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The Complete TF2 Trading Guide - Tips, Advice and Secrets
By +SPONGE+ [NUTTER]
TRADE SECRETS. Expert trading advice and info to help safeguard your backpack, grow your collections quicker, increase your profits and become a more successful TF2 trader.
The information contained in this guide has been compiled from many sources and includes advice and tips from a number of experienced high end traders, trade server owners, trading forum admins and other successful TF2 traders.
This guide may be modified periodically to reflect current market trends and other changes including additions made by Valve. Use this information to help safeguard your backpack, grow your collections quicker, increase profits and become a more successful trader.
Please rate up if you find anything helpful.
The most important thing to consider first before embarking on some serious trading is security. The last thing you want after spending lots of time and effort is someone else gaining access to your Steam Account and stealing all your items. It happens more than you might imagine. The more successful you become the more likely you are to be targeted by account hackers and scammers.
Lets deal with account security first, then it’s on to the good stuff.
Secure your Steam Account. Ensure you have a strong complicated password securing your Steam Account and ensure it’s Steam Guard Enabled. Check your Steam Account Settings. An additional safeguard is to use an alternate email account from your day to day personal email. Create a new email account if necessary for use with your Steam Account and keep it private. Don’t use your real name or your gaming nickname for this account and again ensure you use a strong complicated password. Do not make this email address public especially within your Steam Profile or other gaming forums. In many cases hackers gain access to the email account associated with the Steam Account to change the account password so keeping your email account secret and secure is vitally important.
If you suspect there is a problem with your Steam account contact Steam Support immediately.
Scammers, Sharks and Deception
Unfortunately there’s too many traders out there more than willing to deceive you out of your items. Be aware of the most common scams and run checks on who you’re trading with. Check the steam account of who you’re trading with and the level or age of their account. If their Steam account is new be wary, especially when trading for high value items. Scammers will often create new accounts because they have been previously banned by Valve or have bans from trade servers and trading forums and new accounts are very easy to create. If their account is new ask them why then depending on their reasons decide to trade or decline. Always keep a record of the Steam ID of who you are trading with and save your chat log text especially when trading for high value items.
‘Sharks’ are usually experienced traders that prey on new or inexperienced traders often deceiving them on the true value of their items in order to profit from their gain. ‘Sharking’ is frowned upon within the trading community and can earn the deceiver permanent trade server and trade forum bans. Either avoid or at least be very careful opening any web links that are posted in chat, either in trade chat or server chat as you may be opening a web page with that contains code designed to steal your Steam account details alongside other account info and passwords. Never install any software on the advice of someone you neither know nor trust. If for any reason you do not feel comfortable about a trade, trust your instinct and walk away.
The Good Stuff
TF2 item trading is like any other market economy and like any other economy it is subject to value fluctuations and market trends. While some trends can be quite predictable others are harder to gauge without a degree of experience. The following information shares some of that experience, starting from the basics and low end trading, following on to higher value item trading and Unusual hats and trading with real money. Used wisely this information should help reduce the trial and error factor, prevent you from being scammed, efficiently boost your profits and help build your collections more rapidly.
Unless you have a photographic memory, item value spreadsheets and websites can be useful for keeping up to date with item values and will enable you to notice trends that can help bring greater profits. Those websites should be used as a guide only and are not necessarily a definitive list of exact market values. Fluctuations in item values usually happen before the sites are away of market changes therefore they lag behind true/current values. If you choose to refer to websites as a guide choose sites that are maintained by impartial community groups. These are generally maintained more regularly and are less open to abuse, such as price fixing, artificial inflation or under valuation to suit the requirements of whoever is hosting the site or individuals.
Buy low - Sell high
*The following general advice applies to most items from craft hats and weapons to vintage and genuine items and Unusual hats but some exceptions and market trends can affect values greatly (explained later).
