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#followfriday: Let’s Begin at the Beginning

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Let’s step back in time for a minute, back to early 2008. It was a Friday night and I walked into a card and comic shop for the first time in almost 10 years. A Magic FNM (Friday Night Magic) was in progress and after watching a game or two my mind was flooded with memories of being a kid and playing Magic with my friends. I had the urge to play once again and spoke with the owner of the shop about   how the best way to get back in would be. I didn’t know a single soul at that store and wasn’t sure I could afford getting back into it. After talking with the owner for a little while, however, I was convinced to get back into Magic. The best way to do that, I figured, would be to buy a box of the newest set and a preconstructed deck. Unfortunately, I didn’t have that much cash on me so I settled for the preconstructed deck.

After a few horrible FNMs I was considering dropping the game because I couldn’t afford to be competitive. Then came a day where I was just hanging around the local shop, talking with a bunch of the people I’ve met over the last couple of weeks, and I was talking to them about dropping the game because of finances. After this a guy who I had quickly become friends with proposed that we start to pool cards. Pooling cards, for those of you who are unfamiliar with that term, is the process of multiple people sharing product so as to cut down on the cost of playing. At the time this seemed like an amazing idea. “You mean I get to play Magic and the cost of everything is split? Sign me up.”

Cut to a few months later and I was becoming a more competitive Magic player and so was my friend. We didn’t compensate for that, however, and only had 4-ofs of the Type 2 staples back then. When I wanted to pilot Faeries and he wanted to pilot B/W Tokens we could only build one of the decks because we only owned 4 Bitterblossom. Consequently I began to try and find a way to acquire the cards for myself. I considered trading for what I wanted for about 5 minutes before I realized that would not work because of the card pool factor. I didn’t have a whole lot of extra cash so I was kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place.

That was the situation up until about 4 months ago when I headed to a tournament with a deck list completely set out and had play-tested for weeks in preparation. I had everything minus a few Jace, the Mindsculptors and some fetchlands but was fine because I was told I could use the other Jaces from the pool of cards. After I arrived at the event I wrote out my deck list and waited for my friend to show up and hand me the cards to finish sleeving up. When he got there, however, I was told that he was going to use the Jaces for his homebrew deck. I was stunned, there I was sitting at the event tables with my deck list already filled out and actually can’t run it because my teammate changed his mind and wouldn’t let me use the cards for the deck that we decided that I should play. That was the last straw for me, I picked up my cards, registered a jankie mono-red list and proceeded to go 1-2 and drop from the tournament. After I dropped I took what cards I had in my possession and headed over to the trade tables. I walked away from that tournament with over a $100 in cash and enough cards to start up a trade binder. Now I’m relatively sure that I could have walked away with a lot more but I was angry from the day and was looking for specific cards that I thought I needed.

That was a big mistake, and a mistake that anyone could have made in that sort of mindset. It was after this that I decided to trade my way up to owning playsets of the cards that I couldn’t afford with cash and was going to do it with whatever I had in my binder. That is where I am today. The proud owner of 4 Jace, the Mindsculptors among a list of Type 2 staples including: the titans, fetchlands, and have even gotten into trading for Legacy staples. Now you may be like I was, struggling to gather the cards to be a competitive player or looking at the prices of cards online and wondering how anyone could afford to play in Type 2.

That’s where I come in, I’m here to show you that it is possible to own those cards without spending the cash for them. It is possible to get a Type 2 deck that’s competitive without giving an arm and a leg for it. I’m proof of it. By using my strategies for trading you will be able to acquire those seemingly unobtainable cards. Now you may be thinking to yourself that I was just lucky and that it isn’t feasible, but you’re incorrect! It is possible and I will teach you the strategies and mannerisms that must be learned in order to do it.

First thing you must do, and this is going to be hard to hear, is you must break all emotional attachments to cards. What I mean is that first Sun Titan that you opened from your first pack ever, is up for grabs. I understand that it means a lot to you and you have it in a nice white sleeve but the fact is that Sun Titan is a card that can be used to further your goal of obtaining that Jace, or that Primeval Titan. This step is possibly the hardest for a lot of people to get over and one of the things that will help you get through this step is to constantly say to yourself, “The cards will come back.” I tell myself this after every trade I do because it’s true, those pieces of cardboard will come back to you, eventually. The hardest thing I had to do was trade away one of my Jaces, I did this because I knew that eventually I would get one back but that didn’t make it any less difficult to do. After that though I’ve never really thought twice about letting a card go unless I am somehow losing a substantial amount of value on my cards, which leads to the second step.

