In meat-space, Insider Traders are shifty Wall Street criminals who endeavor to make personal profits at the expense of retail and institutional investors alike by acting on foreknowledge of events that the public does not share. In World of Warcraft, Insider Traders use their their trade skills, professions, tenacity, bank alts and enormous piles of gold and mammoth mounts to inspire awe around the auction house.
Inscription is a great profession for making money. Once the addons for making and selling glyphs efficiently became popular, many people selling glyphs became gold-capped. Selling glyphs these days is not all it's cracked up to be, however. There's now tons of competition, and on a lot of servers, glyphs sell perpetually for the cost of the mats to make them. Assuming you're not interested in going down that road, what can you do with this skill to make money?
First, let's look at our mats.
Everything that a scribe can make is going to be based on herbs. Scribes can mill herbs into pigments, which they can then craft into inks. Before inscription, old world herbs were cheap. Since inscription has a bunch of things that require ink from old world herbs, the prices have gone up considerably. Luckily, Blizzard saw fit to provide us with an ink trader, who resides in Dalaran. Jessica Sellers will sell you one of any of the old world common inks for a single Ink of the Sea, which you get from milling and crafting Northrend herbs. You can also, if this suits you, turn 10 Inks of the Sea into a Snowfall Ink, the rare Northrend ink.
An important note before we go on: without a single point in inscription, you can buy Ink of the Sea at a good price, exchange it for a few of the more profitable inks from Ms. Sellers, and resell those for a profit to people who are trying to buy mats for stuff they want to have crafted. Pay close attention to the actual value of snowfalls, though. No matter what your price addon tells you, they're worth less than that. Every scribe who makes glyphs is constantly looking for ways to liquidate them in massive quantities. They're basically a byproduct of Ink of the Sea, and the second they go up to some reasonably profitable price, someone will crash the market with supply.
Assuming you do indeed have (or want) a scribe, you'll want to set aside a little time to mill herbs. Don't forget that you can automate some of the task, even though you're limited to a single milling per hardware event. When you're making ink, the general rule is that Adder's Tongue, Icethorn and Lichbloom yield six common inks and one rare ink. In practice, Adder's Tongue is the cheapest because it's the easiest to farm and is in less demand by alchemists, who require lots of Icethorn and Lichbloom for raiding flasks. All other millable Northrend herbs provide an average of five common inks and half a rare ink. Notably, the only other herbs that will likely be cheap are Tiger Lily and sometimes Goldclover. Everything else is worth too much to others. Even if you find a good deal on the AH one day, it's better to wait until a Saturday night and relist a valuable herb you bought on the cheap it rather than mill it.
Over 90% of my tradeskill window is filled with glyphs!
How can I make money without them? You have a couple of things you can make that are either low profit but extremely high demand, or high profit and low demand.
- Vellums are items that enchanters buy a lot in order to store enchants for sale on the auction house. They come in the armor and weapon flavors and have three levels. Armor vellums are used for many more times the number of enchants as weapon vellums, and as such have a much higher demand. Conversely, they take a third of the mats to produce. Despite this, their price is typically about the same as weapon vellum, so focus on these. Also to note: if you have a good supply of low level herbs at less than it costs you to get low-level inks from Ms. Sellers, it can sometimes be worth selling the level one and two vellums.
- Runescrolls of Fortitude are purchased by 10-man raiders extensively. They're almost as good as a priest, and they don't backtalk. Sell these in lots of five mostly, but always list a few stacks of lower and higher quantity to get the convenience buyers. These sell quickly. So quickly that sometimes it takes me five minutes to buy all the parchment I'll need to make them. Bear in mind that these are a very popular way for glyph sellers to liquidate their snowfalls, so be prepared to have to compete viciously on price.
- Darkmoon cards are a whole post to themselves and are a bit of a sketchy market. I'm including them for thoroughness. Every time you make one of these, you have a one in four chance of it being a nobles card, which will be part of your Noble's Deck. These allow people to get one of the best trinkets in the game outside of Icecrown Citadel, and as such is in constant demand. The problem is that you really want to get the average return per card creation, but you can't expect the random number generator's influence to approach zero. The process of making enough cards to negate the RNG's effect on your yields would flood the card market and empty the Eternal Life market. Walk into this eyes open. If you spend 20,000g on making cards, you might get cards worth 60,000g, 21,000g or 7,000g. The odds are in your favor, though.
- Faces of Doom and Iron-bound Tome are iLvl 200 epic caster off-hands usable at level 77. These don't sell fast, but they sell, and you can make them with a medium investment in materials.
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 time they let Basil write Insider Trader, he will endeavor to teach you the tricks of the trade.