Buying: Try to buy your items at around 75% of the market value so start your offers here. This will more likely result in your offers being taken seriously rather than a ‘lowball’ and sellers will often be more willing to negotiate further. Try to avoid paying the market price for any item and set your maximum buy price no higher than 90% of market value and stick to it. Don’t be impatient and keep your cool. If a seller won’t negotiate, shop around for other sellers of the same items.
Selling: Try to sell your items around 25% more than the market price or more if you can. Remember, if you attempt to sell for too much then you’re less likely to attract a buyer, especially if there’s a lot of the items you’re selling. If you struggle to sell an item reduce the selling price gradually down to as little as 10% more than the market value.
This is where so many traders fail. Trading without patience can be your downfall. If an item doesn’t sell for 10% more than the market value, WAIT. Keep the item in your backpack for later and concentrate on selling other items. Remember also, value depreciation happens over time so be patient and wait for new items to drop in value.
Tip: Keep a record of what you’ve paid for an item. Use notepad or pen and paper if you have to, whatever suits. This way you can be sure you’re making a profit. Lose track, lose profit.
Golden Rule: Never sell an item for less than you paid and if depreciation strikes, sell quick to keep losses to a minimum
Your reputation is vital for trading. Maybe not so much when you’re starting up but an absolute necessity when trading for higher value items. Don’t be afraid to ask for ‘rep’ when you’ve completed a trade. Bear this in mind for the future if you’re starting out. Experienced traders will know this only too well. Be polite with fellow traders and stay on good terms regardless of the outcome of your trade. You never know if might meet the trader again and good friends are a major advantage when it comes to trading. Build up your reputation on your Steam Profile page, trading website or trading forum.
Friends - Team up
This single piece of advice will probably improve your rate of success more than any other section in this guide. Trading alone can be very time consuming especially if you have many items to trade or if you’re looking for a specific quality or rare items. Working together with friends significantly reduces the risk of being scammed and increases your chances of locating item sales and purchases and widens your trading scope. Make friends with trusted traders and help each other to find the items you want at the agreed prices you're willing to pay. Finding friends in different time zones enables you to cover trading 24/7 and having friends in other countries can help you find items in trading communities that use languages other than your own, therefore widening your scope further still. Consider creating a private Steam Group to share your progress and keep track of your group objectives. Being able to trade higher volumes of items in a shorter periods of time significantly reduces the time it takes for your profits to increase.
Fluctuations in values for certain items and item classes can be quite predictable. Some item class values have a tendency to change in a noticeable and predictable manner increasing your chance of success and profit gains, IF you’re able to predict these changes.
Festive and Seasonal Items
Knowing what to buy and when can greatly improve your chance of making profits. During festive [wiki.teamfortress.com]and seasonal [wiki.teamfortress.com]periods, new items are traded for high values with profit margins being only slight. Profitable traders wait until well after the festive period ends (at least a month) and snap up what items they can after the seasonal novelty value wears off. Item values will be at their lowest a month or two after each festive or seasonal period has ended. Don’t miss this opportunity to start hoarding.
Buy what you can for the lowest value, put them to the back of your backpack and forget about them. Wait until the next festive period is due again e.g. 4-8 weeks before the start of next Halloween[wiki.teamfortress.com] or Christmas[wiki.teamfortress.com] period and watch the values of these items steadily increase. Not only will these items become more sought after, there is very little chance that Valve will make the same items available again so you will find yourself sitting on a pile of what are now rare and attractive items for the coming festive period. The more you have stashed away the more profit you will make and these profits can be huge. Develop a cycle of buying and selling in relation to these festive periods and before you know it you’ll begin to reap the rewards. Hold on to your festive items until a week before the festive period starts again to make the biggest profits. Most importantly plan well in advance and be patient.
Other new items on the market are initially bought and sold at a high price. New items should be sold quickly to avoid depreciation therefore keeping any profits at a maximum. Buying new items should generally be avoided unless they can be bought well below market value without ‘sharking’. This is important to remember if you’re a collector. Be patient if a new item becomes tradable and wait for the value to depreciate over next two or three weeks or more if necessary.
