Rags to Riches – How to earn millions in World of Warcraft

My Orc trader

We all know seem to know of someone in Warcraft that appears to have endless bags of gold, that purchases the most expensive vendor mounts as soon as they appear, that casually pays 954,000g on BMAH for mounts (because it’s easier than farming for week after week on a score of alts).

How is that fair when others can barely scrape together enough for flying skills or garrison upgrades? We have both extremes in our guild and while friends joke about my naked greed, others ask "How is that even possible?" So I tell them. It might take a few weeks but, eventually, I’ll get a stunned whisper about how they have made more gold in the past month than in all their time of playing.

The next paragraph is background and not in or off itself important to making millions in this or any other game (or even on the stock market if you are careful!). Still, if you understand how my mind works, get a feel for my thought processes you can distill decades of thought and research into a few short rules for your own use. It will also tell you how NOT to learn to make millions in gold!

Understand that I play more a day, a week, than is remotely healthy, and have for far too many years. In the real world, I have a background that covers everything from cleaning toilets in a trailer park to being a purchasing director in an IT company. I am also, demographically, a tick box wonder for the marketing teams and psychologists twisting the game’s design into dollars. Every race, every class, every pet, every recipe in every profession… If there’s a checklist for obsessive and addictive behaviour, I’m on it. In short I know the game inside out. I pretty much remember where to get everything in the game, how hard it is, if it’s removed due to an expansion, If you ask about the secondary stat for a class I’ll have a printout I prepared, a web page I’ve written. If there’s an expansion ahead I follow the changes. What’s added, what’s removed, what’s a game changer, what in short, is the next market.

Working or playing to this degree, in any game (or job), is NOT healthy. Not physically (you are genuinely at risk of blood clots and embolisms, RSI, muscular atrophy, damaged eyesight, spinal problem etc.) and not mentally.

If you can afford it, pay the buggers their £9 a month sub, buy the gold*!
(Currently at 72,000g for £15, or 80,000g as it jumped up in price overnight. Dang!)

Personally, I object to paying real money because I feel the game is deeply flawed now; I’ve told them how to fix it – and they have largely ignored my advice. They also blindly refused to offer me $250,000 a year to be a consultant for them. Pttt! Still, if you enjoy simply playing AH or have the time to grind for gold, read on.

Believe me in this: If you follow my advice, you can make millions playing casually.

  • You do not need 20 level 100s
  • You do not need to spend 60-100+ hours a week mindlessly grinding and farming.
  • You do not need insane levels of in-game knowledge (though it helps massively).
  • You do not need an MBA
    (you are wasting your education here if you have one, else are in the wrong firm if you need to escape here from it!)

You can start the game with a level 1 character and within days be making thousands, within weeks, tens of thousands. You don’t even need a load of esoteric add-ons and gold guides. I made my first million back in Burning Crusade selling gems, recipes and epics – with no add-ons. It’s only in preparing this article that I’m learnt some of the power of Auctionator, let alone harnessed the might of TradeSkillsMaster. Nope, all you need it common sense.

Common sense is not so common ~ Voltaire

They is nothing more uncommon than common sense ~ Frank Lloyd Wright

That simple truth is your greatest asset and your worst nightmare. As I sell things I am constantly torn between a Ratner special bafflement that some tat sells for the price it does – and exasperation at the idiots in the game. I stare and think, Seriously? and quite literally throw my hands up in the air. Really, what goes through their minds? What!?


Here’s a recent example:
I was selling shirts for 199g each. Nice little earner. Post one, and only one.

(That’s your first lesson: make it seem rare, even if it’s not)

When it sells, then make another. Not before.

Some complete numpty sees this shirt for 199g, thinks, they’ll do the same – and posts 20 of them at 198g. I notice, shrug, repost mine at 197g99s. It sells, while their 20 expire. So they repost at 99g. And make another 20, just in case. And they all expire. So they get desperate and post 40 of them, at 49g. Meanwhile, I’m making shirts in a different colour and am back making 199g each. Eventually they post their 40 shirts at 1s, I bid, win 39, disenchant most and sell the mats at a nice profit. Then post one at 199g.

