Risky Business

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Every week, I’ve been talking to you about how to get information, how to outsmart your competitors, and ultimately, how to profit. But I feel I’ve been remiss in not bringing up any of trading’s risks. Something happened this week to drive this issue home. In my last article, I talked about a collection I had bought online containing 2 Jace, 2 foil Jaces, 2 Force of Wills, and some other very expensive cards, at a price that was a steal. The seller agreed to ship the cards to me COD. Thankfully, a reader contacted me after reading last week’s article letting me know that he had bought a collection containing the exact same card, and the cards turned out to be fake. Here’s the email he sent me:

I saw in your last article and it mentioned a collection with 2 Jaces, 2 foil Jaces, various duals etc.  I ended up buying that set of cards from the guy and it turns out they are fake (all the valuable ones at least).  I was wondering if you had been in contact with the poster and if you had any info on him.  I understand it is a longshot that I'll stand any chance of getting my money back, but any help/advice you can provide would be really helpful.  Thank you very much and I hope you are doing well.

After looking around for some information, I found out that the same person had tried to sell the same batch of cards to two local stores, Galactic Force, and Pastimes. Now, to be fair, I don’t know for sure if it’s the same guy. His actions have been fairly suspicious though. Apparently the guy that sold the reader the cards told the same story about his brother moving out and needing to sell his old cards. But does that really make sense? Considering there was a foil Venser, the Sojourner in the collection, does that mean his brother moved out, and less than 2 weeks later he was selling the cards? Also, he said that his paypal account had been closed and asked to ship COD instead. I hadn’t thought about that at the time, but it would’ve left me unable to file a claim had I found out that the cards were fake. Even worse, had I received the cards and not discovered they were fake, I was planning to sell them to a friend who usually buys cards from me. I know it sounds corny, but if there are two things more important to me than money, they’re my reputation and my friends. All of this just points to the complete disaster this could have been if a concerned reader hadn’t let me know what was going on, for which I am extremely thankful.

But there’s something more important here than a community service announcement. Whenever entering an investment, risk should be a major factor in your considerations. I want to cover two kinds of risk today: investment risk and material risk. I’ll explain in the respective sections what each kind of risk entails.

Investment risk:

This is the traditional risk that all traders face. Whenever you buy a card, you must be thinking “Can I sell this card? If I can’t make a profit, can I at least make my money back? What is the most I stand to lose?” investment risk is effectively the monetary loss you take by trading for or buying a card and then reselling it. When looking at how likely you will be able to be to resell a card, it’s important to consider the markets interested in a card. This is why cards currently in Standard that are only played in Eternal formats are worth significantly less than those that are Standard staples. Because the market for those eternal cards is smaller, they are worth less and are harder to sell. As an example of this, let’s look at my last Pack to Power Trade:


1 Foil Eldrazi Temple

1 Goblin Guide

1 Necrotic Ooze

1 Leonin Arbiter


3 Iona, Shield of Emeria

2 Inkwell Leviathan

2 Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle

Now this was a very poor trade for me, and I’m quite worried about where Pack to Power will be going after this. While I came out ahead monetarily, I traded away cards critical for several Standard archetypes, for some larger ticket ETERNAL items. Now, if I were able to find an Eternal player, I might be able to move these Ionas, but given the amount of money Eternal players invest in their decks, it’s unlikely they wont already have more than enough Ionas to go around. As such, it will be extremely difficult for me to trade these off, so I’ll need to examine new avenues for how to trade myself out of this hole. My trading for Ionas here is a prime example of not paying attention to Investment risk, as I will now most likely lose money on them.

Material risk:

This one’s more related to my introduction. Material risk is the risk you incur from trading or dealing with those less scrupulous. Whether it’s someone making fake cards, coloring in the borders of Revised cards to make them more valuable (easy to catch, but only if you’re paying attention), stealing bags from under tables, or even just slipping cards your binder into their pocket while they’re browsing it, you stand to lose quite a lot of money if you aren’t careful. While you could of course say to only trade with people you trust, there’s no reason to limit yourself like that. Instead, just be vigilant. From now on, my general rule is going to be “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” In the earlier situation, I let my discovery blind me. I was so excited to be making this find, on my very first search of craigslist, that I disregarded warning signs, and it almost cost me dearly. Needless to say, the chances of me paying for the package once it arrives are very low.

