Every week, WoW Insider brings you Gold Capped, in which Fox Van Allen and Basil "Euripides" Berntsen aim to show you how to make money on the auction house. Feed Fox's ego by emailing him or tweeting him at @foxvanallen.
Leatherworking has a pretty bad reputation as far as World of Warcraft professions go. Some people say that the biggest problem with leatherworking is that it's a frustratingly difficult profession to level. Others say that the worst part is how hard it is to make money off it, even at 525 skill.
I can settle the argument right here: You're all right! Leatherworking is terrible on so many levels!
That doesn't mean it's entirely useless -- after all, someone has to craft those i379 epics for druids, rogues, and shaman. And it doesn't mean that it's entirely profitless, either. It's not a profession I'd recommend for raking in the big bucks, but if you're otherwise stuck with it ... we may as well discuss how to squeeze a few pieces of gold out of it.
We can't have a real discussion about leatherworking without having a discussion about the worst part of leatherworking: leveling it. It can get expensive. On some servers, it can get very expensive. The X factor here is server size (as it often is).
Anyone who's leveled leatherworking can tell you that it requires a lot of materials. Want to grind your way to 100 skill? It'll take a good 250 to 300 Light Leather. You'll need another couple hundred Heavy Leather, 400 Thick Leather, and another 400 Rugged Leather to finish up your leveling through to a 300 skill level or so. There are some alternate paths to that elusive 525 skill level, but no matter how you cut it, you'll need a lot of materials of one kind or another.
If you're trying to farm it up yourself via skinning, it'll take forever -- generally, one piece of leather drops per skinned kill. If you're trying to buy your way to 525 skill by grabbing leather off the auction house, you'll run up against supply shortages. On smaller servers, auction houses won't even have the quantity you'll need; even on larger servers, you'll find yourself paying top dollar (top gold?) if you try buying 400 of any kind of leather in one shot.
So what's a leveler to do? Be patient. Leveling leatherworking isn't something you should do overnight. If you really want to grind your way to the top of the profession, slowly buy out leather over the course of several days. By allowing the market to replenish itself, you'll be able to score the materials you need a lot more cheaply -- thousands of gold more cheaply, in many cases.
Alternatively, you could also bite the bullet and level skinning alongside leatherworking. Unless you like a grind, though -- and I'm talking serious grind, like, Korean MMO-type grinding -- you'll eventually give up and just start buying leather off the auction house to finish the job.
What do leatherworkers sell?
There are really only three areas where leatherworkers get money from their crafting efforts: leg enchants, bags, Chaos Orb epics, and PVP gear. In patch 4.3, we might see some roleplay items in some demand; the new transmogrification feature may create some interest in some unusual (sexy? ugh) armor models like the Warbear Harness.
Leg enchants Whether they're hardcore endgame raiders or just a casual weekend heroic runners, every melee player needs to buy a leatherworker's leg enchant to round out their characters. The three most popular leg enchants are:
Drakehide Leg Armor is a dodge bear tanking enchant.
Charscale Leg Armor is an agility and stamina enchant.
Dragonscale Leg Armor is an attack power and crit enchant.
If your server's market shows interest, you can also offer Twilight Leg Armor and Scorched Leg Armor, two options that do not require pricey Pristine Hides to make. They sell for much less gold but have a higher potential to be good sellers.
Bags The Royal Scribe's Satchel is a 36-slot inscription bag; the Triple-Reinforced Mining Bag is a 36-slot mining bag. Both are gated behind Molten Front dailies. When they first became available to craft, profit margins were pretty weak due to a supersaturated market. Now that the initial glut has had time to clear, these bags are slowly returning to a healthy profitability on many servers. And likely, as interest in Molten Front dailies dies down post-patch 4.3, profitability will only increase as the proportion of active leatherworkers with these patterns decreases.
Older bags such as the Mammoth Mining Bag and Trapper's Traveling Pack often sell for a profit as well, so keep an eye on the auction house and The Undermine Journal.
Chaos Orb gear Though selling i359 and i378 gear require tough-to-get, BOP Chaos Orbs, they're nonetheless a solid part of a profitable leatherworker's portfolio. Making the more relevant i378 gear is a bit of a gamble; you need to already have (or be willing to buy) a pattern for the gear, and beyond that, you have to have (or, more likely, buy) highly expensive Living Embers. Materials for an i378 epic can easily run 40,000g, but the finished goods can just as easily sell for 50,000g on some servers. It's a gamble, to be sure, but if prices of the i378s and Living Embers are fairly stable, you can make some solid money with some solid patience.
Alternatively, i359 epics are fairly easy to make, with all non-Chaos Orb materials easily obtainable on the AH or by farming. Predictably, though, you can only get a small return for your Chaos Orbs this way. What else would you expect? The gear is out of date, so few people are willing to pay money for them.
PVP gear Though Bloodthirsty Charscale PVP gear sold much more strongly when people were looking to skirt random Dungeon Finder requirements, it still sells today. Profit margins are much lower and gear moves much more slowly today, however, so play this market much more cautiously.
The future of leatherworking
Unless you have a druid, shaman, rogue, or other character that benefits from leatherworking, I generally recommend staying away from the profession. In terms of making money, you just don't have as many options for making solid profits.
Does that mean you should swap your toon out of leatherworking? For now, no -- I generally don't recommend dropping professions and learning new ones. While leatherworking is a rough profession to make a living in now, it's very possible that a new patch (or new expansion) could hold a much brighter future for the profession. And really, when it comes down to it ... having to level leatherworking twice isn't something I'd wish on my worst enemy.
Maximize your profits with more advice from Gold Capped. Do you have questions about selling, reselling, and building your financial empire on the auction house? Fox and Basil are taking your questions at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.