trusted me based on my reputation, as suggested to him by the very same people I’ve traded with and asked them the infamous question “what do you value this at?” I’ll be honest, I make a decent profit trading, usually through volume rather than big scores, and I don’t hide that fact. Yet people still trust me enough to suggest that a stranger come to me to trade off some big-ticket Legacy items.
That’s what happens when you do trading the right way, and the concept question of “value” doesn’t matter a damn bit if you’re doing things the right way.
Thanks for reading,
@Chosler88 on Twitter