This post is best read while imagining me singing the title to the tune of "Where have all the cowboys gone" by Paula Cole. There -- good luck getting that out of your head!
Auctioneers rely on farmers for raw materials for various businesses. In fact, we rely very heavily on them, and there are quite a few markets that are only more profitable than farming in terms of gold per hour if we can do them on a very large scale ... much more than any one person can farm.
I've been flying circles around Sholazar Basin and boy, are my arms tired!
The interesting thing about the markets we work on is that it's almost no more actual work to make, for example, 150 Titansteel Bars than it is to make 20. The only difference is in how annoying it is to find mats, and the number of Dr. Who episodes you get to watch while AFK crafting. The difficulty of finding lots of cheap mats is really the only barrier we worry about. And any experienced auctioneer will tell you that, historically in Wrath of the Lich King, it's been no trouble at all.
For some reason, the majority of mornings I'd log in to do my buying, I'd see absolutely dumbfounding amounts of raw mats available for ridiculous prices. Cobalt Ore for under 20g a stack, Saronite Ore for as low as 7g a stack, Adder's Tongue for under 5g a stack and Eternal Shadow for as low as 15g a stack. I have access to unlimited storage and basically unlimited money, so I did what any opportunist with a basement full of toilet paper would do: I bought every last scrap every single time, reasoning that I'd eventually find time to use it.
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.
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.