Building Your Binder

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Welcome back to the Revenue Review, where this week I’m starting a three-part series that aims to help you build the most efficient trade binder possible.

I introduced the concept last week, and this week we’ll look at the first step – building your binder from the ground up. Next week we’ll look at the best methods of organizing it and after that I’ll go through a criminally underused tool – cleaning out your binder and selling the excess.

Today we’re going to start from the beginning of your binder. This applies to both long-term traders and first-timers getting started. If you’re a player who just recently realized consolidating into a binder would be a good idea or a seasoned trader who just sold/traded off a lot of stock, knowing how to build back up is a vital talent to have.

Trading Down

I wanted to address this first because I’ve railed against it so many times in this column, with the caveat that there are a few exceptions. This is one of them.

If you’re new to the trading game, chances are you have a few good rares from drafting or a deck that just rotated. The problem with having something like Gideon Jura at this point is that it doesn’t do much for you, even if you were able to trade it up at a slight premium. A much better use of the card is to trade it down for five or six medium-priced cards, and with some toss-in rares as well.

You should still aim to make a profit on paper, but in terms of strict resell value, you will probably lose out. That’s okay. The goal is to put some volume into your binder, because a 10-card trade binder doesn’t do much for you even if they are 10 $15 cards. Putting some mid-level stuff like Stoneforge Mystic into your binder gives you a much better ground to start building your collection.

For those of you who are trying to restock a binder after you unload a good deal of it to a dealer, in what should be regular “cash-ins” of your binder, you also need to reload. The principle of trading down applies here as well. I suggest choosing a few items that more in demand in your particular area than they are nationally and holding onto them. For instance, there is very little Legacy game in my state, so I’m more than happy to cash out my Survival of the Fittests, but I might want to hold on to a few expensive-ish Standard staples like Scalding Tarn.

What this allows me to do is start the process of trading back up without having to Pack To Power it and start from a Bear Umbra. Having medium-priced, high demand cards like fetchlands or casual favorites like Hand of the Praetors gives you a better place to start from.

Once you’ve built (or rebuilt) some volume in your binder, you move on to the next step, which most readers of this site are already familiar with.

Trading up

The backbone of trading for value. I’m going to gloss over this section since I assume most of my readers know how to do this. But I will hit a few points that I think are germane to building (or rebuilding) a good trade binder.

The first thing you should do is be open to more mid-level trades that work to increase your volume while having comparable value. This doesn’t mean trading down (though in the early stages you should be open to that). Think more like trading a fetchland for two $5 cards. While this is a pretty “meh” trade in the abstract, it has more value to you while rebuilding your binder. Since it’s not a one card for five type of trade, you aren’t strictly losing value even if your partner ends up with the highest-priced card in the deal.

Make these type of trades for a few weeks, and you’ll find yourself with some cards that are very easy to trade up for truly valuable cards. Taking these steps puts you in the position to be selective and find the trader who is willing to unload a Frost Titan for that last fetch they need.

The question of bulk

This is an issue that’s going to crop up quite a bit more throughout this series, so I'll address it now.

Opinions regarding bulk vary. Personally, I like bulk rares more than most, but that is because I deal mostly with casual players who don’t mind giving me very nice deals on these cards, since they don’t care much about the price. The argument can also be made for selling it all off. I like to keep a number on hand, but there are dangers to carrying thousands of bulk rares around, which I’ll elaborate on next week.

I suggest keeping a decent number of bulk or near-bulk rares in your binder because they do open up a number of opportunities to trade up. The important thing here is to know what type of cards are in demand in your area and if the traders you deal with most are interested in these or just want your Standard staples. The same goes for EDH cards. If you have a crowd you know will give you a good trade for your Mind's Eye, then you should keep it in your binder. If not, you’re probably better selling it on Ebay or to a dealer.

Know your trading partners

I’ve written about this before, but I wanted to mention it again because it’s very important when starting out. With a smaller inventory each trade matters more, and one bad trade can really set you back. What this mean is really taking the time to work out each trade you make and working with your partners to work a deal out that gives you the most upside. Knowing why they are trading with you can help you work out their value system and make each trade the most profitable (in terms of value) it can be.

It also is advisable to avoid trading with other sharks while you’re trying to build a binder. It’s unlikely you’ll make a huge profit off trades with them, and they will use your small inventory against you in order to pad their margins. Remember that you can always say no. It’s difficult, but it’s infinitely better than being raked over the coals because the shark trading you convinced you he’s doing you a favor.

Just because you’ve invested time and energy into a trade does not mean you have to make it. If the trade doesn’t actively make your binder more attractive (and more profitable) then politely apologize to your trading partner and walk away. It sucks, but it’s better than shipping off your Primeval Titan in a subpar trade because you really wanted to make a deal.

I hope you enjoyed this piece and find it useful. Come back next week when I’ll talk about different methods for organizing your binder and how to best present it to your trade partners.

Until then,

Corbin Hosler

@Chosler88 on Twitter

Corbin Hosler

Corbin Hosler is a journalist living in Norman, Oklahoma (also known as the hotbed of Magic). He started playing in Shadowmoor and chased the Pro Tour dream for a few years, culminating in a Star City Games Legacy Open finals appearance in 2011 before deciding to turn to trading and speculation full-time. He writes weekly at and biweekly for LegitMTG. He also cohosts Brainstorm Brewery, the only financial podcast on the net. He can best be reached @Chosler88 on Twitter.

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6 thoughts on “Building Your Binder

  1. I kind of agree and disagree with your "trading down" section, Corbin.

    On the one hand, I see what you mean. The more cards you have, the better off you'll be because you have more cards that people want. On the other hand, not all cards are desired equally, and that is what's truly important.

    I would not trade a Scalding Tarn for two $5 rares no matter where I was in my binder-building career unless those two $5 were very hot – something like Mimic Vat. Why? Because fetches are as liquid as standard cards get! I know I can trade them for whatever I want in the future at around $10. Trading it for, say, a Lux Cannon and a Cabal Therapy might seem good, but it isn't if both of those cards just sit around for weeks at a time.

    I have seen enough Pack to Power traders 'value trade' their way to a bunch of undesirable but value cards to know that when building a binder, the most important thing you can do is to make your assets as trade-able as possible.

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