This basic entry level crafted wool shirt sold for 91g

This low level level crafted yellow shirt sold for 199g

Even the simplest white linen shirt sells easily for 198g as long as it appears rare

I can continue this list of screenshots of shirt sales with the other 20 or 30 shirts in the game. That’s before they add a shirts tab in Legion!


That’s your second rule, do not flood the market. It’s stupid and reckless.

People want things to feel special. Mounts sell for 999,999g for a reason. They are rare, they are to be brought out and paraded. Who parades a 10s mount? Think about that. Same with transmogs, people, by and large, want a unique, personalised look. If you are a lady going to a party you do not want to see 40 other women in the same £4.99 off-the-peg gown from Asda, do you?


Here’s your third rule: Never underestimate the sheer laziness of players!

The commonest answer to anything asked in /trade is either a) Google is your friend or b) Look on Wowhead. This that in mind look at the next sale:

Wound dressing sold for 1898g it costs a few gold in Dalaran

It is a great look, especially with some mogs, but it also sells for 20g in Dalaran in unlimited qualities. The Antiseptic-Soaked Dressing sells for 25g. All it takes is a curious, "Where does that some from?" – but they don’t, they happily pay my mage nearly 2,000g to teleport to the store and post it on AH for their convenience. (Similar is true for spades, skinning knives, blacksmithing tools, thread, everything you can think of for crafting gets flipped on AH for outrageous markups – and people pay for the convenience.

The same applies to battle pets. The Cornish Cat, as below, can be bought for a mere 40s from the crazy cat lady near Stormwind yet sells readily for over 40g in auctions. You can apply this to every cage-able pet in the game.

wow-ah-march2016-cornish-cat-40s-40g80s


Your fourth rule. Always question, think, never assume..

What is it?

Where does it drop?

What is the drop rate?

How heavily is it farmed?

Wowhead tells you the highest drop-rate is from this mob in this zone – but is this the best drop rate? Not the same thing. A lower drop rate in another area with more mobs to farm, or in an raid or instance you can solo may be far better.

What’s the rarity of the mobs? Is it 15% with a heavily camped, constantly realm-hopped rare that has a 4-8 hour respawn time, or is it a fast respawning mob with a drop rate of 0.1%?

Is there another item the same?

Is that alternative item easier to farm?

Is there an BoE/BoP instance version I can farm? (I like Atlas Loot for that myself, but they are plenty of add-ons dedicated to xmogs)

Suppose you are buying instead of selling. Perhaps I can interest Sir or Madam in a blood-stained meat cleaver. Yes, it’s just you! Perfect, only 3,500g. Shall I wrap it or will you take it with you?

Buy it?

wow-xmogs-atlas-loot-bloody-cleaver-butchers-vs-abomination-cleaver

Or farm it?

wow-xmogs-atlas-loot-bloody-butchers-cleaver-shadowfang

Remember also that some transmogs – that can sell for tens of thousands of gold – have similar or even identical versions in your heirlooms:

wow-xmogs-from-heirlooms


Your fifth rule: reiterating the imperative to never assume.

Just like common sense, just because something is thought to be common don’t assume there’s a lot of it about!

Everyone assumes that, and that is why people like me make millions while others struggle to make anything at all.

Oh, I’ll vendor it, it’s not worth auctioning!

Meanwhile crafters like me are screaming out for items like that because actually, no, they are not that common at all and even if they are there are far more lucrative things to invest our precious time on. Or an in-the-know flipper would be screaming "You trashed WHAT?" I have lists of ‘wants’ that go on for pages (I’ll share that later).

The whole point is everything has a value and some of them will stun you. Perhaps it’s time to clear out your old alts inventory?

But first a warning:
If you are throwing out the ‘junk’ from your old alts, think a moment.

If a wealthy player needs just 1 last mat and that mat was (as a number were) removed from the game in 4.3 people will pay. They will pay ANYTHING to get it. It might have only been worth 50s back in BC but right now it’s the last one on the server and they need it for a mog (say from the Naxx 60 polar sets or the ZG 60 leathers), so yes for a single piece of hide or rune they will pay 50,000g, even 250,000g without batting an eye.

