This past weekend I had the distinct privilege of working on the Judge staff at San Diego Comic Con for the Magic Events, while also attending a sweet Judge Conference (and obtaining some super-sweet judge foils).
It was a very interesting experience, for two main reasons. First, there was a significantly larger portion of first-time or new-ish players there than any other event I’ve worked at. Second, the prizes were extremely juiced compared to the sizes of the event.
Combined, this created an interesting environment. The minimal numbers of spike-grinder-types were trying to roll through as many events as possible, while new players were learning the game. As new players played with each other, it was interesting to see them realize right in front of my face how important trading is.
They would pay $15 for an intro pack from M13 and enter a “league” that lasted the weekend. Every opponent they faced, they’d receive cards to add to their deck. As the weekend was winding down, people were trying to leave the venue with a solid idea of what this game was about, and what they wanted it to mean to them.
They were so narrowly engrossed in the intro-deck they had, that the concept that these cards had a secondary market value was totally lost on them. “I’ll trade you this Green Rare for your Blue Rare.” Said the guy with the Blue Intro Deck to the guy with the Green Intro deck.
Normally, when this sort of thing happens, one person is taking advantage of another. But these were two friends, first time players, and I didn’t feel the need to intervene. For purposes of why there were there, Talrand was actually worth more to the Blue player than the Green player. Also, them being friends, I figured they could hash this sort of thing out on their own once they found out such things later, leaving them with a good learning experience.
Judge Promo Commander Exclusive for Standard Cash
Later in the day, I was trading with one of my good friends. I had just received my Foil Command Tower, and since I don’t play Commander, I had promised to trade it to a friend. Initially, I told him I was likely to sell it, so if we could find something in his binder I could sell at a similar price, we’d be all set.
This is when his friend (who I didn’t know) chimed in: “Command Tower is only a $30 buy on Star City Games, so that for Ajani is probably in your favor as-is.”
First, I have no idea why SCG only buys that card at $30, which I’d guess is likely because they don’t want it, because that’s only 37% of their listed sell price.
I told the third party, “I’m not really interested in SCG buyprices, thanks anyway.”
I tried to redirect back to my friend, so we could carry on our trade (which was going fine). This guy didn’t like my response, and pulled out his smartphone, “Which buy list do you want to check then? I can check them all!”
I had to insist, “I appreciate the offer of help, I have a smartphone too, but I just don’t feel it necessary to have a third party interjecting here.”
At the end of the day, my friend and I made an agreement and moved on.
Simple as Price vs Price?
I just want to point out the huge flaw I see in the “Let’s just look this price up.” Even if you’re looking at the same source, for two different cards, it doesn’t mean you’re comparing apples to apples. Think about a pile of Standard Staples as compared to a Judge Promo (especially one that is only legal in EDH). Standard Staples are going to move very fast. In fact, faster than almost any other type of stock, while a high-ticket Commander card has to find the right buyer who’s willing to pay the price to pimp out his deck.
As a dealer, which one would you rather invest a fixed amount of money in? Obviously, the faster moving item. To offset the time it will take to turn the product around, you have to have a bigger gap between buy and sell, especially since your sell price runs the risk of decreasing if it doesn’t sell soon enough and more Judge Foils are distributed. Comparing just a buy list price isn’t enough if you’re legitimately trying to strike a fair deal.
What are these cards worth to me? Well, I planned to sell them. But sell them how? If Command Tower Foil was really $30 on the StarCity Buylist, I’m just not going to sell it to them. I can get nearly twice as much after fees on eBay. Where as with Standard Staples, I can dump those to a dealer at only a small loss compared to an eBay sale.
My trade partner, however, plays exclusively Commander. Cards in his binder have the express purpose of finding foils for his EDH decks, so I am his outlet. I saved him from having to trade his cards into a dealer at buy prices, and then buy a Command Tower at sell prices. We both have different priorities here, and because we’re friends we can be vocal about those priorities and reach an agreement.
I told him, even with SCG Buyprice at $30, I’m more apt to use their buylist to consider your Standard Staples, but give you the Command Tower at a price that’s more comparable to what I can actually get for it, which would be bottom of the eBay range, less fees.
I don’t generally agree with alienating your trade partner by telling their friends to “Butt Out!”, especially, if they have asked that friend to help them make a decision. But don’t let a loud trade partner (or their friend) tell you what a card is worth.
The Heart of Value
This is the concept behind the question, “What do you value this at?” If you don’t know what peoples values are, then it’s hard to reach an agreement. I think there are better ways to gain this information without being a scary value-trader. Rather than asking them for a number, ask them why they’re trading it or trading for it.
More importantly, be forthright about your intentions. You can derive values from there. In my case, I wanted to turn my judge foil into cash. So if he’s offering me something other than cash, it needs to be at least as much as I could get by selling it directly.
He wanted it for his deck, and wanted to dump cards he has no use for in exchange. Focusing on their goals, rather than finite dollar values allows you to present options to your trade partner that are beneficial to both of you, like the Thragtusk for Talrand situation, which is an obvious extreme.
A final note that I don’t want to ignore until next week: Thragtusk is absurdly hot right now. Seven out of Eight Star City Games top8 decks included this monster. He’s sold out at $15 on both StarCityGames and Channel Fireball. CardKingdom still had a few as of today. I don’t know how much higher a non-Mythic can get, but this guy is worth watching. I’m not going to buy in on this card, but if I owned any I’d try to sell into this hype while more are being opened by the day.