All I can say is "woot" and "thank god".
I was chasing the final 75k gold or so since Thursday. Finally Sunday I just said "screw it" and decided to camp the AH all day. Result was a 40K gold day and this final tally when I opened my mail one last time around 1:10 am server time.
I want to pay a debt of gratitude to the many bloggers and readers who have provided inspiration, ideas and support the last 9 months.
This journey began when Cataclysm launched on 12/6/10. I had 85k gold and three 80s. 5 maxed profs or so. My main income was flipping trade goods and enchanting mats. A big AH day was 3k.
It started with Just My Two Copper. Using the blog roll provided there I discovered Cold's Gold Factory, Alto's Gold"ish" Advice, and Stokpile. From there I soon found Nerf Faids, the Gnomish Coin and others. By the end of March 2011 I was over 250k net worth. My stable of 85s had grown and I managed to max more profs.
The ideas discussed in gold blogs are seldom revolutionary. Some blogger may be "first out" with a strategy but soon everyone else figures it out and reports on it. No blogger, in my experience, has consistently been "first out" more than any other. The main competitors in this niche seem about the same in terms of hit rate on good ideas and time to market.
From 250k to 750k: A Grind
Over the next 3 months I went from 250k to around 750k. During that time I maxed all my profs and really perfected the Ore shuffle, JC cutting and Enchanting grind. Most of my income has been from JC and Enchanting, but Tailoring has been a surprising performer. Engineering was my last max prof but has been very good with Pets.
Soon after reaching 750k I needed a break. In June I decided to roll a Horde Mage and leveled her to 85 before transferring back to my main server. During the time I played her I seldom logged my gold making toons, maybe a couple times a week or so--just enough to see what was going on in the markets, who the competition was. I listed a few auctions but really sort of dropped off the map.
On the occasions when I did log onto my main server it was to level and alt or work on a profession--rep grind for some pattern I didn't have, that sort of thing.
The Final Push
In July I returned to the gold game with new intensity. I had been away long enough that the vacuum from my absence was filled with new blood, new competition to battle. By now I had all max profs and seven L85s. I also had found a few guilds to try out. I wanted to balance my gold play with some game play (go figure, right?).
Ironically, playing the game actually hurt my gold making. Who knew running dungeons was so expensive? (/sarcasm)
Buying new gear was expensive and I wasn't always patient enough to wait on a certain drop. I also am not a fan of running a Heroic in PvP gear just to get the Item Level requirement. Sorta noobish in my view. But that's just me. Many people do it and that's fine for them--hell, they are probably the ones buying all my Bloodthirsty gear.
I slowly edged up to 850k and then to 900k. At that point I decided to put away the dungeon running and work on getting capped.
These last two weeks have been a real hoot. I finally tried some cross faction trading. This was made much easier since my son joined via Refer A Friend and we could level our toons together. He has character slots for new toons so I had something to do with my Horde placeholder toon, and by standing side by side at the Booty Bay AH we could move goods very efficiently between factions with little chance of getting sniped.
I earned about 35k in cross faction trades this way during the last week, netting about 20k.
I also wanted to try my hand at the Glyph market (ugh, I'm over it, trust me). The people who play the Glyph market, hats off to you. /salute. Really, this is tough, tough business. Just the mechanic of cancel/reposting 900 auctions is so time consuming that I seriously doubt whether it is a good use of my gold making time. The opportunity cost of earning 5k in Glyphs seems much greater than the time it would take me to earn 5k from Gems or even Trade Goods.
Still, I banked 32k in Glyphs on gross sales of 115k. I used this income to buy new herbs for milling--thus making my Glyph toon self sufficient--but also used this income to fund some gear purchases and other expenses.
There are quite a few lessons I've learned about me, the game and other players during this time. Here are a few.
Diversification is a dual edged blade. Having a variety of markets does give flexibility to focus on one when another is less profitable. However, the challenge with this strategy is when you are active in many markets you will encounter stiff competition from several single-market (or limited-market) players.
For example, I had a main competitor in Gems, a different one in Bloodthirsty Plate, a different one in Bloodthirsty Cloth and bags, a different one in Pets and a different one in Scrolls. When I logged on to re-post my auctions in one area, say Gems, any of the other competitors who had me flagged (friended) would soon log on and re-post their auctions too. This led to a huge time suck where I was essentially being "attacked" on 5 or 6 different fronts at the same time.