Don’t worry about always gaining value, this could possibly be the thing holding most starting traders back. When a person who has never traded before opens their binder to someone for the first time they believe that their cards are worth a whole lot more than they are, part of that is because of the emotional hold on the cards and the other is that they aren’t really sure of the true value of a card so they go way over when asked. So do your homework, look up the prices of your cards and don’t be fooled by people who will try and trick you into thinking one of your cards isn’t worth a lot. My strategy for trading with people is to tell them a few different values, one being what the retail on the card is, the other being what I will give them in trade value for it. I’m being honest about what a card is worth on both ends this way and I am not looked at strangely when I say a Sun Titan is roughly $6 retail but can only give you $4.50 in trade.

Lastly, as far as beginning strategies go, you must absolutely trade for everything you can. This is because when you trade for everything you are able to trade with everyone. This opens opportunities that you might not have had a chance to get otherwise. When I show up at a tournament or even if I just stop by the shop on my way home I make a point to trade with everyone there, even if it’s something as small as a uncommon for bulk rare trade. It’s the Magic trader’s way of networking, and by trading with everyone you learn what people look for and want. For example, there is a local at the shop I go to that I know wants white and equipment foils for his deck, I know this because when I trade with him that’s all he wants. By using this knowledge I am able to trade for those cards at the bigger events I go to and bring them back to the local shop and show him that I’m always on the lookout for those cards for him. This act gives the impression that you are not just out for yourself but that you are genuinely a good person.

Start using these strategies at your local shop or in between rounds at an FNM and you’ll soon see that more and more people will be open to trading with you. As someone who literally came from barely a Magic card to my name to now owning my current collection and being known as one of the bigger traders in town here I can assure you that these strategies work. It’s not easy and it’s not an overnight deal. You have to work at it and be willing to lose a little to gain a lot.

- James Trentini

Posted in Finance, Free

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15 thoughts on “#followfriday: Let’s Begin at the Beginning

  1. wait so what happened to you and your partner's cardpool in the end?
    you sold parts of it and he kept the rest?
    who contributed more to the pool and who came away with more in the end?
    do you still talk to this person? do you still see this person at the local shop/tournaments?

    1. In the end the card pool became just his cards and I no longer contribute anything to that pool. I sold certain cards that I knew were mine and left him with the bulk of the pool. It wasn't really about who came away with more in the end as I see myself as coming out on top because I now have my own collection and don't have to cripple my decks with mediocre cards because someone else in the pool is using the more powerful options. As far as if I still talk to him, yes I do. He is actually a pretty good friend of mine and it's just better that we keep our collections separate.

      I've actually been asked by our local players about how card pools should work and what to try and avoid because there's been 3 or so big card pools that have crashed and burned in our shop. If you would like I could see about writing an article on how to start a card pool, things to avoid, and what the financial benefits are of that.

  2. An article about card pools would be interesting, actually.

    As a beginning trader (I actually just created a trade binder last night, and I plan on doing some trades at FNM tonight), this is a great and timely article! I really appreciate it. I do alot of buying and selling on ebay through various accounts, and I've done several bulk sales, bought collections, and so on, but I've never really tried trading before. I'm extremely nervous about it, so once again, thanks for the article!

    Perhaps, and this goes for anyone, it just came to mind reading your article, someone could write a piece about the pluses and minuses of actually going into business with one (or several) of your friends. I've been wrestling with the idea of saving up to open a shop with a couple of my buddies, but I'm just not sure I want to be in business with them, and seeing the point of view of someone who's done card pools, or opened a shop with a buddy, or even just owns a shop without a buddy, would be great. I'm sure I'm not the only one interested.

    Anyway, this was my first comment here. Love the site, I've enjoyed reading the articles here, and plan on continuing to do so in the future. Great work, everyone!

    1. <cite>I’m just not sure I want to be in business with them</cite>

      That's the heart of it, TempleGuard. If you aren't sure you want to be in business with them, you shouldn't be in business with them.

      It's risky to open a business with friends. It's foolish to start a business with people you aren't sure you want to own a business with.

      I think that there are a lot of questions surrounding the decision to open a card store or start any business that are beyond the scope of this site. In summary,

      * What experience do you and your friends have with small businesses?
      * Have you made a business plan yet?
      * How many other card stores are in the area? What benefit are you offering that they aren't? (And don't say "Cheaper Prices". That's a bad road to go down.

