Buying Tips from a Cardboard Crack Addict: Watch out for Inked MTG Cards!

A Magictation by Mikeal Basile

“Magictating” is defined as getting into the zone with your Magic the Gathering collection–thinking, planning, organizing, reminiscing about past games, and imagining future games. It is a combination of hard thinking about the game and calm meditation, reveling in the joy it brings you.

I have an addiction to making myself ridiculous projects. My buying a card-a-day for 365 days straight is just one more testament to this crazy cardboard-crack addiction. I’ve been buying cards for ¾ of the year! I would like to share a new update with you. This is a pretty wild story, so be prepared. I traded in a slew of uncommons, commons, and bulk rares for some pretty expensive cards. I wrote about that here, but today I’d like to tell you about a SNAFU that occurred during this process.

I ordered an All Hallow’s Eve. I used my store credit to purchase it, so it wouldn’t cost me any real cash. This is a beautiful thing, and I recommend anyone repurpose their bulk for gemstones whenever possible. Finding an All Hallow’s Eve in my collection is way cooler than owning 8 extra copies of various staples and other temporarily inflated items. This type of collection shifting is always worth the time (well, mostly…40+ hours is a bit rough I’ll admit). Yet, when you are able to trade up it’s generally a great idea. So, I traded up to an All Hallow’s Eve, and anxiously awaited its arrival in the mail.

I purchased it from a very large online retailer. The card was supposed to be lightly played. It arrived and looked just that—lightly played. Then, I looked a little more closely and what I discovered made my stomach drop into my gut. But, before I get to that, let me tell you a cool little story about visiting my L.G.S.

I was looking in the case, and the owner was behind the counter opening some cards he had bought for his personal collection off Ebay. He pulled the card out, Smokestack, and says, “Man, I love when people cheat like this.” I was immediately drawn into asking what he was talking about because his tone was seriously sarcastic. He was annoyed, but also smiled as he passed the card to me. Take a look at my near mint Smokestack I just bought for my NM Urza’s Saga set. I held the card, looked it over front and back, and felt that is was in fact a genuine Magic card. It felt like one, didn’t look counterfeit in any way I could see, and so I said, “I don’t see the issue.” He asked me to hold it up to the light, and I did. I still didn’t see it. Then he pointed out to me that it was inked on the borders. It was hard to see at first. He explained to me that people take a sharpie or other black permanent marker touch the spot and then smear it with a wet cloth or whatever. It cuts the sheen down from the marker and leaves a barely perceptible black edge. Apparently, this is something people do. They also will sand the edge of the card slightly in order to hide any bleed-through that might occur on the very edge of the card.  That was sick and sad and disturbing. I wasn’t surprised. I was seriously glad I had learned about that particularly unsavory trick.

Now, back to the All Hallow’s Eve I ordered. It was inked. It was inked in multiple areas. The corners on the front and back had been inked and you could even see a bit of the bleed-through on one of the edges. I was sick to my stomach looking at that. I had a $380 card that was now considered damaged. I had no idea how the store was going to react. Would they believe me? Would they give me a hard time? Did they even have another one in stock to replace what I ordered? Would they even consider that the card they sent me is the one that was marked? How could I prove I wasn’t swapping it out with some other copy like the scammer that obviously sold them the inked card in the first place. I was mad, nervous, and really upset.

I contacted their customer service, and I was being communicated with immediately. They asked me to send pictures of the card and that their grading team would assess if what I was saying was true or not and move forward from there. I wasn’t being called into question. I wasn’t treated like a scammer, and I was actually treated as I deserved to be. I was happily surprised. I sent the pictures in, and they got back to me that it was in fact inked and said they were sending a replacement out that day. They also sent me a postage paid envelope to return the inked card in. I was relieved and wondered exactly what my replacement version would look like. I hoped it wouldn’t be another debacle.

I waited to mail the original back, because I wanted to compare it to the new one. I just wanted to see if what my inked card appeared to be would be similar to the condition of the one that was on its way. When I opened the replacement it was in even better condition than what the inked one appeared to be. I was very happy. I was even happier that it was clearly a real card that wasn’t marked in any way. It was a complete and total relief. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed being able to mail the original back and leave all that behind me. I was going to try and forget about this, but after telling a few of my friends about it I realized that everyone should know about this. It’s not enough that I got my order straightened out or that I am now much more trusting of a particular larger retailer. It’s not about my single experience or my satisfaction. People need to know that inked cards are out there and can be hard to spot.

I’m including the pictures of the card that I sent away. I think it is important to note how this may look. It is a subtle thing that isn’t easily seen. You really need to shine a light on it and look at it in the glare to tell what’s going on. We, as a community, need to be aware of this type of marking. Ultimately, I feel that the best place to buy your singles is your L.G.S., because you can both look a card over and check for these types of discrepancies. I appreciated the perfect customer service from the online retailer. I was pleased with the overall outcome, but I was nervous. I did have doubts, and I’m happy to say that they were unfounded. I could have precluded this from happening by visiting my L.G.S. and buying this marquee card there, but I did not. I essentially traded for this card, and I’m happy to report that I was able to trade back the bad version. In the end, I walked away with a card I wanted. The end result was positive, but ultimately, the safest place to deal with cards like this is in-person. This way we are able to both assess exactly what kind of deal is occurring at the moment. This could be mitigated through the use of pictures, but this type of inking doesn’t necessarily show up when you have a traditional straight-on picture. You have to have the corners in the glare, and that’s when it’s clearly noticeable. I’ll certainly be more leery of buying cards like this from places like Ebay or TCG player.

So, a long story short. You can buy cards online from big retailers and they will likely honor your complaints about inking. It’s a dirty thing, but the more we all know about it, then the less likely anyone is to get away with it. I’m not a stickler for condition on my cards, but I’ll take whitening on the edges of my cards to sharpied over black borders. It just feels dishonest to me, and I’m not a fan of dishonesty in any form. Until next time, may the ink and your cards be ever in your favor!

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