This week’s article will be devoted to the art of the shark, and no we aren’t talking about the fiendish fish Fonzie jumped but instead on the equally fearsome trader. This is not to say a shark or player vendor is a bad person to trade with. Quite the opposite in fact! These trades can be profitable for both parties if you know how to conduct yourself. This article will give you the tools to conduct trades with even the most savvy trader and still come out on top. If you already consider yourself a suave trader of sorts this week’s edition even has pointers for you from how to maximize profits, to the ins and outs of trades to receive repeat business.
I would first like to start this off by saying that sharks can be one of the hardest groups to identify. I have come across countless different trade styles and techniques many of which are equally effective and have myself evolved my trading style incorporating some of these things I have learned over the years. A shark by no means strictly has to be a trader though many times will be at events strictly to trade such as myself, but if you notice a large backpack or suitcase chances are that’s what they are there for. Becoming proficient enough to command trades can take years to learn and master and months at a time of memorization. The key is to know your values. Nothing feels worse than walking away from a trade just to find out later that junk rare you had in a box at a dollar is actually worth ten. Keeping a good idea of current prices is key to creating profitable trades, no one wants to wait while you look up the latest prices on all your rares and frankly it makes you look bad. Especially when trading with a shark.
Keeping things well organized is always a must when trying to trade in any scenario and especially here when dealing with someone who knows what they are doing. An unorganized binder can drive traders away and profit traders don’t want to wait while you dig through your bag to see if you have a particular card. I always suggest keeping a number of smaller binders as opposed to one large one. This will make trades more streamlined and allow multiple trades to be conducted at once. I personally have a Standard binder, a binder with extended and legacy rares, an EDH binder, and a binder with the more expensive/hard to find cards. In addition, having overflow boxes can be helpful for a number of reasons. Keeping playsets of competitive commons and uncommons on you can create opportunities to trade when someone is looking and no one else brought any. Sometimes that Everflowing Chalice can shore up a close deal. Fat pack boxes work great for this and are easy to store. Having playsets of Squadron Hawks on hand can net you a dollar or two each if the person needs them enough. Besides your commons and uncommons, keeping a box with everything over a 4-of will both save your binders (packing 10 rares into a binder sleeve will destroy it) and create a loss prevention aspect. If someone takes four of a card and still asks for more you may have undervalued it and perhaps this allows you to stem the loss. Sharks will typically have a very well organized binder and to conduct a proper trade and be taken seriously you should as well.
Some sharks have niches that they know extremely well or feel more comfortable trading in. This can be anything from standard to hard to find foils and promos. If you have a niche yourself letting them know will save you both a lot of time and effort as no one wants to unload a whole suitcase just to find out your only interested in standard. If you need particular cards just ask. They will know what they do and don’t have in stock or with them and can probably keep an eye out for you in future trades if they don’t. If they know they have someone who is looking for a card they will keep an eye out, after all who would give up the opportunity to conduct future business. The primary key to remember here is unlike other types of traders a true shark will not take a loss, so know going into the trade that if your dealing with a competent shark it’s a good idea to know your values. I know I keep coming back to this but its important. This does not mean you can't come out ahead and should not deter you from conducting such a trade. Future and predictive trading are both great ways to make a profit for yourself while still keeping the shark happy. If you are the shark, inventory trades can be added to this list as another great way to make a deal. Future trading is like I just mentioned a process of picking up cards you already know you have another trader looking for. You can many times work out a deal with a shark as he may himself have cards he is seeking either at the event or back home. Predictive trading can be more dangerous and is not suggested for those with small inventory sizes. This skill not only takes a great deal of knowledge on the market side but also the gaming side as well. If you have the latest tech or see an opening for a particular deck sometimes it is a great idea to stock up on those cards while the prices are still cheap. Some of the better callshots I can recall in the recent past were Knight of the Reliquary and Dark Depths, both of which I was picking up anywhere from .50-2.00 at their respective times and both soared later on in those seasons to net me a great deal of profit. Last but not least is the inventory trade, one which is mostly conducted when two sharks are involved in a trade. A great example of this is a trade me and Kelly Reid conducted at a recent GP. At my local shop Valakut was still seeing heavy play and I was cleaned out of most of the pieces. Kelly had a good number of Oracle of Mul Daya and we proceeded to trade cards each of us was low on knowing each would make profit in our own local areas off of each other.
