In this guide I’m going to talk about how you can get started with Team Fortress 2 trading as a new trader. I will try to make this guide with as little fluff as possible, with a mix of methods how you can make profit and also links to guides that I think is worth checking out. I’ll try and be as thorough as possible so people that are complete new in the trading world can get started with the help of this guide, if a topic is old news to you just skip ahead and move onto the next one and maybe you’ll learn something new in the next section.
Down below you can see what topics the guide talks about, just click on any of the topics to skip ahead, or just start reading from the start.
- Why get into TF2 trading?
- The basic of Trading
- Steam Community market
- The value of items – using Backpack.tf
- TF2 Trading Sites
- How to get your first items to start trading with
- How to make a profit – TF2 Trading Guides
- Unusual trading
- Avoid getting scammed
- Cashing out
- Trading terms
- Other Resources & Guides
A few of the links in this guide are affiliate links, using them will earn the site a small revenue, use them if you want to support the site.
Why get into TF2 trading?
There’s lot of motivations to get started with Team Fortress 2 Trading, just to name a few it can help you get the hats and items you want, earn some spare cash and also get you free games on steam. For myself trading has been a nice way for me to get the Steam games I want for free, and getting the occasional hat in TF2 so I look as fabulous as possible. Just don’t expect to get rich doing this, if you’re in it to make money and see no enjoyment in it you’re better of getting a regular job.
Let’s start with the basics.
There’s a few things you need to set up in order to get started.
Upgrading to Premium
Team Fortress 2 is a free-to-play game, but if you want to get into trading you need premium TF2. because f2p players are very limited in their trading. You can get premium in a couple of ways, either buy something from the Mann co. store, (the in-game store), I would suggest you buy a key, it’s not the cheapest item in the store but you can use it to start your trading.
Alternative you can get your hands on a item called Upgrade to Premium Gift, you’ll find this in the official store, the community market or by trading other players, this is the best option if you can’t add funds to your Steam or if you don’t have any valid payment options, get a friend/your mom to send you a Premium gift. The last option is to have bought the game when it wasn’t free-to-play, then you have premium by default.
Having premium TF2 grants you more inventory spaces and the ability to trade with other players. if you have more questions about getting premium I suggest you have a look at this guide.
Trade and Market Confirmations (Steam mobile app)
After you made any trade in TF2 or put up a item for sale on the community market, you need to confirm that trade via the Steam mobile app, this is a security measurement from Steam so that nobody can steal your whole backpack, everything needs to be confirmed via the app. So grab the app on android or IOS over here. Also worth mentioning is that if you haven’t had mobile authenticator activated for at least 7 days there will be a 15 day trade hold on all your trades, meaning it will take over two week for your trades to go through, very inconvenient and nobody is going to want to trade with you.
Another thing you need to setup is Steam guard, it’s a security feature that there to prevent scammers to hijack your account. A full step-by-step guide on how to do that can be found here. Chances are pretty big it’s already activated though.
Public profile & Trade offer link
Many of the trading sites we’re going to use only works if your profile is public, so the site and other users can interact with you and see what’s in your TF2 inventory. To do that simply go to your profile, click edit profile, then click the My Privacy Settings tab and turn it to public, now everyone can see your profile.
While we’re at it it can be a good idea to grab our Trade offer URL, this is a link that people can click in order to send you a offer for a trade without them adding you on Steam. Many trading sites needs you to enter your trade offer link on their sites in order to use all their features. To find it simply go to your Steam inventory, then click the blue Trade Offers button, after that click the “Who can send me Trade Offers?” on the side. At the bottom you’ll find the URL.
- Get TF2 premium
- Get the Steam app (for trade confirmation)
- Activate Steam guard
- Set your profile to public
- Grab your Trade offer URL
Now you have everything you need to get started with trading, let’s move onto to the actual TF2 economy and how it works.
Team Fortress 2 economy basics – Currency
When doing TF2 trading metal and keys is used as currencies, if you want to check out the value of a item it will displayed in metal and keys. It’s important to know how much metal/keys is worth. Metal can be created inside TF2 by taking 2 weapons and crafting it into 1 scrap metal (which is the lowest tier metal). 3 Scrap can be turned into 1 reclaimed metal, and 3 reclaimed can be turned into 1 refined metal (which is the highest tier metal). You can start trading with metal but the most expensive items will be traded using keys. At the moment you can get 1 key for around 27 refined metal, this number change constantly, if you want to know the current market value of a key I suggest you head over to backpack.tf’s frontpage.