      Don't get me wrong – it's a great (and frequent) question and one that deserves asking. My background in this is co-founding a card store with two friends, managing three other card stores, and starting an online business centered around Magic. I had no idea what I was getting myself into each time. I learned a lot, but it's not an easy decision to make, especially if you're thinking of getting into it with people that you aren't exactly sure you want to be in it with.

  3. This is an amazing article Mr. Trentini! I really enjoyed reading through this and learning more about trading! I enjoy playing two decks that I have built in standard, one being blue white control and the other being rock! Otherwise everything in my binder is for trade!! Learning more and more about the world of trade makes me more and more excited about trading some more tonight at FMN! Thank you Mr. Trentini for the advice and the article! It was very informative!

  4. And just for the record I am the other card pool friend… and in all honesty we are good friends and talk on a regular basis. the card pool was a learning step in both directions, you have to learn to be flexible but also understanding and willing to give

    Also congrats on the Article… it is a fine read sir and i commend you

    1. I've seen a lot of card pools go bust and I'm glad that you two are still friends through it. Being able to sit back and see what went wrong and honestly learn from it is hands down the best value you can ever extract from sharing a collection.

  5. "Don’t worry about always gaining value, this could possibly be the thing holding most starting traders back."

    I don't really understand this statement. It would seem the entire point of the article is about increasing the value of your collection through trades. If you're not gaining value, you're losing value. Unless you're speculating on a specific card's value going up, or you're trading down because it leads to a bigger trade (in which case it doesn't really count cause it's just an intermediate step).

    If you want to grow your collection of Standard staples shouldn't you always be trading for value?

    1. The big thing to take away from that statement is to know that it is ok to lose a little value in a trade. Yes the big picture is to always grow the collection but if people see that you are hard to deal with and are only looking at people as a way to level up your binder then doors tend to close on you. The choice to lose value on a trade could be for several reasons, whether it is an in between step to a larger trade or just being a nice guy and letting a kid get some cards that he's been trying to obtain for awhile. The next time that kid cracks a titan or similar card he's more then likely going to go back to that person who helped in out in the first place. I got a Bayou in a trade not to long ago for this very reason.

      1. <cite>“Don’t worry about always gaining value, this could possibly be the thing holding most starting traders back.”</cite>

        <cite>If you’re not gaining value, you’re losing value.</cite>

        I think of trading as a long-distance sport. Think running marathons, not sprinting. I don't think you can just jump into it and reach the highest levels. You need to practice. Do drills of specific skills. Hone your skills. Build up endurance.

        Endurance in running could be:

        * Taking the time to get started
        * Pacing yourself and slowly building skills
        * Setting goals and working to slowly achieve them
        * Practice. Practicing with repetition. Doing drills.
        * Researching and building domain expertise

        So, what does endurance mean in trading?

        * Setting goals for the collection
        * Trading for breadth of collection in addition to value
        * Researching and discussing negotiation, pricing, trading, marketing, and sales theory
        * Developing relationships with other players
        * Developing relationships with shops

        In most of these cases, you're developing the skill of trading. You're practicing. You're getting better at parts of trading, but you might not be getting more value out of the trades.

        James points out that you might want to trade in order to build a relationship with a player. Think of everyone you see in your card shop during an FNM. Have you approached every single one of them and done a trade with them?

        No?

        "Their collection sucks – they don't have anything of value!"

        But that's exactly why you'd want to trade with them. Hook them up. Lose $3 on the trade, but build a relationship with them. As James points out, when they do get something valuable, you'll have an in and you'll have gotten incrementally better at opening a relationship, negotiating, and trading than you were before.

  6. Long time reader, first time poster. I really liked this article. You're writing seems very personable and you effectively convey your point of view. I haven't seen your work on this site before, but I hope to see more in the future. Keep up the good work.

  7. Great article James, I really enjoyed the content in it, and explaining that people can go from almost nothing to a large collection is a subject that needs to be covered. I too went into a card pool with a friend when I started playing again. When we decided to stop our partnership I bought him out of his share.

  8. Please please PLEASE write about your experiences opening a card shop, I would pay good money to read it.

    Or maybe even email me about it? It's something I've really wanted to do for a long time, as theres no dedicated card shop where I live anymore.

  9. I'm from one of those card pools that have crashed and burned I think. Only difference is, they all quit and I was left with 80% of the good cards when I contributed maybe 40%. Bad for them if they ever return to Magic I guess, but good for me 🙂

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