A Guide to Online Trading



30 March 2012


As a starting note, the administrative team here on TappedOut (myself included) is in no way responsible for trade interactions between users. If something happens over the course of your trade, it is between you and your trade partner. That being said, if you have evidence that the same trader has scammed you and other users, report that individual to one of us and we will consider launching an investigation. We will not be responsible for reimbursing you for monetary or card loss, but we can try to track the trade history of a suspected scammer and potentially ban him or her. You conduct online trades at your own risk. I am here merely to offer my advice, having completed many successful trades on this site. This guide was written primarily as a response to issues some users have been having with trades recently, but the principles apply in any trade.

Organizing Yourself

The first step to conducting online trades is to add your collection to your binder page. I've seen people list everything from their rares and mythics to foils and commons. There are some general rules that should be laid out for those seeking to keep a binder on this site:

  • -List only your mythics and rares along with any valuable commons/uncommons. People are rarely interested in unplayable commons and uncommons and listing them only serves to clog up your binder and make it more difficult to navigate. Instead of cataloging your entire collection, be brief and list what matters.
  • -Keep your binder up to date. You don't have to be religiously devoted to maintaining a record of every transaction that you make, but try to take inventory every week or so if you're looking to make more than one or two trades. An up-to-date binder avoids confusion and apologies. If you are prone to infrequent updates, make a note of that in your binder description so others know some things may have changed since your last update.
  • -Make use of your binder description. This is where you have the chance to list any special cards or products you have. You can also include information about specific wants or preferences. I use my own binder description for both of these purposes, and it seems to be quite effective in conveying what I want it to.
  • -Make use of your want list. It's a good way to keep track of the cards you need/want to acquire and, more importantly, it lets other users know what kinds of cards you're interested in. You can sync the acquire lists of your decks with the want list of your binder in your settings to make it easier to keep track of everything you're currently looking for.

Once you've got the binder under control, consider your position to receive and ship trades. If you don't have constant access to a mailbox or PO box, then it will be a hassle for you to really do anything. You should also have stamps and envelopes or flat-rate shipping packages (I'll cover shipping methods later on) so you can send your cards out. If you have difficulty acquiring these things, then you probably aren't going to have much luck trading online.

Additionally, make it a point to acquaint yourself with the site(s) and system(s) through which you'll be trading. It makes your life easier when you go to propose, accept, and work out trade offers with others. For example, TappedOut has several ways to contact traders and set up potential deals: you can post a thread in the trade forum or make a direct offer on someone's binder or wall. Being able to take advantage of these mediums will help you get more out of the trade community.

The Search

Now that you've squared away the logistics on the personal level, you should begin looking for the cards you want. There are two direct ways to go about this. First, on the T/O page for each card there is a list of users who have that card as well as one of users who want it. You can go down these rosters and try to find viable trade partners. Alternatively, you can check the Trade Matches section of your binder. This is a directory of people who want cards you have, but be aware that the system currently does not check if those users have anything that matches your own want list.

Alternatively, you can start a thread in the trade forums. When you do this, communicate what it is that you want as briefly as you can. I've been studying the psychology of people on this site and one of the things I can tell you is the less work you ask other users to do, the more inclined they are to help you. Many people won't bother copypasting a URL into their browser's bar, but they'll click on a direct link. Same principle here: give a quick rundown of what you're looking for and a summary of what you have to offer. Make the title of the thread something informative or attention grabbing so people browsing the home page know what it's about.

Once you find a potential trade partner, it will behoove you to do some research before actually contacting that person. Look at their histories on the site and pay special attention to their reputations and post quality. As a general rule, users who are well received by the community and comment with some sense will be more reliable as trade partners than others. Also, check the trade vouches of each prospective trader. These can be found on the right side of their binders in the information bar. If there are vouches from a large number of users or from respected and trusted users, then it's more likely that the owner of that binder is trustworthy. Remember, a trusted user's name on a vouch log carries much more weight than a new account's vouch. If the only vouches come from new accounts, be aware that that account is likely a scammer's created specifically for trading. If a user lacks a hard trade history (vouches) but he or she has engaged in trades with others, contact his or her trade partners and ask how the trades went.

