Are You a Terrible Trader?

By: Cliff Daigle

I imagine that most of the people reading this have, at some point, carried around a binder full of unneeded Magic cards and have traded some of those cards for other cards which you did need.

Ideally, you found a partner, both of you found some cards you wanted, you agreed on values, one of you added or took away from the pile, there was an agreement, perhaps a handshake, and you both walked away happy. That is how most trades go. It’s why I love trading! I get rid of what I don’t want and get what I do want!

Unfortunately, as much as it pains me to say it, trading Magic cards with someone else can also really suck.

Let’s talk about some of the behaviors that can not only make a trade difficult to complete, and in some cases, can prevent people from trading at all.

If these are behaviors that you exhibit, don’t worry, I’ll help you change your terrible ways.


Symptom #1

You have lots of cards in your binder that are not for trade. 

So if you’re ever been flipping through a binder and you see something you’re interested in, you should ask about its availability. It’s okay if that card is not going to be part of a trade…to a point. I can understand if you are thinking of building a deck, or it has sentimental value, or some other reason it’s not for trade. But please, please, please, I beg you, don’t keep them mixed in with the cards you do want to trade. About the third time you tell me something isn’t for trade, I want to slam your binder closed and hurl myself through a window.

I will still respect you if you don’t want to trade that card for the measly pickings in my binder. I’m an adult. I can handle being told “There’s nothing in here I’d trade my foil fetches for.” That’s perfectly acceptable. That’s honest and clear. Don’t use “That’s not for trade” as a euphemism for your lack of interest.

The cure: Get a different binder, and put the special cards in it. It’ll be up to you if you want to bring that binder around. Turn the special cards upside down, or put them all in the last page of the binder behind a spacer page, clearly marked as NFT.

Symptom #2

You don’t look up prices or get impatient with those who do.

Though I’ve been writing here for a while, I don’t have every price of every card memorized. Therefore, I look up prices! I imagine almost all of you do. But if you did bother to memorize every price in Origins in time for the prerelease, don’t expect me to take you at your word. Prices change, people want to be sure, and if you’re in a hurry to close a deal it can look awfully shady.

Generally speaking, people are cool with trade partners checking a price on their phone but I’ve met some who aren’t, and that’s someone I don’t want to make a deal with.

The cure: Learn to be patient. Even professionals have to be patient when dealing with amateurs. Understand that no one wants to be taken advantage of.

Symptom #3

You fixate on one card.

The worst offender in this category is the person at your LGS who fancies himself the next great financier by only trading for fetchlands right now. You want his Obelisk of Urd, he picks out your Polluted Delta, and then it’s off to headache-land because he won’t consider small trades. It’s really easy to burn someone at your store by being relentless about these things, and you have to remember that you are making an impression with every interaction.

It’s fine if you need that Polluted Delta and the Obelisk is the starting point, but needlessly escalating a trade is something that will turn everyone off from you rather quickly.

The cure: Be okay with small trades. Recognize that you’re building valuable friendships. The Delta might not be traded today, but there’s always tomorrow.

Symptom #4

You try to set up both sides of the trade.

Let’s go back to that guy’s Obelisk and your Delta. You say “You don’t have enough that I want to trade away the Delta,” a perfectly reasonable statement. He says, “don’t be silly. I will add a playset of Hero’s Downfall and now it’s a dollar in your favor! Are we good?”

Did you ask for the Hero’s Downfalls? If you didn’t ask for that card, why is he proposing this? If you’ve ever worked at a restaurant, you know that the chef’s special is something that is about to go bad and the kitchen needs to get rid of it. In this case, the Downfalls are about to rotate out and it sees almost no Legacy/Modern play. This guy is trying to move cards he knows are going bad for a card that has nowhere to go but up.

The cure: Let people decide what they want. You’re allowed to propose things, especially if you’ve established that there’s a certain deck being built. Don’t offer cards they don’t need just because the numbers theoretically line up. You’ll build a reputation as a shark and someone to avoid.

Speaking of people to avoid…

Symptom #5

You have ever been a ‘Value Trader.’

