Insider: Dos and Donts of Safe Trading

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Today's article was inspired by a dream...actually a nightmare. In this dream I was trading with a player following all my normal trading rules when I turned my head for a few minutes to talk to him. His friend offered me a solid deal on a cheap card he knew I had. I said sure and went back to talking to his friend, letting the other guy pull out my cards.

When I completed the trade with his friend I looked back at my binders and discovered all my valuable cards gone and the cheap card requested in the trade left on top (in a mocking fashion). I became so upset by this that it actually caused me to wake up freaked out.

This got me thinking about the precautions I've taken to secure my own collection. Today I'll cover some of these principles.


Know What You Have

As I discovered after the fire in my kitchen this year you need to know the contents of your collection. Trying to remember what you had before a loss is difficult and there's a high probability you'll miss something.

This is the reason it's a good idea to write down the serial numbers of all your expensive electronic devices (TV's, Stereos, Ipods, etc.) The same principle applies to high-dollar cards in your collection. You'll also want to record their condition.

Should your stuff be stolen this information serves two purposes. It can help get your stuff back if the police catch the perpetrator in a timely manner. But more importantly this information will help with insurance claims.

After all, if you tell your insurance agent that you had 2-3 Underground Seas, 3-4 Tundras, 1-2 Bayous, etc...what they hear is 2, 3, 1. While it may not be efficient to list every card (or even every rare) I would set the bar at $10 or more.

Follow Your Own Guidelines

This should seem obvious, but can be difficult to maintain sometimes. If you're at a prerelease with a bunch of Standard-only players who are willing to trade out Modern and Legacy staples for new cards, it can be difficult to ask them to hold on while you complete each trade one at a time (as you don't want to upset potential traders), but you need to stick to your rules. Every trade should get your full attention (minus watching your personal stuff). As sad as it is, every potential trader is a potential thief (even when they come off nice).

Contact Authorities Immediately If Something Happens

This should also be obvious, but should your cards be stolen you'll want to contact the authorities immediately. As soon as you're aware that something is missing, write down all the details you can think of. What time it is, when you believe the cards went missing, relevant information about those around you, any details or distinguishing marks on the cards (like a signed Foil JTMS).

It's also wise to look around and see if there happen to be any cameras that might have caught the perpetrator(s). (If you're very cautious you could look for them before setting up shop to make sure you have one on you).

I realize this may not be easy at big events, but half the reason these thieves keep working events is because when cards get stolen, the players who are robbed get upset but don't do anything else. You can bet if you were a store you'd call the police if cards were stolen out of your case.

"Stuff" Rules

  • Keep your entire trade collection in one bag - I still see people walking around venues with bags and stuff in their arms. I understand the desire to have as much trade stock as possible, but the chance of you putting the binder down and/or forgetting it is much higher than forgetting your bag.
  • Keep your bag strap wrapped around your leg at all times. A new tactic of thieves is for one member of the group to distract the mark and another to pull their bag away and walk away quickly. With the bag around your leg this tactic won't work.
  • Keep your bag zipped up. It's not that hard for someone walking by to stoop down to "tie their shoe", slip their hand into your bag and grab a deck or small binder.
  • Keep your binders/bags marked clearly. It's a lot harder to steal a binder that is brightly colored and marked than one that looks like all the others. This will prevent people with a bunch of trade binders from just picking up "all the binders" at the table and snagging one of yours.


Don't Flaunt Your Collection

I know it's tempting to have a "brag binder" or mention your foiled-out RUG Delver deck. But in all honesty there is nothing to gain from this and everything to lose.

The person you're saying this to won't make an amazing trade just to help you finish off a new deck or congratulate you for all the effort you've put in. But they might now see you as a great mark which could make them a lot of money very quickly.

If you have stuff that isn't for trade, then there's no reason to mention it. I realize that everyone has that "well if the offer is good enough" thought, but be honest, when has that ever occurred? My friend Eric mentions that all the time and he upsets potential trade partners when they realize "good enough" is a pretty ridiculous demand.

Don't Lend Cards Except to Close Friends

This is another obvious one but I've seen people loan cards to near-complete strangers who asked. I can never understand this as the card owner assumes all risk and gains nothing but someone's gratitude (at best) and at worst gets back damaged cards or nothing.

There's another challenge when it comes to lending cards to friends. You need to protect your own investment but should something go wrong it can be difficult to bring it up. My friends know they can borrow whatever they need from me, but if the cards get damaged or stolen they have to replace them or "buy them" at TCG Mid prices.

This eliminates my personal risk and allows them to play the decks they want to. They also don't charge me for gas and split prizes or cover my entry fee to show their appreciation for me fronting them the cards they need.

Don't Keep Cards in Your Car's Back Seat

The safest place in your car is the trunk. Having cards or bags in the back seat, visible to anyone who walks by, is just an indicator that there is "money" in the car and encourages people to do a quick smash-and-grab for some easy money.

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David Schumann

David started playing Magic in the days of Fifth Edition, with a hiatus between Judgment to Shards. He's been playing Commander since 2009 and Legacy since 2010.

View More By David Schumann

Posted in Finance, Free Insider, Trading

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5 thoughts on “Insider: Dos and Donts of Safe Trading

  1. With Lending, I let anyone and everyone borrow cards, however They give me collateral worth at least 1 1/2 times worth what they are borrowing and I take a picture of them on my phone of the cards lent and the cards for collateral. I have never been ripped off because its always a loss for them and a gain for me.

    1. This is perfectly reasonable and a solid idea…as long as the stuff you get in collateral is actually worth it…and what I mean is…I wouldn’t lend someone a $100 card and take 150x $1 cards as collateral.

  2. Great article with excellent points! We spend so much time amassing a collection or cardboard investment portfolio, which will do us absolutely no good if it is stolen. My Magic collection is THE reason that I got renters insurance. In addition to keeping a running list of the cards in my collection (which Trader Tools has been fantastic for!), I also document each trade or new card I acquire by taking a picture of it on my phone. I will then upload the pictures to my googledrive folder dedicated to insurance documentation. I figure it can’t hurt to have a list (w/ quantities & values) PLUS photo evidence.

    I also find that the young kids at my LGS are somewhat oblivious to the potential threat of theft (i.e. leaving decks/deck boxes unattended at the table, lending out cards to ANYBODY, bringing a traveling suitcase full of trade binders, etc.). I find that it doesn’t hurt to politely remind them that they should be more careful (and how to go about doing so) Raising awareness in the community benefits EVERYONE! Heaven forbid that they were to have something stolen. The community would lose players, the LGS would likely be seen as a place that isn’t safe to hang out at, and possible suspicions may arise. The entire community would be hurt. Vigilance and awareness is crucial to deterring theft, so spread the word!

    1. Yep…I was one of those niave players once (way back when I was a kid) and after spending months trading up to eventually getting an Urza’s Rage (which at the time of Invastion was a $10-15 card and the “jewel” of my collection) my whole binder got stolen as I went to the bathroom. I also lent out a full Psychatog Deck to a local player for states a year or so later and the person “lost it” (and yes it included 4x Polluted Deltas)

  3. If someone is willing to trade “good enough” to get something they will know what they want, and won’t have an issue if you need an hour to go get it. All you have to do is ask!

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