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How I Learned to Stop Being Poor and LOVE the Auction House.
This is a repost of my previous guide, with a few updates and additions. Please forgive me for any spelling or grammar mistakes, I'm sure there are some. Enjoy!
Who sits down and actually writes a guide to the AH
Well...me. WoW is a heck of a fun game, but it is also one giant economic sim as well, and as well charted as the waters of combat stats and techniques are, those of the economic side remain relatively undocumented.
Any profession guide worth its salt will mention the Auction House (AH). All will likely mention that, when it comes to making money, it is one of your best friends and that it should not be neglected at any level, even the early ones. Some will even go so far as to suggest ways in which to introduce your product to the AH, but rarely do these guides touch on the intricacies of the AH itself. It isn't Wall Street, but there are some subtleties too it that every player can easily learn, if they just put a little time into it. Although I call this a guide, it is really more of a manifesto. Although I have tried to include it where applicable, it does not function solely on step by step instructions. And with that...let us begin.
Basics of the Auction House
For the purposes of this section, there is only one type of AH you need to know about. These are your faction specific ones. There is an AH located in each of the capital cities. It can easily be located by asking a guard. When you arrive there, go up to one of the three auctioneers and right-click them. This will be the main interface in which you interact with the AH itself. Through this window you can:
- Search for an item. This can be done one of two ways. Either through the search bar on the top left of the window (if you know the name of what you are looking for or part of the name) or through the category menus on the left hand side if you know what type of thing you are looking for, but do not have an exact piece of gear in mind.
- Bid on an item. This is done by selecting the item you wish to bid on and clicking the bid button on the bottom. Bidding is generally useful only if the difference between the amount of the bid and the buyout (see below) is significant (significance, in this case, goes on an item by item basis). More often than not, you will be buying out an item instead
- Buy out an item. To do this you select the item and hit the buyout key. The price you pay will be the second of two, and always higher, listed next to the item you wish to buy.
- Sell an item. TO do this you will have to change tabs at the bottom of the window. Through this interface you can sell your own item by listing a bid price and a buyout price. Keep in mind that oftentimes people will be much more inclined to buyout so they can get it now, so price accordingly. AND ALWAYS MAKE YOUR AUCTIONS 24 HRS!
Low Levels (25 and below) and the AH
Now that we've got the basics down, we can begin to discuss how the AH can be useful to your low level character. It is important to note that the way you interact with the AH changes significantly with your level, however it is also always important to keep in mind that you are always a producer and a buyer in the virtual economy. Remembering this paradigm is key towards always making money. For the purposes of this guide, it is being assumed that your character isn't being bought anything by a high level character and that they are economically independant. I'm not going to try and tell you what to buy at the AH, or even if you should buy stuff at all at low levels. I know there are multiple schools of thought on this, and I won't try and convince you either way. So, let's begin generally with what kind of interaction we'll be having at the AH at this level. 97% of the time, at a level like this, you'll be selling things people could usually do without. Things such as low level greens, Copper Bars, Moss Agate, etc. are all things that should be sold on the AH, but everyone could do without. What then, is your strategy. You must price things to move--let me summarize in one word: UNDERBID!
At this point in your young life, you must move product like the salesmen of lore. You should underbid to the break even point, i.e. the point where the money your getting for your product equals the amount of money it took you to get it or make it. Most times you won't get to this point, but you shouldn't be afraid to hit it. This is because you don't want to be filling your bank with worthless things you don't need and that aren't valuable in the game world as a whole. In all likelihood, your level 9 green leggings won't mature or devalue with time, so get rid of 'em...and fast. There is little benefit from trying to sell these things for 10 more silver because, in the long run, 10s is nothing. Yes it adds up, and if you want to nickel and dime your way to sixty you can, but you must remember, in this level range money making is good, but leveling (and having the maximum amount of time possible to devote to leveling and not craft) is better.
