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The Revenue Review – Makes and Misses

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I know the last few weeks I haven’t had many trades for you guys, so last week I set out to remedy that.

My plan was to hit up a Friday Night Magic with higher stakes than most. A store on the other side of town where I don’t go often was having a special tournament, and I thought it was a great opportunity to both play and trade. The entry fee was $10, and the winner received a complete set of Rise of the Eldrazi. Then on Saturday I would attend the M11 Game Day at another, small store that has the city’s only Vintage gaming.

The Friday tournament itself went terribly (I played Shaman Naya for the first time, went 1-3, and promptly dropped 35 rating points), but the trading more than made up for it.

The usual bustle before tournaments start is a playground for savvy traders. I took advantage of the fact that other players needed only a few cards to complete their 75, and I told them I needed a healthy margin on each trade to make it worth my time.

The first guy I traded with was desperately in need of just one more Arid Mesa and wanted to trade me his Scalding Tarn for it. I told him I needed something more because I was breaking my playset of Mesas, and he agreed to throw in a Steel Overseer to complete the trade.

His:
Scalding Tarn ($14)

Steel Overseer ($5)

Total: $19

Mine:

Arid Mesa ($14)
Net: $5

Remember a few weeks ago when I mentioned the gems you can pick up just by scouring draft tables after the night’s over? This next trade is the fruit of me doing just that for the last few weeks.

His:

Great Sable Stag ($2.50)

Mine:

3x Combust ($.50)

Total: $1.50

Net: $1

This was the first of three trades I made with this player (Adam). One of the common tenets among trading articles is that it pays to make connections with your trade partners. Adam was grateful that someone had the cards he needed for the tournament, and told me he wanted to trade with me again before we left for the night.

The most interesting part of the next trade was what didn’t happen. I’m always upfront when trading that I’m out to make a profit, and I let players make their own decisions about what they do and don’t want to trade. If my partner asks me how expensive a particular card is, I tell him what it’s at online and what I’m comfortable trading at.

In this case, my partner wanted a few copies of Linvala, Keeper of Silence, but was only willing to value them at $5 apiece, whereas I put them at about $10, as Fauna Shaman Naya was really taking off and Linvala completely shuts that deck down. We went back and forth for awhile before finally deciding to just put the cards back and accept that we couldn’t come together on prices. This isn’t a desirable outcome, but we were both clear there weren’t any hard feelings.

As we were putting the cards back into the binders, I pointed at the Luminarch Ascensions he valued at a dollar(They go for $3.50 on coolstuffinc.com) and asked if there was any way we could work something out. He threw back a pile of cards he said didn’t he care about and let me pick a few.

His:

Ranger of Eos ($4)

Consuming Vapors($4)

Brittle Effigy ($2.50)

Total: $10.50

Mine:

2x Luminarch Ascension ($3.50)

Total: $7

Net: $3.50

After my embarrassing tournament finish, I stuck around while the Top 8 started play and ran into a friend of mine looking to get into Extended and Legacy, and desperate to trade his Primeval Titan to do it.

His:

Primeval Titan ($50)

Mine:

Creeping Tar Pit ($3.50)

Sensei's Divining Top ($8)

Cabal Therapy ($5)

Coralhelm Commander ($4)

Daze ($2.50)

Mistbind Clique ($4)

Secluded Glen ($4)

Cryptic Command ($13)

Total: $44

Net: $6

I gave up some cards here I think are going to go up in value come Extended season (the Lorwyn cards), for the Titan, which has mostly peaked. I did so because I knew I could flip the Titan for a nice margin, and made it my new goal to do so before the end of the night.

In between rounds I ran into Adam, who told me he would trade for the Titan after the next round. I’m going to blame my terrible play (including forgetting to fetch a Sejiri Steppe) on my excitement about the impending trade.

His:

Tarmogoyf ($60) (Coolstuff has this at $80, SCG at $50, so I split on the low end).

Heavily played Survival of the Fittest ($23)

Total: $83

Mine:

Primeval Titan ($50)

3x Destructive Force ($5)

2x Archive Trap ($2)

Total: $67

Net: $16

I think I gave up some short-term profits here to pick up these Legacy staples. I could have easily made a much larger profit on the Titan if I wanted, but I got excited about owning my first-ever Tarmogoyf and might have missed a chance to soak even more value out of Standard’s hottest mythic. Overall, I’m very happy with the trade I made, but when you have a card as hot as the Titan, you need to ride it as far as you can.

