Ssouless Guide to the Auction House -- Tips, Tricks, and Traps:
Forward: I hope this guide helps players deal with the AH in a more profitable and fun manner. The amounts and details I use are for example purposes only: your mileage may vary. Also, all of this guide comes from my personal experience and beliefs which are certainly different from others. Take what works for you and leave the rest. Lastly, feel free to copy this to your guild boards or whatever, but please include attribution to Ssouless. Enjoy.
Just a few comments to get us started. The AH is really an economics course on Capitalism at work: that is, trading is based solely on the principle of supply and demand. The value of any item is exactly the price someone last paid for it. Being a smart AH trader really means buying items at the LOW end of the market and selling items at the high end. That is how you make money at the AH.
Some items are common and have a broad market offering usually with a range of prices and other items are more rare, often with none offered for sale making pricing more difficult. Your approach to the AH in many respects depends on your Bankroll which is to say how long you have been playing the game. That is, if you are a week into playing WoW and have finally accumulated 3 gold, your tolerance for losing deposits, for example, is not very high. However, if you have been playing for a few months and have 300 gold in the bank, it will affect how you approach the AH indeed. Lastly, the way the AH is setup supports TWO primary ways of selling products: either thru open ended BIDDING until time is up, or thru paying the BUYOUT amount which buys the item outright at that moment. Because bidding can take place over hours of time if there is no Buyout established, and because most players would rather not sit at the AH during those hours to keep bidding on the item, most of the AH activity and this guide focuses on BOs. Lastly, you pay a 5% commission on each sale. So the amount you receive will be the sale price MINUS 5% PLUS the deposit amount.
So let us get started.
Stack Size, Min. Bids, Buy-Outs, Deposit Amount, and Time frame:
First, let me define each of these (for those not yet familiar) and then we will apply them to various kinds of items to sell.
Stack Size: Just because you have a full stack of 20 Oily Blackfish to sell does not mean you need or want to offer ALL of them in one stack. Very often it is best to split up your products into much smaller offerings. More on this later.
Min. Bids: Blizzard has in its database suggested min. bid amounts for items and in fact the min. bid amount determines how much the deposit will be, depending on time frame. This min. bid is 150% of what an NPC would give you, so for example an item that has a min bid of 75 silver would sell to a vendor for 50 silver.
Get into the habit of setting your own Min. Bid. When you are setting a BO (which I strongly suggest), the min. bid will usually be the same as the BO, with a few exceptions noted below. If you neglect to change the min. bid on an item with a much higher BO, you risk having someone pick up your item very cheap at the min. bid amount.
Buy-outs: This is the price you will accept to sell the item outright. For most items like commodities (skins, mineral bars, etc.) you will need to know what the average market is for each item and decide how you want to price yours. Some people will always sell below everyone else which is often lower than you could get with some patience and a willingness to get some products back. My philosophy is to sell at the high end of the market, but not so high as to be viewed as a gouger. You will need to decide on your selling philosophy.
On high end items that do not sell that often to have a good market range of prices, you may want to use the bidding process and set a BO quite high. The only reason I can think of for NOT setting a BO is the fear that it will be too low. Think of it this way: if you do NOT set a BO, a willing buyer who wants to buy from you CANNOT do so until the time is up. Always give the buyer a WAY to buy NOW!
Deposit Amount: The deposit is returned to you in full IF the item is sold within the timeframe you choose. I never look at 2 hour timeframes (maybe good if you have a very high end item that you expect will be bidded on rather than bought thru your very high BO), but 8 hours costs about 13% of the Bliz suggested min. bid and going to 24 hours TRIPLES that amount. Items will come back to you unsold and their deposits will be lost. It is the cost of doing business, and you cannot let that bother you as long as you are smart about setting up your item sales.
Time frames: Other than high end items, mostly it is a matter of deciding on 8 hours or 24 hours. More on this later.
VT (Vendor Trash) Items:
What is one player's VT is another's money for spells, so your Bankroll will determine how much you care about saving so called VT for the AH. That said, often you will get lower level potions, for example, as a mid level player. Now you can just sell those 3 mana potions to the vendor for maybe a couple of silver, or you can sell them at the AH for probably 12 silver. Some may not want to bother with the AH for 10 silver, but another aspect to this is that offering potions and the like often fills a void on my server and provides potions to players who need them. There are other items like Raptor Eggs that players need, so offering them at the AH is a service to your fellow players.
Selling Commodity Items:
First of all, get to know the marketplace (highs, lows, averages) for the items that you sell like gems, mineral bars, fish, cloth. In fact, take the time to make a simple spreadsheet for these items including the stack size that you offer and the price range on both the alliance side and horde side if you have characters on both as I do. I am not the lowest priced seller usually, but I do sell a lot of items.
Here are some tips:
Set the stack size smaller. For example, I sell Oily Blackfish in stacks of 2. Why? Because my buyers (Alchemists) only need two at a time to make their oily potions, and because the bliz min. bid for only two is so low, there is NO deposit for only two which means I can always offer them for a full 24 hours and it costs me nothing if they come back, which they do sometimes. Since there is no deposit, I can ask for 48 silver for two and usually get that, and I can offer 4-6 sets of 2 each as long as I have fish to sell. Avoid flooding the market with 10 sets of 2 each at one time. I often offer Mithril Bars one at a time, and Iron Bars in stacks of 5 each, and Strong Troll�s Blood in singles. Take the Troll�s Blood. I can sell them for 34 silver EACH without a very high deposit whereas it would be much harder to get 6 gold, 80 silver for a stack of 20. Plus, who would need 20 of them at one time? You can usually get more money from SMALLER stacks and smaller stacks means LOWER deposits.
