Pressing Pause On Puca

By: Cliff Daigle

I am pausing in the quest for another Gaea’s Cradle.

Like many people on PucaTrade, I’m a big fan of trading my current Standard cards at full value in order to work towards a larger-value card.

I’ve sent off random stuff that no one in their right mind would ever take in full value towards the Cradle. A playset of Kabira Evangel? New Drana, Liberator of Malakir back when it was at $17? Solid all the way around.

I was about to start sending off my leftover fetch lands when I saw on Twitter that people are buying PucaPoints at the rate of $0.67 per 100 points, or $67 for 10,000 points.

Now I’m quite concerned and I don’t think I am going to be a part of this economy for a little while.

PucaTrade has always allowed people to buy points from them, at the cost of $1 for 100 points, a very easy and direct conversion rate. Their card prices are usually within a few percentage points of MTGPrice’s Fair Trade Price, though they have their own system for establishing that value.

For example, Flooded Strand has a price here of $22.54, while it’s 2156 points on Puca. Seems legit enough, right?

If you have an Uncommon or Rare-level account, you can transfer PucaPoints to other users. This is useful if you want to advertise a bonus for Expeditions lands, or something along those lines. It also allows you to post on assorted social media that your points can be bought, and that is where I start getting concerned.

Let’s go back to Gaea’s Cradle, as it’s been a target of mine for a while.

It’s currently got a FTP of $182, and is worth 17336 PucaPoints. This is the magic and the promise of PucaTrade, because I could trade about 8 Flooded Strands from Khans of Tarkir for one Cradle and I would do that in a heartbeat. Puca has an issue of needing to wait for someone to decide to mail out that Cradle, but that’s not the focus today.

The possible trade of eight Strands for the Cradle presumes that everything is of equal value, but when cash is introduced, the values start to skew.

Let’s look deeper at the Cradle. It’s buylisting for $118 at best, and eBay auctions are closing at about $120, with some variation on condition or bidding wars. That’s very close to 66% of the card’s value when it comes to cash, and that’s in line with expectations. We accept that retail value in a trade is not the same as cash value, and it’s why you should generally run away from people who want to price your cards at buylist.

To a casual player, Puca’s philosophy is that you are getting full value, but if you can buy points at this rate (and it may have farther to fall!) then you won’t be getting the full return. This level of availability for points makes me very nervous. It’s inflationary, and I’m going to leave it to people more versed in economics to explain the cycle and the problems.

The short version is this: If I’m paying full price in trade, I am worried that someone is swooping in and paying two-thirds of its value. I don’t want to be part of this economy, especially if the points start to lower further in cash value.

I’m not calling for the end of PucaTrade. I’m saying that this trend of cash affecting the Puca economy as something that makes me very worried.

It’s true that this is more about my perception, my feelings, my concerns. Cash has always had a warping effect on the Magic economy, and points being sold for two-thirds of their value makes the Puca economy the same as eBay or TCGPlayer or buylists.

From the other end, though, I can’t argue with the value. If you want to acquire cards for less than retail, you’re going to have to pay cash. Buying points is a very easy way to get the points you want without a lot of the legwork.

It seems like such a hassle to me, though. Going back to the Cradle example, I’d need to spend about $120 to get the points I need, and then I have to wait. There’s only three people who want the nonfoil as of this writing, and only one person has the points and the desire for the judge foil version.

Wouldn’t it be easier to just hit up eBay at that point? If I want to spend the cash, then I should be able to get what I want that much faster.

I’ve never pretended to be a big-dollar spender. In fact, I’m quite the opposite. I try hard not to buy singles. It’s not hard for me to think that I spend less on Magic that any of the writers here. I have to say that PucaTrade’s model has been a great one for me, and I would hate to see it be warped and changed.

It’s entirely possible that I’m overthinking this. The sky isn’t falling, but I don’t like the look of the clouds. Please, add a comment below and tell me why I’m right or why I’m wrong.


