Today's article will focus on scruples and ethics in regards to MTG finance and speculation. There are some different approaches to MTG trading and finance and it's important for everyone who trades actively to ground themselves back on the isle of morality every once in awhile. Now this is by no means a black and white subject. There's a lot of gray and that's why this issue needs to be considered by every trader.
Helping the Newcomers
When you go to big events like SCG Opens and GPs you expect a lot of sharks and dealers, but the bigger the event the more likely you'll have a lot of newer players too. At GP Charlotte I was sitting across from a guy whose gold rush envelope had Ancestral Recall (never mind that I'm the one that handed it to him and could have easily given him the one I kept, which had a foil Ravnica common in it). He had no idea what the card was as he had started playing three weeks before and just saw the GP as an exciting event he came to play for fun.
Luckily, he showed those around him what he got and one guy pulled his phone out and showed the guy the price. I was torn emotionally, as I had a 50/50 shot of getting it and simply gave him that envelope, so I was pretty depressed at first. But then I thought about how the community around him informed him and didn't try to shark him (so good job MTG community), which lightened my mood a bit. But the point is there are still lots of new players who come to these events and similarly to your local game store. It is our job as a community to treat these players fairly.
The "well they should know the price" mentality has got to stop. This is just a poor way of justifying skeezy behavior. I understand that we are all trying to come out ahead and make money, but the difference is we can do it speculating, which means investing in cards we think will go up at some point. This is the kind of MTG finance I want to be a part of.
I wish I could say I've always avoided temptation when finding a hidden gem in someone's collection which they severely undervalued, but sadly even I must admit to having fallen to it before. And when I did, I felt bad. Not just immediately afterwards, but for several weeks. So much so that I have given the people I traded with extra cards to help justify my own guilt, which was sometimes a way to appease it, but I don't know if I damaged that person's desire to trade indefinitely or not. We as traders need to accept that guilt we feel is our brains' way of telling us we're doing something wrong and need to correct it.
I admit this because that's the first step in overcoming this sort of mentality. It's easy to play dumb and say "gee I didn't know it was worth that much" if they do look it up, but if someone asks you what their card is worth, tell them. If you don't really know and can look it up, do so. We were all new players at some point and chances are everyone's been ripped off by someone in the past. Remember how it felt when you got home and realized the card you thought was $2 dollars was worth $20. Every time you shark a new player you run the risk of turning them off of MTG or at the very least off of trading, and you hurt the community as a whole for a minor profit.
Another subject I want to discuss is market manipulation. This subject is becoming quite a hot topic recently as cards like Thrun, the Last Troll, Shallow Grave, Bloodhall Ooze, and Hall of the Bandit Lord have exploded in price in a few short days. Sometimes there's justification for jumps (such as Boros Reckoner), but more often than not someone is trying to corner the market with the sole purpose of buying tons and selling into the hype.
This is different from speculation (which is what most of us on QS do) for two main reasons. When you speculate on a card you understand its potential and you feel that it is currently undervalued or will increase over time. When you corner the market your sole goal is to generate hype for a card so you can sell into that hype. This is pure market manipulation which in the stock world is illegal and banks heavily on the lemming-like behavior of the masses. It's unethical and dangerous as it leads to stores cracking down on legitimate speculation as individual stores can't tell the difference between long-term speculation and market manipulation; they see one person buying them out (or buying a lot) of one card and don't know what they're up to.
When you speculate you take on the risk of the card not panning out or losing value, which (to me) justifies any profits you may make doing so. However, when you manipulate the market you take on very little risk as you have no intention of holding onto the cards, but simply want to jump the price up by creating artificial demand and unloading before the market has time to correct itself.
What scares me the most is that so many players don't see this as wrong. They feel that because other people just jump on the bandwagon it's their own fault. While I do agree that one should always research a card's potential before blindly going in on a speculation target, that is not actually justification for manipulating the market for your own benefit. I truly hope that people on QS are not the ones behind some of these jumps because this sort of tactic will eliminate the ability to speculate altogether. More stores are placing four-card limits on orders, which means that in order to speculate one will have to do multiple orders (if they'll even allow that) and pay more for shipping and lose out on ethical profits derived from properly recognizing a card's potential.
So for all those who enjoy sharking trades or market manipulation; please take some time to actually think about the consequences of your actions.