Card trading: risks and precautions

Feb 18


Clemente Zamora

Clemente Zamora

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Abstract: Ways of trading cards and their associated risks. Factors to take into account when arranging trades, both in person and online, and how to avoid the risk of being ripped of your collectible cards.


You can trade your cards in two different ways: face to face,Card trading: risks and precautions Articles or by postal mail. The first type of trading is performed at tournaments, at schools, or at the local comic shop, and you arrange the trades by checking the other person's cards directly, holding them in your hands. Otherwise, cards are traded by mail when the parties can not meet because they live far apart from each other.
Both ways of trading have their own risks and you can be ripped in both situations if you don't take the necessary precautions. Trading face to face is normally less dangerous, because you are seeing the material you are getting, and you receive it at the same time you give yours. Nevertheless, you can still be cheated in two ways. You may get counterfeit cards, or you may get cards whose value is far lower than the value of those you give.

Counterfeit cards are normally easy to tell apart for a person with experience with the real ones, but many young traders do not know enough about the cards they are trading, so they can be fooled into believing they're some special kind of legitimate cards. And there are also very good counterfeits out there that are really difficult to distinguish from real ones even for an experienced player.

Cards from each collectible card game have different details you should check to validate their authenticity. For Yu-Gi-Oh! cards, for example, which is one of the games that is suffering most from these deceiving practices, one of the main tell-tales is a small hologram at the bottom right corner, which should show the Anubis eye, or the word YuGiOh depending on how the light shines on it. But also the coloring scheme of both sides of the card and even the general layout may be different in fake cards. You should always compare the cards you are getting with the ones you have and make sure the (consistency) of the cardboard and the quality of the printing are similar, as counterfeit cards are normally made with cheaper materials, including paper, ink, glue, etc.

Nevertheless, most trades involve only authentic cards. But there is another thing you have to be aware of when trading your cards. In every trade, the value of the exchanged cards should be equivalent. But determining this is not an exact science. The value of cards depend on parameters like its rarity, and its condition. Rarity is determined by the frequency of printing, and the condition of conservation is important mainly for collectors. But the value is also relative and sometimes subjective. The same card may have different value for different people. For example, a collector may value a card much more than a player when it is difficult to find but it is not all that useful in the game. Also, the value of a card changes with time, as new game strategies are explored or new cards are published.

However, you can always determine a general value for a card based on how desirable it is for the average trader. That's why most people will generally agree on a trade being balanced or not. So, if you are unsure about the value of your cards or the ones you are going to receive, you should ask someone else to evaluate the trade.

Summing up, if you have a minimum of experience and can value the cards and distinguish fake ones, you should have no real problem when trading cards in person with any other trader.

But nowadays it's getting much more frequent to arrange trades on the Internet and performing the exchange by postal mail. People are meeting on the net, checking their haves and wants and arranging trades, all remotely and without meeting. Then they swap addresses and send their cards by postal mail.

In these cases you don't know anything for sure about the other person, just whatever they want to tell you about them. You don't know if they really have the cards they are offering, or if the cards are authentic and in the agreed condition. Here you can not see nor touch the cards before agreeing to the trade, and you can only verify if the cards are authentic, and in the right condition, once you receive them in your mailbox. If you have already sent yours, it could be too late by then.

In trades by mail you run a greater risk, therefore, if you send your cards before receiving those from the other trader. That's why there is a lot of discussion, when arranging a trade through the web, about who will send his cards first. The most usual way to determine this is by resorting to references. References are votes of confidence given by someone who has traded before with this person and was satisfied by his performance. It is assumed that the greater number of references a trader has, the more reliable he is. Consequently, the rule is that the person with fewer references should be willing to send his cards first if required to do so. Nevertheless the sheer number of references is not guarantee of a perfect trader. You should always check one or more of the references to verify they are authentic and recent. A reference includes a way of contacting the referrer so he can explain when and how the trade took place. You should ask politely and thank any replies you get.

Even after verifying references, you may end up not getting the cards you wanted. You may have fallen pray of a ripper, or the other person may have simply forgotten about the trade. Or they may have sent you fake cards believing they were real, or damaged cards they had rated as fair. If you can still contact your trader you may reach a second agreement to fix any deficiencies in the trade, though this will imply more expenses and time, and may need of a lot of negotiation. You should always try to be as polite as possible even if you are discussing what you think is a misbehavior. Upsetting your speaker) won't improve your chances of getting a good resolution to the problem.

Most people use Internet forums to get in contact with other traders. They post their lists, exchange messages, match their collections, and arrange trades all in the same format, as board messages. Everything is manual and users need to keep visiting the forums to check for new users and visually identify the cards they are looking for. To ease this process, a few specialized web sites have emerged that allow users to input their haves and wants in a standard way so that the system itself can match their collections and tell them about possible traders and wanted cards that are available. This way the search for trades gets automated and a lot of effort is saved. Nevertheless, users must still visit the sites periodically to check for new matches. Trade Cards Online ( is the only site which offers their exclusive Automated Report on Possible Trades, alerting their users whenever any of the cards they are looking for becomes available for trading. Users receive an e-mail message without having to visit the site continuously for this purpose.

So finding the best trades is getting much easier thanks to the Internet and its global access. The web is also making the trades by postal mail much more frequent. Unfortunately, it is not reducing the associated risks. Forums are getting full of messages complaining about this or that user who has cheated someone. Special forums are created to post the names of those people deemed to be bad traders. There is in fact a web site dedicated to fighting bad traders of collectible cards: G.A.B. (Good Against Bad traders: is a community of volunteers who investigate reports of misbehavior in card trades, and maintain a list of confirmed cheaters. The minimum precaution you must take before initiating a trade with someone is checking that they are not already listed in that website as bad traders.

But if you are really concerned about safety, then Trade Cards Online is the site for you. Trade Cards Online ( is a feature-rich site dedicated to facilitating your trading of collectible cards and which has made every effort to increase your security when trading. There are several features that make it the safest place to trade on the Internet:

Spam-free: your e-mail address is never shared with anyone else, as all messages are exchanged through an internal messaging system which directs them to your mailbox without disclosing your address to the other user. You can also decide whether you want to receive messages only from registered users, or also from external traders.

Trustworthy: the site features an easy-to-use reference system that lets users give references to each other and keeps track of them and the time they were submitted. Checking the number of references a trader has and contacting a few of them is all easily done from within the website.

Protected: the site offers the exclusive Protected Trade service which guarantees you won't get cheated or ripped. The site acts as intermediary and checks that the cards are in fact sent and are the correct ones before resending them to their final owners. This way you get your own cards back if the other party on the trade does not meet its commitment. You will never lose your cards again to a dishonest trader.

Free of rippers: there is no bad trader list, and that is because bad traders are simply removed altogether from the site, so it stays free of cheaters. Whenever a user thinks he has been ripped in a trade with another user, they create a Bad Trader Report which is investigated based on the internal records of messages exchanged. If no resolution is reached, offending users are automatically expelled from the site and banned for life. Users who get listed at G.A.B also get immediately removed from this site.

Trading online is full of advantages that make trading cards much easier and more convenient, but you need to be cautious and use all the available services that reduce your risks of being ripped of your precious cards.