There are different strategies to effectively post in this environment but I'm not addressing them here. The risk is that you will face more competition as you diversify, which might mean more time spent in the AH overall. You have to determine whether the time/reward curve is beneficial.
TSM is a valuable tool. Even though it is a pain in the ass to set up and maintain, investing the time to learn TSM is worth the effort. Nothing is more effective than running a scan for "cancellations", holding down "ctrl" and scrolling mouse wheel to cancel, running to mailbox to get cancelled goods, running back to run "post" scan, and then holding "ctrl" and mouse wheel to re-post at your targeted prices.
The other features of TSM have a range of benefits from "very little value" to "great value". If you are a Glyph maker the whole section on queuing your Glyphs and buying the herbs and inks used for production is simply amazing. I have found it to be less useful for Tailoring and Prospecting, but even then the the "watch list" function is really handy.
Maintaining AH toon anonymity is important. There is some debate over whether to make your AH toon "invisible" or not. Faid over at Nerf Faids has a public posture and it works for her. Others prefer the private approach.
I'm a fan of the private approach for a few different reasons, many of which may apply to you in your situation.
First, the AH game of post, cancel when undercut then re-post is often viewed as hostile behavior. If I'm listing Gems, Scrolls, Cloth and Plate Armor and Bags, I may be UC on one set of those items fairly often--say Gems (tend to be most competitive on my server). When I log my AH toon every couple hours to check my Gems I will run a TSM scan and cancel anything that is UC. Then I re-list everything. My competitors in the Gem market are the targets but my competitors in Bags and Armor get caught in the wake of this competition. It means all my competitors end up being upset instead of just my Gem competitor.
Second, sometimes I have to camp the AH to deal with multiple competitors or high volume sales days. I seldom post more than 3 of any item but if sales are brisk I may restock my wares several times during the day. As I camp, other players get upset and will act hostilely. An anonymous AH toon means this hostility is directed at the right toon and not all my playing toons.
Last, sometimes guild mates get caught in the wake of this activity. I have playing toons in several guilds. I sometimes see comments in /gchat about AH frustrations--which I know are sometimes caused by my AH toon. Avoiding the fallout directed at my playing toons is a welcome relief. Further, using my playing toons for intelligence can be really helpful--when my competitors are on, who their alts are, etc. can be immensely valuable.
Cross faction trading is worth the effort. If you don't have a real life friend who can help, it is worth the time to find an in-game friend. The profits from cross faction trading are just huge. Bloodthirsty cloth armor that sells for 800g in the Alliance AH is going for twice that--or more--on the Horde side. Volatile Water that my Alliance toons pay 30g and up for sell all the time for 18g or so on the Horde side. Cross faction pets are a big money maker too. Spend the time you need to spend and develop a cross faction strategy.
Stupid players will always play stupidly. I will give you two examples.
I think it is a failed strategy to sell Truegold transmutes. The buyer expects to get the proc for a low fee, usually 50g to 150g depending on day and server. If you have a good snatch list with all the Volatiles on it you can find materials cheaply enough that the Truegold itself is profitable--but if you proc one or more those become pure profit. Hell, I buy other players' TG CDs and then list the TG and procs on the AH. I make good bank on this strategy. Why they would sell the service is beyond me but selling the proc? That's just pissing away gold.
There are players who consistently UC by a significant margin even when the strategy doesn't work. The result is a collapse of the overall price in that segment of the market. The best example I can provide for this has to do with Glyphs.
I'm not going to do a whole, detailed post here but let me just say this: deep UC works by trading VOLUME for PRICE and TIME. Theorists who support Deep UC (DUC) say that if something is selling at 129g and they can sell at 65g, by selling more volume they make up the difference in price. I basically agree with this premise. However, there are times when DUC is a waste of time and lowers the overall market.
Again, DUCs will say, "ok, by depressing the market below the burn rate for other sellers, even if I make fewer sales at a low price BUT drive out the competition I will make up the profit over time because there are fewer (or no) competitors". I think this part is bullshit but it does serve to rationalize for the DUCs after they shit on the market.
Say I'm listing a Glyph at 129g. I have 5 units on the board and no other Glyphs of that type are listed. Donna DUC comes along and lists ONE Glyph at 60g. If she sells her Glyph it is a win for her--but the essence of DUC says she makes up in VOLUME what she misses in PROFIT. She would need to sell two or more Glyphs to make up that margin. Or, say she lists 4 Glyphs at 60g. She needs multiple sales to consider this a win.
