If you've read this far, you know there's a lot of different items in the game. This site exists largely to chronicle the knowledge of equipment in games of this genre.
There are two ways two classify items - function and quality.
|Equipment - also called Gear - is something you wear. A sword. A piece of armor. Duh, no brainer here. Equipment says exactly what inventory slot it is used in, and any aspect of the text written in red means that you can't use it for that reason. (Mail would be in red for a druid, level 35 would in red to a level 30 character.) Equipment is the only type of item that quality truly applies to, although tradeskill items sometimes have one.|
|Consumables are items you use. Food and drink. Potions. Scrolls of stamina. You right-click them in your bag, they do something, and they disappear.|
|Quest items are objects you acquire, usually but not necessarily from corpses, that specifically say on them "quest item", and are for the explicit purpose of completing a quest. You will usually not see a quest item unless you actually have the quest. Some items for quests are not marked as "quest item"s, which means they have an additional purpose. True quest items do nothing else, and cannot be sold to vendor or traded.|
|Junk items, sometimes called vendor trash, is anything that does not fall into one of the preceding categories, and when you mouse over it, its name appears in GRAY LETTERS. Anything that meets this criteria is only meant to be sold for money when you get back to town.|
|Tradeskill items are anything that doesn't have an obvious purpose, but has a name in usually white letters, or sometimes one of the higher-quality colors. It may not be obvious what exactly, but it will be used in *some* tradeskill recipe. Obviously herbs, ore, and leather fall into this category. Tradeskill items often make a decent sum of money in the auction house, but if you can't figure out what it's good for or don't feel like wasting the time, it might be worthwhile just to sell the item anyway. (Chances are there aren't too many people looking for Zesty Clam Meat anyway.)|
And there are a few miscellaneous items that don't fall into any category. Bags have a fairly obvious purpose. If you have a mount or a non-combat pet, you will possess an item that will disapear after you use it to learn how to summon it (Nightsaber reins, bird cage, cat carrier, etc.) Skinning knives, fishing poles, and mining picks aren't really tradeskill items, nor do they do anything directly.
The main difference between those items, is that they get more point per level on their stats... hence why a level 60 purple items will be much more powerful than a level 60 blue and so forth. While this goes beyond the scope of a newbie guide, you can click on this for more information.
The item qualities do technically have names. If you want the "proper" terminology, gray is poor quality, white is common, green is uncommon, blue is rare, purple is epic, orange is legendary and presumably red will be artifact items. Of these, epic and legendary are the only names that get used consistently.
There is one other very important attribute to equipment - binding. An item that is soulbound belongs to you. Forever.
You can sell it to a merchant, but you cannot trade it to another player. Quest rewards are nearly always soulbound so you are forced to do the quest yourself. Most green items you find along the way have the status "bind on equip." This means that you can trade the item, but as soon as you equip it, it becomes soulbound to you. Most blue items are "bind on pickup," meaning the person that loots it will keep it forever. This is usually an aspect of boss loot, and it is important the group discusses who gets the item before you blindly pick it up. DO NOT JUST TAKE BIND ON PICK-UP ITEMS UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES WHATSOEVER. Don't make me enlarge and bold that. This is the reason why so many different loot options exist, but it is still best to discuss with your group what is to become of an item. Anyone who takes an item without consulting the group is frequently referred to as a "ninja", and often a bad reputation can follow from that.
There are various aspects to the looting system, but typically players leave loot on Round Robin so the corpses cycle, and the game makes an exception for items above a certain "threshold" -- by default this is green items, but players often switch it to blue. Most people follow a policy of NBG (need before greed) that mandates that if you are a warlock and you could loot a really nice bow, it should instead go to the hunter in the party. For this purpose, "need" for cash and disenchanting are on an even plane, and squarely below someone wanting an item because they would use it themselves (on that character.) If an item above the threshold appears, all members of the party will get a pop-up window with the item, a time bar, and three options -- need, greed, and pass. Need is the dice option, meaning you want to roll against the other people who claim they need it. The game will pick random numbers for each person who chose need, and award the item to the highest "roller". Greed is the coin, and works just like the need option, in case nobody picks need. The circle with the slash means you simply wish to pass on the item altogether.
