#followfriday: Dealing in Digital

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By: Mick Podruch

The Beginning of Your Online Trading Experience

Unless you are attending large events on a regular basis, you may find yourself in a lull at your local card shop. By a lull I mean there are very few new cards entering your local trading market and most of the cards being traded are only traveling as far as the regulars in the shop. This stagnant period can develop into a poor trading environment meaning cards you expected to be able to move are still sitting in your binder. During these times it is easy to lose judgment, encouraging ill-minded trading practices, simply because there is no “excitement” and cards aren’t leaving and entering the market. What can you do? Obviously Ebay is still an option, but perhaps you aren’t looking to sell and wish to grow your collection through trading. Getting experienced in online trading can bring vast opportunities you otherwise wouldn’t have to expand your portfolio. Different Magic the Gathering forums from different sites allow trading, but to minimize risk, I’d suggest (MOTL). This is a dedicated trading community that brings you in contact with all sorts of traders ranging from casual to experienced, standard to vintage. MOTL also provides the most secure process of making a transaction between traders. From this point on, I’ll be following MOTL’s forum standards, so you might want to spend a few minutes checking it out. I’m going to supply you with information regarding the online trading experience and how to get started. In future articles I hope to guide you through international trading, as well as doing high value trades, and take a deeper look into the online trading process.

Rules vary between trading websites, but mostly, they all follow a general theme. First and foremost, be honest. If you plan on ripping people off (like not sending all or some of your end of the deal or poor card conditions), plan on dealing with the law since that is mail fraud. This leads right into the next rule; conditions of cards need to be agreed upon before either party confirms the deal. A deal is confirmed once both parties have agreed on a trade, on packaging, on order of sending, and addresses have been exchanged. Once both parties have received cards, each trader will fill out the “reference check” for the other. For the not so internet savvy readers, references are a way of determining your and other trader’s honesty by the sheer number of successful transactions. In all honesty, I’ve been trading for well over three years via the internet and I have once experienced getting ripped. Luckily, it wasn’t a high value trade (rippers usually target low value trades), but it could have been easily avoided had I taken the proper precautions. In the three years since that experience, I haven’t dealt with a ripper. That isn’t to say it doesn’t still happen, but if you too take the correct steps in the trading process, your chances of dealing with rippers drops dramatically. I’ll highlight these precautions as I take you through the process of beginning your own trading post.

Upon signing up for an account on MOTL (its free), I actually suggest reading through the terms and agreements. I know, I know, our internet instinct is to scroll to the bottom check the “I agree” box, click continue, and forget about. You should at least glance through it to make sure your privacy is protected (it is a good habit to get into anyways). Now you have your account and are ready to begin trading, but how can people see your cards? Well, they can’t. The best you can do is post your own “have/want list” in the forums for other traders to visit. Your list is going to be a virtual copy of your binder, like an online trading booth. It takes a catchy title, creativity, and some marketing to attract grazing traders to take a peek. A catchy title can simply be listing a really hot card. An example would be “H: (hot standard staple(s)) W:(name cards you want).” Creatively set up lists use bolding, font size, organization, and a brief introduction to encourage surfing traders to stop by. One thing I suggest, don’t bold all of your expensive cards or put them all in the same category. Make the viewer search a little bit in case something else might catch their eye. Finally, marketing means sometimes you need to go post something on someone else’s list, maybe about a card you are interested in, asking conditions of cards, or even making an offer. By getting your name out there, you’ll have more visitors resulting in amplified trade action. Make sure to bump your list daily so it goes to the top of the thread.