A classic example of item value depreciation are Genuine[wiki.teamfortress.com] items. Genuine class items are usually at their peak value as soon as they become tradable. After the first week of these items becoming tradable their value starts to depreciate. Buying a game or Valve Store goods to hopefully profit from selling a genuine item is not advisable because of this depreciation, especially if you have little interest in playing the game you buy. Genuine item values rarely if ever go above the purchase price of the game or goods from the Valve Store. Genuine Items depreciate more quickly than most other TF2 items so if you’re a collector of genuine items simply be patient and buy up the items a week or two after they become tradable. Rare genuine items can increase in value slightly but rarely back up to the value at the time they become first tradable. Genuine item values generally stabilize after a few weeks of becoming tradable and should be treated like any other item with regards to buying and selling.
Vintage item[wiki.teamfortress.com] values tend to be stable with fluctuations being slight over longer periods of time. Older and rare vintage items can be wise investments if bought below market value. Rare items generally increase in value over time so holding on to rare items for a period of months can increase your profits further. Extremely rare items (less than 20 in total) can be very expensive and command prices of their own. When considering buying very rare or valuable items always ask yourself "how hard is it going to be to sell it again and am I likely to make a profit when I do?"
Level Numbers and Craft Numbers
Trading in level or craft numbers is mostly a niche market but still popular. Whilst items with craft numbers maybe a lesser market in terms of the numbers of interested buyers, sellers or collectors, there are still significant profits to be made. When trading for any item always be aware of craft or level number as this may add additional value should a collector of that number be interested in acquiring it. Popular level/craft numbers may include, 1, 7, 42, 69,100, 666 and can include other more obscure numbers such as year numbers e.g. 2001 or 1999 or browser error codes e.g. 404 and 501 and a host of others. The more obscure the number generally the less value it will add. Low numbers are generally valued highest otherwise. Craft number and level collectors are often willing to pay way above the market value for these numbered items.
Like any other new items the value of strange weapons[wiki.teamfortress.com] is usually at it’s peak when they’re newly unboxed from the newest crates. Collectors should wait for market depreciation and generally 2 to 3 weeks should see their values stabilize. Once they do, buy at the lowest value possible. Crates that are rare or limited such as #30 and #40 are highly valued as not only are the crates themselves rare, their contents being equally rare fetching premium prices because of their limited numbers and exclusivity.
Token Campaign Items - MVM, Gun Mettle etc..
The same rules apply to Token Campaign Items[wiki.teamfortress.com] items as they do with any other new items. As more people complete the tours the more items will be found and available for trading. The greater the availability of an item the more the value depreciates. This applies to Unusal weapons and other campaign items. Collectors should avoid paying high prices for these items and simply wait until the novelty value wears off and buy at a low price once their value has stabilized.
Mann Co Store.
Buying items from the Mann Co. Store[wiki.teamfortress.com] with your own cash is not advised if you’re looking to make gains. Items bought from the store rarely if ever provide any profit and will depreciate in value as soon as you’ve bought them. Occasionally time-limited items are worth some investment for the future but again avoid buying them from the store. Wait for new time-limited items to age for a few weeks then trade for them after the new/novelty value has worn off. Trade for time-limited items a few weeks after release and store in your backpack for a few months until their value starts to creep up again. When their value tops out start selling and sell HIGH.
The Crate Gamble
Unboxing crates[wiki.teamfortress.com] has to be the biggest gamble there is and ultimately it comes down to pure chance or luck. Trading wisely and reacting to changes in market trends involves a degree of foresight, planning and experience, while there is still an element of luck in accurately predicting these changes, unboxing crates has the odds stacked well against you. The quickest way to see the rewards of your efforts deplete is by using keys to open crates in the ‘hope’ that you may unbox an Unusual hat[wiki.teamfortress.com] and importantly a hat that's worth more than the value of keys you have used to unbox it. Sure you may unbox a very valuable Unusual Hat first key but the odds are greatly against you.
