Getting L.U.C.K.y: Trading Up

This always feels like a tender topic. The idea of profiting in a trade is enough to make many people steer clear of trading altogether. Just so nobody misconstrues this, I am not talking about taking advantage of someone or “trade-rape” (which seems to be a popular term for it at the LGS). What I am attempting to cover is ways to make trading fair and advantageous for both parties involved. My goal when trading is to make sure that the person I’m trading with is happier with the results than I am.

There are times in a financier’s career where it can be hard to buy cards. Whether this is because of a cash shortage, seller shortage, or just getting beat to the draw by someone else, it happens to everyone. Even if there is something holding you back from buying, every Friday night, there is still a chance at profit. Trading can be very profitable for everyone involved if it’s done intentionally. You don’t do this by being “That Guy” though.

Don’t Be That Guy

Everyone knows “That Guy.” “That Guy” is the one that is always out to screw someone out of his hard-earned cardboard. “That Guy” will swindle a new player out of her [card]Mutavault[/card] for a [card]Fabled Hero[/card]. “That Guy” constantly values his cards higher than they are and yours lower. “That Guy” should be avoided like the plague. I know some store owners that won’t even let “That Guy” trade in their stores. “That Guy” gives everyone who makes a profit trading Magic cards a bad name.

How do I make a profit by keeping things fair? How can I benefit in a trade without screwing my trade partner? The same way that you’ve done it on video games for years. The same way that professional merchants have been doing it for centuries. If tea in China is higher than tea in England, what does a professional do? Is it unfair to the tea owners of England when you buy from them and sell to China? We actually have that situation in the Magic community. We call the parties involved Star City Games and TCGplayer. vs

There is a lot of controversy over which of these sites is best to use when trading. There are pros and cons to both. Much has already been written on this subject, but I still want to add a bit. We all know that there are differences in price, but how does that help? Let’s say card A is $12 on TCGplayer and card B is $15. Both of them are going for $15 on SCG. Targeting certain cards with specific price differences is a great way to gain selling value while not screwing anyone over.

Let’s continue on this path. Now you have card B, worth $15 on both sites. It’s time to “trade up” to card C. Card C is worth $15 on TCGplayer and $20 on SCG. Then you may want to turn card C into card D, which is worth $20 on both SCG and TCGplayer. You see how you can turn $12 into $20 by trading?

It’s very important while doing this not to screw anyone. I want to take advantage of my knowledge and efforts, not take advantage of someone else. To make sure that you aren’t ripping anyone off, you need to follow a few rules:

  1. Use the pricing system that your trade partner is comfortable with. By asking which he prefers, you are operating in his comfort zone. This saves anyone from having hurt feelings after the trade.
  2. Make sure to clarify before trading. The last thing that you want to do is look at a binder, then decide you are using TCGplayer because of what you see. Again, we are taking advantage of knowledge, not people. Deciding after seeing a fellow trader’s wares starts us in the direction of being “That Guy.”
  3. Be honest on values, especially when you don’t know. If the last time I saw a price on [card]Misty Rainforest[/card] was last month, I will tell my trade partner that. Most everyone that I end up with either has a smart phone or has an annoying buddy watching every trade that has a smart phone. If you don’t know, ask.

Trade Up on the Buylist Spread

This is most of what I try to do. I use the same principles that I used for TCG versus SGC when trading up on buylist values. If I have a $10 card that buylists for $4 and I can get an $8 card that buylists for $7, I have just made someone else happy as well as myself. Again, I am taking advantage of knowledge and not people. They are happy to gain $2 in card value and I am happy to gain $3 in cash value. This is the kind of trade I look for every time.

Write It Down

This is a ton of information that you have to keep in your head in order to win at trading, right? No, not right. Yes, there is a ton of information involved in all of this. No, it doesn’t have to all be stored in your head. This is what we have paper for.

You should have a list with you anytime that you trade. What kind of list should you have, though? For some, a wants list is good enough. I almost always have one of these on me. When you are able to hand this to the guy before you start trading, it makes everything run smoother. It will also help to speed up trades as well. Every night that I go to an FNM, I have a goal of making at least twenty trades. If all of my trades take half an hour, this is virtually impossible. Anything that I can do to speed it up is helpful.

I carry three separate want lists with me most of the time. I carry one for SCG wants, one for TCGplayer wants, and one for buylist wants. My SCG list has trades that are even or close to even as possible. My TCGplayer list has cards that have a large spread between TCG and SCG. My buylist list has cards that are less than 20% spread on a buylist. Depending on what the person I’m trading with is using for a price line, I will reference one sheet or another. It is also good to have prices written on each of these as well.

Be Cool, Man

One last thing before I’m out: be a gracious trader. Let the guy across from you know that he is helping you out. Let him know that you appreciate him or her. When there is a discrepancy, make sure the other guy always come out on top. You don’t get anywhere in life robbing twelve-year-olds of their [card]Mutavault[/card]s. It may make you $30 now, but I had a boss tell me one time, “You can’t retire off of one sale.” You can’t live off one trade, either. Better to shear a sheep than skin it. Having character will help you at getting L.U.C.K.y far better than anything else.

Have comments? Please share below!

About the Author
@CalebGothberg     -     Email     -     Articles Caleb studied at The University of Lessons Learned the Hard Way. He graduated Magna Cum Laude with a doctorate in Failed Finance. He's out to share some knowledge so you can avoid the mistakes he made. Visit his website at

3 comments on Getting L.U.C.K.y: Trading Up

  1. Alessandro says:

    Nice post!

    I have a doubt:

    “If I have a $10 card that buylists for $4 and I can get an $8 card that buylists for $7, I have just made someone else happy as well as myself. Again, I am taking advantage of knowledge and not people. They are happy to gain $2 in card value and I am happy to gain $3 in cash value. This is the kind of trade I look for every time.”

    I’m confused here. Didn’t they gain $6 in card value ($10 – $4), while you gained $1 in card value ($8-$7) ?

    1. kalitas says:

      No Alessandro, if he would sell at buylist the card he has, it would be for 4$, while if he manages the trade, he would now have a card that sells at buylist for 7$ instead of the previous card that sold for 4$. So he gains 3$ cash.

      1. Alessandro says:

        Ah, makes sense. Your explanation cleared my confusion away, thanks!

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