25 thoughts on “Pressing Pause On Puca”

  1. #pucaFlation has been building ever since their growth spurt last year. This issue results from too many points being created and no way to remove points from the system. Feel free to contact me to discuss @jtempkin on twitter

  2. I don’t really see it as being all that much different than buying and selling directly.

    If I’m lucky I can find someone to buy my cards from me at full value. It happens, but realistically I’ll end up selling at a discount. Before Puca I was regularly clearing out cards at 65-70% value to a LGS that I had a good relationship with, or 80% for regular Joe player.

    So NOW, if I Pucatrade those same cards, I get full value, minus shipping costs, which I keep around 8%. It’s easier to move the cards, and I end up moving more cards I would have never listed for cash sale.

    If I want to get cash out of my Puca account to cover expenses, I sell some off. I can usually get $0.75/100 on my points. I know they sell cheaper, but I find the closer to $0.70/100 (or lower) the quicker they sell. Same as local cash deals, the lower I sell, the faster they sell.

    Also, since I started puca 4-5 months ago, the “general” buying rate hasn’t really moved much. $0.70/100 seems pretty solidly entrenched.

    So to me it’s just a natural extension.

  3. I have to agree with Neil here. You said it yourself when you said that Cash value on cards is different than trade value, as it is the same principle. Puca Points have an intrinsic trade value for cards, and a cash out option to stores that need to make money off of buying your points. Inflation is a scary prospect, but I don’t think the value of Puca Points are going anywhere, and the fact that stores are buying Puca Points should strengthen its case. Interesting points nevertheless, and maybe being bullish on Pucatrade would be unwise for the time being, but I’m not abandoning the website at all.

  4. I’m having almost the exact opposite issue trying to move the Cradle I want to turn liquid (or into snapcasters). Lots of insulting lowballers or people who are interested but want to match value in just-above-bulk. Not touching puca atm myself.

  5. I also agree with Neil and have commented as such in previous articles on this subject.

    Everybody wants to complain about people converting points to dollars … but how is that any different than turning a card you got for a great price and then trading that card for “full value”? Let’s say I pick up a MM15 Goyf for 80 bucks from my buddy who just pulled it from a pack that cost him 12 bucks … so now he paid 12 dollars which he converted to 80 and in turn I convert the card to 15k PP …where can I go buy 15k PP for 12 bucks? It appears to me that everybody worrying about the PP resale market pays no mind to the fact that the market moves healthily in both directions. There is a balance and it finds itself naturally via infinite currency exchanges- Dollars> cards> points>dollars – profit and loss exists along every step of the cycle. The doom and gloom outlook over simply re-converting points to dollars is just narrow minded- it’s a small microcosmic view of a large and fluctuating market.

    small example of PP bringing full dollar value- Last week I successfully traded 65k PP for 3 sealed booster packs- Arabian nights, Legends and Antiquities. Score.

    1. “There is a balance and it finds itself naturally via infinite currency exchanges- Dollars> cards> points>dollars – profit and loss exists along every step of the cycle.”

      Not sure what you mean here. Imagine what would happen to the market if PT gave all users a million points tomorrow.

      This is obviously an extreme, but it gets you thinking about how the market can be destroyed by excess amounts of currency. And that’s what PT is generating.

    2. sick booster trade, brock

      agree that concern around pp cash value is overblown and generally does not take the entire chain of value creation into account. like you said, a $12 pack becomes an $80 goyf becomes 150k puca points. each of those price points are differently appealing to different people, and imo puca is just one more way to play the mtg arbitrage subgame

  6. WHOA there Cowboy… the world isn’t collapsing, pigs aren’t flying, and snowballs aren’t gathering in little piles in hell.