There have been more than a few infamous people who wear this label with glee. Because you have a card someone else wants, you feel privileged enough to ask for more than that card’s value. This is much more than asking for a markup when trading your dual land for their Collected Companies and Siege Rhinos. This runs a wide range of behaviors, from the slight one of always making sure your side of a trade is $3-$5 more, to the extreme, of putting their values at buylist while yours are full retail.

I’m sure you have a thorough rationalization as to why it’s okay for you to do this. The worst excuses are that you can get any card; that you are the one people come to for all sorts of cards. Maybe you’re trying for a pack to power, or whatever goal you have. Maybe you trade cards as a business to pay your rent.

I would probably sit through it and then excuse myself. Who will trade with you twice when you do such unfair things? I’d rather deal with actual buylists than your amateur behavior.

The Cure: Understand that at this moment, everyone’s cards have value. Theirs are not worth less just because it is currently in their binder. You are not a special and unique snowflake who gets to rip people off. Learn to trade for future value, and grow your binder that way instead of making uneven trades today.

22 thoughts on “Are You a Terrible Trader?”

  1. I swear, I read an almost identical article a few months ago…

    Nevertheless, I agree with everything but the looking stuff up on the phone. If you need a card from someone and he needs a card of you, this can be a killer. I know the value of the stuff in my binder more or less and if it feels kind of fair, I trade (like a Sundering Titan + Solemn Simulacron for a Temple of Enlightment, Temple of Malice and Gideon [the Justice guy]… I don’t even know who came out ahead in this, but we both got what we wanted). I once wanted to trade with someone who needed a Thespian’s Stage for a I-don’t-remember. He took out his phone and wanted to even out the ~0,10€ and I left.

    1. You and me speak the same wordsounds.
      Unless you consider every coke you buy, every chocolate bar, with the same tightness as your trades, maybe you can give me a little value if we both take away cards we need and leave behind some others that we dont.

      In the real world, I will say “Hey dude! Nice to meet you. Here, have a beer.” And hand you…a beer. Yes, FOR FREE. Because sometimes, in life, you cant be a pennypinching dicknerd.

      And there are so many people with their 9 foiled thoughtseizes page who would intepret this behaviour as “Total noob comes and gives me free Unglued basics. And i lived happily ever after.”


      Damn you!

      I was tapping moxes when you were wearing underpants with built in toilets.

      1. Everything about this comment made me laugh. Well done. And yes, people need to be less pennypinching dicknerds(my new favorite term).

    2. Your example sounds like a ridiculous extreme to me. Of course that is obnoxious but most people aren’t going to act like that. 10c is never worth trying to ‘even up’. The point is that if you don’t know the values of cards, it’s perfectly acceptable to check. But not that every trade has to be even to the cent.

      I will frequently make trades ($10-$20) and if we get within a few dollars I’m perfectly happy.

      1. You should come to my store some time. We have several people who moan about 5 cent differences in your favor, but are more than happy to rip off the new players for fifty dollars or more.

        And I am not being hyperbolic. I tried to trade with on who wanted to “even” out a trade that was a nickle in my favor. Bloody well ridiculous.

      2. At my store there are definitely people that on a $10-20 trade, will go back to your folder to even up the $0.50 difference so it’s in their favor. I avoid those traders

    3. The problem here is not really looking up prices though, it’s wanting to even out ~0,10€. That’s just ridiculous and I will probably walk away from anyone who does that, unless I really need their card.

  2. As a recently returned dinosaur, i really appreciate you writing this, and hope some of the young things out there take heed.

    Im……an “ex nerd”, who blossomed. Its so cute to see the Lords of Lunchboxes get their cardboard swagger on in the playground they now own….but out here in the real, grown up world…..i just try to keep my social network full of….nondicks. I come back to my smelly, nerdy LGS and take a holiday from growduptown.

    And i see a lot of impressed faces at my binder (darling, i not only opened FoW’s, i used them in Lord of the Rings. The book. As a bookmark. THEY WERE AN UNCOMMON!!!!

    This time around, i return, and start chasing parts for my first, home brew, modern killer deck.

    I see the sharky smirks, ensure prices are checked, and think “This is an ego shark, not a value shark….” since trades come out very nice and clean. Im thrilled, moving stuff with zero value to me, to get pieces i can use.

