Conjured Currency #37: Cheating 101, The Finance Edition

As you may be aware of, a recent cheating scandal has rocked our beloved game in the most recent weeks. Trevor Humphries was suspected of (and admitted to in a subsequent Facebook rant) cheating  at the SCG Open in Worcester, and the well-known Alex Bertoncini got thrown in the cell for another three years.

As I sat back and watched the community raise their pitchforks, I was saddened that people still have to resort to trying to game the system to obtain an unfair advantage. In the back of my mind, however, I thought for an instant (naively and stupidly, I know), “I’m so glad I switched to the finance game so I don’t have to deal with people cheating and lying to obtain an unfair advantage.” That thought bubble lasted for about two seconds before I realized that our finance game is no exception to the rule. We hear horror stories all the time of stores cancelling orders after a card spikes, as well as brag stories of, “Yo, I traded this 12-year-old a [card]Shivan Dragon[/card] for his [/card]Rishadan Port[/card] that his dad gave him. We both were happy with the deal, so it was totally fair, duuuude.” Neither of those are exactly the same thing as stacking an opponent’s deck during a match worth thousands of dollars, but I think we can agree that there’s a degree of scumbaggery in it all.

This week I’m gonna take advantage of the fact that everyone’s mind is focused on ethics and behavior for the moment, and take a look at some “Finance 101” dos and don’ts in order to avoid garnering a bad reputation (and to avoid being a jerk without realizing it). I recognize that everyone has their own ethical line in the sand, so if you disagree with my logic then feel free to leave a comment explaining your side of the argument.

Ship Your Damn Orders

If you’re relatively new to the world of Magic finance (well, you don’t even have to care about finance to have experienced this), then you might have had the following situation happen to you at some point: you order a playset of a card ([card]Master of Waves[/card], [card]Dig Through Time[/card], take your pick) off of a website like TCGplayer, only to get an email in the next couple of days that states that your order has been canceled. Some stores will use the reasoning of, “Our system wasn’t able to adjust our inventory in time,” and sometimes that’s true. Crystal Commerce often lags behind by five or ten minutes after a transaction on one site (e.g., eBay), and the inventory doesn’t change on TCGplayer until it’s too late. Other times, the store just uses that as an excuse to not send you the card, then just relists it at a higher price.

You might save 20 or 30 dollars by reslisting your [card]Dig Through Time[/card]s at $15 a piece instead of $4, but you’d best be prepared for the scathing negative reviews that customers will leave after getting shafted. If you’re not worried about that, be aware that TCGplayer has been cracking down hard on sellers who don’t ship, and you can have your account canceled, as failing to ship violates the terms and agreements you signed up for when you registered as a seller on their website.

Don’t Burn Your [card]Trade Routes[/card]

This will probably be a much more hotly debated topic than the previous “obvious” tip. If I get asked to flip through a kid’s dusty, beat up, three-ring binder filled with bulk rares and old stuff from the 1990s that was a present from his dad, I’m going to pull out that [card]Rishadan Port[/card], [card]Deserted Temple[/card], or any other card, and tell my trade partner what they’re worth (assuming that he or she doesn’t already know). If he’s a casual player, he probably would have been more than happy to dig through my box of $.25 rares, pull out five or ten cards, and call it even. Though “both parties are happy,” I don’t feel comfortable doing that. Even if he’s willing to take bulk rares and dragons, make it worth his while and let him take cards until the value is as even as possible.

This topic came up rather recently in a debate on a Facebook thread regarding Alternate 4th Edition cards, and accepting your trade partner treating them as regular cards. I’m taking Corbin’s side here, because I would much rather remove asymmetric information from an open trade than have my trade partner look at that [card]Rishadan Port[/card] online when he gets home and realize that he got scumbagged. Keep your trade channels open and mutually beneficial (for real), and the whole “friendship/respect/repeat customer” thing is going to follow.

Personal Grading

I sleeve every card I own that’s worth at least $1 TCGplayer mid, and I try to keep up-to-date labels on the sleeves with a Sharpie. I jot a little “sp,” “mp,” or “hp” on the sleeve to keep track of conditions, or use abbreviations like “jp” and “chi” for languages. If you’ve ever sold cards at a grand prix, many stores will instinctively trust you on grading simply because of the large volumes that are moved at once. They don’t have time to unsleeve everything and check every little imperfection on your $3 [card]Beastmaster Ascension[/card]s to see if they should knock off $.50. When I sold my [card]Caged Sun[/card]s at Richmond after the spike, the vendor scooped all of them up without even counting, trusting my number. I had expected him to double check their condition, so I had to stop and mention that two of the Suns were pretty beat up. A vendors’ job can be extremely tiring and chaotic over the weekend, so try and help them out by pointing out your own cards’ imperfections, and not tricking them into overpaying for played cards.