Even (now) gray trash can have value. It is just like the real world; some rusty tat in the attic might, to the right collector, be priceless. Arrows, paladins holy symbols, the list is extensive and such objects battles to shout ‘nostalgia’ and ‘memorabilia’ as you remorsely drag them across to the bin.

Same with removed recipes. Many were, at the time, common, so collectors like me already have them. Even so, they are now worth 30,000g to 300,000g each. Others, like the BoE thistle Tea, removed in early Vanilla are, I assure you, worth upwards of 999,999g on any server in any battlegroup. If you have this recipe and posted it for 10,000,000g in the right place there is someone, somewhere that would xrealm, x-race to get it at that price.

Even in game recipes from Vanilla can sell for huge amounts.

wow-ah-march2016-mechanical-toad-schematic-15000g

Ignoring the impossible dream…

Perhaps tedious to farm but people are screaming out for old mats to craft mogs they with either use or sell for a huge markup on AH. Mats like warbear leather:

wow-ah-march2016-warbear-leather-241g-each

Like questing?
These chickens used to sells for 10s to 50s in Booty Bay, they are still farmable now, yet…
(Note they cannot be caged, they have to be sold white. Don’t learn it unless you want it for yourself, it will be a costly mistake)

wow-ah-mechanical-chicken-50k


At this point I’ll introduce the sixth rule(s):

Do not assume that a stupidly high price on auction house means it’s worth that. It could be worth less that a gold.

Equally, don’t assume that because something is only 50s or it is white or green (or even gray!) and was once common that the same is true.

Remember, the market, the buyers determines the value. We just play to it.


And the seventh rule:

Yes, people really do pay that much for green transmogs and anything else, if they want them enough

wow-ah-march2016-boneshredder-gloves-999g

wow-ah-march2016-jade-legplates-33500g

wow-ah-march2016-glorious-plate-draenor

Taking a step back from the once in a million drops to the easily farmable, we reiterate the point about common being uncommon. Consider these recent sales of mine:

wow-ah-march2016-pickled-eels-799g

wow-ah-march2016-firefin-snapper-9k-a-stack-french-hyjal

wow-ah-march2016-briarthorn-600g-stack-french-hyjal


Your eight rule: Niche or penny mix? Why not both! The greater your range the more markets you open for yourself.

Look at all the pound shops opening up. It’s sometimes easier to sell a million items for a pound than one luxury item with a million pound price tag. But if you can do both, why not?

wow-ah-march2016-general-sales


Your ninth rule: Sell what you know!
This was alluded to at the beginning with shirts but it applies right through the game, whether skinning or mining (arcane crystal from thorium mining sell for a lot) or old recipes you never think about.

Think about that for a moment.

You see? If you never think about it, maybe no-one else does.

Have you looked to see if any are on AH? Are the mats cheap? If so, it’s worth a try, especially if the posting charge is only a few silver. Equally are the mats hard to get, was the recipe removed? Is something crying of for this because, like the shirts, noone thinks to post?

wow-ah-march2016-enchanted-thorium-leggings-19999g

wow-ah-march2016-cindercloth-999g-each

wow-ah-march2016-blazing-rapier-9999g


Your tenth rule: Know your enemy!

Actually, I tend to get on OK with most of the traders, share things, whether information, mats (rarely) or skills. You do not want them knowing what you are doing well with, but at the same time it’s a small community. If you play fair with each other, everyone benefits.

Still, it’s good market research to that who is selling what, why, how many, how often, etc.

What are they buying, why?

What aren’t they buying, why?

Is there a niche they have missed, or a money pit they are avoiding?

Are they selling very expensive items?

If so are they farming and making a huge profit at a cost of time, or are they buying mats as cheap as they can as often as they can on AH or working on slim margins, even a loss as they get desperate to sell?

Is it to your advantage to farm for them?

Or are they, as many are, just flipping items?

I don’t expect most (sane) people to go to this length for a game but, in a way, it’s good experience for the real world too. It’s not hard to look and see who the main sellers are on your server – but remember to question, always:

Are they selling? Or are they simply posting and hoping to sell? BIG difference.