    His mates turn comes. Folder pages flip. Eyes broaden. Muddy old artifacts and crazy packripped foils dodge falling saliva and lower mandibles. Another sweet round completes.

    He susses out what his mate got from the old badger. And what he traded. “Oh the Congretations, for a company brew eh…”

    Me: “Nah, not specifically….”

    We get to chatting together, and he tells his mate how they just “spiked” by a dollar or two.

    To be honest, i was not even sharkaware, or suspicious, and took people on face value.

    Within less than a minute- a completed trade is changed and i have MY new qasali pridemage pulled in an instant, to “even it up”.

    Gobsmacked, i dont even bother to do anything about it, refusing to be as ****like over a dollar or two. With a moment’s more awareness, i would have reversed the entire trade, told his mate the same, and then found their nemesis and handed them a free ornithopter for kicks.

    The loss of reputational value and branding are issues that more individuals need to take heed of. I calmed myself and resolved myself to the fact that I traded that guy back his playable common, for the priceless information that “This person is a donderlinger and i would want a twenty dollar tarn from.”

    Sorry to those for whom that last joke is “too soon”
    …….. 😉

    1. Nooo! Wrecked myself!!! Edit above last couple of lines:

      “….WOULDN’T want a twenty dollar tarn from…”

      Bad day.

  3. One other item I would add to the list is the same guy who fancies himself the master financier deciding to act as the unofficial overseer of every trade made in the store. There is a group of college kids who I draft with fairly often who we will often trade away our pickings after playing. Trades are usually a buck or two in either ways favor because we know that next week we probably will gain back the small amount of value we lost this night. Ever week we have the same “expert” telling us how unwise it is to let even let a few bucks go to waste. Every time a trade is done he will try to lecture the “losing side” about what they did wrong and how they should have pushed for more. He will even give us a letter grade on our trades when he’s feeling extra perky.

    The guy is a joke and then expects us to help him with his own P2P project, which as soon as we discovered he was doing it united to no contributing to his adventure.

  4. Good article. I had a trade a few weeks ago at Origins Pre-Release that bothered me a bit. I wanted a couple copies of ensnaring bridge this younger gent had and as he was going through my binder he stopped on the lands and started removing all my fetches (Tarkir). After the 5th one I had to stop him and say I’m sorry but I wont trade away all my lands for the bridges. He replied well that’s all i’m interested in and it concluded our deal. I know I should remove all the cards I want to trade from my binder and set them aside. Was I wrong for cancelling the trade?

    1. I don’t think you were wrong. Would you have been willing to trade one fetchland for something or were you guilty of #1? It’d perfectly reasonable to have them in your binder with the intention of trading them sparingly even if you’re not willing to trade them away en masse.

      Either way if he doesn’t want anything else and you’re not comfortable with it then the trade shouldn’t happen. He sounds like he was being kind of rude.

  5. “Because you have a card someone else wants, you feel privileged enough to ask for more than that card’s value. ”

    Nah, this is dumb. They need my card, but I don’t need anything from them – in your ideal, this means a trade cannot happen, at all. So, it’s dumb.

    For that matter I don’t even think you truly believe it, since you seem to take it as given that trading a Taiga for Rhinos would naturally involve a markup.

    1. If they need your card, but you don’t need anything from them, then you can either not trade, or find some cards they have that you’re willing to take for the card they need. Either of those seem fine. What isn’t fine is saying “my $10 card is worth $15 because everyone wants it, but your $10 cards are worth $5 because nobody wants them, so I’ll trade you 1 for 3.”

      Trading across formats is different because a card like Rhino will fluctuate over time as it becomes more/less playable in Standard and Modern, but Taiga is never going to go down. Just being the guy who is willing to trade away Legacy staples for Standard cards is a form of value on your side of the trade, and it’s fair to ask for that value back in the form of cards.

      1. I respectfully disagree. Anticipated price increases in a card should be taken into consideration; how much is to a person’s discretion. As the author pointed out, somebody offering a few Downfalls in exchange for equal TCGmid value doesn’t mean it’s a trade someone would want to do. Those Downfalls have an anticipated price trajectory, and trading for them at face TCGmid value is silly.