If you are like me, then trading is like a business. Businesses thrive on organization and fail to the opposite. It is extremely important you keep both the online list and your binder organized the same way. If you sort your binder by color, your online list should follow the same suit. The same goes for type of card, function of the card, and rarity if you choose to organize by those characteristics. Organization will prevent situations where you confirm an online trade with a card you don’t have, because you forgot to remove it from your list. This is especially true if you have a large collection of cards, keep your list updated. Speaking of large collections, one of the things I believe turns people away is listing too many cards. If I have to “control F” to check for a card on your list, I’m much less likely to post. Listing bulk rares by name is a waste of time for you and other traders. Simply post on your list “many bulk rares from sets A, B, C, and D, if you are looking for specifics please ask.” Another big turn off for people is not listing anything in the “wants” section of your list. Don’t only type “I check lists.” That is a fine phrase to start or end your want section, but traders need to know the value of cards you are looking for. Common sense here, don’t list cards you don’t own or wish to trade. The last basic guideline for your “have/want” list is sharing card conditions if the card is NOT near mint or in English. Most websites assume cards without any condition description are in English, unaltered, and in excellent condition or better. Don’t ever make that assumption and always ask about card conditions and languages. To protect yourself, cards on the borderline between two conditions should be noted as the lower of the two. Many websites offer card condition descriptions and you should note which site you are using in your introduction. Along with listing condition and language (if necessary), the set the card is from is also important. Most disputes between parties have to do with card conditions more than anything else. Here is an example of how to list cards:
2x Baneslayer Angel (somewhat played condition, Japanese, M10)
1x Baneslayer Angel (Mint, Eng, M11)
4x Battlegrace Angel (NM)

Since you have Baneslayer Angels of different languages, it is best to list even the English ones with “Eng” to prevent confusion. On a side note, have scans available for valuable cards (mainly legacy/vintage staples over $50).

After drudging through your collection and typing everything up, you submit your topic and are ready to wheel and deal. Handle your trading like a business. As businesses thrive on organization, they also demand clear communication. Conducting a trade online requires lucid communication to avert future issues. Searching through other people’s threads, you come across some cards you are interested in and reply to their list. A couple hours later you find some replies and other interests on your own list, time to trade. My suggestion is have people contact you through the private messaging system the site offers. This was how I got ripped. I received an email from a guy who claimed to be someone in the forums (a.k.a. imposters). Imposters are not easily tracked and in order to prevent them taking advantage of you, have the members private message you when performing a trade. Imposters won’t be able to do this. Save all emails and private messages (PMs) as they are proof in case something would happen. Until you build up a solid number of references, keep trades at around $50 or less and make trades only with people who’ve collected 25+ references. Don’t trade internationally until you are experienced in online trading. Bartering for about ten minutes, you and your trade partner reach agreement on the following trade:
1x Baneslayer (somewhat played condition, Japanese, M10)

For his
1x Sensei’s Divining Top
4x Spell Snare
2x Foil Mana Leak
1x Foil Unhinged Island

Before you confirm, you ask him the condition of his cards and the sets his Mana Leaks and Sensei’s Diving Top are from. You remind him on the condition and language of the Baneslayer Angel. Replying that all his cards are near mint or better and are from the sets you wished, he proceeds to tell you to send first since he has more references. Until you have acquired an adequate amount of references you’ll be sending first quite a bit in the beginning. Once you’ve established yourself as an honest trader, simultaneous sending will become an option. Sending order is always determined by the person with more references. References outside of that particular website (like Ebay) don’t count. Agreeing to send first, you explain to him that you’ll be using delivery confirmation and sending the cards in hard cases (no more than 2 cards sleeved per case) in a bubble mailer and he approves. You can buy bubble mailers at the post office or reuse ones sent to you. For those who don’t know, delivery confirmation provides you with a tracking number. This is proof that you sent the package and it reached its location, further protection from rippers. Deals under 20$ don’t necessitate delivery confirmation, but for your first trades it’s the safer option to choose. Since the trade is under $100, insurance is unnecessary. Telling him that you’ll be sending the next day, addresses are exchanged and the deal is confirmed, but you’re not done yet. Safety first, check to make sure the given name and address pass the confirmed bad traders list. There are three other things you need to do at this point to stay organized. First, write down the persons address, the cards being exchanged, and the date (protection against website crashes). Second, remove the cards traded from your have/want list. Third, take the cards out of your binder and set them with the piece of paper you did in step one. On the next day, you march on down to the post office, package in hand (write DO NOT BEND on it), and ask the postman for a delivery confirmation slip and pay the required fees.

