Trade Secrets : A Guide on how to trade MTG Cards

 If you are ever in a situation where you got too many cards, but don't know what to do with them, consider using them to trade with other players. Trading has been a core aspect of collectible card games since inception and it is no different here. Trading has become one of my favorite to enjoy Magic as it has all of the personality and peer to peer engagement of playing the game, but you'll end up being more "rewarded" than you would playing. The interaction between players is one of the most engaging activities I've experienced from the game. Unfortunately, trading is one of the aspects of the game that is the least engaged with from the community, which is a shame and thanks to some of the decisions WotC has made recently, trading has become more difficult. Compounded by the lingering effects of the pandemic and the convenience of online stores, trading has been on the downturn or at least it is around my locals. With this post I am hoping to inspire others to start trading with other players. I'll impart some of my insight with my own experience with trading especially on etiquette and processes of trading with other players (No, we are not engaging with scamming people out of their high value cards and I am not delving too deeply into MTG finance). In addition, I am including the pros and cons to trading cards.


First off, why would you want to trade with people? There's a lot of inconveniences and issues that come from trading with people that are just not present when you deal with stores. The first problem is finding the right people to trade with. Not many people carry a binder when they head out to the stores and even then not every binder is a trade binder: some binders are staple deckbuilding binders and others, though very few, are vanity binders (these are always cool to look at and make a great talking piece to engage with other players). Even when you find a person, they might not carry what you are looking for. It gets frustrating as time goes on especially when you have a larger, heavier binder. Second problem is establishing the value of the cards. The main factor is there are several prominent places to buy cards that people base their value off of. Generally, most U.S. based players used TCGPlayer mid or market when it comes to trading, however I have seen people mention Card Kingdom, Amazon, and Ebay. The price differentiation makes decision making more difficult and trades can fall through with players thinking the other person is trying to cheat them out of their money and cards. This whole ordeal adds to the complexities of trade and though infrequent does occur enough to turn people away. Third problem is finalizing a trade is the final hurdle that some trades never get across. This is where the negotiations happen to finalize the value between cards. There are trades I had to renegotiate because some people don't like the idea of trading up and other ones because they don't like the conditions of the cards. The final and biggest con about trading is that you are putting your collection at risk as you carry it around with strangers. As annoying as trading can be, the benefits of trading will outweigh the negatives. Generally speaking, the number of times that something bad occurs is relatively low, however this does depend on your local environment. My local scene is pretty good about everything, so I am not too worried about leaving my stuff around for 5-10 minutes or dealing with people. 


My Binder

As negative as trading can be, there's still benefits to trading that outweigh the negatives. I came around to the idea of trading when I wanted to play Modern, but didn't want to spend the money to do so. Thus trading became a way for me to move my card equity into higher value cards. This allows me to not spend more money on the game while acquiring the cards I want to play with. As a side effect it also helps you maintain the size of your collection. This is the main reason to start trading because for most of us our money is limited and this will help stretch out the money we put into this game. Coincidentally, trading has become a great way to meet people and act as a conversation starter, there's a good number of times where I'd kill an hour or two just conversing with a local or a stranger during a trade either about the trade or something random. Often I find the whole trading process is engaging and really enjoyable. It stimulates the mind in the same way playing does, but bad experiences happen way less. And before I forget to mention this, trading is one of the only ways to trade at the "full value" of cards since buylisting is always at a significant mark down from the TCG Player Market price. Due to the infrequencies of the negative aspects coming up, the positives in trading are so frequent that you forget negatives exists and it just becomes all upside.

 Courier's Briefcase

So you made the decision to start trading cards, your first step is acquiring a transportation method for your cards. The best two methods are either a binder or a box. I'm going to be focused on boxes first since its way simpler. Just fill your box with the cards you want to trade in it and voila you're done. Binders are a bit tricker since there's variety, you can either buy a manufactured binder from a company like Monster and Ultra Pro or you can opt to make your own with binder by buying one and filling it up with card sheets. I prefer the latter option for trade binder because you have the freedom to adjust the size of your binder. In terms of longevity, the convenience of replacing sheets or the binder itself is a huge plus. A manufactured binder has the benefit of generally looking more presentable than a homemade binder and the pages tend to be better at protecting cards vs the plastic ones, though those sheets are becoming more available nowadays. The longevity is my big concern because when there's enough problem with a manufactured binder you have to discard the whole thing since the amount of repair you can make to it is limited. Now when it comes to a binder vs a box, the biggest factor you have to consider is the amount of movement and management other traders have to engage with when they trade with you. For binders, cards are on full display,so the only action needed will be just turning the pages and looking. Boxes have other people doing a lot of digging to look at cards 1 by 1. The more actions people have to take the more likely, players will either miss a card or disengage with the activity entirely and you want to minimize that. For this reason, I have always been a binder person and more preferably a home made binder person.

