Before we go any farther, every player needs to understand basic Auction House fees. There are two costs associated with every item you put up for sale in the AH: the deposit and the AH's cut. You pay the deposit when you place your item up for bids. If the item sells, you get your deposit back; if your item doesn't sell, the AH keeps the deposit. The deposit runs 2.5% of vendor value per hour, so the longer the auction duration, the higher the deposit. A 24-hour auction deposit, for example, works out to 60% of the vendor value of the item.
The other cost associated with selling on the Auction House is the AH's cut. This fee is a flat 5% of your item's final sale price. If your item does not sell, the fee does not apply. If your item does sell, 5% of the selling price is automatically deducted from your proceeds. If you're planning to move a lot of merchandise on the AH, you'll want to review all the exact formulae for deposits and fees as well as the variations for neutral-faction Auction Houses.
On the buyer's part, there are no costs associated with using the Auction House. Your bid is automatically set higher than the existing bid by an increment of at least 5% of the current sale price. You can increase your bid if you wish. Keep in mind that the money you bid for an item is taken out of your bank the moment you bid it, not when you "win" the item.
Every player needs to know the basics of buying and selling. Becoming familiar with your server's prices for the things you need is the first step toward savvy deals. The more you browse the AH, the more you'll notice all sorts of factors affecting the market: weekly fluctuations in activity (high demand and availability on weekends), changing demands according to server age and development (fire resist materials and gear for young servers working through Molten Core, shifting to other types as players progress), what time of day your server's players are making the most buyouts and adding the most new items, and all the other little tidbits that ultimately govern whether you will break even or build a tidy profit.
A game within a game
If you find yourself relishing the process, you're not alone. Beyond the basics of buying and selling to meet your own needs lie the potentially phat vistas of hawking your wares (gathered materials, crafted pieces and loot) and playing the market (buying and reselling). "Think of the AH as a mini game within WoW with gold as the scorecard," writes Akrux of Mug'thol, author of Warcry's "Fun and Profit at the Auction House." "To many players, that game would be boring, but to a few of us it is worth playing. The benefits are that your character will have the very best enchantments available at all times. You can use pots and oils to enhance your effectiveness. You can help your guild and your guildies with donations."
Developing a sense for the fair price for a particular item at any given moment and then predicting where the current price is headed are the foundations for playing the market, according to Akrux. "It may take a week or a month of watching the pricing before you have the confidence to invest your hard-earned gold," he cautions. "That is not time wasted." Once you have the basic principles down, he says, a basic investment of about 200 gold and 30 minutes or so every day will set you on the path to profits.
Auction House guides
So how do you get started? Let's look at some of the more notable Auction House guides, from primers on buying and selling the gear and equipment you need as you level up, to complex strategies for crafters and gatherers or playing the market and reselling.
No strategy would be complete without the tools to help you track items and costs. Auctioneering tools are among the most highly-developed and informative mods the WoW community has to offer. Here's a starter selection:
And finally, let's wrap up with a little reading on the Auction House theory, practice and politics.
Lisa Poisso is a freelance writer, which she busily works at while running Auction House scans in the background.