Another helpful tool to help you with different currencies (especially in the beginning of trading) is calculator.tf, it’s basically a calculator for the different currencies.
Metal & Keys are used as the main currency. 2 weapons = 1 scrap metal. 3 scrap metal = 1 reclaimed metal. 3 reclaimed metal = 1 refined metal. Refined metal can be traded for keys, at which rate can be found here.
Steam Community market
I’m going to briefly mention the community market and how it works. Some of the TF2 items are marketable, this means you can sell them on the community market to other players and you’ll receive Steam wallet funds from the sale.
The prices on the market are usually quite high if you compare it with buying a item with keys/metal instead, there’s a exception though, during the big Steam sales, during the sales people wants to buy games that are on the sale, and they need Steam funds to do that, so they sell their items on the market, and when a lot of people wants to sell their items at the same time the prices go down.
- If you buy items on the market there will be one week waiting period until you can trade that item with other players.
- There’s a sales fee of 15% which will be cutting down most of your profit.
- Selling something on the market needs to be confirmed with the app (just like trades)
The value of items – using Backpack.tf
When you get your hands on your first item it can be hard to start trading with it if you don’t know it’s value. Backpack.tf is the place to be if you want to find out the value of a item, here you can search on pretty much any item in the game and then the community have made price suggestion for the item. Great tool to find out the value of your items, I usually first check the suggested value of a item and then also check what other’s are buying & selling the item for (you can make buy/sell listings on backpack.tf) that will get you a pretty good idea of what the value is.
Just beware that these are only price suggestions, they are often accurate but some price suggestions can be out of date and hasn’t been updated for a year or so.
You will also notice that some items are painted. Paint is a item you can apply to many of the hats and cosmetics to change the colour of it. What backpack.tf likes to do is it likes to display the value of painted hats as the hats value + the paints value, people will very rarely pay more for painted items, so you shouldn’t either, unless you want the item in that specific colour.
Another thing to keep in mind is that there can be different versions of the same item, and the value will be different between each of them, just to name a few there’s Unique, Strange, Vintage, Unusual. Unique items (yellow) are the most common and cheapest item quality.You can find the value of each of these qualities on Backpack.tf, just make sure you’re checking for the right kind of quality.
Some items will also be market Uncraftable ( not usable in crafting ), this means they can’t be used in the crafting system, they are generally speaking worth less then regular craftable items. Have a quick read about all the qualities over here at the TF2 wiki.
TF2 Trading Sites
Here I’ll list some of the biggest trading sites you should know about when starting to trade in TF2. I am going to quickly mention a few and introduce them for you.
TF2outpost & Bazaar.tf. These two major sites are places where you can advertise the trades you want to do, here you can put up listings for your items asking to either buy or sell stuff. TF2Outpost is the more popular option of the two, with a lot more people using it, but I feel Bazaar is still worth mentioning because it has a few innovative features that the outpost lacks, for example a built in trading bot feature just to name one.
Backpack.tf is as mentioned above a great site if you want to check the value for a item, but there’s also possible to put up listings to buy & sell items here. Backpack.tf & TF2outpost is the go to places to advertise your trades.
Trade.tf is great site to use for any trader, the site has so many useful features. One of their features is that it can help you find good deal, the site scans all the big trading sites and list all discounted items in a live list. There’s also a feature on the site that let you get a TF2 trading bot for free. Some of the features are locked behind Premium, but premium is free if you put “trade.tf” in your Steam name.
Scrap.tf is a trading service that let you exchange a your items for metal (and the other way around) with the sites bots. If you want to convert your key to metal or exchange your weapons/trading cards/hats for metal you can do this here. It’s a great place to get rid of unwanted items, but you pay the price of convince and speed with inferior rates, you’ll almost always make more profit by selling your items to another trader then to Scrap.tf.
How to get your first items to start trading with
Before you start trading you need something to actually trade with, for some these first few items can be tricky to get their hands on. Here’s a few options to get your started.
- Turn your TF2 weapons into metal, you can do this either in the crafting menu in the game or if you have a lot of weapons you want to turn into metal you can use Scrap.tf and their auto scrap feature, what you’ll do is just trade with the sites bot and they will give you metal for your items (1 scrap metal for two weapons). This would be enough to get most players some metal to start buying some cheap hats with.