Since there's no personal interaction, there's no guarantee that everything will go smoothly. The best you can do is maximize your chances of success by carefully choosing who you deal with. The more research you do, the more confidence you can gain in the person you're seeking to approach. Since we're dealing with valuable collectibles, it never hurts to be cautious in your handling of the situation.

The Approach

Once you've found a user you feel comfortable approaching for a trade, take a look at his or her want list. See if you have any cards that user wants. If you do, then post on his or her wall or binder with a brief list of the cards you're interested in and the ones you have that might be of interest. If you don't, then post with a notice that you would like to trade for such and such. If you make an initial offer, you should include prices on your cards (or a total price for each user's side of the tentative trade) as well as the source of your pricing information. This not only lets your potential trade partner know where you stand, but also gives them some confidence in your competence and legitimacy.

When you post on a user's wall or binder with a trade request, make sure you provide a direct link to your binder. It makes that user's life that much easier and will weigh in your favor when he or he forms his or her first impression of you in the trade environment. Continuing that attitude, you should maintain an air of professionalism throughout the course of your interaction regardless of whether or not the trade ultimately happens. Don't try to demand that the user initiate a trade with you or that a certain deal should be accepted. Instead, present yourself approachably.

The Details

When you begin working a tentative trade out with another user, remember that it is a business negotiation. You are both interested in finding a happy compromise, so keep some basic rules in mind:

  • -Be respectful. You're trying to make a compromise with another user about a business transaction, so rudeness will lead to a broken trade and a negative attitude toward you in the future. Always be courteous; don't be hasty or stubborn and don't get irritated if another user takes more than a few hours to get back to you.
  • -Don't force anyone into anything. If either user has a problem with the trade as-is, then he or she should voice that discomfort. The trade should be something that ultimately pleases each person.
  • -Know your prices. One of the best defenses against getting scammed is to know the value of the cards involved in the trade. In my experience, many TappedOuters (myself included) like to use the mid prices from TCGplayer, which can be found at http://magiccards.info/ for most cards. Foreign, foil, and special edition values are something I refer to StarCityGames for. You should usually aim to get as close to an even trade as possible.
  • -Don't be inflexible. In partial contrast to the previous statement, don't be afraid to lose a bit of value to pick up a card you really need. In some cases (this is especially true if you're dealing mostly with high-value cards), it will be difficult to work out a perfectly even trade. Sometimes you'll have to agree on a $5 difference to get the trade done, and if you're picking up something you need then you shouldn't feel bad about it.
  • -Communicate card conditions. People tend to assume that cards are in NM/M conditions. If you have a card that is chipped, slightly played, or worse, make sure you communicate that to your trade partner. There shouldn't be any surprises over the course of the negotiation or shipping.
  • -Work out shipping details through email. This keeps your personal information confidential and allows you to have a somewhat more direct way to contact your trade partner.
  • -Ship properly. This is probably the most important thing I can say. Therefore, I'll devote a larger section to it.

There are several options for shipping. UPS, FedEx, and the USPS/equivalent post office of your locale are the primary services. I personally use the post, and there's a specific way I go about mailing all of my packages. Each card is penny-sleeved to start. If there are only a few cards, I'll pack them all in hard cases (toploaders). If there are too many for two hard cases to be sufficient, then I will surround the cards with a pair of toploaders and wrap that in scrap paper. Then, I purchase a flat-rate padded envelope (bubble-mailers are a similar alternative) and ship the cards in that. I have not yet had a complaint about damaged cards. The shipping cost for this type of packaging is usually between $2-4. I will caution you against using standard paper envelopes. The automatic processing machines that handle mail sorting can tear up these packages, especially if you send a hard case in one. This has happened to a shipment I received and while the cards were not damaged, the potential for something to go wrong is too great to accept when there are other low-cost alternatives available.