This is not to say all sharks are going to follow your ideals in trading or even be interested in a nearly fair trade. There are traders out there strictly in the business of ripping someone off, and that again is not to say that everyone who rips someone off is a bad trader, its just something you have to look out for. There is a gentleman I see at almost every major event that carries around a buylist and values your cards at what he knows he can get for them. This is a common thing and although knowing a buylist is good and something I take full advantage of it is not something that looks good in the middle of a trade. These are typically people you may want to be weary about trading with as they probably don’t always have the best intentions.
The thing to pay attention for when trading with a shark is to not let them bully you into a trade. You can always say no, and although you don’t want to make a habit of it, sometimes it is necessary to keep yourself from taking a major loss. A good shark will let the other trader set values most of the time and pick and choose from there what they would like. Keeping this in mind, don’t undervalue your cards just to complete a deal. Sometimes it just wasn’t meant to be. Keeping yourself professional is also a nice touch and will gain you some respect among sharks, if you don’t like a price there is no need to rant. Just move on. We might not always like the price you offer, or you may not like some of our values. It happens. For many of us, this is our job and I can say there is nothing more frustrating than dealing with someone who scoffs at every price I give them. A card is only is as valuable as you allow it to be. Stores set good price guides but sometimes people fail to remember sharks are not stores. We have different values and you might too. As a bit of advice, it is good to know the sharks. You will see many of the same people at events over and over again. You may feel some are fair traders and others are not, but remembering these faces can allow you to keep yourself out of trades you know you cant justify.
The key is to not enter the trade thinking your going to get ripped off every time. Sometimes you may lose value but this can usually be corrected by spending time learning the prices of cards. The fact that the shark can take advantage of traders lack of knowledge does not make them a bad person. If you have a good idea of values and are courteous you may find the shark to be one of the more laid back traders, many times allowing banter during the trades that make it both enjoyable and open the possibility to create friendships after a few trades over the course of a couple of events.
What about me?
So by this point some of you may be wondering yourself, how do I get onboard? Perhaps playing in the current format is getting stale or you just want something to do after that terrible 1-2 drop weekend. Contrary to popular belief it really doesn’t take as much to get started as you may think. The first step as I covered before is knowing your values. I cannot stress this enough. To start pick a market you are familiar with. Do you keep up with all the latest standard tech? Perhaps you're a savvy EDH player who knows the value of even the most obscure cards? Either way take advantage of your current knowledge and build from there, you don’t have to learn every card in Magic overnight nor should you try. Starting with what you know may mean less profit in the beginning but it also includes much less risk. I have been doing this for years and I still stray away from some markets (Japanese/Foils). This doesn’t mean you can't pick some cards up if you know your getting a good deal but just don’t make a habit of it right away. Keep your binder organized and have a good idea of what you have in stock, then just value trade. Even if you only net a dollar or two on each trade to begin with that can add up over a hundred trades on the day and with some practice you can find this funding your trips. Once you get to this break even point you may find yourself thriving for more, or perhaps decide this is not for you. Either way it will make you a better trader and will allow you to meet a whole new group of people you may not have even known were there.
Well this concludes this weeks article, I will be doing a follow-up in the next few months with a more in depth look at how to work your way up to a shark level trader including a good idea of how to initially invest and how to deal with other traders and vendors. Until next week, I look forward to reading your comments. Let me know what you thought and again if there are any ideas you would like to see in the future. Next weeks article will be covering a very different type of trader: a very casual local area many times what I consider a “color” trader.
Until next time thanks for all the fish…think about it.
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