- Sell your trading cards for metal
- Enter giveaways for a chance to win a few items, the chances to win are very very slim but entering are usually free (I only suggest entering raffles that are free) so if you have no other option this could be something for you. I made a guide listing a bunch of places where there’s giveaways, you can find it here, List of giveaways/raffles
- Buy a few keys to get you started, this is your best option, this will allow you to trade with items that have a higher profit marginal and will get your started with trading much faster. here you can find a list of most places that sell TF2 keys. Getting a few keys then selling them for metal is a great way to get started with low tier trading.
- Offer some kind of service. Some people are making SFM posters for a few refined. The pay is shit though but could be a way to get started.
- And of course, the last resort, go beg mom for cash.
Begging people for items is something you shouldn’t do (your mom not included), it rarely works and it will only annoy people (except when it comes to your mom, she got a heart of gold and she will understand that you need money to buy virtual keys and metal so you can look fancy in a game), I see so many new traders do this, and it’s a waste of time.
How to make a profit – TF2 Trading Guides
Now you know the basics of trading and it’s time to start doing the actual trading. There’s like thousands of different ways to trade and make a profit, and I will show you a few ways to help you get started. I’ll be talking about a few basic methods of trading, I will also link to some of my previous guide and link to other people’s guide that I think is worth checking out. One word of advice though, always see the guides as inspiration, always make you add your own twist to these methods if you want to be truly successful.
Buying & Selling Trading Cards
A nice rookie method is to start buying Steam trading cards with metal, first you need to decide which trading cards you’re going to buy, cards for some games isn’t worth much and those cards we’ll avoid, I suggest you make a list of games with cards that sell for around $0.06 on the community market, alternatively you can accept offers from people but you decline all cards with a market value less then 0.06. Before we make our trade we need to know how much metal we’re going to buy each card for, first we need to know how much a refined metal is worth in real money, heading over to Backpack.tf homepage we can see the current price for a refined metal, at the time of me making this guide it’s $0,07.
Now we know how much a refined is worth, now you need to decide how much metal you’re going to pay for each card, the more you pay for each card the more trades you’re going to do, but you’ll make less profit/card. So decide what’s good for you. Also checking the competition is a great idea, what are other buying/selling for? (make a search for the cards you’re interested in on TF2Outpost)
Now make a listing on TF2Outpost to buy the trading cards you want. Once you have bought your cards here’s two options for selling them, you either buy cards and resell them for more metal then you bought them for, or you sell the cards on the community market. Just keep in mind that there’s a 15% sale fee on the market and make sure to consider that when deciding what’s your metal buy price is.
A lot of people are trading with Steam cards, but I there’s still potential to earn a profit with trading cards, there’s plenty of people that can’t don’t care with their trading cards, and they will happily trade away them for something more useful. Take your own spin on this, how will you find people to trade with, trading sites, servers, forums?
This can also be used for Steam icons, backgrounds or items from other games.
I made a twist to this method awhile ago, where I buy hats for metal and then sell them on the community market, it’s not near as profitable as cards and it’s defiantly more risk involved, but it can still be good to check out to get some ideas on what’s possible. You can find the guide here.
Buy and sell Taunts, Tools and Strange cosmetics
Tools (like Backpack Expanders, Name tags, Tour of Duty Ticket), Taunts and Strange cosmetics can be a good start for new players with a limited budget. Buy and sell these items for a small profit. Go for items that are high in demand and aim to buy & sell a lot of items to get your profit going, don’t try and buy ridiculously low or sell to high, then you’ll never get to buy/sell any items. Banking these items can be hard with all the competition from other traders, especially traders using bots. If you want to grab a trading bot of your own there’s actually free option available, trade.tf and backpack.tf both have bots available for free.
Add your own twist to this, where will you buy your items? And how will you sell them? Here are some examples,
- Find and buy discounted Strange cosmetics on Marketplace.tf for real money and then trade the cosmetics for metal (or the other way around).
- Look for people that are selling a bunch of cosmetics/taunts/tools on TF2outpost, make a offer for all their items at a discount, don’t go crazy and offer way below what their asking for, instead aim for a small profit when buying in bulk, make it worth it for both parties.