There are some exceptions to this rule. These come in the form of blues you will receive from instances, and specific greens, like the Defias Leather set. These should be sold with care. Don't rush them off the shelves like you do your other products...wait till the market is right. Because these ARE commodities prices will fluctuate greatly. The AH prices will decrease as people slowly underbid each other. Your goal is to put your item out there when prices are going high again after this downward march. How do you spot this (this is a must have skill for later on) Say one person puts out the Defias Leather Gloves for 5g (unreasonable, but I've sold 'em for that much before). In all likelihood, the next person to sell them will sell for lower. This pattern will continue until either they are all sold and none remain on the AH, and thus the next person to list them resets the price, or until someone stops and says "Hey, these things are sh*tty greens but I'm getting gold for them, not silver...I'll wait until these sell and sell mine for higher". These points are hard to predict, but the easiest thing to do is just to continually watch the AH. If you want to have some method to your madness, I would suggest listing items right after the daily peak on your server. THus, if server numbers start to dwindle around 11pm, put them up then, so people will see your item...but fewer people will be able to put the same item on the AH for lower than you. THis is a hard skill to master, and isn't too important now, but it can be the difference between the guy who sells stuff under his terms, and the guy in the trade channel who is trying to give away that blue or purple item.
Medium Levels (26-39) and the AH
These levels mark the first significant transition in your characters economic status. For the first time you will likely begin to have in your posession items of some value to high level players. For example, take Herbalism. At 125, you begin to gather Kingsblood. Around this level also you'll be able to harvest Swiftthistle, also a big seller. These levels also mark your first real expenditures, namely your mount. Thus, this is like your first job. Your making money, but you also have expenses to pay.
Your first 'big' products don't have to be numerous. I bought my mount of the back of Kingsblood and Swiftthistle alone. The big thing is that you find it. By these levels, every profession will have something that they can sell and make money on. How do you spot this product One key characteristic is that you will to continue to gather and sell it from here on out...It will be as useful to you at 26 as at 60. Another way to spot it is to simply watch the AH. By now you should notice what the big sellers are and should be proficient enough with the AH to know how to find them if you haven't already.
When you were a lower level, your sole goal was to make some money. Now, it is very tempting to become a goal oriented money maker. That is, to see something you need/want, a mount is the perfect example, and then to product, harvest, or skin your way to that goal. This is not an efficient process. You must always keep in mind the idea of capital. You always want capital, or money in the bank, that you can spend on stuff like this, once your going out and having to make money to buy stuff, you're either spending too much, or not doing enough to make money. Why do I mention this notion Because it is the perfect way to know how much harvesting of Kingsblood or smelting of Iron is enough. Striking this balance will dictate how much time you have to spend 'economizing' in IF and how much you can spend leveling. But I digress from my subject of the AH.
So I'll assume you've found your gig, your selling it well on the AH, so what else is different now Well, the green items and profession items (white ones) that you picking up are now become somewhat more useful to the playerbase. This leaves you in a very tricky spot, and one where it's is very easy to make less than you should be. This is because you must balance between selling things, and not giving them away. Percentage-wise, this level range gives you the most variance between what you could be making, and what you might be making, e.g. the two extremes of nickel and dime everything on the AH or just sell it all to vendors have the widest gap at this point in the game.
One concept you must begin to become familiar with at this level is that of research. Now that you're travelling to more exotic places, and killing more exotic things, you're getting more exotic loot. But how much of that loot is worth the effort to sell Two things will tell you. The first is allakhazam.com. Searching for the item in question here will give you a general idea of usefulness in the entire WoW community. You'll want to look for its median price. NOTE: This should not guide your own pricing of things, rather, use it comparatively between all things you could be selling. Those whose median prices are higher are likely going to fetch more on your server. The second resource is the AH itself. Research prices, watch for item variance, etc. Pay attention to things that seem to sell rathe high for just a white item...likely they are in high demand...so sell yours too!