Delivery confirmation should be available upon request (it only costs $0.85 through the post), since it often serves as a peace-of-mind insurance policy. It is also proof of the package being shipping and delivered in case there is a dispute. Shipping insurance should at least be considered on the larger trades ($50+). If you are shipping internationally, the cost for extra services tends to be many times that of the domestic offers, so keep that in mind when organizing shipping.

Whenever I contact a trade partner through email for the first time, I use a generic letter that reads as follows:

When handling online trades I typically ask for the client to send their cards first as a precaution, then send mine after I have received theirs. I have conducted all past trades this way and each has gone smoothly. I also send my cards individually sleeved and then hard-cased to prevent warping. They are packaged in a USPS flat-rate padded envelope. Shipping costs generally do not exceed $2-4, and delivery confirmation is available upon request.

This gives my fellow traders an immediate sense of how I handle trades and what I expect. Do not confuse directness with demandingness; it's better to have everything out in the open than to argue about shipping methods or, worse yet, not even discuss them and leave it to chance.

If your partner has less trade experience than you do, lacks vouches, or seems to behave somewhat strangely about the trade, don't hesitate to ask them to send first. This precaution is more for those with the trade experience to back up their own honesty and dependability. Remember that shipping order is something that should be explicitly agreed upon so there is no confusion later on. Shipping procedure is equally important to confirm - if you want delivery confirmation or insurance, convey that during the course of your email exchange (and if you ask for it, you should already be willing to provide it when you mail your own cards).

An email notification should be given to your trade partner when you have mailed your cards. If you ordered delivery confirmation, this email should include the DC# of the package as provided to you by your shipping company. Another email (and a post on that user's wall) should be made when you receive your cards. Always keep your trade partner informed of anything that affects the shipping times, costs, plans, etc. (for example, if you are unexpectedly pulled away from your daily routine and must mail the package a day or two late, contact your trade partner immediately so he or she is aware of the situation and not left in the dark).

If for some reason the cards you receive are damaged (either during shipping or poor handling prior to shipping), contact your trade partner ASAP and inform him or her of their condition. Try to piece together what happened and make adjustments to the trade if necessary. If a compromise cannot be reached, then the onus is on you to return the cards to their sender (this is an understood obligation whenever you undertake an online trade). If the cards are taking an unexpectedly long time to reach their destination, then contact your shipping company and find out what has happened to the package (note that if your SC was the post office, but you neglected to order delivery confirmation, there is a very slim chance that it will be possible to locate your cards). As before, contact the relevant user and attempt to work out what has happened and compromise if necessary.

Concluding the Trade

Once both users have received their cards and everything is in order, then the time comes for the post-trade formalities. This includes putting in a trade vouch for your partner, which can be done from the binder edit page. This is to help build that user's reputation and aid the future traders who may approach him or her. You might also opt to put a note in your binder description about trusted/reliable traders, but this is a less common practice. If something about the trade was unsatisfactory, offer an apology or constructive criticism where appropriate to promote betterment. Remember to end on a note of the same professionalism that you entered the trade with and maintain a positive attitude.

That's all I've got for now. Feel free to ask any questions and I'll be more than willing to help you out. Good luck out there, and happy trading!

Moobu says... #1

Great article addressing a crucial part of the website. I personally have been very busy lately and haven't had the time to sit down and add my trade fodder to the website unfortunately. I look forward to doing this in the next few days so I can put some of your trade tips to the test!

March 31, 2012 5:30 a.m.

TimProctor says... #2

This is a great article, I would also suggest that if you are going to conduct online trades that you create an account with an online reference site like http://www.gabtraders.com/main/index.htm or http://refs.magictraders.com/Tim_Proctor.html.

Using a reference site allows people to verify that they are trading with an established trader. If you have less than 10 trades you're probably going to have to send first unless the trade value is small. So I'd start with small trades until you get about 20 references or so before you start shipping JMS and Karakas out there.

March 31, 2012 2:20 p.m.

KorApprentice says... #3

This is an excellent article. Very well written, it covers all of the prospective aspects of trading as well as the courtesy one should use when trading, thank you Epochalyptik. I can't think of a single thing to add because every time I came up with something, I found it covered somewhere in your article.

