Thursday, 21 October 2021 10:10

How to build a better trade binder

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Your trade binder is your own personal 'Magic: The Gathering' storefront. Your trade binder is your own personal 'Magic: The Gathering' storefront. MAGIC UNTAPPED

When looking for new cards or to best capitalize on your current ones, a trade binder is one of the best tools in a Magic: The Gathering player’s arsenal.  Of course, some will say that a trade binder is only as good as the cards put in it.  And while that’s true, it’s not the only consideration when putting together the best binder you can.

Hopefully the following tips will help you be a trade binder pro.

The binder itself matters

Nobody likes thumbing through a cheap-o three ring binder with a loose clamp that lets pages slip out like faster than lawsuits against our former President.  That stated, not everyone can drop a wad of cash on a fancy-smancy binder.

Thankfully, the binder isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution.

For the budget-minded, something along the lines of a sturdy, mid-range three-ring binder would do the trick.  For most collectors, something in the 1- to 1½-inch range would probably do the trick.  Too small, and you’ll soon find yourself carrying two or three binders.  Too large and you run the risk of it heavy, bloated, and (probably) damaged sooner rather than later.

The Avery Ultralast 1-inch binder is a great example.  It’s well-built, not too terribly expensive ($12-18 range), and even has a framed-view cover if you want to customize its look.  And, because it doesn't come with pages pre-loaded, it's scalable to the number of pages you actually need (no having 10-15 empty pages at the back half of your binder).

As for the actual trading card pages – the part of the binder that actually touches your cards – there are a number of choices.  And most of them are pretty good.  A common and popular option is the Ultra Pro 9-Pocket Platinum Series, which offers great protection at a cost of right around $22 for 100 pages.  For the price, however, sometimes basic is best.  A company called Enday has some more generic-like nine-pocket sleeves that list at a much more budget-friendly price of less than $4 for 25 pages (or $13 for 100).

And, for those who would rather have a grab-and-go option where the binder and its pages are integrated together, there are more than a few options to go around.

For smaller binders, which have four-pocket pages (and are great for showcasing Magic card playsets), Tonespac has a terrific option for the price (around $15) that comes in a variety of colors, can hold as many as 400 cards, and features a secure zipper close.

If a more conventional-sized binder is preferred, something along the lines of the HillGone Waterproof Card Binder ($20) should fit the bill.  It also comes in a variety of two-tone colors, holds 720 cards, and has a zipper close.

And, for those who prefer the ultra-wide, 12-pocket display (those are the pages that are four wide), Wintra ($30) makes one that is ringless and holds 720 cards, side-loader style.  It also features a zipper close for added protection.

It’s what’s inside that counts

Okay, so you have your physical binder.  Great.  Now, let’s put some stuff in it!

First inclination might be to put all of your unwanted and unneeded rares and foils and whatnot in there.  While that’s a good thought, you’ll probably wind up with a binder that has so many bulk rares and foils that it distracts from the cards that people might actually want to trade for.

The final page of a trade binder's black section, followed by the first of the Blue.
The final page of a trade binder's black section, followed by the first of the Blue. / IMAGE: MAGIC UNTAPPED

Take a few minutes and sort through the cards you’re considering putting into the binder.  Take everything worth less than a buck (I mean, aside from the occasional always-in-demand 80¢ card like an old-frame Brainstorm) and either trade them into a store at their bulk price, give them to a friend, or (better yet) list them on Cardsphere and start sending them out to people who actually want them.

Have you figured out which cards are worth at least a buck a piece yet?  You have?  Good.  Now on to the next step…

Put high-value cards of the same color together.Save the best for FIRST

First impressions are always important.  That is very true with trade binders as the first page is almost always what the person with whom you are trading will see.  That said, don’t put all of your best cards on the first page.

And why not?

Well, once a person sees all of your cream-of-the-crop cards on the first couple of pages and then realizes that the cards begin to go down in desirability and value from there, they might not look at the rest of your trade binder so intently.