Adam was so happy that I traded him such popular Standard cards that he was ready to ship me more Legacy cards that had been rotting in his binder.

His:

Umezawa's Jitte ($15)

Gaddock Teeg ($4)

2x Sensei's Divining Top ($8)

Grim Monolith ($30)

Misdirection ($10)

3x Cabal Therapy ($5)

Total: $90

Mine:

2x Linvala, Keeper of Silence ($8)

2x Awakening Zone ($5.50)

2x Ajani Goldmane ($7)

Total: $41

Net: $49

There are couple things I want to talk about in this trade. The first is the pricing we used, and the errors we made. I don’t play Legacy. Never have, though I would like to. What this means is that I’m very unfamiliar with the prices on Legacy cards. I know what is played, but haven’t paid much attention to the prices before.
This led to some huge errors in our pricing. For starters, we both valued the Grim Monolith at about $10, and the Misdirection and Cabal Therapys at $2.

After the trade, someone told me the Monolith was at $30, and I didn’t believe him until he showed me on his phone. I immediately went back to Adam and informed him of the news and offered to let him grab a few more cards from my binder. I’ve talked before about treating your trade partners right, and I feel it’s incredibly important to do so, even when it sucks for you. In this case, he declined, saying that the Monolith was doing nothing for him in his binder, and was happy with the trade we made.

Despite his attitude, I feel bad about this trade because I misrepresented card prices, something I don’t believe in. I have no problem making profits on trades, nor do I have a problem valuing a card higher or lower than its listed price. But I will always tell my partners what the card is retailing at online before telling them what I value it at, and in this case I was off by a wide margin on several cards.

My conscience kicks in anytime I’m approaching a 100 percent margin on a trade (that is, my net profit is higher than the cards I traded away), and at that point I try to go out of my way to even up the trade, even if my partner is happy with what we have.

Looking back, this trade reinforced a few lessons for me:

  1. If in doubt, look it up. I usually adapt to my partner’s preferences regarding trades. If they want to look up every card online, that’s fine with me. If they want to trade by rarity symbol, no problem. Ebay prices? Sure. Which card has prettier art? Uh, I guess (as long as I get the Save Life. But when both parties are unsure of a price, it’s better for everyone in the long run to us an iPhone to look it up (A borrowed one, since my cell phone is about a million years old).
  2. Know what you are trading away/for. Both of us admitted when we began trading that we didn’t know much about Legacy prices, and that hurt us both in the end. He lost value in his cards, and I violated a few of my personal trading principles. If too many of these trading “accidents” happen to you, your trade partners will begin to lose faith in you and you can develop a bad reputation. I’ve seen players slowly be pushed out of a store because the regulars there don’t trust them, and as a result, don’t like them. This is something you need to avoid at all costs.
  3. Be aware of perception. Though my partner accepted the trade even after we found out about the Monolith, that doesn’t mean everyone at the store did. It’s possible some people think I intentionally ripped this guy off, even though that was far from my intent. Your reputation will precede you in Magic, and if you are labeled a dirty trader, you will pay a price.

I hope you guys can take something positive from my mistakes in that trade, as I know I will.

That’s all the space I have this week. Next week I’ll talk about the rest of the night and the epic Game Day I attended after that.

Thanks,

Corbin Hosler

@Chosler88 on Twitter

10 thoughts on “The Revenue Review – Makes and Misses

  1. Just a question: where do you get your prices? They seem relatively proportionate to me just generally higher than what I value cards across the board. Usually, I'm looking at the Mid price on magiccards.info unless my partner has another preference (ebay for instance). Do you have more recommended way of establishing retail price?

    Really great article though. I also really try to stay true to a certain, I guess, code of ethics when I trade and would have done exactly what you did when you found out about the monolith price.

  2. Two questions for you Corbin. When your looking threw a player's cards how do you decide which cards you pull and what you leave behind? Do you have a set list before you arrive that you aim for or do you try and find cards you believe you can trade again the fastest or something simple like just the high dollar cards? That is my first question and my second is would you rather have a few cards that are all high dollar like tarmogoyf, jace or primeval or would you rather have many cheaper cards that would equal out to the same amount?

  3. Thanks for the feedback!

    @Nick – I use a combination of coolstuffinc.com and starcitygames for card prices. When I list prices on this column, I look at both and usually work out an average. If you don't know card prices intimately, I suggest looking at a few sites before you begin trading to somewhat familiarize yourself, especially on big cards. In the end, all that really matters is that you use the same system for all the cards. You can't price his cards at Ebay price and yours at Coolstuffinc's and expect your partner to accept that.

