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How to make money playing the glyph market

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, tweeting him at @foxvanallen, or sacrificing your first born to him.

Glyphs are probably the most common way scribes try make money. Really, it's no secret why -- every new character needs to buy three glyphs at level 25, another three at level 50, and yet three more at level 75. Demand for glyphs is almost always there -- or at least, demand for useful glyphs is almost always there.

On most servers, the glyph market on the Auction House is absolutely cutthroat. Players who are leveling inscription always have a boatload of glyphs to unload, and many are content to sell these at fire-sale prices just to be rid of them. On the other end of the market, you often have glyph salesmen constantly undercutting each other by one or two copper on a 50 gold item.

How do you compete against these people?

The best piece of general advice for anyone playing the glyph market: Have persistence. Know what each glyph costs you to make, and be willing to undercut your competition right down to the thinnest of profit margins. You have to be willing to work the same market for weeks, maintaining as steady a presence as you can. The harder you undercut your competition, the less value your competition will see in staying in the market and undercutting further. And as that competition starts filtering itself out of the glyph market, you can let prices return to a higher level to start making money yourself.

Even with heavy competition, it's possible to make money selling glyphs. If you are going to participate in this market, though, be sure you have realistic expectations. Know that for every 100 auctions you list, only two or three will sell. Those who are the most successful will be those with the most persistence, listing auctions several times a day, making sure their glyphs are always the lowest priced, even if only by a few copper.

What's the right price for a glyph?

Glyph prices are almost always determined on the supply side, independent of demand. The most useful of glyphs (i.e., the most frequently bought glyphs) are not always the most expensive, especially if a scribe can get access to that glyph early in the profession leveling process. Instead, the most expensive glyphs tend to be those that are the hardest for scribes to make -- those whose recipes are gated behind Books of Glyph Mastery or to a lesser extent, behind Minor Inscription Research.

If you're up against 20 or 30 other scribes trying to sell a certain type of glyph, you're somewhat powerless to set the market price yourself. You can either undercut the existing price (which is likely already pretty low) by a few copper and hope your auction sells before someone inevitably undercuts you. Or, alternatively, you can undercut the existing price hard and hope that your actions eventually chase the competition away. Both tactics have their merits. The former is good for a more casual player; most glyph sales are simply a result of listing the right auction at the right time. The latter is good for a more hardcore player who wants to dominate the inscription market through constant vigilance.

If you're only up against one or two other people, then you're in a much more powerful position when it comes to pricing. As I said before, most glyph salesmen will list their auctions at exorbitantly high prices when competition is absent. Prices of 100 gold, 200 gold, and even 500 gold are not uncommon when it comes to certain hard-to-find glyphs.

That being said, here's something to consider: Not all potential buyers will have the luxury of paying 200 or 500 gold for a single glyph. Newer players, whether they be new to a server or new to WoW itself, frequently find themselves strapped for cash at the times where they're most likely to be in the market for buying glyphs, immediately after they ding levels 25, 50, and 75. Even I've had to pass up glyphs I wanted because I couldn't afford them, instead buying less useful but far more competitively priced glyphs.

You'll have to play around a little bit to find your own server's sweet spot with regard to pricing. I've found some success with an alternating price strategy -- charging a higher price during weekdays when more hardcore players are likely to be on, and charging a far lower price on weekends to try and rope in more casual players who simply can't afford those higher weekday prices.

The best problem to have

I want to share with you all a question I got via Twitter from @haylandaniels. It highlights a less common problem some people have in dealing with heavy glyph market competition.

The glyph market on my PvP realm is crazy. Any suggestions on how to break the death grip of the 2 a-holes ruining it? by insane i mean Glyph of Howling Blast is 470g

The given situation sounds like a scribe's wet dream. Most markets have the opposite problem -- margins that are far too low. This market's problem is one that's easily correctable by any one solitary person who has a reasonably leveled scribe and a desire to make money hand over fist.

No one person can ruin a market. Ruining a market is a collective effort. Half of the blame goes to the folks listing auctions at prices that are too high to sell. The other half goes to those who are willing to just sit around and let it happen, failing to compete in what is clearly a market ripe for competition.

Most of you folks can probably guess my response as to how to play this market: "Undercut those two a-holes, and do it hard." Specifically, I recommended undercutting by 95%, listing glyphs around 20g. @haylandaniel's response:

They just buy them up and resell them. They're evil. Evil I say.

And that response is precisely why I suggested listing those glyphs at 20 gold. If he had listed his auction at 469g 99s, he'd have quickly been undercut -- probably to the tune of 469g 98s. Even a more significant undercut would have been matched -- 250g could easily be beat with 249g. If the gylphs sell for 249 gold instead of 470, the bad guys still walk away with quite a hefty profit. And @haylandaniel, in said situation, would walk away with nothing but hurt feelings.

A heavy undercut that drops the price all the way down to 20 gold creates a tough choice for the two market dominators. They could undercut at 19g 99s, but that would slash their profit margin from several thousand percent to just a few hundred percent. Or, they could just buy out your 20g auctions, essentially paying you a small fee to "reset" the market price to the much higher 470g. The latter tactic offers no guarantees, but they'll definitely make more money buying you out at 20g and then selling their auction at 470 (470-20 = 450) than simply undercutting you at 19g 99s (19.99 - 0 = 19.99).

Judging from @haylandaniel's response, the top scribes on his server are definitely using the buy-out-the-competition strategy. And that's no surprise -- it's a common tactic, albeit a risky one. It's a gamble that @haylandaniel will just go away. And judging from the tone of his tweet, he was considering doing just that. But ... why?

For @haylandaniel, this server's glyph market is a dream situation. He's found himself two steady customers, willing to buy his entire inventory out on a regular basis. Why should @haylandaniel care that his profits are coming from people trying to keep him out of the market, as opposed to end users of the glyph? Profits are profits.

I love people who try to buy out the competition. They tend to be my best customers, giving me hundreds if not thousands of gold in the hopes that I'll just go away. It typically ends very badly for them -- after a few weeks of buying me out, they find themselves holding on to hundreds of glyphs that they just can't sell. Their only choice is to give in, accept my terms, and start listing their auctions under 20 gold.

That's about the time I pack up my own shop. Take advantage of the competition's bad strategy, make money off it, and move on to a more profitable market. My advice to @haylandaniel: List those glyphs one or two at a time. And keep doing it until they stop buying. Easy money!
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 fox@wowinsider.com and basil@wowinsider.com.

Filed under: Economy, Gold Capped

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