With all that said, I want to create a new project. If you’ve ever been the victim of a Magic scam, whether the cards were never sent, or they were fake, or anything else like that, just post your story in the comment or email it to me (my email is at the bottom of the article). I’ll examine some of the stories and look for common themes to find some more specific ways for you to protect yourself.

No cards that seem to be shooting up overly much this week. I would recommend selling off Frost Titans now, as I feel both Grave Titan and Abyssal Persecutor are better options for U/B Control, and I don’t know if RUG Control is heavily played enough to sustain the current $15 price tag. I’ve recently started playing some Pauper online, which is quite a breath of fresh air from the current Standard format, which I’m already finding slightly boring. For the record, U/R Tron is amazing and so much fun to play. There is northing better than literally just doming your opponent for 20 with a rolling Thunder, or the Tron mirror, where both players have 20-30 mana by turn 8. I managed to top 16 the Pauper PE this past weekend after some topdecks from both me and my opponents, but given that it was my first tournament with the deck, I was fairly happy with the result.

Well, that’s all for this week, hope you enjoyed it. Once again, don’t forget to submit your scam stories to me, for the benefit of the trading community as a whole!

--Noah Whinston

nwhinston on twitter

baldr7mtgstore on ebay

Posted in Feature, Finance

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5 thoughts on “Risky Business

  1. Nice article. It's important to address the risks that every trader has to take into account while trading.

    If buying online I would make sure to get a telephone number or an address that you can verify, so that you can file a complaint in case you get cheated.

    When selling cards, you should be careful with Paypal. Paypal protects the buyer a lot, but there's no so much protection for the seller, so if someone just cashbacks the Paypal transfer with his credit card, you might flat out loose the money, as Paypal will not give out any personal information about the buyer.

    Finally you should do some better proof-reading. On several occasions, words are missing or are in the wrong order.

  2. Please see the following regarding this guy.

    I forgot his first name…Thomas? Tom? I don't know. Last name Gils.

    He is a big burly dude, 26-32, brings a friend with him that is skinny/doesn't talk.

    He's actually very nice, very friendly, and I guess plays the innocent role very well.

    To me, his cards were very good fakes. But I've been out of the game for a long time. However, at the same time, what I could tell was that the printing was shady.

    Finally, he's very intelligent/tricky. He bolts his Jace's in plastic, so you can't take them out/view them. And he pretends he doesn't know what's going on, so when you see a Mox Pearl in the pile, you get a little excited about what's going on. But that's gotta be fake too given what we're all talking about here.

    Lastly, I should have suspected when I found an identical offering to what you put up, even located in the same geography (Chicago).


    Sounds good,

    Can I get your number?


    – Hide quoted text –

    On Wed, Nov 3, 2010 at 9:19 PM, Mr. Gill wrote:

    Oh, I am not leaving the game. I was never in the game. These were my brothers and he moved out some time ago…a falling out with my parents. They just want the magic stuff out of their house.


    Date: Wed, 3 Nov 2010 15:38:45 -0500

    Subject: Re: collection


    No problem. Just wondering why you're leaving the game.

    It's not a problem, we'll talk about everything tomorrow.

    Btw, what's your phone number?


    On Wed, Nov 3, 2010 at 10:28 AM, Mr. Gill wrote:

    Well, I don't know what information I can give you. I am very unknowledgeable about these cards. You can ask though.


    Date: Tue, 2 Nov 2010 22:56:23 -0500

    Subject: Re: collection


    Ok, not a problem. I'm in the office M-F, 8-6PM.

    Can you do me a favor? Aside from those cards you have listed on your listing, could you provide some further information? It would be beneficial to me if I can see what product I want to keep, and what product I want to trade this weekend (hosting some friends).


    On Tue, Nov 2, 2010 at 10:09 PM, Mr. Gill wrote:

    Hey, my schedule got rearranged for tomorrow. I would like to meet on Thursday.. same time and place.

    Sorry if there is any inconvenience.


    Date: Mon, 1 Nov 2010 18:23:56 -0500

    Subject: Re: collection


    How about the one here? This is kinda close to work for me. I'm not sure if you can find parking though (parking in the city is difficult anyways).