Crates - Mathematics.
The objective for most when opening/unboxing a Supply Crate is to hopefully find an Unusual hat inside, ideally a high value hat with a high value particle effect.
Here’s the math:
The cost of a Supply Crate Key from the MannCo store is currently ~$2.49. The probability of opening a crate that contains an Unusual hat is 1/100 or 1%. Therefore the estimated cost of consistently unboxing Unusual hats is approx: 100 x $2.49 = ~$249.00.
This low probability factor means of course your chances of success are very low. Because of the almost random outcome you may open only 3 crates before you find an Unusual hat, it also may take 300 crates or more before you unbox an Unusual hat or possibly never at all! You can appreciate that buying keys from the store and opening crates can be a very expensive way of obtaining an Unusual hat. Even if you do unbox an Unusual hat, the chances of it being of high value or the hat you desire reduces the probability of success or satisfaction even further.
You could trade for keys instead of buying them from the store, which will save you a significant amount but again you will have to invest your time and items or cash to obtain the keys and risk taking a gamble. Even if you are able to trade for keys for as little cash value as $1.00 a key, probability dictates that it’s still likely to cost 100 times that amount ($100.00) before you hit success, OK maybe less and maybe a lot more. If you do choose to unbox crates, obtain crates that contain other valuable items. As the chances are so slim of unboxing an Unusual hat you may at least be able to recover the cost of your keys by unboxing other items that provide you with some profit or at least allow you to break even. Trading for Unusual hats is significantly less expensive and far less risky than gambling with crates. Not only that, you also get a choice and a guarantee of satisfaction when trading.
Keys, Bills and Buds
As with any other economy there’s a currency with the most common being metal[wiki.teamfortress.com] and keys[wiki.teamfortress.com]. While metal and keys are adequate for craft items or low to mid value item trades, when trading for high value items you’re going to need something more convenient than a backpack full of keys or refined metal. As there are still large quantities of Bill’s Hats[wiki.teamfortress.com] and ‘Buds’ Earbuds[wiki.teamfortress.com] circulating the TF2 market, they are used as a common currency when trading for higher value items. Community driven trading sites provide a good indication of the value of Buds and are valued in keys. The price of Buds fluctuates so check the current market value when buying or selling and remember to ask for discount if you’re buying buds or keys in bulk.
Trading Unusual hats has to be the pinnacle of TF2 item trading. The highest value items often being traded for hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars worth of 'buds' or real money. Trading in Unusual hats can be the most lucrative in terms of profits but as with any other item type they too are subject the similar value changes. These fluctuations are largely attributed to taste, fashion and exclusivity. Their values are also subject to the same changes as any new items. Unusual hats with new effects are at their premium upon release and usually depreciate over time. Unusual hats with rare particle effects[wiki.teamfortress.com] from festive or seasonal periods can gain value over time depending on the effect type and rarity. As a general rule, the more attractive the hat style the greater the value of the Unusual hat, coupled with a rare or attractive particle effect boosts the value further.
Unusual particle effect values
Generally speaking the more noticeable and flamboyant the effect the higher the value or ‘tier’ with dull or less striking effects at the bottom end of the scale being the lowest tier. This is a general rule but where the hat style or particle effects has an obvious connection, or ‘themed’ with the player class, may raise the value further. e.g. Flaming effects for the Pyro, Circling Heart for Medic or effects that won’t be a disadvantage in gameplay such as Massed Flies effect for Sniper often fetch higher than normal prices.
