The Ups, The Downs

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This article comes per request from Twitter a few weeks back, and as always I am happy to indulge any reasonable request; these articles are, after all, for you: the reader. Most people reading this article already know how to trade, and whether you consider yourself new to the game or a seasoned veteran matters little. This article will cover the art of up trading and down trading. Some of you may already know what this means and how to execute these types of trades, and for those of you that don’t this will be a great lesson to get you started.

The Ups

Up trading is the concept of taking your small to midrange cards and turning them into high end cards such as Duals and Power. The idea of up trading can be a grueling and long tedious process if not performed correctly. The thing to remember is that the person with the expensive loot is usually leading the trade, and for good reason. This does not mean you have to let them walk all over you to get the deal done, but it does command respect and understanding. Turning 20 five dollar rares into a Force of Will may seem like a loss at first glance but when you look deeper into the trade you realize there are positives to both sides.

The Attitude

Respect the other player’s opinions and decisions. If there is one sure way to make a deal go south, it is to push too hard. The second key is to never use the word "need." Once this bomb has been dropped it is unlikely you will come out of the trade ahead or even, there is no surer way to guarantee a loss. With these two key ideals in mind, you will be in fine shape to approach this type of trade.

The first obvious step in starting this trade is to let the other person know you would be interested in whatever expensive card it may be. If they are willing to part with said card for a large number of smaller rares (typically a Legacy/Vintage staple may be traded for a multitude of Standard rares), you then allow them to pull out cards at will as long as their Power card is valued correctly. Remember these trades don’t solely have to be for the Power card; if they manage to find more than what their piece is worth, adding some bulk on as well can be ideal. The best trade advice I can give in these scenarios is to make sure the other trader gets what they want. Value your cards fairly, as there is no need to value trade unless the opportunity is presented. Gaining the Power cards is value enough. Overvaluing your cards or debating too heavily can turn out to be a waste of both players’ time, and believe me nothing is worse than having to put a pile of rares back after a sour trade. Remembering these key points can turn your binder full of bulk and general rares into a binder of gold which can then later allow you the same opportunity.

This weekend at Grand Prix: Dallas/Fort Worth I participated in many up trades, and although they usually command a great deal of time, they can be invaluable to keep your binder’s value on the rise. A great example of an up trade involved a gentleman with an English Mana Drain which he valued at 110 (a very fair price for the condition). He was seeking Standard commons, uncommons, and rares to restock himself for the remainder of the weekend, and I was happy to oblige. Like I mentioned earlier, do not push the trade along. Allow them to take their time and search for all the gems they seek. After about thirty minutes of searching he had found a nice stack of cards all of which I had picked up in trade for 50-70% of what I was putting them at.

- playset of Jace Beleran (35-40 in value)
- three playsets of Brainstorm (12-15 in value)
- playset of Swords to Plowshares (12 in value)
- Koth of the Hammer (20-22 in value)
- two Elspeth Tirel (28-30 in value)

So in total we had 107-119 in cards for his Mana Drain which we again valued at 110. This trade does not at first look like it leaves me much value, but what you have to realize is when you come out even in these trades you come out far ahead on the flip side which we will cover next. So far our total is between +3 to -9, and that is right about where I wanted to be: breaking even or slightly under. After thanking the gentleman for the trade I sleeved and bindered my new prize and moved on to do a few more trades before the day concluded.

On a side note, I must say Dallas/Fort Worth is a beautiful city with what seems to be a great night life. I had the pleasure of rooming with a great group of people which made the trip more enjoyable, including Quiet Speculation’s own writer Corbin Holser and editor Dylan Lerch. As always with major events Dallas was a great opportunity to not only get some amazing trading in, but also to meet new contacts and friends that will remain throughout the years. Some of the best stories I can regale are from events such as this, and I encourage anyone who has the opportunity to make one to do so, whether to play trade or even just walk around. The experience is not something you will soon forget.

The Downs

This is where your true value lies and where the fun begins. Relax, the hard part is over and now you are in the driver’s seat. As I am sure you can piece together at this point, down trading is the art of acquiring a multitude of cards for your expensive staple. This does not come without rules however, many of which I have already covered. First and foremost you are in control of the trade; this is always a boon because nothing in their binder is out of reach. The traders you ideally want to find are the ones who use that unfortunate need word. If someone needs what you have, the power is totally yours and the price is yours to command.