    So, confirm for 3PM, Weds (11/03/2010) at this location? If so, I'll go to the bank tonight. Won't have time during the day since I work as well.

    250 South Wacker Drive

    Chicago, Illinois 60606

    (312) 496-0021

    Subway: Quincy/Wells

    Get directions – Is this accurate?

    Thanks! Looking forward to seeing your collection.

    On Mon, Nov 1, 2010 at 4:46 PM, Mr. Gill wrote:

    Panera is great. You can decide which one just supply me with the address. How does 3:00 sound?


    Date: Mon, 1 Nov 2010 15:44:20 -0500

    Subject: Re: collection


    Sounds good. I work in the loop and live in the south loop. There are multiple panera's etc, located in the vicinity. Let me know where is convenient and I can choose a place to both or our liking.


    On Mon, Nov 1, 2010 at 3:32 PM, Mr. Gill wrote:

    Yes, the collection is still available and I will be in Chicago on business on Wednesday. I would be happy to meet you at a neutral location if you would like to purchase the collection.

    Just let me know.


    Date: Mon, 1 Nov 2010 19:09:20 +0000

    Subject: Re: RE: collection





    What is still available?


    Where in Chicago will you be located?


    On Nov 1, 2010 12:29pm, "Mr. Gill" wrote:


    > Yes it sure is. I will be in Chicago on Wednesday if you would like to purchase it.

    > Thanks.


    > Date: Mon, 1 Nov 2010 15:28:11 +0000

    > Subject: collection

    > From:

    > To:



    > ** Avoid: wiring money, cross-border deals, work-at-home

    > ** Beware: cashier checks, money orders, escrow, shipping

    > ** More Info:



    > Hey, very interested in your collection. Is it still available?


    > Thanks!

  3. Some time ago, I had my backpack stolen from me at an event. It was the first big tournament that I had played at (drove out of town to go to) other than new set releases. My backpack was under my chair while I was playing and when I got up, it was gone. No one saw anything. I lost over $1500 of cash/cards/electronics etc. I've come to grips with it over time, but I think what annoyed(I was much more than just "annoyed" at the time) was that the tournament host was unsympathic to say the least. My wallet, car keys…everything except my cell phone and the deck I was using was stolen and the host of the tournament seemed to care less. I won't mention their name cause I'm over it and I'm not interested in smearing a very popular company who I'm sure is otherwise good for the magic community. It was my responsibility and no one else's. Overall bad day though. I stopped playing for almost a year. Had to sell my deck to the vendor to get cash so I could buy gas to get home. Wife had to call locksmith to make a car key. And when I asked the host to make an announcement or for anything they could do to help, they reacted as though I was annoying them…like I'm supposed to just say, "oh well, it was only $1500…it's not that big of a deal, don't bother concerning yourselves with the wellbeing of players at your events." Anyways, I said all that to say there's a dark side to all the money that can be made of collectible products and naive participants. Since then, I've heard much worse stories, people asked to follow others back to vehicles/hotel rooms only to be mugged…just be weary and careful of what you get yourself into and take the time to think about what you're doing.

  4. A whole separate article could be on Magic Online risk mitigation, and the very scary prospect of using PayPal to monetize MTGO objects — Twice I've been burned when I've sold complete sets or Event Tickets to MTGO users.

    One transaction occurred when dealing directly with a player on MTGO who reversed the charges three days after the transaction was complete, and the money already in my PayPal account was yanked out of my account.

    The other was through eBay, but the buyer used what turned out to be a stolen credit card, and the CC company nullified the transaction a month after it had processed. The buyer bought about a dozen similar MTGO items the same week from a variety of sellers before the card was reported stolen, and ebay deactivated that buyer's account. However, since I had already withdrawn the money from the transaction into my brick and mortar bank, Paypal instead now claims I owe them for the transaction, and has since locked my account.

    Be aware that PayPal considers the exchange of virtual objects to be a "service" and therefore it not an insurable transaction for goods. So they will not assist in any funds reclamation related to MTGO transactions gone amuck.

    If there are more secure methods of conducting real-world currency exchanges involving MTGO cards (an escrow service, an automated arbiter, etc.) I'd love to know more.

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