The next step is to private message the delivery confirmation (DC) number to the other party and play the waiting game. About five days later, you get a new pm from the trader saying he received your package and subsequently sent out his end of the deal, providing you with a DC number. Roughly five more days pass and some treasure is found in your mailbox. Before you can enjoy your new cards, you must message him that you received the cards. Lastly, send him a reference check, he will do the same. Fill out the small survey (it will be via email) and congratulations you completed your first online trade!
My online trading brought me many opportunities to expand my collection. I’ve acquired and traded somewhere around 30 duals, power, fetches, foreign foils, EDH staples, standard staples, vintage staples, alpha/beta cards you name it. The possibilities are endless with online trading since you literally have access to every mainstream card ever printed from thousands of traders. If you are looking to build your MTG portfolio, online trading will help you achieve your goals faster by offering more resources. If there is enough interest, I hope to write an article about building your portfolio through online trading next. Please leave comments or questions about this article since this is my first and I’d be welcoming to feedback!

I've been collecting Magic Cards since the Mercadian Masques block. Mostly I played casual games and took a break from the game around Mirrodin and returned for Ravnica. At that point, I started attending FNMs regularly. Around the release of Lorwyn, I tested the waters of competitive play at a few local tournies and States. It was a Lorwyn Block PTQ that marked the beginning of my interest in the financial side of Magic. There I had a Kithkin deck built and ready to play, mid tournament, I sold my deck to a guy for $300 (which I had built for about $150) and proceded to drop. I thought, "this is a lot more fun and easier then winning a PTQ." Since then I don't play much competitive magic other then FNMs and my focus has been on making money with Magic. Trading online became a regualry hobby for me, and a good friend of mine taught me the ins and outs of making good deals. I follow all formats to stay up-to-date with card prices, and around the Lorwyn/Time Spiral block, I stumbled across EDH and it has become my favorite format. EDH lets me continue to play Magic, and at the same time build my collection since I'm not always looking for cards to complete a deck. If I had to choose a favorite deck, it would have to be some variation of a Mystical Teachings deck. My favorite card is by far Masticore, and my foily Japanese one speaks to that. I'm also an avid NHL fan.

12 thoughts on “#followfriday: Dealing in Digital

  1. @ the_cardfather – Planning for the future is key for online trading. So you can expand your "wants list" by determining which cheap rares, uncommons, commons you made need down the road. This is especially true for EDH and Legacy. Another way to build refs is to begin collecting a card. This may seem like an awkward way to build REFs but it works very well to get you started (and it looks cool to have like a bazillion pages of them in a binder). There are people who are looking for junk rares to complete sets or odd collections and many times you can hit them up with a small trade.

    @ Corbin Hosler – Thank you very much. Personally, I cheer for all teams and just want an entertaining season and playoffs. But I am a Crosby fan, and have Malkin/Fleury on my fantasy team so I guess I'll be cheering for the Penguins more than most teams :D.

  2. Any specific advice for those of us that are located overseas (from your point of view :P). Specifically, delivery confirmation is not available everywhere and how to get people to trade overseas. Often I have to ignore potentially interesting lists because it says "no international" at the top.

  3. Is it possible to build up value on MOTL? It seems like MOTL is only viable for making even trades considering the extensive number of resources and price guides available on the internet. Do you have any tips or suggestions to get more than just cards I "need?"

  4. @ alyo – I can't speak for the mailing systems of other countries. Most countries have some sort of system to confirm or track mail. Whether it's through the government or a shipping business I can't say for sure. I've traded with countries like France, Norway, Canada, South Africa, Indonesia, Singapore, China, New Zealand, and haven't run across any issues. Delivery comfirmation protection won't cover all countries and I suggest staying away from those trades unless that person has at minimum 200+ references. For your situation, contact your post office or international shipping companies and see what kind of protection they provide and the cost.

    @ Sandwitchking – It is absolutely possible to build value on MOTL. I'm hoping to write another article specifically about building your portfolio through online trading if there is enough interest.

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