Here’s how to combat that.

Organize your binder by color in whichever order pleases you, whether that be alphabetically (ie: Artifact/Colorless, Black, Blue, etc.) or by WotC order (ie: WUBRG).  Once you’ve done that, put the best and most desirable cards on the front page for each color.  Do you have a Sylvan Library and a Craterhoof Behemoth?  Great.  Those go on the first page of the Green section.  What about a Personal Tutor and a Jace, the Mind Sculptor.  You guessed it.  Front of the Blue section.

This will entice the person browsing your binder to actually go through the entire binder as (A) it’s organized and (B) there’s good stuff throughout.

Sorry, that’s not for trade

How many times have you looked through a person’s binder only to hear the words “Sorry, that’s not for trade.”


One of the worst things you can do is put things in your binder that you have no intention of trading.  Yes, even worse that putting in a bunch of bulk rares and foils.

And we’re not saying you have to say “yes” to every trade that comes your way.  It’s fine to say “I’m not interested in trading <CARD A> for <CARD B>.  Really, it’s fine.  People get it.

What people don’t like is finding out that the card about which they are inquiring is not for trade at all.  If that’s the case, just take it out of your binder.  All you’re doing by keeping it in is making the trade a negative experience for the other person.

Remember, happy traders equal happy trades.

The two binder strategy

What’s that?  You don’t want to keep all of your high-value Magic cards mixed in with your lower-value cards?  I have news for you.

That’s perfectly fine.

The two binder strategy: $1-$9 on the left, $10+ binder on the right.
The two binder strategy: $1-$9 on the left, $10+ binder on the right. / IMAGE: MAGIC UNTAPPED

Many traders – especially those who are quite experienced in the trading game – employ a two binder strategy.

Essentially, they have one binder for everything of lower value (typically the $1-$10 range) with cards such as Chandra Nalaar ($2), Time Stop ($5), and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben ($9), and a second (typically smaller) binder with the big-ticket items like their Tempest Time Warp ($22), promo Thalia, Guardian of Thraben ($66), and Revised Scrubland ($358).

This can help separate the signal from the noise for both you and for the person with whom you are trading.  If they’re looking for a specific cards and you know which binder it’s in, you can simply hand them that binder to make things quicker and more convenient for them.  Likewise, if the person is only interested in higher- or lower-value trades, you can start them off with the binder they’re more likely to find to their liking.

This strategy also works well when working with dealers, whether in stores or at events like a MagicFest or Star City Open.  If you’re unwilling or disinterested in trading/selling your higher-end cards to a dealer, you can just provide them with the $10-and-under binder, and visa versa.

Backing up your binder

One concern Magic players (and, really, players of any CCG) have is “what if my binder gets lost or stolen?”

Well, unfortunately, bad things sometimes happen to good people.

Aside from keeping your binder within your sight or on your person at all times, there is one thing you can do to mitigate the risk: keeping a backup.

Essentially, what you are doing is keeping only a single copy of each card you have available for trade in the binder and the rest in your backpack.  Essentially, you’re using your binder as a pseudo-catalog and your actual inventory out of sight.

While this may seem a bit inconvenient, there’s a reason.

Let’s say your trade binder does get lost or stolen.  The downside is, well, you’re out a trade binder and every card in it.  The upside (the silver lining, if you would) is that, despite the loss or theft, you still have all of your backup cards.

Sure, while it sucks that you’re out that Mox Amber you had in the binder, at least you still have the other two in your backpack.

It’s a bad situation when you lose your binder.  The trick is to not make it worse for yourself.

And, since it’s never good to end on a negative, remember this one thing…

Trading is part of the game

Magic: The Gathering is a collectible card game, yes, but it’s also a trading card game.  Trading is part of the game, plain and simple.

So, go out there.  Have fun.  Make trades.  Have a blast.

Hopefully this guide helps you have the best trade binder you can build.