When I've attended store events in the last year or so, I've noticed an annoying trend: nobody is trading anymore. Every time I go to a prerelease or draft, I dutifully prepare my trade binder for deal-making and pack it away in my backpack. But lately, I've been wondering if that extra time and back strain is worth the effort, considering I make zero trades at the majority of events I attend these days.
After most matches, I tend to ask my opponents if they have trades, and almost to a person, nobody even brings a binder to the LGS anymore. Those that do present mostly empty pages filled with commons and undesirable bulk rares. Perhaps it's specific to my particular shop or geographical area, but it's been persistent for some time now, and it's caused some cards to sit in my binder for longer than I would like.
You know the cards I'm talking about: ones that are a little too dinged up to go to a buylist. Cards with such a high spread that you can't justify shipping them out and resolve to trade them instead. Commons and uncommons that are a little too good to bulk out but not quite good enough to be in demand on TCGplayer or from stores. Specs that haven't quite matured yet—or maybe failed spectacularly and you just haven't admitted it. Or perhaps you have a pile of cards about which you keep repeating, "Maybe the buylist price will be higher next time around. I'll hold these and wait and see."
We've all got stuff like this. In my case, I've been downsizing my spec portfolio and collection for a while now, so the categories above comprise a pretty large portion of my inventory at the moment. At the same time, there are a bunch of cards, many of them older, that I am looking to add to my cube.
Given that the cards in my collection cannot be buylisted for acceptable prices, and I'm not finding trades locally, and even if I were, many of the cards I want are older and rarer than I could reasonably expect to find at an FNM, I'm turning my attention to a service that has been growing in popularity for some time now.
You Already Know Where I'm Going With This
I mean, I put it in the headline, so you know this article is about PucaTrade. I follow dozens of PucaTraders on Twitter, and the nearly universal feedback I see is that it's a fantastic service. I've heard some negative things, too, but I've noticed they almost always come from skeptics who haven't actually given PucaTrade a try. I've decided it's time to see for myself if this can add value to the average player's experience.
I signed up for an account more than a year ago, but have never used it before now. In logging back in, I see that there are now ways to earn free points. I did four of them right away, because they were super easy:
- Verified my account using my phone number (200 points).
- Added cards to my wants list (100 points).
- Added my shipping address (100 points).
- Uploaded an avatar (100 points).
In perusing the site (and, you know, following people on Twitter who quote Puca points for prices), I have determined that a point is worth approximately one penny in value. In other words, for those four easy tasks, I got $5 in trade credit. You're an Insider, so you don't need me to tell you that $5 in free trade credit for basically no commitment constitutes something we all love.
So I started adding stuff to my wants list, and before long, a little "ka-ching!" sounded, and my points were reduced. After being confused for a moment, I realized what had happened: somebody had committed to sending me a Tinker! Assuming this card arrives as promised, I now have gotten tangible value from PucaTrade with no monetary commitment and very little time invested. We're off to a good start.
Then another "ka-ching!" sounded, and then a third. Two more people committed to send me cards: a Desecration Demon and a Reclamation Sage (I am unsure why someone would send me a single 25-cent card when the postage costs more than the points are worth, but who am I to judge?). I was reduced to only five points when yet another person committed to sending me a Devil's Play while writing this article.
This is when I realized it was wrong to have recent cards on my wants list. I'm primarily looking for older cards, from higher-value stuff like Grim Monolith and Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary to commons like Carnophage and Wild Mongrel. Things that I can actually find in local binders, on the occasions I get to peruse them, should probably be left off of PucaTrade. Lesson learned.
Understanding the PucaWants Mechanic
It's also worth noting how the wants list works, because I was caught unaware here. If something is on your wants list, and you have the points to afford it, someone can commit to send it to you and immediately claim those points (though they don't clear until the trade is completed by the recipient). My assumption was that a fellow trader would touch base to finalize the deal, but instead, the deal is finalized purely on the basis of the card being on your wants list and having the points to pick it up.
The implications of this are that if you have a prioritized wants list, you should really only be listing the top few cards you want at a time. If I'm most anxious to get my Grim Monolith but have twenty other cards listed, there's a good chance that every time I reach the point total to afford the Monolith, another card will be shipped to me instead. This isn't a deal-breaker, but it would have been nice to know beforehand.
Updating the Haves List
So at this point, I've messed with the wants list, but if I'm really going to do PucaTrade right, it's time to worry about my haves—I need to send some cards out and earn some points, after all. After some playing around, I figured out the system: you list what you have, then PucaTrade auto-matches that with other people's wants lists.
