Trading Up [ MTG trading ]by Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
If you are anything like me, you have entirely too many cards. You likely don’t intend on having that many cards and limit your purchasing to those cards you do want. But, every time you draft, play Sealed, get handed a random pack, or receive one as a gift you likely find 1 or 2 cards you actually want to play with…and a bunch of other ones that you have no intention on playing with EVER.
Now, this colleting of cards isn’t a bad thing. In fact it can enable you to do all sorts of other fun things like make Battleboxes, Stinky Cubes, draft packs to practice with, or fun casual decks. Casual players, such as myself, LIVE for these random extra cards. However, even I have a limit for how many of these cards I am prepared to keep and what I intend to do with them.
One of my prime issues, like most of us, is storage. Where do you PUT all these cards that start to pile up? You start with boxes, of course, but eventually, once your collection continues to grow with expansion after expansion your boxes fill up and then they start multiplying. Soon you are not looking at a box or two, but numerous boxes, full of cards you just aren’t prepared to play. This can be a huge issue. Some players are students and don’t have the ability to store loads of cards. Others move addresses regularly as they bounce from place to place meaning that they need to also pack all their cards with them. Some of us just have a finite amount of space in which to store our cards. So what is a player to do?
The obvious solution is to try and package up a large number of your cards and trade them for something. This usually means one or two more valuable cards, if you can muster it. This is what I think of as trading up. I trade a large number of less valuable cards for a smaller number of more valuable cards. This is extremely difficult to do, in no small part because most players aren’t looking for less valuable cards when you walk into a shop with a collection of traders. Most people are there looking for bigger ticket items. Fetch lands, Shock lands, Modern staples, Standard Staples, weird odds and sods and really anything else that is obscure. It’s just a tough process.
One strategy I’ve adopted is using the Buylist for a local game store (or Three Kings Loot) and selling cards that I am not currently playing back to the store. Sure, you take a hit on the relative value, but the alternative is that they sit in a box and collect dust. At least this way I can recoup some sort of value, even if it is Store Credit (which I know I will use to acquire more cards later). This is a form of trading up because you can use the accumulated credit to pick up one or two bigger ticket items that you are looking for. Some people would never sink to this level, but to players on a budget it is a viable approach to trading up.
However, even with this relative thinning of your collection, you STILL likely have too many cards and not nearly enough credit. There is a limit to how much a store is willing to keep on hand and so you will undoubtedly still be looking to rent a storage locker soon for those ever growing piles.
So, what alternatives exist once you’ve gone to the local store and scoured their buylist? One route is to go to the bulk buyers who will give you a few dollars for a 1000 cards. Depending on what the going rate is you and how many cards you have available is what ultimately determines how much you get in return, but let me assure you it is a fraction for what those cards would cost you to BUY on the secondary market. Many basic commons cost between 5 and 10 cents a card…multiplied by a thousand cards and you are looking at a sizeable loss to you. Think about it…it would cost you $0.15 to buy an Ainok Tracker from Khans of Tarkir from Three Kings Loot, just as a random example. If all the cards in your box of 1000 cards would be worth roughly the same on the secondary market logic would dictate that your box is worth close to $150. However the bulk purchaser will give you a couple of dollars…let’s say for arguments sake for your box of random commons and uncommons…$10 (which is likely more than you are likely to see in my neck of the woods) for your box. On one hand, you’re pleased because you just scored $10, but on the flip side you have potentially taken a loss of $140 on your cards! Ouch! I have seen people posting on Kijiji and other similar websites that they are looking to sell their cards because privately hoping for a better return than from a bulk buyer, and who can blame them. However, let’s be real, the chance that someone will grab their collection is quite low. So…if you’re losing a healthy chunk of change on your box of cards, what else can you do?
I recently found a site that might interest many of you, particularly the casual crowd who might be looking for some esoteric cards or to clear out a pile of random stuff. For you competitive or financial types, this may not float your boat, but you might want a look too. Pucatrade seems to be gaining steam as a pretty legit way to trade and receive cards. It’s pretty easy to use and I have found that it is a great way to assist in the process of thinning out your cards.
It’s really quite ingenious because Pucatrade eliminates the haggling over the relative value of cards and currencies by essentially assigning a point value to each card based a number of financial websites they monitor. Once you have a profile you can see what cards people are looking for and send them the cards they want in exchange for their points. On the other end, people are able to see what you want and then trade you the cards you want in exchange for your points. So, you can trade 20 or 30 lousy cards to people and collect a fairly sizeable number of points and in return get one quality card that you intend to play with.
Now wait a second Bruce, I can hear people say, what about postage? Yes, you will need to pay the postage and maybe that is a deal breaker for you. However, think of it like this, you know that same 1000 card pile of randomness that you were selling for $10? Yeah, that one. You were losing roughly $140 dollars on it anyway! So instead of just losing that value, why not use that $140 sunk cost and use it to cover the postage of mailing out the cards and eek a little more value from the cards? You’d be surprised about what people are looking for out there in the world and that some of those janky cards you’ve had in a box since Lorwyn might interest someone out there and in return net you that sweet treat you were looking for some other deck.
Does it work? If the goal is to trade a bunch of commons and uncommons and in return pick up higher end things, I feel I’ve managed to start the process reasonably well. I have moved over 100 commons and uncommons (and 1 bulk rare)…anything from a Bond Beetle to a Loyal Cathar to Mardu Skullhunter…and in return I’ve received two cards on the basis on my points. The cards I’ve received were a Dig Through Time and a Siege Rhino. If I could have traded those 100 cards for those 2 cards, I would make that trade every single day of the week. The fact that I was able to do all this with the help of Pucatrade as an intermediary is pretty neat. I also find it pretty cool that some of my cards have gone as far as the Netherlands, Argentina, and Singapore. The world of Magic just got a little bit smaller!
Now, I admit, Pucatrade and my approach may not be something that you are interested in. It does present a certain amount of drain on your resources to continually pay for postage, particularly when you are mailing about commons and uncommons. You may not agree with my assessment of the sunk cost associated with all those boxes of commons and uncommons and that’s fine too. For those of you looking to perpetually turn a profit on your trades or your sales, I’m sorry this may not be the situation with Pucatrade unless you want to wade into the end of the pool with guys shipping Fetches, Dual Lands and Legacy Staples. However, if you want to thin out your collection and trade a pile of lesser cards for a few good ones, Pucatrade could be the answer you were looking for. I am by no means pushing the site but there is a chance that some of you out there in the interweb haven’t encountered this yet, or haven’t given it a try. I’m here today to tell you that the option is available and if you want to explore it you might like the results. It certainly makes the option of legitimately trading up into a bunch of higher end treats more feasible for those of us with a big pile of steaming you-know-what sitting in a box a realistic possibility.
Thanks for reading and I would be all ears to hear from people who have tried Pucatrade or other options out there to move cards. The Internet is so big with so many options available that people don’t know about. If we can all let each other know about what’s out there and what is available (and that they aren’t big, bad and super scary) then we can help each other to get the cards people all want to play with and use as they go about their business of brewing for competitive or casual purposes.
Thanks once again and until next time keep it fun, keep it safe…keep it casual.
by Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters @bgray8791 on Twitter