March 31, 2012 3:16 p.m.

rckclimber777 says... #4

Epochalyptik you never cease to amaze me. This a VERY useful article. Anyone who is unfamiliar with trading should read this in its entirety and use it as a model. The focus on professionalism is absolutely key and should be a mentality for ALL aspects of the site. I have nothing to add really.

March 31, 2012 8:57 p.m.

rckclimber777 says... #5

Actually there was one thing, very small though. I know personally I don't know how to link my binder, so maybe a word or two to that would be helpful. I'm assuming you use a tinyurl or something similar.

March 31, 2012 9:15 p.m.

Epochalyptik says... #6

To link something in HTML with your own text, use this form:

(Your text here)[URL here]

March 31, 2012 9:59 p.m.

Epochalyptik says... #7

Thanks for the feedback, everyone! Hopefully this helps at least some new traders get acquainted with the system.

March 31, 2012 9:59 p.m.

KorApprentice says... #8

Epochalyptik, I have tried linking pages using that form but it won't work for me for some reason. Is it supposed to be double brackets or something else that I am missing? This is the form I usually use, replace the parentheses with alligator brackets (< and >):

(a href="URL Here")Link text here(/a)

This is how it comes out, KorApprentice's Binder.

March 31, 2012 10:27 p.m.

Epochalyptik says... #9

Odd. I've never had a problem with it. You remembered to keep the parentheses and brackets, right? (It's single brackets, btw.)

March 31, 2012 11:26 p.m.

squire1 says... #10

actually a link in HTML looks like this

<a href="Full URL here">What you want it to say here</a>

April 1, 2012 2:52 p.m.

KorApprentice says... #11

That's what I said, I used parentheses because I wasn't sure if it would try to link something if I used the brackets.

April 1, 2012 3:11 p.m.

I did miss one thing in my article:

If you're using a card in a deck, don't list it in your binder. If you feel you must, list it but keep a note of if in your description. It avoids problems that arise in negotiations where someone wasn't aware that a card wasn't available despite its listing.

April 2, 2012 1:44 p.m.

Excellent article. I have been wanting to get into the trading scene on tapped for a while and this article taught me everything (I feel) that I need to know. Also, thank you Epochalyptik for your comment just above this one about the trading policy with cards already in use.

I thought hard about some comments or suggestions for the article (and possibly the site in general) and here. As someone objective and new to trading via tappedout, here are my thoughts:

1). For TappedOut.net, given the nature of human bartering and success associated with any business for product availability (and kind of in response to Epochalyptik's recent comment), why not have a "maybebinder" or something similar? The maybebinder would only feature cards currently active in decks but possibly are up for trade if a sweet deal is offered.

For example, say I have an Umezawa's JitteMTG Card: Umezawa's Jitte that I own but am not ready to feature outright for sale because it's a bloody good card and I can't part with it easily, but I may consider trading if the right deal because it's banned in modern and modern is the format I play. Obviously a circumstantial scenario but still legitimate.

One of the features I love about this site is the "maybeboard" for decks, which helps us keep good cards on quick reference for us and others to see. Having a maybebinder may open up unique dialogue options between users that are normally not available, because of the white and black starkness of "for sale" and "does not exist because it's not possible to feature it here". People know that they may not be able to trade for it, but at least an option for a chance is there. Just a thought.

2). Maybe have a condensed quick-walkthrough guide at the top or bottom of the article for trading professionalism and/or the shipping process? I'm not saying the article is too long or anything; it is excellent in covering all angles and serves as the descriptive foundation for online trading via this site. Rather, it would just be for brushing up on etiquette and delivery for trades so they don't have to read the entire article again. Any questions or obscurities they have from the quick guide can be instantly located in the body text of the article that way (via current subheadings of paragraphs, etc). This also would make expansion of the article's contents in the future (i.e. new trading policies via TappedOut.net) easier to access, understand and digest.

April 10, 2012 1:18 a.m.