Day of week matters: The market is flooded with cheap items on Saturday and Sunday (good time to BUY) so hold your commodity items for Monday thru Friday or so. When the deposit amount is low (on most commodity items) you can accept the deposit for 24 hours. However, when the deposit amount seems high, go to the AH at around noon server time and offer items for only 8 hours which costs a third of the longer 24 hours. That way, you get the prime playing time for people to buy your items.
Setting Price: I like to use numbers ending in 8 or 4. If you list an item for 99 silver, everyone knows you want a gold for it but think the buyer is too stupid to see that. Listing it for 98 or 96 or 94 leaves a few silver on the table under 1 gold but seems more like an independent price point. Also, if you are going to undercut someone, it�s cheesy to do so by only a silver unless a very cheap item. If you want to undercut a 1gold, 50 silver item, offer it for 1 gold, 42 silver for example. That shows some respect for the buyer. Of course, the same idea holds true if you are in the lots of gold range. Undercut a 50 gold item by at least a gold, not by a few silver.
Lastly, consider your AH reputation before jacking up your normal selling price on an item just because there are none for sale ATM. For example, I might go to 58 silver for my oily fish if none are for sale, but my normal buyers would deeply resent me asking for 2 gold just because I might be able to get away with it. They would remember that greed for a long time.
Green Item Pricing:
So you looted a L32 chest item with some stats. First of all, always check with an NPC to see what the item is worth if you sold it that way. Some items are not worth the risk of the deposit compared with just selling it to the vendor. It depends on what the going rate for the item is on your AH. Secondly, offer your non-commodity items on the weekend since you want as many as possible to see it and you probably don't have 20 other sellers for the SAME item and greenies are often bought by enchanters who are often plying their wares on the weekend. Thirdly, look at similar items at that level to see what they are selling for. That will give you a good idea what you can get. Next, since deposits can get expensive on greenies and you will be getting them back sometimes, offer these on an 8 hour basis in the middle of the day.
Blue/Purple Item Pricing:
Most of the time unless you have been watching the market on a fairly common dropped item, you will not have a good idea what to charge. First, use Allakazam.com to look up the item and see what the sales history of it is. Not that the data you see is absolutely accurate, but it starts to give you an idea of what the average, high, and low price points are. Since we are talking about gold here, don't be afraid to offer it a few times on the high side knowing it may come back to you. If it is a truly rare item, I would suggest not using the AH at all, but rather offering it thru the Trade Channel which gives you the ability to negotiate a good price. If really unsure about what to charge, don't be afraid to hold it in the bank for a few days to really research the market for the item thru friends, guildies, etc. It's worth it to know your market to avoid leaving a lot of gold on the table.
Again, the weekend is the best time to offer these higher end items. This might be a time to use a 2 hour bidding process if its really a good item, but I would still use a BO, albeit a high one.
The AH Trader:
If you have the skin of a turtle, a stomach of iron, and lots of gold and time to spare, you can absolutely make a LOT simply buying items low and reselling them. However, know that it can be hard on your character's reputation to be a trader since those that you buy from may feel ripped off, and those that you sell to may feel ripped off also. It's a pretty hard act to actually make money consistently as a trader without your reputation suffering.
Perhaps on a smaller scale, don't be afraid to buy out your competition on items where you know well what the market will pay. For example, I go to the AH to offer some of my Oily fish (2 for 48 silver) and see someone offering 14 of them for 70 silver along with a smattering of other smaller lots. I will buy the 14 and put them in the bank knowing I can get almost 3 and a half gold for them. And I don't have to wait for those 14 to clear before mine are sold. But be careful. Markets change. And it gets a lot more risky to speculate trading higher end gear that trades less frequently.
What about the Trade Channel:
Basically the trade channel has two purposes: First to actually buy/sell items, and secondly as an ad channel for items offered at the AH. If you are using it just to announce what you have up at the AH, use it sparingly. Remember that AH zones are very busy and laggy and we all have to share the visual bandwidth of the small chat window for all the channels.
As for buying and selling thru the trader channel, I use it to buy items cheaper than available at the AH. For example, I started up a new character and needed a bunch of 14 slot bags which usually go for 4 gold each at the AH. Instead, I used the trader channel and bought 4 of the bags for 3 gold each. If you are comfortable doing a one-on-one negotiation, you can use the trader channel to save money assuming you have the time to devote to it.
Trading between Factions:
It's not easy, but you CAN trade between Alliance and Horde characters. First you must get an alliance character and a horde character (they CANNOT be on the same account so you must use someone you trust completely ) at the AH in Gadgetzan. If you wanted to pass 85 gold from Alliance to Horde, for example, you have the Horde char. offer a light leather or some other cheap item with a BO of 100 gold (BTW, you pay a 15% commission, so your horde character only gets 85 gold). The Alliance char simply pays it. Passing an item has a bit more risk to it. You offer your item with a very cheap BO and the other char buys it quickly.
Well....that about does it. I hope you find some ideas in this guide helpful.
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