    Trading Magic cards, since I started in 1994, has ALWAYS been “the book value of that Tundra is $7. I’ll trade you a Shivan and a Clone for it, that’s about $7 book value”.
    “How about cash?”
    “I’ll give you five bucks for it cash”

    Cash has ALWAYS always ALWAYS been a differential in trading magic cards. It was almost considered like a “tax” if you wanted to “cash out” your cards. With TCG, Facebook, and other places where you can sell cards for just-under-retail, all of a sudden we can act like retailers, and it’s changed the game from what it’s always been.

    As a matter of fact, at my first Gen Con I ever went to (like 95 or 96 I think), my broke 15 (or 16) year old self brought with me a butt-ton of dual lands, shivans, djinns, doppleganers, etc… all the stuff that was the rage at the time. NOBODY in their right mind would have traded me a Mox or a Lotus for what I had, unless I gave them like 150% value.

    I took my cards and traded into things I knew I could flip into cash at vendors for virtually the same price. I’d then walk around with cash in hand, and trade with people, occasionally offering some cash to get a good deal. I’d buy $7 book cards for $5, and be happy with it. I’d take that $7 book card, trade some of them into other cards, and go get my full-cash value out of them from the right vendor. Rinse & repeat, and I came home with fewer cards, but one of them was a Lotus.

  7. I think someone either on this site or another mtg finance site wrote a great article on this subject before.
    Pucatrade 100% Trade Guarantee is the culprit of this inflation. Everytime activates this guarantee and is resolved, Pucatrade both parties the buyer and seller will receive full points for the trade, thereby creating points out of thin air and doubling the amount of in the system for this trade. 1 trade is not a big deal, but the aggregation of all of these cases will result in endless inflation and devaluation of Pucapoints to the dollar.

    1. Apparently the 100% trade guarantee is not a thing. I’ve looked for language on the website that explains the guarantee but have not been able to find it. There was a discussion on Reddit a while ago about this and the admin Wizard37 said that the trade guarantee was more like some kind of favor if I understood correctly. Here is the thread for further reading:

      1. the trade guarantee does absolutely nothing to compound this situation. the trade guarantee goes into effect ONLY if there is proof of tracking. it’s not some willy-nilly insurance program. Additionally- again- PucaPoints DO NOT exist with a finite cap on quantity in the systen so there is no difference in somebody actually being awarded the guarantee and somebody simply purchasing PucaPoints outright. when points are purchased via Puca it’s not like that dollar amount goes into a bank vault to regulate the value ofeach individual point out there. Dust off your brains.

      2. then how come I just got them to credit me on a deal with no tracking? gave both of us our full points

      3. I’ve sent and received over 1million points on PucaTrade…at that volume, shit will occasionally get lost. In every instance, both parties received their points. If you think that I am a troll, im akfoxmtg on Puca. Just send a message and I’ll send you all the screenshots you can handle.

      4. “the trade guarantee goes into effect ONLY if there is proof of tracking.”

        This is straight-up wrong.

        “Additionally- again- PucaPoints DO NOT exist with a finite cap on quantity in the systen so there is no difference in somebody actually being awarded the guarantee and somebody simply purchasing PucaPoints outright.”

        Except as PucaPoints fall in price in the informal market, fewer people will buy PucaPoints directly from the site, so one can imagine an equilibrium here.

        The trade guarantee has no associated equilibrium with its use, which is why I identified it as a major culprit in my article.

      5. that may be true Peter. In my research that is the way it’s supposed to work. I’ve had quite a few packages lost along the way and none of them were credited.

        Regardless of how many points get bought from the site- The goods we trade maintain their value via multiple other mediums. There is ALWAYS a cost to convert currency. Go to your bank tomorrow and attempt to trade your dollars into ANY other currency in the world- you will never get a 1:1 ratio- ever. It’s the same for Puca Points; we purchase cards, packs and collections at all different levels of profit and loss and then convert them either to real dollars via buy lists or ebay or to Pucapoints. Now we basically have a large market of points vendors looking to undersell the site to get an opportunity to convert all their points back into dollars. Obviously there will be a cost to convert this currency which will reflect the risk involved in buying points from a user. What would ever cause somebody to take the risk of a third party dollars/points transactiom when the site sells points? It would have to come at a discount or else most folks just stick with the safe route. Now, just because some person decides to take a loss for the conversion on their points it doesn’t mean that the points themselves are worth less it just means that there is a price to convert.

