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Insider: How to Be a Value Trader – Not a Shark

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I have seen a lot of discussion on this in the forums. What do you do when a kid walks in with a $40 Legacy staple, wanting your Standard junk rare?

I had this happen to me. And I chose his foil Iona, Shield of Emeria over my own Myojin of Night's Reach.

This was the wrong thing to do, even if it felt right at the time. I will do my best to explain why this isn’t even good for anyone.

The Trade May Not Be Worth It

The first possibility is that he tells someone about the trade. If this happened at an LGS, chances are other people know you there, and you can get anything from dirty looks to a store ban. No one thinks that you saw this as a fair trade, and losing access to an LGS is not worth $39.50 profit.

Traders may also have a very negative cultural stigma, people viewing us as scam artists. Traders walking up to a binder are seen by some in the same manner as short change artists to the checkout lane. If you scam people, it helps add to that, and more people will dislike us for it.

You May Have Lost a Player

That kid may have been trying to get into competitive play, and that foil Iona, Shield of Emeria may have gotten him 2 Thragtusk or a playset of Silverblade Paladins. He may have won his first game with those cards.

Honestly, the binder without Iona was probably worth $5 on buylists. He may never get into playing, and he won’t bring his friends with him. you're better off offering him some Standard rares worth $40 and so that he can build that deck. You still be doing very well trading a foil Iona for Standard cards.

So, What Rules Should We Follow?

Well, it can be very situational for sure, but we can follow a few rules to make sure that we are being honest with our trades all of the time, even when making a profit.

  • Always offer more if the trade is uneven. A great way of doing this without hurting yourself is making the suggestion yourself: “This Deadbridge Goliath is a dollar, and it goes great with Silverblade Paladin.”
  • Some cards are just worth more. But make sure your trade partner understand that beforehand. “If you want a Tropical Island, I have to trade it at 140% if I’m getting Standard cards, because it is much rarer.” Of course, you can also buylist trade a Tropical Island, as long as the other person understands why and agrees on pricing. Trader Tools can help a lot with this.
  • If you see someone scamming kids for their cards, cheating in a game or just being generally terrible to everyone at an LGS, feel free to attempt to take them for anything they’ve got. It is true that what goes around, comes around. Also, if someone is sharking binders, they should know enough to not get sharked themselves.

Put Yourself In Their Shoes – Even When They Don’t Fit

Would you be happy with this trade if you were them? Knowing the worth of the cards, you should say yes every time.

This can't always be true, however. Some people don’t think like we do. I traded a Silverblade Paladin and a Redirect for a Thragtusk last week. I quoted prices and asked him to grab more. He said, “Those are the only cards I need for my deck. I don’t mind losing the difference.”

Some people just want to play with the cards and don’t care what they get them for. They don’t see the cards as cash value. They don’t see a $5 Mythic, they see Nicol Bolas, the most badass Planeswalker out there.

Don’t take advantage, but it’s okay to make a profit if you’re honest about it.

Don’t Kill The Game

Taking every bit of value from people at an LGS can make you some money. But if we all take that approach, as opposed to buy/sell list arbitrage and wise investments, we will damage the game as a whole. Our income from this game relies on community, and that community needs to keep growing or we will all lose money.

So do us all a favor and, while you pick up every Daybreak Coronet and Shardless Agent in your LGS, make sure you make awesome trades, both for you and them. We are all depending on you.

Jared Elick

Hello all! I'm Jared Elick. I have been a Magic: The Gathering player since the original Ravnica block, and have recently begun trading and speculating for profit. I was born in Ohio, and have lived here all of my life. I love playing Magic in all formats, and I've been able to do that thanks to all I have learned on QS. You may see me at tournaments in the Midwest, slinging a trade binder and playing in a few events.