If you are thinking about buying a premade binder, make sure to check out Tolarian Community College for product reviews to better inform your decision.

Old School MTG's binder

With binder and/or box ready, you now head into the wild ready for the world.

The Trading Post

The next section will be exploring the 3 steps to trading: meeting people to trade, actually trading cards, and finishing up the trade.

Meeting people to trade with isn't so bad. You can either post online to see who is interested in meeting with you or you can head out to a scene to find people. Generally approaching people at a store or convention hall with "Hey, do you have trades?", "Hey, can I take a look at your binder?", or if you're looking for a specific card "Hey, do you have [specific card] for trade?" should be enough to get started. It will either go yes or no and if the answer is no, then you move on with your day and enjoy your life. Most players who are in the middle of games won't have their binders out, so it never hurts to ask them the question. Occasionally, people will ask back "What are you looking for?" which will save you time if you're hunting for a specific card. Other times I've heard, "I don't have much." in which I take a look anyways cause you never know what people got hiding. General takeaway, be normal and ask and that's normally enough.  

Now you're sitting down looking at eachother's trades. This step is pretty straightforward. Make sure you have a way to keep track of the cards you both want as well as establishing the market at which you guys are trading at. Typically people pull out cards and lay them out on the tables, however I've met people who don't appreciate it, so it never hurts to establish the rules of how you guys are trading. Also make sure to establish, which cards are for trade since some binders are a mix of storage and trades (if this applies to you, make sure you have a way to indicate what is for trade and what is not). During this step, ask some questions to figure out the general perimeters of what the other person is looking for and help them out a little as well showing them other cards that might fit into their radars. This will generally increase the value of the trade, helping you get higher ticket items or help you round out what you are looking for and vice versa. If you ever got questions about another person's collection never be afraid to ask. Don't ever feel like you are scamming someone if they are okay with taking a loss that they are fully aware of. 

Now you're almost done, last thing you guys need to do is just agree to what is being traded and be done with it. If the trade is a little uneven, it's always cool to let the other side just grab stuff for value to even up the trade. Just remember to remain honest about the value and everything will be smooth. Ultimately, if both players are happy with what is being presented than that's fine. Not every trade needs to end up with near even values. In America, a lot of the trades I finish just end up with a handshake and we part ways happily.

Last Words

Here are some finals things to be aware during this process

  • Card conditions matter and don't be afraid to ask for discounts when this arises, just don't be the guy who evaluates every common and uncommon. I often dislike dealing with cards that feel grimey and gross. 
    • I have an Avacyn, Angel of Hope that smelled like weed for the longest time because the guy I traded it from had it next to his marijuana.The card itself was fine and luckily the smell went away with time.
  • If you're looking to uptrade (trading a large number of cards into a smaller number of cards) be aware that you may have to offer more up on higher ticket items.
    • I have witnessed some trading their entire foiled out modern burn deck for an Underground Sea. The dream is real,chase it.
  • With downtrading (trading a small number of cards for a large number of cards) you can ask for ore cards depending on how badly the other person wants your card.
  • Ask questions to clarify what is going on when needed. 
  • Always be ready to disengage with scammers and people with fake cards
    • This is to protect you
  • Be confident in what you want and be firm in your own rules.
  • Having a somewhat organized binder makes it easier for people to trade with you.
    • Make sure to carry playable cards with you
      • Not carry playable cards, makes it hard to care about your trades
    • I highly recommend grouping cards by color first then synergies 
      • ie elf cards that just happen to be next to eachother
Overall, trading is a rewarding activity for trading card players to engage in. Trading is predominantly all upside since bad experience are rare and good experiences are the norm. The process is not a difficult one, but there can be a lot going on that may overwhelm you. You can get a better feel of trading once you go through the process a couple times. If you're crazy, you can finance playing MTG strictly through trading and buylisting. Regardless of where you are with Magic, I am hoping this guide serve as a primer to getting involved with the trade scene. If you ever run into me at a convention and want to trade I'm normally always down. I primarily am looking for things for my 2 cubes and normally I will always find something to trade for. 

Some stuff in my binder

Thanks for taking the time to read this. I'm hoping the information here is noteworthy and worth sharing. If it's not send the criticisms, I can handle it. If you have trouble looking for a specific card through trading , please consider using my link for TCGplayer for a direct purchase of what you're looking for. If you want to stay connected, I left all of my socials on the sidebar including my email list and Facebook Page