Great thread Mallorie, glad you came over.
Just to echo your thoughts, I look for robust, fully expanded, healthy looking, no slim, fully or near fully erect polyps. For many years I was known as the guy to went to LFS with a pin light and a magnifying glass when I purchase my zoas and palys
, and that was way back when they were cheap, LOL. That was what I did to insure that I was getting good healthy corals. Also look for balance in coloration, if possible, the sniff test can determine early stages of decay. If there is a foul rotten order, don't buy it. All polyps should be firm with no signs of flaking. I agree with you, I would never ever buy a frag on a fresh white plug that could have been glued yesterday. It's a dead giveaway of freshly cut, possibly even the day of the swap. Fresh cut frags which haven't had sufficient time to heal are like rolling dice, and you could very easily crap out. I have seen it dozens of times with others. So be sure to ask and gauge your purchase accordingly.
Also, question the seller, whether on line or face to face. If they know the name and lineage, which means absolutely nothing, but can't tell you any of their parameters, type of lighting they were propped in, how long have they had the mother colony, when was it fragged, was it captive breed or wild caught, then don't buy it.
I once attended a frag swap many years ago, and the seller kept his polyps for the upcoming swap under pure actinics for a month for viewing and pic posting prior to the swap. 3 of the buyers who purchased frags and took them home and even placed them on the substrate on 250 and 400 watt MH, all experienced a serious case of bleaching. Ask questions about your purchase before you buy.