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It’s Lonely at the Top

Written by LegitMTG Staff on . Posted in Finance, Magic Culture

For me, it’s my very modest collection of dual lands, highlighted by an Unlimited Tropical Island.

What is it for you?

I’m very particular about my collection. Everything I own I’ve come into by trading; nothing expensive I own is something I’ve paid cash for, and it’s a point of personal pride. More than that, it’s a mental thing, in that I can’t justify spending money on Magic cards that could instead go toward my family. I understand I’m in a fairly unique position, and that’s OK.

But whatever the reasons, my dual lands are something I value pretty highly. Trouble is, I’m not the only one.

When I trade with people, almost invariably they’ll look at my duals and give one of two reactions. Either they’ll say, “Man, I wish I could have those one day” while looking longingly (I know, I’ve been there). Or they’ll see a dual or a Vendilion Clique or something and get really excited to trade into them. The problem is, far too often, all they have are a bunch of Standard cards. And it takes an awful lot of Champion of the Parish to make me feel good about giving up a Vendilion Clique. Likewise, it’s going to take quite a few Hinterland Harbors to get me to come off a Tropical Island.

The problem is this effectively kills a trade in too many cases. People would get annoyed I have cards “for trade” that I’m not willing to trade, or they’d think I’m out to rip them off. They completely forgot about my own $5-$10 Standard cards they’d otherwise want, instead homing in on the expensive thing. This was becoming a real problem, and one I’ve touched upon before.

It took some time, but I’ve figured out a better way to handle these expensive goodies.

The Second Binder

This is fairly common among traders. If you’re a player who doesn’t keep everything for trade, I highly suggest keeping a second “not-for-trade” binder that you don’t bring out. This allows you to keep your cards in an easy-to-find place but doesn’t create awkward trade situations. Though I have no problem when people say “No, that’s not for trade,” skipping that step and using the second binder saves yourself some time.

But what if those expensive cards are for trade, but you’re tired of being offered piles of $3 cards for them?

Personally, I keep three binders. One for C/U buylist stuff (easy to leave this out for most people), one for my regular cards, and one for the expensive stuff. When I’m trading with someone, I usually hand them the first two binders to look through and keep the third one back unless I find out they also have tradeable items on the same level. It’s not that I’m trying to hide anything or deceive anyone, but it’s intimidating for a newer player with a modest Standard collection to be handed a binder full of $100 cards.

I also use this binder to place anything I don’t really want to trade. That includes the Return to Ravnica Shocklands I’m hoarding and some other stuff I feel is underpriced like Jace, Architect of Thought.

I’ve found this approach to be a big improvement. No one is scared off by a playset of Jace, the Mind Sculptors, and we’re able to complete a trade. If someone asks me if I have anything else, I’m up front that I have an expensive binder if they have anything in kind to trade for it.

All About the Washingtons

I’ve alluded to it a few times, but I haven’t yet addressed the issue at the heart of my trepidation. Why is it I don’t want to trade a Tropical Island for a stack of Hinterland Harbors?

The issue boils down to cash. You often hear people talk about the “Legacy premium” for older cards, and there’s a good reason it exists.

It’s all about the spread, which is to say the gulf between the cash value of a card and the retail value. I use MTG.gg as my source to determine buylist values, which is usually around the EeBay cash price of a card as well. I use this to inform my trades more so than the retail price.

For example, an Unlimited Tropical Island is TCGMid $140 and the top buy price is $132. Hinterland Harbor retails for $8 and buylists for $5. Using this metric, we see that roughly 17.5 Harbors equals the retail price of the Tropical. But, using cash values, that number balloons to 26.5. You can see how much you lose on a trade like this even if the “retail” numbers are the same.

This doesn’t just apply for dual lands. Even something further down the line like the Vendilion Clique I mentioned buylists for $38 and retails at $50. That’s a little more than six Harbors retail, but to match cash values it would require nearly eight at cash prices. If you looked at a trade like this on retail, I’d have to be “winning” by something like $16 just to break even on real-world numbers.

That’s why I keep my expensive cards separate and why I only like to trade them for like-valued cards. If you’re not careful, you can find you’ve significantly devalued your collection even while “winning” on trades! That’s an extremely important lesson to keep in mind, and one I hope you take away.

Thanks for reading,
Corbin Hosler
on Twitter

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