Insider: How to Get Paid Like an Ogre

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The year is 2012.

The place is Orlando Florida.

An up-and-coming Magic financier teams up with a veteran to learn the ropes and take down an ambitious shop crawl that will test their mettle and push them to the limits of their abilities as they keep each other sane during a weekend that could very easily have been the trip from Hell.

This isn't the plot from a failed sitcom (Tuesdays at 8 PM Eastern on the "Niche Within a Niche" Network), but rather fairly important exposition. Despite Magic: the Gathering being around since 1993, here we were in 2012 and I was seeing something that, as far as I knew, had never been attempted on this scale.

Friday morning before attendees were admitted, a group of vendors composed of Ogre Stevens, Jeff Satern and Israel Rivera held an auction for the other dealers. With all of their cards organized by price and the total price for each box known going into the event, other dealers were given a chance to bid on boxes of cards, ranging from $0.10 picks up to cards like dual lands, all at very competitive buylist prices.

The idea of dealers selling to dealers was not new. The idea of selling to dealers at buylist prices wasn't new, either, but it doesn't immediately seem like a good one. Finally, the concept of showing up at the event with your cards organized by price wasn't exactly new.

What was new was how effective the technique was, and what an impression it made on me, someone seeing it in practice for the first time.

Ogre the Noun

Ogre Stevens is an imposing figure. At 7' 4'' [citation needed], Ogre is easily the largest dealer in the game, and he's also one of the longest-working. Formerly of Troll and Toad, Ogre invented half of the things we consider to be old cliches in this business.

Ogre taught me a lot about how to buy because he makes it clear he doesn't care about cards, only numbers. When I trade for stuff I want, I sometimes will overpay, or waste time talking about it. Ogre taught me to offer a number and not waste time having the person explain.

Whether the answer is "your number is too low" or "I want this for a deck" or "this card isn't for trade but it's in my trade binder because I don't know what words mean", the result is the same--you open your mouth to offer an explanation and he's already moved on to the next card. This lets you trade with more people in a given day because you don't waste time.

It also helped me on both sides of the buylisting table. No means no, so don't waste time explaining why you don't want to sell a card. Just say no and move on. Similarly, on the other side of the table, I learned to make it clear that there was no need for an explanation by moving on to the next card. If you just want to buy for buylist so you can sell for retail later, do you care if you're making your money because you bought $100 worth of Rest in Peace or $100 worth of Pack Rats? Nope.

Don't be rude, don't be terse, just make it clear that we can save time and move on. The other person will feel less like they have defend what they say no to.

This also taught me to ask about literally every card in a binder. I am trying to trade for value, not for me most times, so why not pick up cards I don't like or care about? I don't care if a card buylists for a quarter, if I can get it at a quarter or a dime in trade, why leave it in the binder?

Grab everything you can. They will be left with the stuff they like and want to keep, and you'll strip everything they don't care about. The more cards you get out of their binder, the more you get out of theirs and you accomplish both of your goals. Trading moxen for duals is sexy, but if you wait around for those kinds of trades, you'll starve in the mean time.

Ogre the Verb

To "ogre" a box is to organize by buylist price and group all of the cards in sections with cards that are the same price.

This is not going to help you do anything except sell to another person, usually a dealer. This is a great way to deal with cards in several categories.

  1. Cards that are currently undervalued due to certain stores being overstocked
  2. Cards that are a greater number than online dealers will take
  3. Cards that are in a foreign language
  4. Cards that aren't on a buylist for no discernible reason but have decent retail value

I am sure you can find other cards that belong on this list. 4th Edition Lightning Bolt randomly got a 75% bump this week? Ogre. Can't find a buylist that has a listing for an obscure FNM promo or Duels of the Planeswalkers cards? Ooooogre.

How to Ogre

Take all of the cards. Look up or come up with a number you deem acceptable for each card. Put it in a four-row box with dividers that separate by price. Go grab a cold lemonade because there is no step three. You're done. If you don't like cold lemonade, something is wrong with you and you should see a psychiatrist before you move on to the next step, because that involves interacting with other people.

