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Gold Capped: Selling glyphs in Cataclysm, part 1

Every week, WoW Insider brings you Gold Capped, in which Basil "Euripides" Berntsen aims to show you how to make money on the auction house. Email Basil with your questions, comments, or hate mail!

When Cataclysm launched, it came with a design change for the glyph system. Whereas players who wanted to change glyphs previously had to buy a new one to overwrite an existing one, they could now use Dust of Disappearance to overwrite their glyphs with any of their learned glyphs.

I split markets in WoW into two segments:
  • Items that players will only buy once per character
  • Items that are bought multiple times per character
While glyphs are now firmly in the first category, honestly, they seemed as if they were there anyway. The vast majority of glyph demand, throughout Wrath of the Lich King, was not generated by elite raiders or PvPers keeping stacks of commonly used glyphs in their bags so they could micro-optimize, but rather from people leveling new characters. The demand for glyphs remains strong, and that means someone is making money.

Pricing your materials

As with any profitable crafting endeavor, you should always start by looking at the mats. You have to know that you're getting the mats for your products as cheaply as possible -- or at least as cheaply as the next guy. The first and most important thing to know is that you can trade Blackfallow Ink for any of the mats for lower-level glyphs at the ink trader in your capital.
  • Different glyph materials will lead to different levels of price on the AH. Glyphs that take Midnight Ink, for example, are going to be much less expensive to make by milling for it if Mageroyal is 20g a stack.
  • In general, you want to mill the herbs that will allow you to complete your crafting queue with the least material investment possible. If trading down Blackfallow Ink is cheaper than milling Outland herbs for Ethereal Ink, then do that. If milling for Ink of the Sea is cheaper, do that.
Your price per glyph will never exceed the cost to make three Blackfallow Ink and might be lower on certain glyphs. Notice that I didn't say "the market value of three Blackfallow Inks"? That's because while the market value for raw inks is usually higher than the cost of the herbs that made it, it would plummet if you tried to sell all the inks you'll make as a serious glyph maker. It's always a good idea to keep some listed, but you'll sell glyphs and other ink-based products in much higher volume than you could ever sell the ink they're made of.

All inks are obtained by Milling herbs. Each Cataclysm herb mills into either five Blackfallow Inks and about half an Inferno Ink, or six Blackfallows and a whole Inferno. The two types of herbs that yield more inks are Whiptail and Twilight Jasmine. Many people will tell you to pay 60% more for these herbs; however, that advice is based on the assumption that you actually need Inferno Ink and will be trading most of your Blackfallow Ink in for it. This is how you would calculate costs if you were selling Darkmoon Cards, but we're talking about glyphs here, and glyphs don't use Infernos.

So how do you calculate your cost? If Cinderbloom is 40 gold per stack and Whiptail is 60 gold, which do you buy? Trick question -- the answer is both. However, the real cost to produce the Blackfallow Inks you'll get from these should be calculated carefully. The Blackfallows you get from a stack cost you the amount you paid for the stack minus whatever the Infernos are worth. Infernos are very valuable, but dumping them can reduce that price. Regardless of whether you sell them raw, use them on Darkmoon Cards, or do something else entirely, my suggestion is that you divide the value of a stack of herbs up based on the ratio you can convert Blackfallows into Infernos (10 to 1).
  • That 40g stack of Cinderbloom is worth half an Inferno and five Blackfallows, so that half Inferno cost 20g, and those five Blackfallows also cost 20g. It would cost five Blackfallow Inks to trade in for the half Inferno ink, so split the cost of the stack evenly between those five Blackfallows and the actual five Blackfallows you'll get when milling.
  • That 60g stack of Whiptail will mill into a whole Inferno Ink and six Blackfallows, so that Inferno cost 37.5g and those six Blackfallows cost 22.5g. It would take you 10 Blackfallow Inks to trade in for the Inferno, so 62.5% of the gold you spent on the Whiptail is going to the Inferno Ink, and 37.5% is going to those Blackfallow Inks.
If you don't want to calculate your costs this way, please don't stop to argue with me in the comments. This is not the only way to calculate your cost for the books, but it's my way. The reality is that if you spend 1,000g on herbs and get a whole bunch of mats with which to craft profitable items, you can assign cost any way you want, so long as you are consistent. The advantage of my system is that it's a middle ground. Another popular valuation scheme is instead of using the ratio that you get at the ink trader, you use the ratio of the market prices.

Know the possibilities

Want to know the reason glyphs cost so much on some servers? It's not that herbs are expensive, it's that it's a real hassle to manage such a large volume of different types of items. There are 343 glyphs you can learn, and each one of them has its own balance of supply and demand. It's not the type of business that fits into your head without help; my post about the glyph market addons and pricing is coming next time.

Every additional glyph you know is an additional market you can profit from. There are a few different sources for learning glyphs: If, like me, you purchased all your glyph mastery books in Wrath of the Lich King when they were dirt cheap and in heavy supply, then count your blessings. The main source for them now is people leveling alts through Northrend, and they're more expensive. Every time someone decides to complete their glyph recipe collection, they force the prices back up.

Fortunately, this means that the prices for the glyphs learned this way tend to remain more profitable more often than other glyphs. Still, paying 400g a book over 50 times can make a new glyph maker feel unprofitable quickly. Do the math, and figure out how many glyphs you have to sell once you buy the book to make back the money you spent on it. Then decide whether you're willing to invest the time needed to make that many sales.

If, unlike me, you predicted this situation and stockpiled books, that investment seems to have paid off. Ah well, live and learn.

Maximize your profits with more advice from Gold Capped as well as the author's Call to Auction podcast. Do you have questions about selling, reselling and building your financial empire on the auction house? Basil is taking your questions at basil@wowinsider.com.

Filed under: Economy, Gold Capped

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