This level range also will bring you into a point in time where your character is high enough and your capital should be large enough to where you can begin middleman-ing the AH. What is this you ask The concept is very simple: Buy low, Sell high. In short, at these levels you'll have enough money to be able to profiteer off people who just can't seem to sell that blue item and are giving it away for 3g on the Trade channel. If you buy it, then are able to sell it for 10g or mayb even 15g, you've just made 13g, and could have done it all while watching TV and running errands in IF or Org. This is a very risky thing to do. However, my general rule to reduce risk is this. Only use the technique as motive for buying blue items and or well-known high commodity items. This means you never, ever, ever buy green clothing or weaponry and try to resell it. The price variance on this items is too great and their demand is too unknown for you to risk it, not to mention that it would give you a headache because you would want to do it time after time after time. I personally just stuck to blue weaponry and occasionally blue armor. Another way to minimize risk is to check the price you'll be paying against the allkhazam median price. If the price your paying is lower by a decent amount, odds are you'll stay in the black. THis is not tried and true, but it has never failed me and has never lost me any money. You'll also want to make sure the item your buying is buyable. Just because it's blue doesn't mean people will want it, and this only becomes more true as you level higher. Don't put money into stuff whose stats seem really weird to you. Put yourself in the 9 different classes and ask yourself if you would buy that. Don't gamble, but never look a gift horse in the mouth or you'll never make money like this. A final word of advice, this is not a great method to make 1 or 2 gold. I generall avoid something if I make anything less than a 7g profit, and the least I'll ever take is 5g. This is because you want to give yourself some wiggle room on the selling end, and if you set your target too low, when, in all likelihood your target selling price doesn't get met, you'll need to have some room under your hard price cap in which you can manuever.
The Weird Levels (41-50) and the AH
The reason I say these levels are weird is because you are at a point in the development of your toon where you are first your first big set of purchases (mount and armor upgrades at 40), but don't quite have your eyes set on the endgame yet. These levels present you with a host of opportunities at the AH. Most green items you will be getting are sellable, usually for 1-3g. However, you'll also have to be spending more, not because things are simply more espensive, but because you'll have to upgrade more often for instances because you have less wiggle room in terms of letting your gear go stale.
So, in terms of the AH, what does all this mean By this time you should have a steady way of making money that you found earlier, and you should also be opening up towards being able to collect/recieve stuff high end players really find useful. Using our herbalism example from earlier, now, you can begin to harvest dreamfoil. What is dreamfoil It's gold. How did I know this I know this because now, given my level, I pay attention to specific requirements of specific quests for endgame players. At this level, their needs become your profits and the medium for these transactions is the AH. Knowing what these players need and what is useful to them will make you le rich. In economic terms, you have just broken into the top tier of suppliers. Your products now cannot get better per se, even though you will advance to higher levels, you'll make the same amount of money because your products, generalized greatly, will be the same. Thus, the money you earn will be the most at these lowest of levels in the high production tier. Basically, what I'm trying to say is that 100g is more to a level 45 than it is to a level 60. Yet, now that you are maxing out your gathering skills, you are able to sell many of the same products those end game players can as well. Thus, you have completed your final market breakout on the supply side (excluding those phat lewt blacksmithers that make the really specialized stuff).
This change in your usefulness to the market as a whole results in very tangible differences in how you go about selling your stuff. One difference I would suggest is that now you begin to push some of your product in the trade channel. Most likely you've seen how this thing works and what people sell in it. The reason I suggest this now is because the majority of people just hanging out in the capital cities are high level raiders, or at least level 60's waiting for groups for L/UBRS, Strath, etc. These are people that need what you have to sell, and the trade channel is an excellent way to reach them. I would recommend selling only things that they could need in this channel though, and certainly there is no need to list your entire inventory in one message. For example, listing high-end herbs, ore, etc. you have or various types of high-need cloth and leather would be smart. Listing blue items is somewhat less effective, but occasionally still useful (only if they are you level or above), and anything else unless you know it is specifically needed by 60's is probably not worth the time selling in trade, put it on the AH.
