A Guide to Trading Magic: The Gathering Cards Online Safely by Scott Ferguson
The great game of Magic: The Gathering that we all know and love, has changed a lot over the years. Magic had gained large numbers of players across all the formats. High level play has now become the norm for many people across the world.
A phrase I have often heard when a new rule or mechanic is released is: “The only constant is change“. This I find to be very true, I feel that a lot of the success Magic has had is due to the evolution of the game: new sets, mechanics, and decks crop up a lot and the freshness is renewed. Yes we’re always going to get the occasional moaner, whining about something new that is outside of their personal comfort zone; or how they still haven’t adjusted to damage not being on the stack (guilty as charged!) but the fact is new story-lines, new cards, and new formats all attract new players that are starting their planes-walk across our established meta-verse (to coin a phrase) and as the popularity of our beloved game rises so too will the demand for cards.
Magic from all walks of life
As you read this, the champions of tomorrow are starting to play Magic, and are coming into the game from a lot of different walks of life: some are finding boosters at gaming stores; some are discovering console or PC games as a gateway into the hobby; some are finding other gaming systems that they don’t enjoy and end up looking for something to challenge their intellect; some may even come to the game simply through word of mouth.
When I started playing with the beta release it was the art that drew me in, a Shivan Dragon to be precise – it made me feel like it was looking down on me and was going to eat me alive. And at the age of 10 years old, it fascinated me. Six years later (when Mercadian Masques was released), constructed tournaments finally reached the west coast of Cumbria; six years of collecting, playing around kitchen tables arguing about rules, eating pizza, and ganging up on friends in multiplayer games.
How trading used to be
It was around this time that Magic was most innocent for me. A trade was often a simple card for card swap, no value to consider, just a box full of swaps! The only articles or price guides that were about could be found in specialist magazines, such as Dragon. When I think about the current value of the cards that I used to swap, or even just give away – I could cry! Even more-so when I’ve seen cards like the Moxes, Time Walks, and Tabernacles all being put into the ante pile and subsequently lost, or very rarely won; or the infrequent spiteful playgroup member who would happily rip up a card because he already had a play set!
Seeing this happen to The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale, which is now valued at around £300, well – I still have nightmares to this today.
The Cards = The Monies
However trading has changed massively, even in the past five or six years, people can have a lot of money wrapped up in their collections – some Legacy collections can even be valued towards tens of thousands of pounds; and there are articles everywhere on the internet on the subject of financial gain. The value of an individual card is very important in today’s trade environment. I often gain value on one trade and lose it on the next, but through clever trading and following trends in decks or popular cards, traders can increase the value of a collection substantially within six months.
One negative side-effect of this has been the increase in the value of people’s collections, especially in the current economic climate our collections have become a valuable commodity. Theft now sadly rears it’s ugly head in our community, and while they are often found a large events, there are people that will take from personal collections in a small club setting, and that will offer a trade but not keep their end of the deal.
I have personally increased my own collection by the value of a full Legacy deck – just less than £1,800 pounds – and have increased a fellow player’s collection by several hundred pounds. I keep a record of all my trades, including whether I’ve lost or gained. Turning ten £1 cards into a single £10 card and so on. Aiming to increase the quality of my collection so when I have to trade for cards I need, I have enough quality cards to trade with.
People trading singles online!
There have been trading groups appearing on social networking sites such as UK & Ireland MTG Cards For Trade & Sale on Facebook, and in forums attached to gaming sites and stores which enable people to trade regularly for cards they need, make friends, and familiarize themselves with players all over the country. This, I feel, is very important to keeping your collection current; especially in a Standard environment where decks are so often changing, and needing specific cards to stay ahead of the meta-game for the weekend tournament is important.
The frequency of trading can cause problems however, and with more and more new players finding these groups and “up-trading” their collections there is the query of how safe our cards are in the postal system.
As an administrator of the UK & Ireland MTG Cards For Trade & Sale Facebook trading group, I’ve come across a dozen new players in the past month who’ve had problems with postal trades, mainly around the subject of packaging and payment. As ever, there is a risk involved any time we send something through the post and we have to be aware of this.
So I have written a guide to trading safely online, which is primarily aimed at keeping cost down for those of us who trade frequently; though I may update this at some point with further information on tricks and tips for trading.
I use this method for all the card I send, I’ve found it to be both safe and cost-effective.
1. Place cards in one or more top-loaders, depending on the number of cards you’re posting.
2. Tape the top-loader shut with clear tape to prevent moisture, such as rain, seeping in and damaging the cards (pinch the top as you seal it to prevent the card travelling up).
3. Tape any sharp edges on the top-loader that may rip the envelope. This is especially important when two or more top-loaders are used.
4. Tape the top-loader into the envelope. If you’re using a regular envelope, make sure the bottom edge of the top-loader is in-line with the bottom of the envelope to prevent tears. Taping it in place stops it from sliding around which can also cause rips or bursts.
5. Tape right across the the flap, even if you licked it, the glue on envelopes is often weak.
6. Always put a return address on the reverse of the envelope. Your house number/name and post code is enough.
7. Take it to a post office and send via the cashier, this way you know you’ve paid enough postage and get a receipt as your proof of postage. Ideally, send it via recorded delivery, so that you can track it and check who signed to receive the delivery.
8. Optional: contact the other party and give them the correct tracking number, so they can follow the parcel’s progress if they wish.
My personal preference is to send all trades via First Class Recorded™ delivery, that way items up to the value of £50 are covered for around £1.70 postage; for higher value cards, singularly or as a group, I suggest that Signed For™ First Class is used instead. It’s important to remember that keeping the thickness of your parcel down will help to keep the postage costs down. Following the above advice should keep your postage costs down, your trade safe, and your trade partner happy.
For the full list of postal services available from The Royal Mail, their rates, delivery time and what they cover, please Click Here.
Remember: Paying a little extra on postage to cover you for a trade is always cheaper than buying a card outright. For larger trades with more expensive cards I would suggest paying the full insurance and sending Special Delivery™.
I’ve got over 100 trades references now myself on a single trade group, with only one failed delivery; although I did get the envelope back, sealed in a plastic bag and looking like it had been submerged in water and trampled by a cave troll. Nothing’s safe from cave trolls, so barring that, the above method will ensure safe delivery.
I hope this helps the new traders that have come into the hobby, and existing traders too. Thanks for taking the time to read the article, and may all your draw phases be kind.
Do you have any trading and postage tips you would like to share? If so then please comment below!