The highest value Unusual hats are in most cases a combination of the most sought after hat type combined with the most desirable particle effect. Exclusivity can raise prices further with rare hats combined with high tier particle effects being highly sought after. Quality can also affect the value of an Unusual hat. Hats that have been duplicated (duped) either by Valve re-issuing items to someone as a result of their account being hacked or due to a duplication exploit will reduce their value with respect to items that are ‘clean’ as is the same for hats that have been gifted. Clean items being the most valuable in ALL cases i.e.not gifted, duped or bought from the Store. Bear this in mind when trading for Unusual hats especially high and mid tiers. Always check an item’s history yourself before you buy with a Backpack Examiner and check the rarity of an item too using sites such as Meet the Stats[stats.tf] or Backpack TF[backpack.tf].
Unusual Hat trading
Unusual hats are traded in the same way as any other items but as the value of these items is significantly higher than most other items, extra care should be taken when trading. Security is a must as is verifying item value and verification of whoever you’re trading with including checking their reputation.. Unusual hat trading, because of it’s ‘real money’ value attracts Scammers, Sharks and Account Hackers. Alongside the security checks, risks can be reduced by trading on reputable Unusual hat trade servers that have Steamrep trusted admins or on sites again trusted by Steamrep. Trusted sites and servers are listed on the Steamrep homepage and if you’re unsure just ask a trusted admin as most will gladly offer you some friendly advice. Be polite to admins at all times and do not pester them into valuing your items as this is your responsibility.
Trading with real money
Trading TF2 items for real money is not approved by Valve so beware, nor do they condone it. Valve will not investigate financial losses as a result of a cash transactions for virtual items either so embarking on cash trading requires a degree of knowledge, experience and caution.
Reputation is vital for cash trading. Rep can be built up in a number of ways but is generally a history of your past trades on reputable and trusted trading forums which are managed by trusted admins. Cash buyers without a good history of trades and solid reputation will struggle to find a sellers willing to accept their money no matter how much they offer.
Cash trades are in most cases made via PayPal with the buyer sending the money to the seller’s account first. Upon receipt of the funds the seller then trades the TF2 items to the buyer. The Paypal transfer usually being completed within a few seconds. A seller will not be willing to part with their high value items if there is a high risk that the buyer will not pay or reverse a payment. An example of this is known as ‘chargeback’[www.paypal.com]. Although the buyer’s PayPal transfer may complete successfully and be received by the seller, the buyer may subsequently cancel their PayPal funding taken from a credit card or bank account resulting in the funds being later withdrawn from the seller's PayPal account. Traders that intentionally use chargeback face being VAC banned, losing all reputation and find it impossible to regain trust again within the trading community. Once a scammer, always a scammer and no amount of apologies will reverse the loss of trust.
Finally, if you do decide to start trading in cash, start off with small amounts so you become comfortable with the process and also build up your rep as a cash buyer or seller. Assuming all goes well do not become complacent and do not forget about your checks. Double check all the time, every time!
The following guidelines will reduce some elements of risk but you should be aware that experienced traders have found themselves victims of chargeback[www.paypal.com] and other scams so it is crucial that you take extra care before sending money to anyone. Financial losses for virtual item trades are in most cases permanent with little possibility of obtaining any form of refund.
Ensure your PayPal account is secure and never divulge anything about it to anyone other than the email address used for the transfer.
Record the other trader’s steam ID and log chat and take screenshots of the item trade.
Do not open web links sent by the other trader unless you know and trust them.
Trusted traders will be clear and open about their account. If they’re not, be cautious.
A seller will expect the buyer to pay first before they trade their TF2 items.
If you have any doubts about the other trader use a Trusted MiddleMan (MM). Trusted MiddleMen can be found on reputable trade servers (see Links). Let the MM direct the trade as they will verify each part of the process and assist with the transfers ensuring both sides are satisfied. The MM will hold onto the item for trade whilst the PayPal funds are transferred to prevent a seller disappearing with the funds without exchanging the item/s. Once the cash seller is satisfied that the transaction is complete the MM will trade the item/s to the buyer. If a middleman assists you with your trade it is common courtesy to donate something to the MM as a show of gratitude and they are also more likely to assist you in the future. The MM will usually carry out security checks on both traders before the trade starts.