Now, although you have begun to utilize another aspect of the Wow world to sell your goods on the open market, you should not neglect the AH. It still should play a valuable role in your seller and buyer's arsenal, however, once again, the way in which you use it will have changed. After you hit 40, and all the way until you hit 60, and then even after you've hit 60, the AH will be the place you can and SHOULD sell everything you get from most whites to almost all greens, and even some grey's. This is yet another point along the economic cycle in which you can really screw yourself out of some easy money by waltzing over to the nearest vendor and selling things to clear them out of your bags. I perhaps should have mentioned this previously, but I more or less assumed it to be obvious. THe vendor buying prices are terrible. Although I have encouraged you to be looser with your
More general, but no less important AH strategies
I have danced around concepts of how to put things on the AH in each of the three preceeding parts of this guide, and I thought those ideas might be worthy of a more in-depth exploration. You can make money on the AH house, more than a lot of players will, but simply putting every item you get (that in and of itself is worthy of being listed) on the AH. Doing this puts you above and beyond the majority of the playerbase and will no doubt serve you well, and probably well enough, to see you through. But I thought I would go a bit deeper for those who want more. I've already talked about things such as how much an item might be needed by a level 60 doing a reputation quest let's say, and this is probably more of a thought than most players would give an item before they put it on the AH, but what more is there
Server population fluctuation is a key statistic that you should take into account if you wish to have a more nuanced view of the AH. Let's use Kingsblood that I previously mentioned as an example. Kingsblood is a very easy herb to find and can be gathered by most herbalists by the time they reach 30, and many times sooner. Thus, rarely is there is a server-created supply limit. Now, Kingsblood is needed by many blacksmiths for the THorium Brotherhood (I think, I may be wrong, but either way its just an example). Kingsblood will vary anywhere from 1g to 3 or 4g a stack. Now, the way I see it, all of these are good prices for an herb whose similar herbs like Bruiseweed, Briarthorn, etc. go for much less, but this situation begs the question: can one always be the guy seliing for 3 or 4g and not 1g I would say yes.
There are three main variables at play here. The first is supply. We'll assume supply is infinite and that Kingsblood will always be avaliable, and that there will always be some on the AH. In other words, there may only be 1 or 2 stacks listed, and sometimes there will be 30 or 40, but there will always be some, so you will never get that 1 item listed monopoly you can on some things like rare world epics. The second variable is demand. We'll also assume demand is infinite and that someone will always be needing Kingsblood and that sometimes demand will be more, sometimes less, but that it is always there and will not experience huge spikes over the course of time our example covers. Now, you cannot control either of these variables, but you can control the third: time. If you can predict the correct time to sell your items: you can sell your items when there are the least amount of competitors selling and, sometimes, the highest amount of demand. Thus, you take the variable you can control, when you post your item on the AH, and do that at a point where they independant variables are maximized in your favor.
Now that's all well and good in theory, but how about in practice Well, judging demand is probably easier, but it will only be possible a small amount of the time. Demand changes when reputation quests change, when new instances are created that may need certain products which in term require certain reagents, those type of things. This are rare, but can make you rich if you predict them correctly. More basic night to night demand of players and things they need everyday is far more easier to judge. This can be done on anywhere from a basic to a psycho-analytic level. On the most basic of levels, think about yourself, and make yourself the judge of the playerbase. Think to yourself when you go the the AH, for what reasons and needs, and think about your buying patterns. More importantly, find your servers peak hours. If your a seller of consumables (potions, etc.) putting stuff on the AH so that its available when people are about to go into instances, etc. will probably net you a higher price because they need the item so they can go, and they will probably be willing to pay more for it.