If you see the same traders over months, years, it’s a good bet they are learning and profiting.

wow-ah-march2016-who-are-the-main-traders

For the record, I estimated that if you put the time and effort in and played multiple markets it’s entirely possible to make a million gold a month.
(Actually that’s easy, many do!).
A million gold a week? Yes, several do.
A million gold a day though? Legitimately? Yes, but it would be a full timme job and you’d burn out completely. Do not try, the game’s not worth it.


Your eleventh rule: Know yourself!

Introspection rather than introversion. Why do you play? What do you get out of it? What do you like/hate doing in real life and in the game? How can you profit in yourself as well as in the game? Are your choices in mog’s and in-game personas trying to tell yourself something? Is the ‘real’ you emerging, or a darker side you play out in the game, releasing stress? Does it even matter as long as you are playing sensibly and enjoying yourself, as long as no-one is getting hurt?

It goes deeper than that, if you let it. Always wanted to learn another language, but never found the time? Yet you are playing this game 10, 20, 60 hours a week? Why not go on another server, if you can. Play in French or German, or Spanish, join larger guilds with active chat servers and interact. Don’t want to leave your server? So alter the language settings, quest, read everything in your chosen language.

Take it further. Always felt you are poor at this skill or that? Consider what you do in the game, what useful skills you can transfer it or out of the game. You like to tank? That’s generally guiding, leading. You prefer to heal, perhaps that a caring side showing. You revel in trade sales? That’s marketing, economics, maths. However you look at it, this is a game with a community of millions – it’s bigger than some countries for goodness sake, and here’s you, in your element.


Your twelfth rule: Play to the game

As I’ve tried to show, you don’t need maxed characters, all you need is time, forethought and common sense. Rather than playing one class, farm with several, levelling them only when they have a blue bar, explore the game.

Take advantage of bonuses like heirlooms, Darkmoon xp buffs. Only like one class? So level up the same way on different servers, get characters on foreign servers, low and high pop servers, pve, rp and pvp servers – even if you limit it to a level one bank alt your start to notice trends, bargains, opportunities.

Remember, if a purchase you wanted for yourself (a toy, a pet, a mount, a transmog (for Legions transmog tab) is 10,000g cheaper on one realm than another that’s not only a bargain it’s a profit. It’s 10,000g you’ve freed up, to profit with elsewhere.


Baker’s Dozen, your thirteenth rule: Look as far ahead as you can

This encompasses the previous rules and extends them. Consider rep farming. Is there a burning reason to get the rep this expansion? And to what degree? Consider the faction pets like the Sky Fry. It only requires you to be revered to buy and is cageable. The first players that sold these cornered the market. They still sell at a profit but as more and more players get the requisite points to get them for themselves, so the market diminishes.

Consider raid pets, from Molten Core through to SoO. The latter command the greatest prices, but for how long? The price of pets like the Son of Animus trebled in WoD simply because far fewer raided there and it’s not a place you can easily solo. Come Legion and level 110 characters it becomes ever easier, the price drops, more people have it so less need it. Again it spirals down in value with every passing month.

Returning to reputation and other grinds in current content: Why? Yes, some people thrive on getting the drops and items and achievements in the latest areas but is it really necessary or a good use of your time? Is it profitable? If you are farming claws to buy a cageable pet for selling, perhaps it is, if you are after 5,000 claws for a mount or an achievement why not leave it until the quiet time in the next expansion? Why struggle now when you can stomp all over them next year? As I say, a personal choice but if you have played the area normally and are just mindlessly grinding for this and that, do it later, much later. Find something more enjoyable, more productive in the game.

Similarly, in the next expansion, rinse and repeat. The first weeks are when the really big money can be made, people throwing gold at AH to buy mats for gear, crafting, always rushing to be max level, to clear, to be realm first. Good for them, someone has to, but me, I’ll happily trundle along as a relaxed pace in my second-rate gear, getting to the same place a month later and millions richer…


[ TO BE CONTINUED SHORTLY WITH PURCHASE LISTS AND A LOOK AT ADD-ONS ]

Meanwhile, you might also like these by myself:


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