Rule #1: Chaos Orbs are not created equal
We've all seen the question roll across trade chat at one point or another: "What's a Chaos Orb worth?" It'll probably get a few people offering pricing advice, but the question is deceptive. There's no one value of a Chaos Orb. The value of a Chaos Orb depends on what profession you're going to use it in.
Counterintuitive? Maybe. But it's absolutely true.
Consider, for a moment, how the Chaos Orb market would work if they were liquid assets -- that is, if they weren't bind on pickup. A tailor who wins a Chaos Orb in a heroic now has two options: He can either use that Orb (plus four others) to create Dreamcloth via Dream of Destruction, or he can just head to the auction house and sell it to someone else. It becomes a simple economic decision; tailors generally don't put much value on Chaos Orbs because they can make Dreamcloth via other routes, so most would sell it to a leatherworker, blacksmith, or engineer, who have no other option but to use Chaos Orbs to create epics. The market would quickly establish a price for Chaos Orbs. It'd become uniform across all professions.
But that's not how the Chaos Orb market works. A leatherworker who has a Chaos Orb can't sell it to a blacksmith or engineer. He has to use it for his own recipes. There's absolutely no competition between professions for these (save, of course, the need roll in heroics!); the only pricing competition is between a particular leatherworker and every other leatherworker of the same faction. There will be a different level of supply for that particular profession, and thus, a different price.
Until Chaos Orbs become unbound, there are four distinct types: the tailor's Chaos Orb, the leatherworker's Chaos Orb, the blacksmith's Chaos Orb, and the engineer's Chaos Orb. Each will have its own distinct value on your server.
Obviously, the value of a Chaos Orb is going to differ from server to server. That being said, the relative values are usually the same across all servers: Chaos Orbs are generally worth the most to a blacksmiths and leatherworkers; they're worth less to engineers; and they're worth the least to tailors. (After all, for tailors, five Chaos Orbs have pretty much the same value as 30 lousy Volatile Life.)
Calculating the value
Let's consider a new scenario now. You're a blacksmith, and someone's come up to you and asked you to make Lightforged Elementium Hammer. He already has the eight pieces of Truegold and the 30 Volatile Water; you have the five necessary Chaos Orbs on hand. How do you come up with a fee for making the Hammer that's acceptable for both parties?
Solving this mystery isn't rocket science. It's algebra. Literally. See, we have a basic equation:
8 Truegold + 30 Volatile Water + 5 Chaos Orbs = 1 Lightforged Elementium Hammer
We can easily figure out the value of the eight Truegold, 30 Volatile Water, and Hammer by heading to The Undermine Journal (or for you folks on EU servers, by heading to the auction house). We need only search for the Lightforged Elementium Hammer, scroll down to the Component Parts section, and see what the non-Orb materials are worth. As of yesterday (July 31, 2011), the Hammer was selling for 12,500g; the non-Orb materials were selling for about 5,363g.
Calculating the value of the Chaos Orbs is then simple math -- 12,500g minus 5,363g equals 7,137g. That's pretty spectacular -- win a roll at the end of a heroic, and you've just scored a 1,427g item.
Before you go selling those orbs for 7,137 gold, though, do a quick check of the other blacksmithing items that require Chaos Orbs and make sure that value isn't out of line. Check how much the five Chaos Orbs are worth if you're making a Masterwork Elementium Spellblade. See how much they're worth if you're making Pyrium Spellward. Check i359 items, i365 items, and i378 items. And this is the most important point of all -- if your second profession on that character is another crafting profession that uses Chaos Orbs, see what they're worth for that profession. You don't want to sell a Chaos Orb for 500g if you can sell it for 1,000g crafting something else.
From there, it's all about haggling. I recommend trying to sell those Orbs a little higher than their actual value if you can, but ultimately, you should be comfortable selling the Orbs at a slight discount. Remember, if you were selling that Lightforged Elementium Hammer for 12,500g on the auction house, the AH would get a 625g commission. If you wind up negotiating a price of 7,000 gold for the five, you both win.
Should you sell Chaos Orbs?
Any time you start talking about crafting items over trade, you'll run into some controversy from the gold-making set. "Don't do it," they cry!
"They're taking advantage of you for a lousy tip!"
"You have to factor in all the work you put in to grind Molten Front dailies to get those blacksmithing plans!"
Don't listen to them. It's all nonsense.
When you're offering your services over trade chat, you've got the power to negotiate a fair price for your effort. Consider how much you could make crafting that particular item and selling it on the auction house, and then price your efforts based on the profit margin. Remember, the auction house is, for the most part, efficient -- it already prices in the fact that the seller had to grind dailies or pay for the necessary plans/pattern.
If Chaos Orbs are worth 1,000 gold each by crafting gear and selling it on the auction house, then there's no reason why you should turn down the opportunity to sell them for a similar price over trade.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.