I am willing to cancel/re-post my 5 Glyphs at 59g 90s. If I make one sale she now needs to make 3 or 4 to balance the DUC. She cuts me to 30g. I go to 29g 90s. And so on.
See, the strategy falls apart when the other sellers are willing to sell at the DUC's price. The result is that the market as a whole goes in the toilet. Truth is, had Donna DUC just listed one Glyph at 128g 90s or something like that I might not re-post my 5 below her price.
Let's just say that I see this same behavior in multiple markets from multiple sellers. I think DUC can be effective strategy but not under these circumstances. I'll write a more comprehensive post about this later.
Use all of TUJ's various features
Whether you are buying goods for crafting or interested in what your competition is doing, TUJ (The Undermine Journal) has reporting tools that will notify you when certain events occur. You get these alerts in your out of game email. Alerts can let you know that an item was listed in the AH below a certain price (say, Abyss Crystals below 35g). Or you can get an alert that your auctions were undercut--which auctions and by how much is in the email. Finally, you can get a message when a certain player lists new auctions--say your main competition.
Used in conjunction with other tools TUJ features become even more powerful. Cross faction trading becomes much more effective by looking at certain goods in both AHs. Yesterday I saw that Khorium Bars were selling for 20g on the Alliance side and 38g on the Horde side. Buying a couple hundred to re-list cross faction was a huge win for me.
Knowing that my main Gem competition was listing her auctions at around 11pm and again at 1am local time (consistently during the week) meant I could safely log on at midnight and 2am to cancel/re-post. Looking at what she listed meant I could further decide that my cancel/re-post wouldn't be worth it--and by not logging my AH toon I didn't set off the friend flag that would make HER come back on and re-post again.
Mobile Auction House FTW
Knowing the name of your competition's AH toon is easy enough to figure out. They show up as who you are UC'ing all the time, and you get to know very quickly how persistent they will be. The "friend flag" is the easiest way to track these competitors. When I see Gina Gem log on I know I'm in for a long afternoon of cancel/re-post because she is tenacious and aggressive. When Tommy Tailor pops on I know that my bags are about to be undercut.
I maintain the same friends list on each of my toons. There is an addon that does this for me. This means if I'm on my L85 Druid, running some dungeon, I can see that Gina Gem and Tommy Tailor just came on line. They don't know my Druid's name so they consider the AH open for business--they didn't see my AH toon on their friend's list.
In the old days, after my dungeon, I would log my AH toon and soon thereafter the competitors would see me pop on-line and my friends list grew--2 friends, then 5, then 9, then 14, etc. Each of them usually is protecting one or two markets but because I'm active all over the place I have to defend several fronts at the same time. The exercise becomes a bloodbath.
Enter the Mobile AH. Now, after my dungeon, I exit the game and go watch TV. My iPhone gets an email about which auctions are undercut, which competitors have posted new entries. I can leisurely hop onto the application and cancel/re-post at my leisure--and never set off the friend flag. If the competition is really most concerned about me they tend to leave their auctions alone unless my friend alert tells them "danger, danger". This means I get to re-post and they are none the wiser.
It does cost a monthly fee and there are limits to how many auctions you can post in a day. However, my Gem income went up almost exactly 25% over the two weeks since I began using the Mobile AH. And I was able to catch up on past DVR episodes of Trueblood, Suits and Rescue Me. There is nothing more disconcerting than re-posting your auctions to make sure you beat out XXX competitor, never seeing him log on, and then finding out you were UC by XXX while you were on-line. If they figure out it was MAH more power to them--but most are profoundly confused.
My son is playing with me now via RAF. I've spent about 10k on him just for basic equipment, flying, etc. He will hit 80 soon and will want new equipment so I'm sure I'll buy him some.
I want a Chopper and a Vial of the Sands. I'm sure I will buy some other gear too.
But overall I don't plan to play the AH any less aggressively--just less often and with less work. Smarter use of TUJ and MAH are two vital components.
I also plan to revise this blog to more of a "new player resource". We will see how that goes.
Now that 1M is in my rear view mirror, I'm back at it tomorrow. Hope the competition enjoys my day off.