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Paragus Rants

Rants, reviews, and interviews from an MMO veteran and guild leader.

Author: Paragus1

Steam Trading Card Guide

Posted by Paragus1 Thursday October 2 2014 at 11:43AM
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Steam Trading Card Guide

Almost everybody I know uses Steam, but only a fraction of them actually understand Trading Cards, the Market, and how to them or why they should care. After repeatedly explaining to my friends the utility of the cards and how to use them, I've decided to put together a guide to hopefully help educate people on how to use the card system to their benefit, and in most cases without spending a penny.

Why should you bother?

Collecting a full set of any games cards allows you to craft a badge. Every badge gives your Steam account 100 exp, which in turn is used to level up your Steam account. When your account levels up, you receive game discount coupons, the size limit of your friends list increases by 5 per level, and every 10th level yields the extra benefit of improving your steam profile, and increasing the chances of receiving a card "booster pack" for your steam games by 20% per 10 levels. A level 10 has a 20% boost for boosters, level 20 is 40% increase, and so on. These booster packs contain 3 more cards for the given game which can be rare foil cards worth a lot on the market, or sold unopened. Items sold in the market go into your "Steam Wallet" which can be used as credit towards buying games or more cards. Crafting badges will also net you profile backgrounds and emotes that can be used in chat related to the game crafted.

Getting Started

The first thing you should focus on in trying to gather cards from the games you already own. This is a free way to get your working capital that you are going to be using to finance your operation as well as crafting badges to level up your account.

In order to find out this information, click on your name at the top of the Steam window and go down to "Badges". This will display every game you own that has trading cards, show how many you have towards the badge, and most importantly for this step is how many card drops you have remaining.


If a game has card drops remaining, you are going to want to get them. Cards are dropped while a game is open, about one every 15-20 minutes. You don't have to actually be playing the game itself exactly. You can simply open the game to the title screen and minimize. You will be alerted when you get a card, once all are collected move on. Once you farm all the drops from your games you should have a nice pile to work with. As an additional bonus, once all cards have been farmed from a given game, you become eligible to receive card booster packs from that game. This is the only way to be flagged for them, you can not get a random booster for a game unless you have all the drops first. You can click the "View my booster pack eligibility" button on the badge page to see a list of all your games that your account is flagged for.

Working the Market

The value of cards varies greatly depending on the game. More mainstream and popular games have more cards on the market, so the value of those cards is usually lower, while more obscure games have less cards in the market and are generally worth more. Also newly released games will have an initial period of high card value usually before settling lower. Use this knowledge to maximize your assets by selling the cards from the obscure games, buy and use the money to buy lower cost cards for cheaper sets.

Generally speaking, the cheapest cards on Steam are usually in $0.06 - $0.07 range, while some obscure game cards can be 10 times that much. This means that for every obscure card you sell, you can buy several of the common ones. For the purpose of leveling your steam account, trying to make sets out of obscure game cards is not cost effective. All badges are worth 100 exp regardless of the value of the cards to make it, so don't waste resources on expensive ones. Also realize that you can craft badges for games you don't own, so targeting popular games even if you don't own them is a good way to farm. Each badge can be crafted 5 times so make sure to ride them cheap ones out as long as you can.


To quickly find out how valuable your cards are, click your name at the top of Steam, go down to "Inventory" and selecting any card will show you what it is currently selling for. Make a note of the price, then click "Sell" and list it one penny lower to ensure your card is the cheapest one for a faster sell. In a lot of cases the more common game cards will sell almost instantly, while more obscure ones may take longer and require you to check in on the market price to make sure you haven't been undercut.

Efficient Leveling

Now you should have a nice nest egg in your Steam Wallet depending on how many games and which you have milked on your account. Now that we sold the expensive cards, let's focus on making some cheap badges to level that account up.

Take a look at what you have left over on the badge page, and run some basic math on each badge. Just because cards for a certain game are cheap, does not mean it is a cost effective investment. Cards for a certain game may only be $0.07, but if there are 13 cards in the set, then you are looking at upwards of $0.91 for the set. On the other hand if cards for a game are $0.10, but the set is only 5 or 6 cards, that is a much better use of resources. The general rule of thumb I use is that spending anything under $0.60 is probably a cost effective badge, with the ideal being as close to $0.50 as you can get.


Also remember to use your friends as much as possible. Clicking on a badge will show you which of your friends have missing cards. Since a lot of people are completely ignorant to the card system and how to use it, often times a lot of people will let go of their cards if you ask, or trade them profile backgrounds they might like.  You can usually spot these people on your friend list by their low Steam level.  Special big Steam sales events are also a great opportunity to make a killing since the event cards sell for a lot in the early days of the sale, then get cheap on the last day.

How much of your funds you use to keep leveling yourself or how much you just keep to spend on games is entirely up to you. If you play your cards right you should be able to level up over time without ever spending anything. Getting to level 10 for most people should be attainable fairly easy for those willing to put in the effort. Since every 10 levels is a milestone, it's probably best to consider your goal in blocks of 10 at a time unless you really need the friend list expansions. Make sure to keep in mind that every 10 levels the amount of exp needed per level increases by 100 exp.

Now you should have the basic knowledge to be a Steam card whore and take advantage of your friends to line your own pockets!


Co-Leader of Inquisition