      6. Regarding the Trade Guarantee – I have activated this on two separate occasions. Once when a card was damaged by a mail sorter. Both myself and my trading partner were granted full points. A second time I sent cards that were claimed to never be received (no tracking involved). Both times there was simply a verbal warning to both parties about sending/packaging whatever correctly and a disclaimer saying “we may not always grant points in these scenarios”

  8. They have credited me for a lower value trade that did not make it to its destination as well. Tracking is only required for higher value trades (I believe $50+) if you are taking the trade “guarantee” into consideration.

  9. I had bad experience and was totally disappointed with Pucatrade and stopped being active there. I was wrongly accused of opening a double account and got suspended tmeporarily. None of the administrators even bothered to response to my appeal.

  10. Personally I feel like this article brings up a non-issue. I’m not saying there could never arise a problem with the PucaTrade economy but we’re nowhere close to that at this point (and it’s in the best interest of those who run the site to keep it from ever having such a problem). The availability of 100 PucaPoints for 60 to 70 cents is not an issue when you consider that the alternative is to buylist your cards for less than 50% of their value or bulk them out at 10 cents for a rare. I’ve been able to trade out over $6000 worth of cards via PucaTrade that would have otherwise gathered dust in storage boxes or been sold for bulk. I’ve been able to complete several decks in all formats (Standard, EDH, Modern, Legacy, etc) because of PucaTrade. This is why PucaTrade will continue to remain the best way to trade Magic cards – I suspect it will remain so for years to come. There is no better alternative.

    1. But obviously people don’t want to use PT to trade bulk for other bulk – they want to trade their bulk into valuable staples. And as the price of PPs declines, those valuable staples – much more liquid than bulk – become more-attractive to trade through sites other than PT. And then people who are trying to trade bulk into valuable staples will have to deal with longer and longer waits. And at some point you’ll give up.

  11. I looked a Puca Trade last year when I first heard about it. Then I realized ho w much work I would have to go through to get my cards up on the site. Just doing my rares and valuable uncommons. My collection was tiny compared to allot of traders out there. I heard it was free. That’s what made me consider it. Just remember his nothing is “free”. Puca’s way of making money is buy getting you to buy the points for cash. Someone ALWAYS HAS TO MAKE MONEY and they will make it off of your cards. So if your 500 points short of that awesome card you pay $3.35 for the extra points and get the card. If 100 people do the same thing then your looking at $335.00. You get the idea. In other words the only way to get 100% card value is to trade person to person. Every trade management site or service wants their piece of your card’s value. Local game stores, Ebay, Puca, etc etc etc all find away to get your card at less then value. Eventually places like Facebook will find a way to get your money too. To me, trying to make money off of magic cards is like gambling at a casino. The only person who makes money in the end is the casino (Wizards of the Coast).

  12. Hooooooly crap people, for heaven sake…

    Let me put it to you guys simply:

    When you sell Pucapoints for cash, you are selling cards (those points) at buylist prices.

    When you buy Pucapoints for cash, you are receiving cards (those points) at buylist prices.

    It’s as simple as that. It’s going to go up and down and settle at some number. Seasons will change and the price will too, but it’s very simple:

    Johnny is sitting there thinking “I have a date Friday night… do I want more magic cards for my deck, or do I want to take her to a nice restaurant? I know which I want…”

    Johnny can:
    a) Sell Pucapoints at $.67 or whatever price there is, or…
    b) Sell pieces of his old Standard deck for $0.50-$0.70 on the dollar.

    Same story, sky is not falling, it’s just another market.

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