Ask Ken, 07/29/2004

What’s this? A girl is the guest columnist for today’s Ask Ken? Is that even possible?

Hi Hi Lucky Readers! It’s Platy, the world famous Platypus and stylist to the Pros, filling in for KK this week. Today’s letter from Jonathan is a bit of a continuation of last week’s theme of Morality and Trading in Magic.

Dear Ken,

While I do agree with you that a fair trade is in the eye of the beholder, shouldn’t there be a line drawn somewhere? I have heard a story of some 3rd grader who received a whole slew of Magic cards, including the Power 9, from an older relative. When older Magic players sifted through his collection and came across these carelessly placed but still in decent condition cards, they asked the kid how much for each of them. I believe the kid sold each of them for $10 a pop, and used the money to by Yu-Gi-Oh cards.

Now, had I bought those cards for $10 each, I would have gone home and promptly shredded them, punishing myself for getting $300 cards so easily. What would you do in that situation?


Disclaimer: I heard this story from a friend’s friend, and I have no proof it actually happened.

Hey Jon,

Sorry dude, but it seems you got shafted; I get to respond to you and not the awesome KK.

Unfortunately this sounds like what we gossip experts refer to as a Magic urban legend, sort of like Mike Long having a Cadaverous Bloom on his lap at US Nationals 1998 or the kid who shredded his Chaos Orb way back when into”Chaos Confetti” to cover his opponent’s board. Like most urban legends, Magic or otherwise, the story starts out with some basis in fact or truth, perhaps some parts of the tale even happened, but it gets retold so many times in a real life version of the childhood game”Telephone” that it becomes warped out of proportion.

I asked several Magic chat rooms for their opinion of your story, including a Type 1 chatroom, about what they thought of your story and they all felt that it probably happened at some point. If it did occur, it was most likely many years ago in Seattle, the mecca of Magic, where Black Lotuses flow like milk and honey, and the Power 9 drop from the sky like mana from the heavens. But what makes your story so unbelievable and thus a tall tale, is the time frame it’s set in. It’s happened pretty recently, which is obvious from your saying that the third-grader bought YuGiOh cards. While YuGiOh didn’t come out just last week, it hasn’t been around that long, and while several years ago not everyone was aware of the value of the Power 9, these days it seems like everyone knows the approximate value of the Moxen. It also seems very unlikely that no matter how generous or lazy or fed up with Magic that older relative was, they would allow cards like Moxen and Loti to slip unnoticed to someone else, even a family member. While this is unlikely, it is not impossible.

As for wanting to punish you self to taking advantage of such a situation, there are several ways to look at it. Knowing whether or not to feel guilty depends on what kind of person you kid traded with. We’ll focus more on younger types of traders here, since your story used a kid as the one who was trading. I know I used to trade money rares for stacks of unplayable foils. I probably never got my money’s worth, but I never cared – I got what I wanted, they got what they wanted, both parties were happy, no one really felt ripped off. Then there is the young trader who is trying to build a deck or a decent collection. These are the ones most likely to get ripped off, they tend to know what they want specifically, but not always, but don’t always know how much its worth or how much they should give for what they are trying to get.

Example: Kid has a 4 Eternal Witnesses and Man has a Siege-Gang Commander and other random goblins. Man wants Kid’s Witnesses, Kid wants Man’s goblins. Man offers Kid the Commander for the 4 Witnesses, the Kid really wants that Commander and he might, if not probably will, go for the trade because he doesn’t realize how valuable the Witnesses are as a commodity and doesn’t know how to haggle. The Man in this situation will probably get a much better deal.

One of the problems with taking advantage of a situation like this when it’s clear you’re taking advantage of someone who cares about what their cards are worth, but is not quite sure about how to go about a fair trade is that quite often, these young boys and girls have much older brothers or sisters and/or young parents. The last thing some lazy gamer needs is lil’bro’s/sis’ star-quarterback-big-brother/head-cheerleader-with-a-giant-baton-big-sister coming after you all pissed off that you just ripped off their sibling. Not a real good situation to be in.

Or of course, as Jeroen Remie points out, the real problem with being in that sort of situation is not the giant older sibling barreling down on you with a baseball bat, but actually just that you are scum. Not you specifically Jon, but someone who would knowingly rip off a little kid. The issue with being labeled scum is that while your friends and peers might high five you for a job well done, they too will now think twice about trading with you.

The problem with this gross generalization is some little kids don’t care what their cards are worth, no matter how much you try and tell them that Black Lotus is money in the bank, they just want that shiny Jackal Pup promo and they’ll do anything to get it.

So really, what it comes down to is, know your trade audience and know your own guilt level. Can you live with your tell tale heart beating away in your deckbox? Or would you rather not have to worry about that and a dead horses head on your bed, and instead give up a few more cards than you really wanted to? Next time some little kid gives you an offer you can’t refuse, make sure you give them one as well.

houdoe en bedankt,

Platy van der Puss