Do not agree to use an MM that you don’t know or one that is not trusted.
Always agree on price before you start a PayPal transaction.
A cautious seller will in most cases expect your PayPal account to be PayPal Verified[www.paypal.com] to reduce their risk and may also request that you include your Steam ID and disclaimer note. These requests are normal.
These guidelines apply whether you’re buying or selling.
Do not be persuaded to trade outside these guidelines. A trusted seller will not ask you to.
Golden Rule: If things don’t add up or just don’t feel right, WALK AWAY.
Created by Ðiego, and with the help of trusted volunteers and community admins, STEAMREP became the most popular scam prevention tool for Steam trading. The STEAMREP database allowed traders to verify the integrity and reputation of traders from Steam IDs and helped many to avoid being scammed. The guys spend many hours of their time maintaining the database, website and managing appeals to ensure STEAMREP retains it's reputation within the trading community.
Additional Tips and info
Hitting the TRADE button. Once you've accepted a trade the deal is done. Whist some reasonable traders may offer to trade back or do so if a mistake has been made but in most cases trade is final. Double check before you hit the trade button.
Don’t feed the troll. Simply ignore negative comments or people that disagree with the values you set on your items. Arguing only wastes time and is in most cases pointless. Don’t engage in any dialogue with trolls[en.wikipedia.org] and keep focussed on your trade. Delete negative or trolling comments or simply mute[wiki.teamfortress.com] trolls on trade servers.
Admin Respect. It pays to polite with trade server and trade forum admins. The opposite can get you banned and therefore reduce the amount of places you’re able to trade. Remember, most admins will offer help and advise freely so it pays to keep on their good side.
Mic up. When trading items on trade servers, use your mic to advertise what you’re buying or selling. Be clear and polite and do not spam. Having a practised and appealing sales pitch can help you further still. Not only is the quicker and easier than typing your trades into chat, it gets you noticed and increase the likelihood of success.
Unusual hat images. Adding eye-catching images of the Unusual hats you’re selling on forums adds additional appeal to prospective buyers. Buyers are more likely to take an interest in well advertised posts and they can see exactly what they’re buying rather than the standard line of descriptive text.
Scrap Banking. Scrap bankers generally offer 1 scrap metal for any 2 random weapons. While there are profits to be made from reselling some weapons, the profits are generally minimal and the process is very time consuming.
SpyCrab. Know the rules[forums.steamrep.com] of Spycrab before you start. While ‘spycrabbing’ can be fun it can also be addictive. Winning can be rewarding and tempt you to play repeatedly but if you lose you may be tempted to play again to recover your losses. Because of the random outcome there is no skill involved. Beware of spycrab scammers or ‘runners’. Runners will offer to spycrab for items and if they win will expect you to hand over the agreed items but if they lose will often leave the server and change their screen name. If you do spycrab make sure you log your opponents steam ID with Steamrep so if they do run you can find them and report them. Never bet more than you can afford to comfortably lose otherwise you may well see your collection of items diminish rapidly.
Item Sets. While selling item sets can provide a slight increase in profit, it can also severely reduce the possibility of gaining a sale or increase the amount of time it takes to find an interested buyer. Quite often 'set only sellers' have little intention of selling and post simply to show their items. When selling any set, put a short time limit on a ‘set only sale’ and if the set hasn’t sold within a few days, split it down and sell the items individually.
TF2 Updates. Keep up to date with what new items are about to be released. Especially time limited items and seasonal or festive items. Good sources include TF2 Update news[www.teamfortress.com] and the TF2 Wiki[wiki.teamfortress.com].
Don’t be afraid to ask for help as decent traders will be happy to provide it. Try to help others when you can, not only out of decency but because the traders you help now may be able to help you in the future.