3). Finally, maybe have a pricing model that people are recommended to post/link in their tradebinders. Saying "I use mid-range prices from TCGplayer" followed by a link like "http://magiccards.info/" (borrowing your example, Epochalyptik) goes a long way to lay out the price in front of people and right away establish expectations instead of confusion/frustration for card prices once dialogue has been initiated. This eliminates any ambiguities of how the trader deals with exchanges and avoids any argument on the philosophy-of-how-money-ought-to-be-spent and so on (i.e., I can find this cheaper on eBay, average prices are cheaper on so-and-so websites, i'm a buddy/friend on tapped so hook me up, etc.). I know this falls under the professionalism category but it really is a huge and highly subjective topic and can be solved quickly with one sweeping sentence.

Maybe have a mandatory section on each profile called "Pricing Details" or something, which allows the user to say "I use standard TCGplayer prices and UPS ground shipping". Ebay got this right and it may be worth it to taking a look into since it improves browsing efficiency for buyers and sellers (or card-for-card traders) this way.

Overall, excellent article and a solid foundation for the online trading feature of the site. +1 for being such an awesome website and community.

April 10, 2012 1:25 a.m.

Spelling corrections for my comment:

Section 1, Paragraph 2: ...the site in general). As someone objective...

Section 1, Paragraph 4: ...but I may consider trading if the right deal is offered because it's banned...

April 10, 2012 1:36 a.m.

miracleHat says... #16

so this is what somebody should be doing through a trade! I found the entire article useful. thank you so very much.

September 22, 2012 9:14 p.m.

MagicalHacker says... #17

I was a bit confused on the bit about "valuable commons/uncommons", so I made a list of cards that have a mid-price of $1 or more according to tcgplayer.com (but only of the ones with the modern frame).

Since I thought other people might be interested, I decided to post the link here as well.

deck-large: the only commons/uncommons people care about

August 17, 2013 12:05 p.m.

corythackston says... #18

Hey, um... I didn't see this anywhere in the article, though it is late and I am tired. Where exactly do you click to upload your binder? I've tried several times to make a binder but can't ever find where it's at.

May 21, 2014 3:48 a.m.

corythackston says... #19

It would be my luck that I finally find it right after I post that comment, haha. You may want to include that somewhere in the guide, it's kind of small and hidden among a bunch of things that people probably skim over.

May 21, 2014 3:50 a.m.

Phyrexia108 says... #20

Any of you guys having trouble trading cards through tappedout.net should try PucaTrade. I love both websites. On Tappedout I usually create my decklists and I get the cards for my deck through PucaTrade. PucaTrade is the most reliable and secure online trading website I know. You should definetly try it out! Here Wedge, from the Manasource gives you a great quick tutorial about how it works if your interested: Link Text

If you think you are going to make an account please use this link: link Text It would help me a ton and would be much appreciated!

November 16, 2014 10:45 p.m.

Thank you for the article! I have decided to add in some of my more expensive cards to my trade binder, and get into the trading world. Again, thanks so much!

April 26, 2015 9:41 p.m.

mrpulsar says... #22

I did a ctrl+f for "Escrow" and didn't find anything, so I'd like to ask this:

Does tappedout provide escrow services at all? If not, do users tend to use their own escrow services, or is this an honor system in terms of confirmation of shipment/receiving of shipment and product and release of payment? I am aware of certified mail, cash on delivery, sign on delivery and other options though to verify that whatever card I'm sending had arrived (although I think I will likely be only doing that for singles 20+ usd or playsets that are 20+ usd).

tl;dr Escrow service, has or no has?

Also, good read, thanks for the tips as a fairly new player (Started right after Origins released).

January 20, 2016 12:41 p.m.

TappedOut doesn't manage any part of the trading process. We merely provide functionality that allows people to trade; logistics are up to them. We're not a party in any part of the trading process.

January 20, 2016 12:43 p.m.

mrpulsar says... #24

Thanks for the helpful advice, Epochalyptik. :)

I am doing all the research necessary before I sell. (I was first prompted to sell after I pulled a Kozilek, the Great Distortion but I might just trade it up for cards I need at my local store. Thanks again, I now understand the rules on tappedout.net for buying/selling/trading.

January 20, 2016 3:31 p.m.

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