I went through my trade binder and added everything I would be happy or at least willing to ship. I tried the auto-matching, and was dismayed to see that there wasn't a single trader who wanted more than one or two of my cards. I had envisioned finding somebody to send five or ten cards to, at least, so this was a bit of a surprise.
Though the site is fairly user-friendly, updating the haves list is where I encountered my biggest frustration: adding playsets of cards. Unfortunately, you can't do it. You have to add the card four separate times, and the site is a bit laggy in doing this. What would have taken me half an hour in Trader Tools took me an hour or more on PucaTrade.
Nevertheless, I was determined to find someone who wanted more cards at once, so I went through some of my playable commons and uncommons and picked some stuff that I'd be willing to ship. After keying this all in, I again looked at the auto-matching for sending cards.
It's still all a bunch of one-ofs. The exceptions are people who, for example, want a playset of Steam Vents, but have enough points for only one copy. There are also a few people who want playsets of a common but nothing else, meaning I'd be getting less than 100 points. This is definitely more than I was hoping or intending to pay for postage.
Let's Pause and Break It Down, Though
Okay, case study time: I've got a playset of Bump in the Nights listed, because I realized there really is no chance I will ever play B/R Burn and there is no point to me holding this card anymore.
As you can see, there is no buylist price for Bump in the Night listed on Trader Tools, and the retail price is 19 cents. I don't have a retail store, so without buylist demand, I can value this common at roughly half a penny. This playset is worth about two cents to me.
PucaTrade lists Bump in the Night at 19 points, and there happens to be a PucaTrader asking for a playset of the card. This adds up to 76 points. Subract $0.49 for a stamp and about a penny for an envelope (I have never spent a dime on top loaders but have a ton of them from cards shipped to me, so I'm not going to incorporate that cost. Many Magic players are probably in the exact same boat). That leaves a net total of 26 points/cents. It's a tiny amount, but it's also thirteen times what these cards were worth to me before PucaTrade.
And the part I like best is that I choose when to send the cards out. They don't sell from eBay and TCGplayer and require me to make time in my schedule to get to the post office. I decide when I want to do some trading, then I commit to sending out the cards. For someone who values his free time, PucaTrade is a great way to move cards one can't otherwise buylist.
So you know what? I've committed to sending those Bump in the Nights. They're low enough value that I can use a plain white envelope and a stamp, so it really is as easy as walking them out to the mailbox.
Two Things I Learned in Committing to Send My First Cards:
- New members are maxed out at ten trades until it's clear everything has gone well with them.
- Each copy of a card counts as a separate trade.
This means by sending these cards, I used four of my ten trades available.
For the purposes of my PucaResearch, I'm going to commit some higher-value stuff, too, which will (unfortunately) require me to go the post office and pay for package tracking.
There's a player who wants an Arid Mesa. I, of course, checked Trader Tools before taking any action here.
With a buy price of only $18.50, I'm not too excited about shipping this out to a buylist, but with Zendikar fetches on the decline, and with the looming possibility of a reprint in Modern Masters 2015 or elsewhere, I'm not exactly thrilled to continue holding my extra zendifetches (and this is indeed a fifth copy). Although Trader Tools lists a retail price of $29.99, PucaTrade's price is 3362 points. I've seen enough—I'm sold and committing to send this.
Using the same thought process (paired with the fact that I have a million extra copies), I committed to send a pair of Steam Vents to another player, and though I have three trades still available to me at this point, I can't really find anything worth sending. There's no way I could put together a 100 to 200 point package to go in a PWE, and the singles people want are a little too pricey to go delivery-confirmation-free, but not pricey enough to justify paying for it.
So I'll Stop at Seven for Today
I currently have four cards that I actively want being shipped to me at absolutely no cost. I am about to ship out about $60 worth of cards, which will cost me some postage and some risk of problems with the USPS or recipient, but at that point, I'll be able to start acquiring cards in earnest.
I'm torn on PucaTrade so far. It seems like it is difficult to complete large trades, and doing a higher volume of smaller trades equals a lot more postage than I really want to pay for. At the same time, I can see how turning playsets of fringe-playable commons into dollars (instead of the pennies one gets for bulking out) can add up over time.
I'm also impressed that it gives one the opportunity to get full retail value on cards that have fairly low buylist prices. If anything, that's the most appealing part of PucaTrade to me so far. Some cards just never have a low spread, and it can hurt to lose that perceived value if you can't trade them away. If PucaTrade gives me an out for those type of cards, I'll be fully on board.
You might already be a PucaExpert, but for those still on the fence, I hope this overview from a brand-new user will help you identify the pitfalls early and pick up the extra value that you so crave. Happy trading!