What to Do Now

That "how to" section was pretty short. I was hoping to burn at least a few hundred words there, but it's really that easy. Some of the numbers will be entirely arbitrary or made up. That's fine. Once you have an ogred box, figure out how much the entire box is total. See if someone will give you 80% of that number sight unseen. This is called a "best case scenario."

Remember, let's not have a "hey, I could buylist all of this trash for 100% of that value! These are buylist numbers!" attitude here, because no, you actually couldn't. Some of the stuff in this box will be gas but some of it will be stuff that you can't buylist right now or which you would have to buylist for way cheaper. So either take this box to someone locally like an LGS or a dealer who likes to go through the effort of selling on Crystal Commerce.

You can also take an ogred box with you to a GP and shop it around. This approach is a bit hit-or-miss because sometimes dealers want to just spend money and get the kind of cards that sell well like this stuff, and other times they aren't inclined to pay for the additional freight charges associated with an extra 40 pounds of cards, no matter how many Pyrostatic Pillar you shipped them.

Why to Ogre

You ogre boxes because it saves everyone time and mental effort. It takes longer to ogre a box of 5,000 cards than it does to pack a box with 5,000 cards. Considerably longer. Not only that, you're doing 100% of the work.

When you take a hodgedy-podgedy box full of unorganized cards, no matter how gassy, the dealer looks through, offers their number on a given card and you say yes or no. They do a lot of the work because they have to know the prices and it's an easier job to say yes or no.

I am here to suggest that you want to do all the work. There are several reasons for this.

1) You Don't Have to Memorize Anything

What's the buylist price of a 6th Edition Goblin Recruiter? Quick! Quick! Don't look it up, snap off a hipshot answer. Look it up now--were you right? Now do that for every card on your desk. Now for every card in a 5,000 count box. You'll get a lot wrong.

Getting a number wrong when selling to a dealer means you take a number that is too low because it sounded okay to you. They give you the number they can pay, and you have to decide if you can get more for it elsewhere, and you have to do it from memory and you have to do it quickly. I think it's fun, but it also snowballs small mistakes into a big deficit at the end of a large box of cards.

If you ogre, you look everything up beforehand and don't have to try and answer from memory. If they want to offer a lower number, you can decide, but at least you'll know what you could get.

2) Save the Dealer Some Time

Why not? How bad would it suck if the transaction went faster and the dealer liked you? You usually end up with more of their money this way, but they like you more. They will be happy to see you next time and won't be unreceptive to your giant box of random junk. Having dealers like you is a good thing and if you can do this easily, why not?

3) Flip the Table

Usually the dealer is in the driver's seat, picking the cards they want, offering their numbers and you saying yes or no. What ogreing does is flip this dynamic on its head. Your numbers are the ones you will use because you

took the time to pre-price every card. Instead of you saying yes or no to their numbers, they are saying yes or no to yours. This changes the dynamic and puts you in the position of power. There is no advantage to press or anything, but it still puts them in the position to make a mistake and not you.

They may check their buylist for cards but stop because it's much faster to "qualitatively" look at cards and see if they "like" your numbers, rather than "quantitatively" check their buylist. This can lead to them paying more than their published buylist number because your number looks reasonable to them.

Not only that, but if a card is not on their buylist they won't make an offer. Even if they thought, "hey, we could use this" but don't see it on the list, they aren't going to know what to offer. If they see a card they think maybe they could use and there is a price associated with it already, they are more likely to just take your number if it seems reasonable.

You sell more cards this way, and you sell cards you might not have otherwise. Just like cases where the dynamic of the seller-buyer relationship may cause you to sell cards you may not have otherwise, this reversal can lead to them buying cards they might not ordinarily. This is good for you.

When Not to Ogre

Not every event is a good time to take an ogred box to the dealers. At some GPs there will not be a ton of local dealers. This is a problem because the farther someone traveled, the less inclined they will be to add a ton of weight to their vehicle or the freight they're checking by buying a large pile of cards.

Local dealers are more inclined to do this because their travel is shorter, and they are more likely to be smaller stores in need of cards. This can work to your benefit immensely. If there won't be many local dealers, I wouldn't take the box to the event. It will be heavy, you'll strike out a lot and you'll feel bad. Don't ruin your own day.