        Likewise, card values are not set by TCGmid. It happens to be what most people agree to during trades, but TCGmid isn’t a card-pricing authority. To each person, a card is worth whatever that person determines it’s worth. If others agree to that value, then you have the potential makings of a trade. But, if I determine that a promo Ludevic’s Test Subject is important to me for whatever reason and you want it, I see no problem with telling people that if they want it, they need to make the trade more lucrative, otherwise it’s not enough incentive for them.

        My car lost 50% of its value when it drove off the dealer lot. Does that mean I would trade it/sell it for that 50% value immediately? No, to me it’s worth more, and I wouldn’t sell it unless I was offered more—despite whether or nor the market agrees.

      2. >Anticipated price increases in a card should be taken into consideration;…, etc.

        What you actually mean is *speculated* price increase – you want a card to have more or less than it’s current ascertainable value because you and/or others *speculate* that the future price will be higher or lower.

        Nope. If you want to trade your card at a mark-up in anticipation of it’s possible future value then you are just going to have to wait for that future to happen. See Symptom #5.

        Note that you are perhaps taking the wrong lesson from the “4 Hero’s Downfall” example. The point isn’t the card’s future value but that the other side of the trade doesn’t want them – that the hypothetical individual doesn’t want them *because* they expect their price to fall is secondary.

        Further note that Reserved List cards are just plain a special case. Desirable cards on the RL have the added wrinkle that (unless/until the RL is abolished) there are not going to be any more of them printed , ever – they are a limited quantity and their price is usually extremely stable. So, taking into account limited quantity and highly stable prices, it is generally acceptable to trade RL cards at a *slight* mark-up when exchanging them for non-
        RL cards. Think of it as common stock vs. preferred stock.

  6. I’m terribly guilt of #1, but I feel bad about it, I’m embarrassed about it, and I always apologize in advance for it. That makes it okay, right? RIGHT?? Oh, it doesn’t… Damn, I really need to set aside some time to organize my binder :/

  7. I actually like people who “trade for value”, since I an somewhat impatient, “real trading” is somewhat bothersome since it can take forever to find cards we both want that line up in value, as long as I know people trade for value it basically lets me pick both sides of the deal since I know they’ll take almost any card and it’s only costing me a couple bucks of virtual moneys.

  8. I think it’s hypocritical for any magic financier to condemn “trading for value.” These financiers are the same guys who will come to your house and offer to purchase your collection for 50-75% of its value. Why should offering cards instead of cash make a difference?

    Value traders and “binder grinders” run a business, just like any other magic financier. They must make a profit to survive. If you take your cards to a booth at a GP, they offer you approximately 50-60% cash; perhaps more if you’ll take credit. This is the equivalent of trading your cards for other cards. A value trader is sometimes just a business that couldn’t afford a booth at a GP. Why, in that case, would “value trading” be a “terrible behavior”?

    1. Stores are businesses that also contribute to the community by running events, giving people a place to congregate, etc. Value traders and “binder grinders” are business people who are providing the same service as a store, but without all the other benefits. If you live someplace that doesn’t have a FLGS that sells singles, I guess you could make the agrument that the value trader contributes some value to the local scene, but the internet is still a thing, so unless this guy is providing something else (place to play, running events, buying pizza for the draft night, whatever), why willingly just give him value?

  9. In trades or the like, I go by an idea that if I give people good trades in their favor, then people will come to me more for trades rather than me having to sniff them out. Don’t get me wrong, I always get what I want, but I give them a cherry on top.

  10. Had an excellent trade today.
    Simply have alerts on my kijiji(classifieds) app for new magic listings, and a guy needed a playset of Serum Visions for his twin deck. Thanks to Sig tweeting a couple weeks ago I picked up a cheap extra, picked out three abrupt decays to complete a playset from his haves list, sent the guy a text and arranged to meet him the next day, when I was already out selling some others.

    I gained a couple dollars in the trade, both sides left happy, and hes got my number if he needs anything. It was odd because there was no pricing apps, no demands to even it out, just a quick trade that took 5 minutes out of my day. That’s why I started trading, I miss when it was that simple

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