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10 thoughts on “Insider: How to Be a Value Trader – Not a Shark

  1. Excellent article. It’s important to always keep these concepts in mind. I can say from first hand experience…that when someone offers me a trade that is heavily in my favor, I tell them straight up that they need more from me to even it out, doing this not only lets them know you’re an honest/good person, but it also makes them feel even better when they pick out a few more cards they didn’t expect to get. What this does, is make you the “good guy” to trade with. I have several people at several LGS’s that come to me when they are looking for something…when people actively seek you out for trades, you’ll always do well.

  2. At first it felt weird lining up two piles and saying “it looks like I’m up a $1,” (rather than not saying anything) but I was surprised how often people snap responded “yeah that’s cool with me.” Even when I say “I’m up a little over a dollar, did you see anything small?” people often times just ignore the question and reply “OK this works for me.”

    1. Yeah, especially when it’s a dollar, and they can throw in a Redirect or something, I’d rather give them $.15 and have them think I’m a good guy.

  3. Trade value, no sharking. Very easy to get a bad rep. Much harder to maintain a good one. there is plenty of bulk to fill gaps in value and this can actually help make specing easier. throw out your bulk pick up their bulk with breakout potential.

  4. Great article! There’s no amount of money that makes up for a good rep. I’ve had people actively seek me out in trades or would ask me first if I wanted a card they have for trade before trading it to someone else because I’ve been honest with them in a previous trade or gave them a bit more than what they were expecting.

    1. I’ve had a few people send me texts or Facebook messages looking for a card, and I love being in that position, even when I don’t have the card. I can keep an eye out for it in a binder. I love being able to find the card they need.

  5. First of all, I would not make that Myojin for Iona trade, there are trades that are too good, period (regardless whether they’re a kid). I have a bit of a problem with this though:

    “Always offer more if the trade is uneven.”

    Like knowing the rules of the game better gives you an advantage when playing Magic, knowing prices better gives you an advantage when trading Magic cards. I feel I owe it to myself to make sure a deal is at least fair from my perspective. I also feel they owe it to themselves to do the same from their perspective. I will point it out when I feel I am making too much of a “profit”, however, I have no problem whatsoever aiming at 10-15% “profit” so I have have little room to have them haggle me down. If they don’t and are happy with what I propose I don’t mind. People use different pricing after all, maybe it looks fair to them.

    In fact, strictly speaking, if both people trading would live by this rule and there is a discrepancy in their ideas of pricing they could both suggest to add cards because from their perspective the deal is to their advantage and closing out a deal will take very long. In fact, they could and up with a deal where neither of them would be as happy as with the starting situation where both think they make a “profit”.

    I think there should be a range people are comfortable with. For me that’s 10-15% to my advantage, though depending on the cards (like in the Tropical Island example) I could go higher and still be able to live with myself (I’ll likely tell the person I’m dealing with about it though, I have in fact recently traded some high end cards, including a Trop for money and more recent cards where I was very upfront about needing to get a very good deal).

    Agreed on taking people actually out to scam others for everything they got, however, you risk what other people seeing or hearing about might think. There’s also a chance the person scamming will redouble his efforts to make up for the bad trade with you. Even if the person is scamming others I probably still not trade my Myojin against his Iona.

  6. I agree with the article. There are countless times that new magic players or younger players are looking for cards with no idea what the value is. Just 2 weeks ago new player wanted several $2-$3 RTR cards. I wound up giving him about 12$ worth of cards for a temple garden. Although it may slightly have been in his favor, I don’t think rares like loleth troll or loxodon smiter are going to hold value anyway so I was happy to do it and get one usable card for me and let him have several for his deck. He went and told his friends who also came over with a few shocks and picked up a ton of rtr rares like dreadbores, abrupt decays, detention spheres for a few shocks. I draft a lot so it cleaned out my binder of cards I dont use and wound up dumping about $50 worth of standard singles for 4 shocks.

    Also helped them balance out their decks in terms of number of lands and spells and saw them playing standard the very next week.

    I will say this though, there was another player trying to trade with them and anyone else he could, a one for one with his junk cards for standard staples like shocks, caverns etc. I did not feel bad when I traded with him and it was in my favor by about 15% (traded standard for modern as he knew a lot about standard and little about modern)

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