Boy, am I glad I did!
These days, all these mats are more expensive -- and more importantly, not available in the same volume. Where I used to see 300 stacks of saronite at the same price from four characters, I now see maybe 20 or 30 stacks at a range of prices, with very few large batches. I can only speculate that the people I used to buy from are not farming any more. For one reason or another, most times when I tried to contact these volume producers to arrange a direct purchasing deal, I never heard back. Once in a while, I'd get one of the smaller farmers to start sending me their goods C.O.D., but never one of these enormous suppliers.
I also would periodically see mats advertised in trade for even lower than what was on the AH. I once bought 300 stacks of Lichbloom for a third the regular AH price, and the seller had to log into multiple level one characters, all in the same guild, to trade them to me, six stacks at a time. It was a long evening.
So who farms that much, anyway?
I'm going to hazard a guess that it's not your average players. If they were using some sort of illicit means to farm that amount, they seem to have lost their ability to do it. On my realm for sure, as well as the realms of some of the gold bloggers I hang out with in IRC, the days of massive cheap supplies are gone. So until they come back, what can we do to profit?
If you have stock saved up from plentiful times, revalue it in your head now. Your true cost of using the mats you have in your bank is what you've given up by not selling them, not what you paid for them. Don't pat yourself on the back if you are selling titansteel based on a saronite cost of 9g per ore stack when it's over 15g now. Of course, you're probably the only one of your competitors to think this way. So how do you react when someone keeps undercutting you as if they bought their mats for the old price?
- Sell your mats! Ideally to a competitor for the new inflated price.
- Buy your competitors' stock when they list it below cost.
Neither of these strategies are perfect, but both of them offer the potential to make you more money. If you sell raw mats, you free up valuable crafting time that you can put toward some other endeavor, and if you know that you're not imagining the shortage, buying competitors' product for resale at a later time is getting all the profits from crafting without having to craft. Of course, if I were to list all the mats I have available, a supply glut that large would ensure that I'd not get anywhere near what they sell for today. Another downside is that if there's a demand spike and you've sold all your mats, you might find yourself without anything available to sell. Also, if the supply shortage really is short-lived and you've bought out your competitors, you might need to take a loss just to get rid of the inventory before Cataclysm
Remember that it's just a matter of time until the only demand for Northrend goods will be from people leveling crafting skills. Any finished goods you hold when the new expansion drops is pretty much lost money. Also, demand will dwindle as we get closer to that date and people stop raiding and PvPing.
Being an auctioneer is like being able to print money (or gold, as it were). Wait, that doesn't make sense ... You can print on gold, but you can't print gold. That would be closer to transmutation? I can transmute titanium, but that's only worth it if the price of saronite is low enough to justify the time spent making it. I need some sort of analogy here. ... Whatever, I'll figure it out later. Making gold? Every week, Gold Capped will teach you the tricks of the trade, from setting up your auction addons and user interface, to cross-faction arbitrage, to learning how to use your trade skills.