- Look through the listings on Backpack.tf for items to buy, then sell them on the Steam Community market, sometimes you’ll find items that are sold for more on the market, just remember there’s a 15% fee on the market.
- Go to TF2outpost/Backpack.tf and look what other (successful) traders are doing, go through their profiles and look what they’re buying and selling. Spy on them and learn from their listings and either copy what they’re doing or try to get inspiration from what they’re doing. What are they buying/selling? How much are their profit/item? How do they advertise their trades? Multiple sites? Trade servers?
Find discounted items on Trade.tf
Trade.tf has a feature which scans all the big trading sites for good deals, this can be a great place to find a few items you can make a profit on. In order to use the service you need to have their premium membership, it’s free and all you have to do is to add “trade.tf” into your Steam name. If the site says a item is on sale for like 60% off, it’s probably to good to be true, the service isn’t flawlessly and you always need to double check everything before making a deal.
Buying cheap items for real money
Marketplace.tf is site where you can pay real money to buy/sell TF2 items, there’s a Best Deals where you can buy discounted items for cash, you’ll mostly find Unusuals being sold for a discount, and that’s nothing I would recommend buying for a new trader, there can be a huge discount for the unusuals but the price might be outdated and not accurate. Instead search for hats and items worth less then a few dollars. (you can sort by Quality, set it to Unique or Strange).
Always check and compare the price with Backpack.tf, Search for the item on bp.tf see if you can make a profit with the current buyers in the listings. Like the trading card method above it can be a good idea to check out what a refined metal is worth in $ before looking for a deal. That way you can easily calculate how much a item on Marketplace.tf is being sold for in refined metal.
Key is king
+For semi-experienced traders
Here’s a very rough idea that can help you get started. As we talked about earlier in the guide, keys are the main type of currency in the TF2 economy, with keys we can buy items and exchange it for metal among many things. If we can buy keys cheap there’s potential to make profit from pretty much any trade, let me explain.
At the moment a key is worth 28.11 refined metal, if we would go any buy a discounted key for $1.9 and then exchange it for refined metal, we would get 28.11 ref, that would mean we paid $0.068/ref (key price / refined metal). If we then would go and buy a Tour of duty ticket for 12 refined we would pay $0.811 for it (12 x $ refined price).
Just because the initial key was so cheap we could now sell the ticket on marketplace.tf for $1 (the lowest current price), with a $0.09 profit/ticket with sales fees included, or a $0.04 profit/ticket if sold on the community market. It’s not the biggest profit but it adds up, and keep in mind this can be done with any kind of TF2 item not just the Tour of duty ticket, so find your item to invest in.
There’s a few ways we can get our hands on cheap TF2 keys, at the time of writing this guide one of the cheapest ways is to head over to marketplace.tf and get your keys there, I wouldn’t just buy the first keys I see in the store, because the price usually is around $2.1, and we’re looking for a lower price. We can either set a buy order for keys, you’ll request to buy keys at a low price that hasn’t to much competition (if there’s to many buy orders for a certain price you’ll never buy any keys) , I’d suggest around $1.9+, also you’ll need funds on your account to request a buy order, then you just have to wait.
Another way to get cheap keys on marketplace.tf is to use the coupon code “uncle”. The code gives you 1 key discount when buying 11 keys (the code can be used once every 24 hours).
Alternatively you can check out my guide where I list all shops & forums where you can buy TF2 keys, there’s a few sites on the list that can match marketplace prices.
Buy inventories/backpacks for money or keys
+For experienced traders
Also check out 20 methods on how to make a profit in TF2 trading, this is a quick guide I made awhile ago, it lists a bunch of ideas that could help you get started.
Unusual trading might be a end goal for many traders to get into, and it defiantly the best way to make a profit in TF2 but it can be tricky to understand how everything works dealing with unusuals. First off I would just like to say that this isn’t something I recommend you start with as a new trader, you’d be better off starting with something less complicated and move onto unusual trading when you got a better understanding of trading and how the TF2 economy works.
If you want to get started I suggest you check out my other guide, TF2 Unusual trading guide for beginners, it’s a huge guide (even more comprehensive then this one) where I talk about how you can get started with unusual trading with only a limited knowledge about unusuals.
