In last week’s precursor, I interviewed one of the top dogs in the foreign foils game, Jon Donovan. This week, I want to take you one step further into the world of foreign cards by detailing how to trade with the individuals who possess these cards. There are a significant number of traders like Donovan and me who have a plethora of exotic cards; however, trading with us is not the only method of obtaining these cards. The best place to acquire foreign foils is from their source. This means you will be trading with a number of players from other countries who, not unlike yourself, are looking for something they just don’t have back home. In countries such as Japan, English cards, both foil and nonfoil, fetch a solid premium—the same way foreign cards do here. Locating these traders at major events can be a great boon to both your collection and pocketbook. Unlike when you are trading with the usual crowd, there are some things you need to know before stepping into the trade circle with foreign traders, and that is precisely what I will be covering this week. In addition, I will be discussing some of these exact trades and purchases I made during my week in California to give you an idea of how lucrative some of these transactions can be.
Foreign traders are unlikely to stroll into your local shop for an FNM, so in order to obtain these hard-to-find cards, you’re going to have to do some traveling. Before the restructuring of the Organized Play system, the best place to find these trades would have been the Pro Tour. Now that the PT is no longer an option for most, we will have to settle for the next best thing—the Grand Prix circuit. With the increase in the number of next year’s GPs, I expect to see a lot more grinders from all over the world at many events. With the current schedule, it only made sense to come to the States if there was a GP right before a PT . . . or at least a string of GPs within a few weeks’ time. Now that we have a GP nearly every other weekend, it is likely that we will have an increase in the number of foreign players and traders attending many of the domestic events.
So, now that you have an idea of how to find these traders, the next step is learning how to negotiate with them. Unlike American traders, it is unlikely that most foreign players will use websites to determine prices. Many of them don’t have Internet access in the States, which further hinders their ability to look up price guides. On this note, it is important to find out exactly what type of trader you are dealing with. Many foreign traders have lists put together with prices they are willing to pay for cards. This can streamline the process—you are able to pick and choose what prices you may or may not find acceptable and ship the traders those cards. Remember that when you are looking at these prices, it is important to also take into account what their prices look like. In California, a Russian woman was seeking foreign English fetch lands. Her prices were slightly lower than retail; however, she had a plethora of Russian cards—both foil and nonfoil—at English prices. In a scenario like this, I am willing to part with cards at a lower value than I typically would because I am receiving a commodity that is hard to find here in the States. In turn, she is taking a novelty home that she’ll profit from as well.
+2 Shivan Dragon Moscow prerelease edition stamped
eBay value: $80–$100
As you can see, you can sometimes find deals that you just normally can’t in the States. This card was the first Russian promo for the official release in Moscow. There are versions of this card circulating that are worth less and don’t have the stamp, but the copies with the Moscow stamp are rarer; this card is considered to be among the harder promos to locate.
Foreign traders don’t just differ from domestic traders in terms of valuing cards. Many of the trade-floor mannerisms we may consider the norm should be strayed away from when dealing with those from other countries. In a trade, it is not uncommon for someone to call a friend over to help in a trade or talk in his ear. However, in a trade with a foreigner, this is a terrible practice that should be avoided at all costs. Keep your conversations loud enough that you don’t hide anything from your trade partner. You will find the more honest and open you are with a trader, the smoother a deal can be made and, in turn, the more trades you can conduct. In addition, it is a very good idea to leave your trade partner feeling as though he or she is on the better side of the acquisition. This will create a partnership that can allow you future trades that can prove to be lucrative and profitable for you both. Ask questions while you are trading—be friendly. There are so many wonderful people from around the world who play this game, and yet so few of us have the opportunity to interact with those people; take advantage of this. Creating a friendship or partnership can not only be good for business, but you may find it rewarding in other ways as well. Having friends all around the world never hurts, and learning other cultures and mannerisms is but the first step in creating that bond. Over time, you will find that many people, whom you once considered business partners or acquaintances, can become long-lasting friends.
Learning how to conduct yourself while trading with foreign players is a skill that can only be learned through practice. Once you are able to trade with this new group of traders, you will find yourself a much more profitable weekend at GPs . . . along with some great stories for your friends back home. Just remember that when you are dealing with these ladies and gentlemen, although you are looking to profit, sometimes it is more important to culture a long-term friendship than a short-term gain. One of the things I look forward to most when going to a major event is dealing with all of the foreign players. A particular trader named Tomoharu Saito, whom many know from his days on the PT, is among those gentlemen I look forward to seeing the most. Not only does Saito have a massive number of foils, he also brings what can only be described as one of the most comical personalities in Magic. Over the course of the week in California, I was able to become a closer friend with Saito, and for that, I am grateful. I was also able to trade with Saito, as usual, and as always, we both went home with exactly what we were looking for. I will use his pricing since it does not match up to any website used in the United States. When dealing with foreign dealers, you must also remember that they price your cards higher, so they are often able to give more than a given store’s price on some singles. With this in mind, just think of these trades as a cash transaction rather than a retail transaction. Memorizing buy lists can greatly improve your ability to adapt to these types of situations. The trade below was unfortunately not a Box to Extended trade; however, in the future, I do plan on having Saito get in on the project.
−1 Snapcaster Mage $23
+ 1 Elvish Champion JSS Japanese promo $55
Trades like this are very hard to understand when you first get into the business; however, over time, you will learn to adapt to these scenarios and increase your profit margins. I am fortunate enough to be friends with a lot of the right people in the business, giving me a leg up in the foreign foil market, but you don’t get there overnight. The first step is to do as much traveling as you can—at a certain point, grinding FNMs and prereleases for trades just isn’t enough. Making it to large events isn’t just about making your margins; it’s also about creating relationships that can further you in the trade game.
There is one last trade I wanted to cover this week. This gentleman was from China. This meant, of course, that almost all of his cards were Chinese. Though, for the most part, I attempt to stay away from Chinese cards for reasons mentioned last week, some Eternal staples and Commander foils are still worth looking at. I will again use his prices since we were not using a particular website for values.
Hue (unsure about the spelling)
−2 Tooth and Nail $26.00
−1 Razorverge Thicket $7.00
+1 Foil Chinese Journeyer's Kite $8.00
+1 Foil Chinese Ratchet Bomb $6.00
+1 Foil Chinese Thrun, the Last Troll $20.00
As you can see, these values came out evenly when based on English foil prices for most of these cards, but if we take a closer look, we can see that a lot of these Chinese foils hold greater values. For the sake of equal pricing, I will use SCG because they are the most likely to have these all in stock.
Tooth and Nail $17.99
Razorverge Thicket $7.99
Journeyer's Kite (none in stock; English: $14.99, Japanese: $39.99)
According to these prices, we know that I would put the Chinese foil between $25 and $30, making for quite a healthy profit.
Ratchet Bomb $11.99
Thrun, the Last Troll (none in stock; English: $24.99, Japanese: $49.99)
Given these numbers, Thrun in the foil Chinese version would be somewhere between $35 and $40, but probably closer to $40 because of his playability in both Legacy and Commander.
Clearly, even though the numbers he gave for my cards were lower than the typical retail prices you may be familiar with, a profit was still made. Learning how to adapt to different trade conditions and how to evaluate foreign cards is what separates the true floor trader from the run-of-the-mill money-grinder.
Join me next week as I delve into the world of promos and oddities. I will not have a large number of trades to report on because there are not many events during December, but bear with me as I work to provide information you can’t find anywhere else!