The Pros and Cons of Different Trade Binder Systems

This article will discuss the different trade binder systems, the pros and cons of each and some other tips and ideas on how to set up your binders and keep your cards safe.

ONE BINDER SYSTEM (Beginning to Trade)

If you’re just beginning to trade, know the price of all your cards so you don’t get ripped off. Use your phone to look up a price if you’re ever unsure and just work at building up, trading up, and diversifying your collection. If your binder gets full of cards, slowly sift out your bulk until you binder doesn’t have anything under a buck or two in it. I wrote down each trade I made for over a year in a little blue book. It’s a good way to reevaluate each trade you make over a long period of time. There will be good and bad trades so don’t beat yourself up. Learn from and watch others and with time, patience and studying card prices and trends your binder will grow.

TWO-BINDER SYSTEM (Under $10 / Above $10)

By creating a binder with cards no more than $8-$10 and then a binder with $10+ cards, you can easily create a two-binder system that works in your favor. This allows you to have a “small” trade binder that you can use to trade cards up and then a “big” trade binder you only pull out if they don’t see enough and you really want a card. I often use the two binder system, trading out of the small binder when I want to be a “normal trader,” just needing to pick up small sideboard cards, and then the big binder for bulk and prize ticket trading. This is the binder system I recommend to most aspiring floor traders. You can also show up to an event with just your big binder and use a one-binder system as described below.

ONE BINDER SYSTEM (Ogre/Floor Vendor Style)

Most floor vendors use a one-binder system. The binder is usually very large and full of sought-after staples from every format. Top floor vendor binders will have $10,000-$50,000 worth of Magic cards in that one binder. The point of the binder is to intimidate you, show you way more than you need, and show you that they have everything. If you see a large binder full of cards beyond your wildest dreams, most likely but not always the binder will belong to a floor vendor. Be prepared to take a hit in the trade, but if you are desperate for a card or need it right before the main event, it can be a place to find what you need.


It’s important to note that many LGS’s and GP venues do not encourage you and even say not to place a price on your Magic cards when they are in a binder. The reason: They feel threatened that you have placed a cash buy price on the card and are attempting to sell it at their venue where you are clearly not allowed to. There are some floor vendors that do it, but for the most part I would warn against placing actual price numbers on your Magic cards that are for trade, even if you are only trying to trade them not sell them.


This system is a secret way for you to keep track of the prices of your cards without placing an actual price on them. It is an idea I saw once and expanded upon and used for almost a year when I was trying to memorize more card prices while managing a bigger collection than I ever had before.

Its simple: starting at the front of the binder, organize the binder starting with all the $2 cards for the first few pages, then make a small break (or a backwards card or some marker) to identify to yourself that cards past that mark are $3 cards. Follow this all the way up to $10 in your “small binder” and then do the same with your “big binder.” You can also keep all cards above $8-$10 in sleeves and the ones below not in sleeves so you know which binder they are from. Using this system means you have to be paying close attention to where each card was pulled from in your binders, but it’s a cool way to organize and keep track of your card prices without anyone knowing you are doing so.


Some traders organize their binders by Standard, Modern, Legacy, Commander, etc.

This system limits trading in the fact that people will not trade “cross-format” even if it is a good “trade up” for them. This interesting yet limiting trade method works for those who look at each format as a different game. The trading game however is different than the playing side of Magic. If you only trade Standard cards for Standard cards than there is not much room for upward mobility. In trading you want to not only keep your collection diverse but also your ability to be flexible in all the different kinds of trades there are out there.

Sometimes the only way to get someone who uses this system to trade out of format is to add on an additional percentage to the trade. “I want plus 20 percent for my Legacy cards if I’m trading them into Standard cards”. This is just another form/style of floor trading, don’t take the hit unless you really need the card right then.


This doesn’t happen as much as LGS’s but at GP’s you will run across someone with five, six, or even seven binders stuffed full of Magic cards. Even if all the binders are full of $10+ cards its just way to much to carry around.

The time it takes for someone to look through every binder alone is not worth your time. I wouldn’t suggest bringing more than two, maybe three binders to an event. Not only is it just too much weight to carry around, it takes too much time per trade, and the risk of losing a binder goes way up the more you have/have out.


The reason that the Ogre and so many other floor vendors use the one binder system is so that they never have more than one binder out at any given time. If you use a two-binder system and have both out on the table and look one direction to work on a trade the chances of you losing or having the other binder stolen goes up a lot. You always want to have you eyes on the trade you are doing. Even though doing two trades at once could be exciting and add to the amount of trades you could do in a day, try staying to one trade and one binder at a time. Slide the first binder back in your bag and grab the second, get used to doing this, get used to having your eyes on your binder at all times and keep your bag wrapped around your leg or on your lap at all times. The last thing you want is to grind awesome trades all weekend and have something stolen.


Starting to think about how you want to organize your trade binders might not seem like the parts of Magic finance you want to focus on, but real trading, trading up and bulk/prize ticket trading take a lot of small details that most Magic finance articles never talk about. It might not be crazed speculation on the new Oath spoilers, but it’s the solid advice I wish someone had told me when I first started, hope this helped a little and if you see me trading in my black beanie on the trade floor in Oakland please say hi! Have a great week everyone.

Colin Bevis started playing magic right after the release of Innistrad his freshman year of college. He moved to New York City this fall after traveling the country learning and surviving off of floor trading. He enjoys theatre and film, and now flies out to most U.S. GPs.

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