There’s a lot of shit guides out there when it comes to unusual trading which make it a hard area to get into, there is a few exception though and one of them is the Virtual Economist video series about tf2 unusual trading, it’s in my opinion a must watch if you want to start trading unusual, it’s 5 part series of videos, where he talks about pretty much everything you need to know about unusual trading, so get some coffee ready and start taking notes.
Avoid getting scammed & what is reputation?
As a new trader there will be shady people out to scam you, the TF2 trading scene might not be as polluted with scammers as the CSGO one but there’s still plenty of scammers out there. Below I included a few guides about common scams and what to do to avoid them.
- Guide to prevent hijacking – Steamrep.com
- Common Trade scams and how to avoid them – TF2Trade on Reddit
- Safe Trading Practices
There’s a couple of tools you can use to see if a person have scammed before and get information about a trader. These tools are the most important when dealing with trades when one have to go first, trades dealing with real money for example. (I strongly advice new players avoid Paypal trading, to much risk involved)
Steamrep.com – Steamrep is a site run by the TF2 community, people that have been scammed can report people here and if the report is valid the trader will be market as scammer on the site. You can easily search for any user in their database to see if they’re marked as a scammer.
Rep.tf – this is a service that let’s you search Steam accounts and then displays information about that trader in one place. You’ll see if the user is banned on any of the big trading sites here (including Steamrep marks) and also basic account info like account age, TF2 play time, inventory value, etc etc.
These tools are great but just to remind you, a trader can still be a scammer even if no red flags pop up on these sites, so always be careful when trading. TRUST NO ONE!
Cashing out from TF2
The end goal for traders can be quite different, some would want to get the unusual hat of their dreams and some just want to earn a big pile of money. At some point in your trading carer you might want to cash out your TF2 items and get some real money for them instead, there’s a bunch of different options for cashing out and I’ll list a few of them below.
Cashing out via marketplaces, there’s a few stores that acts as a marketplace and let’s you sell your TF2 items for real cash to other traders. All the transactions goes through the store which minimize the risk for everyone, the downside is that they take a sales fee for each transaction, usually around 10%.
- Marketplace.tf – The biggest TF2 store. (10% sales fee)
- Opskins – A CSGO store that has a big TF2 section (10% sales fee)
- Bitskins – CSGO marketplace only (5% sales fee)
Another option is to selling your items on trading forums, the risk is higher but you can potentially get more value out of your items this way. There’s also plenty of buyers on these forums that will purchase your whole inventory at once for a discounted price, the fastest option if you want to cash out fast and don’t care that much what you get.
What not to do
I made a guide awhile ago that talks about common trading methods in TF2 that you should avoid, it’s a short read but could be useful for some of you.
A short recap of the guide would be, don’t gamble, don’t scrap bank, open crates or do trading methods that earn you a shitty profit.
Team Fortress 2 Trading terms
When you start trading there will be a lot of words thrown around that you wont be familiar with, below I have compiled a list of common trading terms and what they mean, these should be more then enough to get you started understanding everything being said on Trading sites and servers.
- QuickSelling – is when somebody wants to sell their items fast under the market value (at least 20% off in my opinion)
- Overpay – this term is often used in unusual trading, and means you have to pay more then the market value if you want to buy a hat in exchange for a hat of yours.
- Pure – if someone is asking for pure that means they want to be paid in metal / keys, and not another item
- Lowball – is a offer on a item that’s way below it’s actual market value.
- WTB – short for “Want to buy”
- WTS – short for “Want to sell”
- Craft hat – A name for hats with a low value that can be used in crafting (2 hats becomes 1 new) Value of craft hat can be found here
I’m always open for suggestions on things that I should add to the guide or things you think I should correct. Leave a comment below with your suggestion, critic or let e know if the guide have helped you in any way.
Want to read up more? (Other Resources & Guides)
- TF2 wiki – Community trading tips
- How to Make Profit in Team Fortress 2 By Shwheelz (Steam community Guide)
- The Complete TF2 Trading Guide – Tips, Advice and Secrets By +SPONGE+ [NUTTER]
TF2 Trading videos
There’s quite a few video series on Youtube that let’s you follow traders journey from some metal or some keys up and how they trade up until they have a unusual or any other high valued item. These kinds of videos are great to watch if you want to learn more about trading, you get to see step by step how they’re doing it. Down below I’ll include a few of these video series, check them out if it sounds like something you’d enjoy.