Most dealers that buy bulk rares do so as long as the cards are all NM and English. While I was in Philadelphia (yes, I only get to go to a couple of grands prix a year, so all of my stories involve Richmond and Philly at the moment), I watched a vendor start going through some of the bulk rares that he had purchased. He had trusted the seller to be honest about all of the cards being NM, but it turns out half of the cards were MP, and several were just unplayable beyond hope. You could argue that it was the store’s fault for not checking thoroughly enough, but his only real fault was trusting the seller to speed up the process so that he could get back to the table and not keep other people waiting. If you’re going to sell bulk, please don’t try and cheat the vendors by upping your own number or lying about condition or language.

One Simple Adage

Thankfully, this entire article can be summarized in a few short words: don’t be a jerk. Finance used to be a wild west, and the fresh meat went to the wolves who were vicious enough to bleed new players for their cards when they didn’t know the values. We’ve grown since than, and should work just as hard as when we play the game to eliminate cheating behavior and scumbaggery from our culture. Profits can be just as tantalizing as the glory of winning, but it’s not worth the sacrifice of other players’ fun and love of the game. Until next week!

About the Author
@Rose0fthorns     -     Email     -     Articles Douglas Johnson is a 20-year-old MTG player who goes to college courtesy of a scholarship from Gamers Helping Gamers. He is currently found writing a weekly finance column at, and you can always feel free to contact him on Twitter, Facebook, or Reddit.

8 comments on Conjured Currency #37: Cheating 101, The Finance Edition

  1. Tiacha says:

    Man, you struck home with the comment about stores canceling orders when a card spikes. Sounds like Alter Reality Games main mojo.

    1. Douglas Johnson says:

      I don’t recall ever ordering from them, but I’ll keep that in mind. What card was it?

    2. Brad says:

      That sounds like Hobby Goblins as well to me. I tried ordering a Liliana of the Veil they had listed for $25 on Amazon, then when the price spike to 80, they cancelled…

  2. Jason Alt says:

    What is this, 300 words?

  3. Joe says:

    Man, I can’t tell you how much it irritates me when someone brags about sharking some little kid by trading 10 bulk commons for a foil fetch land (“its just a land; how good can it be?”) or when a store knowingly rips people off when they trade stuff in. Luckily my LGS is always honest with stuff and what its worth and they frown upon people openly ripping people off in trades.

    My best words of warning are teach the younger gamers to always look up values, even if they think they’re getting a good deal. Because you never know…

  4. Corbin says:

    Enjoyed the article as always, nice post!

  5. eBay trader says:

    I’ve bought and sold countless cards over eBay but one transaction really sticks out for me. I had purchased a play set of foil Snapcasters just as they were moving from 125 to 150 at the time. The seller was Strike Zone Online whom I trusted so I thought nothing of it when the cards didn’t arrive after around 2 weeks. Then, when it was pushing a month, I decided to contact them. I got a B.S. answer from them and seemingly without much pushback, they refunded my money. I will never buy from them again, and they have lost my business which was previously ~100-300/month. They may have thought that their explanation that the cards must have been lost in the mail would have been sufficient to mollify my questioning, but they had a fatal flaw. (Their online inventory syncs with their eBay transactions and the 4 copies that they had in stock never budged.) It’s never worth the adjustment and I choose [as most of you probably do as well] to do business with the vendors that work with you as opposed to trying to shark an extra few bucks.

  6. ac says:

    If the buyer doesn’t have information that the price is going to shoot up soon, then there’s no question here. However if I had certainty that price what going to spike up and was fishing for old/stale offers then at the very least I wouldn’t get annoyed if there was trouble getting order shipped. Stale quotes aren’t unusual if there’s few remaining in stock – if there’s still plenty then I’d be annoyed.

    Some mtgo bots only show they have couple cards in stock while probably having more sometimes (and refuse to buy them if you went to offer them based on low stock).

    I started learning trading around when ROE was released / Jace had spiked up. Eventually I figured that I don’t want to deal direct with people and those bots jack price up/down as you buy/sell so trading and the spreads are insane in the higher price cards.. So clearly that’s not for me. I started learning forex trading instead – with all the central banks in competition to see who prints most money, if you just stick to trades of those QE announcements, you’d have 100% win ratio so far. I still managed to lose all my first gains as I thought the move was done and closed the trade – this left me with a positive balance in the pair going down. Just something to watch out with some brokers! (Turned a potential 100% gain on balance to 20% loss as I was maxed out on leverage – nothing can go wrong with central bank on your side right? except through your “learning curve” – that’s why I keep just the minimum of money at the broker while still in the learning curve – I’ll probably lose it all few times over but better losing a couple K few times than everything you have!)

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