    @Aaron I generally look for the higher-priced cards or cards that I know I'm interested in picking up for speculative purchases (Eye of Ugin used to fill this role, right now it's Seer Overseer). I also look for cards I know are highly tradable, such as anything that might fit into RDW. Players are always looking for RDW cards, and I doubt any card I have moves faster than a Ball Lightning.

    The answer to your second question is something I plan on expanding upon in a future article. In short, it is very nearly always better to have a few high-dollar cards rather than many lower ones. There are a few exceptions, notably when you are trying to start a binder or when you are engaging in abundance trading as talked about by QS's own Dave Heilker. Other than those (and maybe a few other) situations it is always better to have the one big card.

  4. I think I rather see an article written by the guy that didn't want to trade with you, seems he knows his prices better than you. $10 Linvala? Really? There is $5 BINs all over eBay

    and complaining about making $15 on a trade as well as getting excited for only a $50 trade? Man, these articles do give me a good laugh in the morning, won't lie about that.

    Using SCG and CS for prices for you is fine, but the problem lies in that you are neither SCG or CS, so if you wanted to cash out, you would no where get close to the values you are listing for your cards. I think you should reevaluate what you use for your prices.

  5. @stu55 I just checked the first few Ebay pages for Linvala and the cheapest is around $5 with $2-3 in shipping, making the total price much closer to $8. As I said in the article, I was anticipating a rise in the card's value due to the success of the Naya deck. In addition, my partner was not valuing my cards at Ebay prices, so it seems silly to value only his at that price.
    You seem to not understand any of the points I made about pricing. It doesn't matter what source you use for pricing, as long as it is relative across all cards involved. That can be Ebay, SCG prices, the SCG buylist, or the local dealer's prices – all that matters is that you use the same scale for all cards involved.

    I'm glad you enjoy my articles for whatever reason, you are one of my most loyal readers!

  6. Ill be honest here. I actually like the site, the articles are entertaining, but what's the point of using the high prices as a 'guide'? I cringe everytime I see the prices you put up. If I was trading with you, I'd scoff @ $10 linvalas. I'd rofl @ 80 goyfs. Nobody is paying that much. Heck, local stores here have them for 60. I only mention this because you are only kidding yourself in terms of value.

    I'm fine with you saying that you have to add $2 on ebay for shipping. Except that a store will also charge you $2.

    Try putting your trades @ tcgplayer low prices. That will give you a more realistic example of what your real gains are. Some trades might even not look so good anymore.

    I'd try that for a change if I were you 🙂

  7. @Cid: Regardless of what site we use, the prices are going to be more or less relative. If I value my Linvala at 10, it's made up in the fact that I also value his cards at the prices from those sites. If they want to scoff at $10 Linvalas because they can get them cheaper on Ebay I have to do the same things to his cards. That's fine with me.

    The point is, it doesn't matter which site we use, since the prices are relative to each other. And most people using smartphones usually check SCG, so using those prices seems fair to me.

    I could begin using TCGplayer, but that is functionally the same as using any other site, because their prices are going to be just as relative as SCG or CoolStuffinc. In the end, the price differential from using any major site should be roughly the same percentage.

  8. It appears that many of your readers don't understand relativity, Corbin. You're prices are accurate for trading as far as I can see. If you were trying to resell these cards, you're profit quotes would definitely be off, but since you'll soon be trading these cards away, likely using the same pricing site, it makes sense. I've greatly enjoyed reading your articles and have become a better trader because of them. Thanks.

  9. Heres what I think they're getting at….

    Trading 54 dollars of cards for 60 dollars of cards seems well and good, you made six bucks in 15 minutes right? Nothing to quit your day job over, but not bad.

    On bloated figures it may seem so, but you may instead be trading 27 for 30 for example. PROPORTIONALLY the same, but three bucks is considerably less impressive for your time. It's not like every single trade is completed, it's not like you're "grinding" em out trade after trade with a line waiting behind you, and it's not like you've even turned anything into cold hard cash in the process which also takes time. Of course, you can always keep in mind that your figures are roughly double what they're represented as.

    Note: Obviously I'm not saying everything is perfectly doubled that'd be pretty amazing, it's just an example of how the prices can be relative to each other yet misleading.

    Another related example: trading commons for commons at 1:2 ratio is great foolproof profit across the board, impossible to lose money, yet after trading 37 commons and an hour of your life for 74 commons in return you'd feel robbed.

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