Beginners Guide to Value Trading with MTG – Trade Secrets with Barney Menzies

Beginners Guide to Value Trading with MTG – Trade Secrets with Barney Menzies


How to Value Trade with MTG

As someone who trades for value I often get branded with many negative stereotypes. The few traders who rip people off give many of us value traders a bad name. I aim to dispel these stereotypes and show that value trading can easily be done without the need to extort anyone.

A Lesson in Economics

Trading, much like any system of goods exchange revolves around the most basic of market principles, supply and demand. Supply and demand as varying factors exist between local areas, places and on a global scale. This dynamic exists within groups of players and directly influences the motivations behind trading; both in terms of the cards they trade for and the values that they place upon cards they wish to acquire. For example, the value of an EDH staple (or commander if you’re that way inclined), is much higher in an area where EDH is very popular, whilst its value is lower in an area where EDH is less popular.

The popularity of a format in an area determines the demand for the chase cards in that format; as a result the demand will often surpass the supply of these cards thus increasing their value.

If the supply of cards for a format is particularly high compared to the demand in any particular area then this will decrease the value of those cards due to their high availability; it will also increase peoples willingness to part with these cards as they are easily replaced (this makes trading for these cards much easier).The same can also be said if there is a lack of supply of cards for a format compared to the demand.

The larger the gap between the amount of cards available and the cards needed, the larger the increase in value that will be placed upon these cards. For example, Legacy cards in the UK are valued more highly than in the rest of Europe. This is due to a high supply of Legacy cards in Europe compared to the UK, but a similar level of interest in Legacy as a format.

Research and Preparation

At this point you’re likely saying to yourself that this is all very interesting but how does this help me?

Well it is possible to use these disparities in pricing as a method of gaining value whilst trading. This is done at the most basic level by trading for cards that are valued at low price in one area and trading them away in an area where they are valued highly. Establishing the nature of the area you wish to trade is the first step to applying this method of trading.

Primarily, take note of what formats people are playing. Is the area dominated by a certain format or is there a mixture of popular formats? Establishing the levels of popularity of formats in a certain area and stocking a binder accordingly should maximise interests and thus the amount of trades that can be made.

Secondly, take some time to flick through some peoples bin”fun”ders, whilst also asking what cards people are looking for. This makes clear the cards that are more readily available locally and likely undervalued. It will also highlight the cards that are more sought after locally and should thus be in the binder we are aiming to construct.

Stocking Up

So at this point we should now have an idea of what should make up our binder taking into account local card preferences, we are now ready to construct a binder targeted specifically for this area. In terms of actually getting a stock of cards for a binder making targeted purchases at a reasonable price is a good way to start, I tend to buy cards from friends and local players who are looking to cull their collections or make a bit of quick cash.

If the binder is weighted towards casual magic or EDH then buying a stack of ‘bulk’ rares or trading one large card into a load of casual rares is an excellent way to fill a binder with a variety of goodies.

A binder can also be built from your personal collection; this is cheaper but will generally mean the binder is not as optimised as it could be. However, after completing the process once this shouldn’t matter. Diversity when stocking a binder is also key; making sure there is a variety of different value cards will make it easier for people to find cards in their price range and thus increase the amount of trades that can be made.

Getting Down to Business

With a stocked binder its now time to start trading. The cards you should aim to pick up are the ones that are not of any use locally and are consequently undervalued. If Standard/competitive formats are popular then picking up undervalued casual gems is likely the best plan. Cards like Death Baron and Lighthouse Chronologist are ever present on shop buylists as the dealers know they can sell them to casual players very easily; this makes life easier when it comes to cashing out.

EDH/casual focused areas provide a different dynamic. In areas like these you should endeavour to pick up constructed rares for Standard and eternal formats. Cards like Griselbrand and Champion of the Parish are excellent targets due to their limited playability in casual formats compared to constructed formats.

Restocking and Cashing Out

Eventually we’ll reach the stage where are binder is full of cards no-one is interested in locally. This is the point where we need to think about taking our folder and cashing it out for some new stock. The methods of restocking and ‘cashing out’ vary from folder to folder. However, grouping cards loosely into sale and trade then the process becomes clearer. 

Salecards are the cards sold to dealers or players for money easily; these are generally made up of casual staples, eternal cards and the odd chase Standard card. When unloading casual cards I generally aim to cash out any cards which the dealers will price at above bulk, dealers offer good prices on these cards as they are a guaranteed sell in their shop.

Eternal cards and some chase Standard cards are generally easy to get rid due to their scarcity. Selling to dealers is generally less profitable than selling to players in this situation. Ebay, Forums, and other player to player markets are generally your best bet. 

Using this cash to restock in the same way as we stocked it in the first place should end the process with a full binder and hopefully some spare cash. I generally use this cash fund travel costs for MTG Grand Prixs or set it aside for buying collections but generally it’s to each person’s discretion as to how to use it.

Standard cards generally require a different approach as the value of these cards is generally lower than most eternal cards and thus selling them to players is generally more effort than it’s worth. Dealers also tend to offer lower prices for Standard cards due to the instability of their prices. As a result I tend to head to a large event like a PTQ or GP to unload my Standard stock.

My aim at these events is to restock my binder and leave with something extra for my efforts.  This can be done by either trading Standard cards into a stock of cards to trade back home, or trading for cards which can be buylisted to dealers to do the same thing. Whatever is left after restocking can either be sold, or traded for cards for a personal collection, e.g. my current aim is to have a set of 40 revised dual lands so I often leave and event with something like this in my personal binder.

In the Grander Scheme of Things

This method can be taken even further by finding areas where the supply of certain cards is very low and supply of other cards is very high. Travelling further to trade can be profitable when the cards in your binder are worth double what you could trade them for locally. The disparities that exist between the UK and Europe for example are very easy to profit from once you learn what to target and what to trade away. Finding these disparities and take advantage of them can lead to massive gains that make travelling to GP’s and other such events not only fun but massively lucrative.

The best thing about trading in this way is that it allows value trading without the need to rip anyone off. Everyone gets cards they need and gets rid of cards they don’t need at a price they deem to be fair.  This method can even be applied on a smaller scale by finding outlying players who for example play competitively in a heavily casual area and thus use them as an outlet for turning over cards that can’t really be moved locally anywhere else.

Thanks for reading, thanks for sharing.

Barney Menzies


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