If someone is in need of a card you will likely find them dropping their prices and valuing yours slightly higher in order to acquire the goods. This obviously favors you if you broke even or even took a slight loss on the ups. Now to make sure the downs treat you well, you need to have a good understanding of the market. Unlike staple cards that typically follow a slight trend upward and are typically easy to predict future value (obviously there are exceptions, case and point SCG’s latest venture), when down trading you are investing in a predictive market with a sure bet. This can be dangerous, though not as much as it may sound, as since you will be so far ahead in initial value it is very difficult to lose money even if a few of the cards you pick up do not retain value.

As you're looking through the other player’s binder, don’t pull cards out right away. Instead, keep track of their prices and use this knowledge to piece together a puzzle in your head of a solid combination of cards that can get you a good deal of value but at the same time doesn’t break the other person’s need for your goods. Even a person with needs typically isn’t going to give you 50% on their cards, nor do you need them to in order make a great deal of profit.

With that Mana Drain I acquired earlier in the weekend I had finally found a fish who took the hook, and now all I needed to do was sink it and drag him in. I let him pull it out and check the condition, being sure to mention the flaws as a minor offset for the fact that it was a Mana Drain, and boy did he need it. This particular gentleman needed this last Drain to complete his collection and I was happy to oblige at a value of 120. Adding the 10 dollars helps pad your numbers and doesn’t create an unreasonable price that may scare away potential traders. Thus far we are now between +13 to +1 in value, so we are already on the up (which is always ideal going into a trade!). So I began running through his binder asking prices to gauge the waters. He knew most of his prices spot on and even some a little high, but as you will find, everyone who doesn’t do this for a living slips up somewhere and that was this gentleman’s case as well. Blinded by the fact that he needed this Drain so bad, I started on some of the cards that had recently spiked to see how up to date he was, and sure enough I found the first catch.

2 Japanese City of Traitors (NM condition and SP condition.)

He valued them at 20 each. Bingo! If these had been English he would have been slightly low but given the usual Japanese bump he undervalued by about 10 and 15 respectively given condition. So thus far we are 40 into the value of the trade and at realistic value of +38 to +26. With a happy number already making this trade worth my time I continued on through his binder to our next stop, a playset of Gideon Jura. These I was certainly interested in due solely to the fact that many people were undervaluing them this weekend and I had already had a multitude of people asking for them meaning the demand was high.

4 Gideon Jura (NM condition)

When I asked his number I was shocked to hear between 18-20 each! Now as some of you have already been thinking “where do you find these people?” the truth is nearly everyone misjudges something in their binder and with the current dilemma in Legacy people forget to watch their Standard prices as well. Granted, prices at the event were inflated on many Standard staples including Gideon, however I knew I could make a great deal of profit even if I had to hold the Gideons until I got home. Given the usual price on Gideon of 25-30 my numbers were looking good, but since I expected to move them before the end of the weekend they were looking great. Vendors had the big man at 35 and wouldn’t budge so that’s where I put my number for both trading and tracking purposes. This brings our total net on each Gideon to 15 each leaving us at 112-120 in trade value and a whopping +106 to +86. At this point there was also something small he wanted from me and I wanted a playset of Doomsday, and these items came out to be about a wash so I will not include them in the numbers. Funny enough I also had another Mana Drain later that day that moved for two more Japanese City of Traitors and three more Gideons but unlike the last one he did not need the Drain so I ended up only slightly ahead as I had to add in Engineed Explosives Foil to finish that deal.

So to conclude, it is important to learn and remember when making these trades that in order to come out ahead, you don’t need to make value on all of your trades. Instead, trading for future value can be just as beneficial and in some cases such as the example about you can nearly double your initial investment.

So at the end of the day with approximately an hour of time I turned:

- playset of Jace Beleran (35-40 in value)
- three playsets of Brainstorm (12-15 in value)
- playset of Swords to Plowshares (12 in value)
- Koth of the Hammer (20-22 in value)
- two Elspeth Tirel (28-30 in value)

All of which I probably paid half in cash on or 70% in trade, so assuming cash on the high end it comes to 60 dollars for:

-2 Japanese City of Traitors (60-70 in value)
-4 Gideon Jura (120-140 in value)

Assuming these at half value as well we end up with a Grand total of 105 in fluid cash returns. An increase of 45 dollars or 43% for an hour’s work, not bad for any business if I do say so myself.

Well that does it for this week, join me next week when I will cover the idea of cash ins and cash outs on particular cards and how to look at the trends for each. This will be a continuation of this article in some ways as I will follow this same trade transaction and how I got the biggest bang for my buck with the least amount of time investment. Let me know what you guys think and any stories of possible up and down trades you can recall, as always I am looking for future article ideas and comments to make sure my writing stays along the lines of what you want to read.

Until next week, keep it on the ups (and downs).

Ryan Bushard

@CryppleCommand on Twitter

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