Welcome back to Whinston’s Whisdom on Quiet Speculation. This is a continuation on last week’s article, as it ended up running long and I didn’t want to do too much of a magnum opus on the topic of morality, instead deciding to split it up. You can find part 1 here: http://www.quietspeculation.com/2011/01/morality-and-ethics-the-n00b-quandary.
Let’s start by summarizing last week’s article. Essentially, I talked about how my own personal experience has led to me placing a high value on my Magic community and atmosphere. This means that I care more about building a sustainable player base than I do about making a quick buck or two, and because of this, I will always inform new players if they’re about to get ripped off. But n00bs don’t make up 100% of the MTG community. What about everyone else: the FNMers, PTQ grinders, Pro Players? Well that’s what I want to cover in this article, my code of conduct for miscellaneous trading.
The first area for potential controversy is in how I organize my binder. I’ll be honest, there’s nothing I hate more than looking at a page full of original duals and Jaces and have the other trader say “oh that’s not for trade”. You are handing me a trade binder, where 90% of the value in it is unavailable? The chances of you finalizing a trade with me have just dropped significantly. It is my belief that not only is doing this rude, but it also can be misleading. If I see a first page of Jaces, I’m much more likely to search through the rest of the binder because there will probably be more cards of value there. But if I see some Llanowar Elves and Joraga Treespeaker, my time at the trading table will be relatively short. But knowing this, if I organize my binder to put all my very high value cards at the front, but say they’re not for trade in order to get the other trader to look through the rest of my lower value cards, I would find that to be unethical. Of course, not on the level of ripping somebody off, but still something I avoid. This is why everything that is in a binder I hand you is for trade. Every single card. Now this may mean that you’ll need to give me double or triple value on the stuff I want to hold onto, but there’s always a price, and I do my best to keep it reasonable while also reflecting my need for a specific card. And to be fair, there are other considerations when not wanting to trade a card. Maybe it has sentimental value, or your holding it as a loan from a buddy. In this case I have a very simple system. I have a second binder. Revolutionary, right? This is where I keep my decks when they’re not sleeved up, and all the stuff that I simply can’t trade off. If you lack the resources to own a second binder, feel free to put all the untradeable stock at the back of your trade binder, but flashing around the untouchable bling is just obnoxious.
Another topic I wanted to cover was pricing, but because this is such a broad topic, I divided it up into 3 subsections.
First, sealed product. Occasionally, though infrequently, I will get my hands on sealed product that I have no desire to open after winning it at an event (though thankfully Pastimes gives out store credit for FNM so this is rarely a problem). For most sets, cracking packs is a losing proposition, so I often try to trade it off to other players for format staples. A quick note though, selling packs to dealers tends to be a poor idea. At the events I attend, I will only get rates of about $1.75 per pack, which is just not worth it, especially when I can get $3+ in trade value. An example: at the 2nd Chicago SOM Sealed PTQ for Paris I ended up 6-1-1 but ending up in 9th on tiebreaks. Yeah, it sucks. For my efforts, I got what I believe were 9 packs of Scars. These I almost immediately swapped for 3 Knight of the Reliquary, a Noble Hierarch, and some other smaller rares. Clearly, my margin on these cards was far superior to what I would have gotten from either cracking or selling these packs. But it’s important to remember your priorities when dealing with sealed product. Team Drafts before Trading BAMF. A bit of a stretch, I know. But let’s be honest, Magic is about hanging with awesome friends. I’d take a team draft and some petty cash over more value in cards any day. And be sure to stick with your local going rate. The first time I team drafted, I started off charging WAY too much for the packs I was selling to my teammates (about $12 per draft set, rather than the normal $8) because I didn’t know any better. I quickly lowered my asking price after I was informed about this, because my goal was never to price gouge my friends. That’s not a very good move. Friends before profit, any day of the week.
Funnily enough, another subsection in pricing is about trading with friends. As I said above, the most significant part about Magic for me is the friendship I can cultivate with other players. You know that awkward feeling you have when you’re the first player from your play group to get to a PTQ and you’re sitting by yourself at a table? Yeah, it sucks. Staying close with your Magic friends is the most important thing within any path of the game that you choose. So while some may see it as a double standard, I try to never trade for significant profit with friends. I have had some missteps along the way. Old habits have kicked in and I ended up making a trade that looked fair but was really tilted heavily in my favor. But as a rule, I do my best to stay even with my friends. Part of the definition of having a friend is that you value them more than the small amount of cash you could gain by ripping them off. I honestly have no respect for those that don’t follow this code of behavior in their Magic financial conduct.
And finally, we come to just trading around. What are the rules we must hold ourselves to while we are actually trying to make profit? The first of these is the simplest. No lying. Period. Under no circumstances will I lie or mislead a trading partner as to the value or the potential value of a card. This doesn’t mean that I’ll inform them that Stoneforge Mystic was a critical part of the last Standard Pro Tour top performer, but it also means I won’t claim that Japanese Ally combo with Halimar Shapeshifter just won a Grand Prix. Analysis, you’re free to keep to yourself. But the facts must be out in the open. Likewise, if they ask you about one website’s sell price on a card, you must answer truthfully or not at all. Taking advantage of superior preparation is not the same as doing it through dishonesty, and as someone who takes the financial side of MTG seriously, your integrity is crucial to success. Even if you are a solely profit driven entity, you have to recognize that lying and taking advantage of others through blatant dishonesty is only bad for business, as it tarnishes your reputation and reduces the amount of people that are willing to trade with you. There are certain people at my local store who are just unwilling to trade with me, just due to my attitude towards trading and not due to dishonesty, but that inability to make deals with some people has hurt me. I promise you, lying is not going to bring about a net monetary gain.
That’s all for now (except for a brief conclusion at the end). Last week’s contest winner wasBrandon Cooper…because he was the only person to enter other than Wade who had already won. I guess free cards just don’t cut it anymore. So Brandon, email me your mailing information and I’ll get your cards out to you. Anyways, I obviously need to ramp up the prize support a little bit, so the winner of this week’s comment contest will receive a Demon of Death’s Gate and a Dark Tutelage. Remember, one positive comment, one constructive criticism, and one future article topic. You may enter by emailing me, commenting on the article itself, or contacting me on twitter (my username is at the bottom of the article).
Though it may sound corny, “treat others as you would want to be treated” is probably the best approach toward trading ethics. Personally, if someone leverages knowledge of a format in order to make profit off of me during a trade (I’m looking at you Craig Wescoe!) I’ll feel disappointed with myself and make sure to study the basics of that format before I hit the tables again, but I don’t feel cheated, just outplayed. But if someone lies to me, then they are on my blacklist. And I won’t deal with them again. Take a lesson from this, and let’s work together to put to rest the rumor that all traders and speculators only care about their bottom line. Just like players, we care about the people too.
Bros before pro(fit)s,
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