Predicting suppliers is somewhat harder. This means trying to predict when people put things on the AH so you can put your stuff on there when there is less stuff out there, and thus have more control over the price you want. This is especially true of things that are typically bought in bulk like cloths, etc. because people will generally buy a lot of it at one time. So finding a few stacks on the AH is effectively like finding nothing of other things like weps or clothing because they will buy it all anyway, so the price difference between you and the next guy doesn't matter all that much if there is below a certain amount listed. **Never, EVER underestimate how much people are willing to spend to get what they want at that moment in time. NEVER**
So when does this supply lax happen I find that generally, listing things in the afternoon to early evening, several (like 4) hours before peak begins will find you the best result, but this really can vary. Oftentimes, the best way to judge is just to see how many people are milling around in IF or Org, you'd be surprised how good of an economic rubric this simple observation can be. Now, if you do all this, list your item, and it doesn't sell, don't be discouraged. Pricing things using a method like this isn't risky per se, but is very time dependant and if things change soon after you list your item, then yours may not sell. It doesn't mean you did anything wrong. It doesn't mean you should go vendor it. It means you keep to the plan, perhaps reduce the price a bit, and relist when optimal times appear again. In summary, do everything you can to reduce the competition you have. When, and only when, your items get to be higher level to where they have some good value to them, do not always underbid just to sell. (The opposite is also true, however. Do not use the above method for every item you have. Only things like herbs, ore, skins and other reagent type things, and possibly rare/epic items....in short, high demand things and NOT gorilla fangs)
I'm racking my brain for other ways that I sell things and nuances that I use and a lot of it comes down to what it is that your selling. Much as you try, a ruined pelt won't sell for 10g. As dumb and obvious as that sounds, they have some good meaning and will never prove wrong.
One final note for this section. I'd like to reiterate what I said earlier about how people always want things at the moment they fork over their gold. Rarely do I list a bid lower than a buyout for my items. Why Because rarely do people bid on items at all. Indeed, the only time I find myself bidding on items is when I'm trying to thief some cheap blues and resell them for higher. There's really nothing more in-depth than simply saying it again, but it bears repeating.
Levels 51-60, and beyond, and the AH
These levels are pretty much where this guide ends. You're more or less on your own. The things you will encounter at these levels are almost too numerous to list, and likely you will have already developed your own method of dealing with the AH, and thus, my words are probably unnecessary. I would only leave you with one parting piece of advice. Always keep in mind your role as buyer and supplier in the server economy as a whole. Pay attention to things (i.e. updates) that will cause market fluctuations in certain products, and when your unsure about an economic risk, look for resources on the internet that can assist you. For 99.9% of the questions or doubts you may have, those answers will exist!
Addons- If you think your going to be spending a lot of time in the AH, or even if not, this is pretty much a must have. Go to curse-gaming.com and do a search for "auctioneering". Get it, learn it, love it.
Gadgetzan AH- To be honest, I'm not all that familiar with it. I don't really use it because I find faction AH's to be more than adequate. If I were you, I would just pay attention and keep your ears open to items in high demand from the other side. A great place to look for that kind of information is right here on these forums!
Further advice on 'Day Trading' on the AH- This is what I previously described as doing on the AH, searching for low-priced things (I used the example of Rare quality weapons), and reselling them. With the abundance of twinks now present on most servers, you'll be hard pressed to find real low level items selling at low prices, because pretty much everyone now knows the value they have in a low level blue item drop.
With this new paradigm now in place, I've had too look other places for my 'go to' product. I've found two things that turn around pretty well. The first is blue quality polearms between level ranges 25 and 45. For some reason these are always on the AH for around 5g. The danger you run with buying these is that oftentimes the demand is not very high for them, however, usually you will be buying them for a low enough price so that that factor is irrelevant. The second item I've found that is generally available for decent resale is mid-level, dropped trade goods. Things like Elemental Air, water, etc. and everything in that kind of category. The reason for this is, I'm guessing, is that they are usually gotten by people who are of a reasonably high level, but not end-gamers yet, so although they are important items, they aren't clearly worth a lot of gold, as many of the elemental type drops that level 60's get are. Thus, people will usually put them on the AH, but oftentimes for less than they are worth. Be particularly vigilant for stacks of 1 or 2, because these are often being sold as one off things where they seller just got a few random ones off drops, in all likelihood isn't farming them, and probably hasn't done much, if any, real research into their value. I find that oftentimes I can make about 20s per item turnaround on these.