Sometimes players use a different system, so make sure you're clear on what is happening ahead of time. Because the need-before-greed window has a timer on it, sometimes the group wants everyone to pass so they can discuss the drops. If you need to then roll for an item, type /roll or /random. Highest roll (from 0 to 100) wins.
Money in the game consists of gold, silver, and copper pieces. 1 gold is worth 100 silver, 1 silver is worth 100 copper. There are a few different ways to get money, and a few ways to spend them. Here are just a few.
The AH, that you've surely heard so much about, is a giant flea market where you can buy and sell items you need (or don't need.) Anything from equippable items to potions to tradeskill supplies to rare non-combat pets and a few select quest items can be found in the auction house. Items are done on the basis of BIDS. When you wish to put an item up for sale, you talk to an auctioneer and pick a time length you want the auction to run for. You then set a minimum bid and optionally a buyout price. There is a small overhead charged to you based on the item's vendor value and the length of the auction. (Choices are 2, 8, or 24 hours.) If you are on the market for something, or just want to browse, the auction house interface search feature is fairly straight forward. If you want to specify an item by name, type it in the name blank. If you are looking for a general kind of item, use the tabs below to pick specifically that you want, say, a piece of armor, type leather, for the arm slot. You can filter things down by adding a level range or by only seeing items your character could presently use. Make sure you don't put a level range when looking for tradeskill supplies or other things that have no level requirements. =p
As you peruse the items that meet your criteria, you can either refine your search or look at the bid and buyout prices of the items and consider putting money down on one. Bids will take money out of your gold supply, and will be held until the auction finishes or you are outbid. If you win the auction, the item will be in your mailbox. It you are outbid, the money from your bid will be instead.
Buyout is the means to escape the wait of the auction altogether, and is preferable for almost anything that is not a worn piece of equipment. Buyout prices are always higher than bid prices, but in the act of putting your money down, the auction ends and you instantly have the item placed in your mailbox.
Auction houses for each faction are located in Ironforge and Orgrimmar, near the entrances of the two cities. There are also two auction houses in the goblin cities of Everlook, Booty Bay, and Gadgetzan which both factions can make use of - and this is the only way an item can reach the other faction - but they aren't widely used due to being less accessible and having a higher charge to list items.
A brief bit of strategy for the auction house, folks: when you are listing an item, you should nearly always use a semi-realistic buyout price. You don't actually need to put a buyout, but unless people are bidding on some high-ticket rare sword or whatever, they will often sooner spend 50 silver for their healing potion now so they can use it on their upcoming adventure, rather than put 5 silver down for a potion they will get in a "long" or "very long" time. OTOH, saying you should always have a buyout price doesn't mean you should put down stupid-high buyouts like 30 gold for one piece of linen cloth.
Trading is done by either picking a player and selecting trade, or highlighting the item and "dropping" it on the player. A simple trade interface appears that lets you place several items in the trade window, as well as any sum of money you have, and consent to the trade. If both parties agree, without the trade changing in-between, the game swaps them.
You cannot drop items on the ground. You also cannot trade to opposite faction members. The only way to transfer items between factions is through the neutral auction house, but on a PvP server, you can't play both factions on the same server anyway.
If you want to transfer an item to another character, mail it. Mailboxes are outside the inn, or in some cases the bank, in every town through Azeroth. (There won't be one at your newbie village, but the main town in the starting zone will have one.) Mailboxes have a few different looks to them, but they should be easy to spot. When you click on a mailbox, you are given two options - look at your mail, or send your own mail. If you choose to send a piece of mail, you must choose your recipient, give the letter a subject, and optionally you can either type a message or attach money or an item to the letter.
You will know if you have mail by a small icon around your mini-map. As you receive a piece of mail, it will appear in your in-box, and remain there for 30 days. Mail with items or money attached will show that in their icon. Basic messages will be letters. Click on a piece of mail and (if there is one) you can click on the item at the bottom to detach it and take it with you. Items can be sent COD. If someone sends you an item this way, you will have money taken from you and sent to that person if you accept the delivery. Be careful of mail scams.
If you don't want a piece of mail any longer, or simply want to return it to sender, you can either select "return" or "delete". Mail from the auction house will delete itself once you take the money/item attached. Unviewed mail stays in your in-box for 30 days, and then return to sender.