Also, don't take someone 90% nickels. If you do have quite a few cards at a nickel, try to move them locally, or make sure they stop looking there. You don't want them to get bored and not even look at the stuff you have at $8 or $9 because they got burnt out looking at a pile of stuff for a nickel.

Also, don't put total garbage in there at a nickel. Nothing worse than a Llanowar Elf should go in there. If Trader Tools says the best buylist price is $0.02, this is not a "screw it, I'll try and ogre it for a nickel" sort of a situation. Give them stuff they would be happy to pay a nickel for and they'll be happy with the experience and not hate you and your stupid four-row box full of guildgates you're trying to ship.

Finally, don't ogre anything you can more easily buylist. Ogreing is a lot of work and none of it overlaps with your buylisting projects so it detracts from those. This can be a good way to get rid of awkward stuff quickly, so make sure you use it for good and not for evil.

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Jason Alt

Jason Alt is a value trader and writer. He is Quiet Speculation's self-appointed web content archivist and co-captain of the interdepartmental dodgeball team. He enjoys craft microbrews and doing things ironically. You may have seen him at magic events; he wears black t-shirts and has a beard and a backpack so he's pretty easy to spot. You can hear him as co-host on the Brainstorm Brewery podcast or catch his articles on He is also the Community Manager at and writes the odd article there, too. Follow him on Twitter @JasonEAlt unless you don't like having your mind blown.

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10 thoughts on “Insider: How to Get Paid Like an Ogre

  1. Good article, I like the advice of when to ogre and when not to since it may not be intuitive to everyone.

    One question, do you still run into a lot of dealers who flip through binders/boxes and offer prices? Seems like more and more dealers at certain stores are employing cheap labor to look up every single price of every single card on their buylist rather than the quicker approach of shooting you prices. Maybe this is more prevalent at the big shows like GenCon, Origins, etc. rather than at GP, PT and PTQ events but I’d be interested to hear your perspective.

    1. Some dealers employ cheap labor sometimes. New, upstart dealers will do this, but they generally pay lower so it\’s not a great idea to go there anyway unless you\’re trying to Ogre low-value stuff. Sometimes new people are being trained and they look a bunch of stuff up at bigger dealers, but you can always request to work with the lead buyer. Having a relationship with dealers is good, and bringing them repeat business at multiple events is how you get to that point. Being at the point where you can keep shipping them ogred boxes may take a bit of work, but it\’s worth it. I don\’t think we are at a point where dealers are shifting toward low-paid underlings who just read off of a list because that is a poor model and they know it.

    2. Atleast locally I only do trade-ins/buylist stuff when the owner is in. He has the leeway to shoot prices from the hip but the employees certainly don’t want boss-man finding out they bought a bunch of junk for 2$ instead of 1$ by accident.

    1. @deltron, Ogre himself sold out and works for Ivory Tower Games. They’ve run out of cash since the business was not self-sustainable, and have closed the shop to be open 3 times a week. They are also no longer paying cash for cards. It’s sort of sad actually. However, there are two new contenders in the STL area that are starting to work on the tournament grinding scene at GPs. Not as good as Ogre, but they pull many times more people for FNMs and other events.

    2. He has a unique style of trading. I wouldn\’t say he rips people off so much as offers low numbers and sometimes people take them. He also sells for insanely cheap, so if you do a trade-in credit it\’s not different than selling to SCG. If you sell to him and buy from SCG, you\’re doing it double wrong and that\’s why it looks like you got ripped off.

  2. I really like this article. This is a style I prefer (100% control in trade, doing all the homework before, don’t need to remember prices).

    I wish there were more buylists in the EU.

    1. I am not sure what to tell you about that, unfortunately. You can take a competitive American buylist and convert the currency, but some prices will be far off of the market. I really wish I had more to offer our European readers.

    2. Does that not mean that there is an exploitable gap in the market? Obviously you’d need the capital but does it have more to do with people just not buylisting as often across the pond? Or is it simply that there is a lack of buylists?

      1. As an EU member, what happens is that shipping kills any benefit. The only thing i do and works is for small quantity of highly sought after cards with large disperancy of prices.

        As for EU Buylist, France has two decent one. End of my BL landscape. Now, all in all, i learnt to BL there and trade for it to great success.

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