Art Dealers in WoW

Here’s one from the ‘think differently’ school of gaming.  Like most players of WoW (who spend more time at it than they will admit to other people), I also ‘play’ a little Auction House PVP with my fellow Azerothains.  We all do it to make some in-game money and to have a bit of fun.

However, it was a long time before I realized, to my utter amazement, that I was playing a totally different game at the AH than everyone else was.  Whereas most people seem to work the trade goods market like buying and selling so many pork bellies, barrels of oil, or saronite ore on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, I’ve been doing my business with Christie’s and Sotheby’s.

I am an art dealer, by comparison.   You see, my business is a low-volume, high-profit trade in rare and epic goods for only the most discerning customers.

In its fundamentals, mine is the same game everyone plays at the auction house … buy low and sell high.  But, in my case, I am searching for underpriced blues and purples to buy and re-list at a price more in line with what the market’s demand for such rarity will bear.

The volume of this trade is, obviously, limited by the other players on the server.  I can only pick up goods after someone else lists them at a price well under the norm.  Sometimes that means I have only 2 or 3 items for sale at any given time.

Then I have to sit on highly valuable inventory, which is never good, until I can unload it.  And, given they are blues and purples, the auction house take for an unsold item can be staggering … far higher than for a stack of herbs, at least.  That severely erodes profit with every auction. 

And then there are the risks.  Risks of not knowing whether the economy on your particular server will support a higher price than you are paying.  I used to go price shopping on Thottbot, Allakhazam, and Wowhead, but those sites do not seem to have prices listed any longer.  (Might be related to an article I read about the impending shutdown of the Undermine Journal.)  To manage these risks, I usually only pick up an item when I suspect it is undervalued by ten times.  That has been an adequate margin, I’ve found.

But, the profit potential of individual items, oh the profit that can be made, is sky high, dependent only upon how underpriced it was when you bought it.  Was it a key twink item that got listed for just coppers more than a similar piece of gear for a level 18 toon?  Was it a typographical error that turned Je’Tse’s Bell into the buy of a lifetime?  Was someone not aware of how wide the gulf was between vendor price and AH buyout price?  Who among us can say?  But, I’d bet that the commodity traders have never made 1000g profit on a single item.  (That was an Eye of Shadow, if I recall….)

So, have I discovered the secret of making huge money on the auction house?  …  No, not really.  Uncertainty is high and volume is low.  I figure that I net only about 100g or so per week on average.  It pales in comparison to, say, what a little market timing for enchanting materials can get you.

 But, would I give it up to start selling bushels of corn?  Never.

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