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The man who gave away 1,000,000 gold

Since the launch of patch 4.3, transmogrification has been big business for players on the Auction House. But it's a hard market to get a logical handle on, like building an empire on selling classic oil paintings or finely aged wines. How do you know what a piece of gear is worth based on looks alone? How can you make money by dealing, essentially, in random world drops?

Instead of muddling through the topic myself, I decided it would be smarter to go straight to the expert. No one knows more about making money in the transmogrification market than Keelhaul of Proudmoore (US) -- or as he's affectionately known around the internet, the Mogfather. His goal was simple: Prove that the transmogrification gear market was profitable. Forty-five days and 1 million gold later, it's safe to say his point has been successfully proven.

But if you think banking a million gold in 45 days is remarkable, wait until you hear what he did next: He gave it all away.

Introducing the Mogfather, a transmogrification millionaire and occasional blogger at The Power Word: Gold hatchery.

WoW Insider: Let's start with the basics. What realm(s) do you play on?

The Mogfather: So my characters are on Proudmoore and Earthen Ring. But I've been using auction toons on, geeez ... Stormrage, Lightbringer, Moon Guard, Doomhammer, Dath'Ramar, Dunemaul, and Kilrogg. I mean, there's probably another seven to eight there.

So then, it's safe to say that you're really into the money-making game?

I was definitely into it -- I'll be honest, I've lost all interest since hitting my goal -- and I don't think I'd call it a money-making game. For me, it was more of just a challenge. A can-I-do-this sort of thing. Can I prove this?

And what was your goal?

It evolved over time. I think the very first goal was simply to convince the gold making community that there was a genuine opportunity with transmog. Because I had been following JMTC, Cold's Gold Factory and a few other odds and ends, and the general consensus was there is no opportunity here.

And for me, it struck a chord. It was like no, no, no, there's huge opportunity here, I just didn't have my head wrapped around it.

Once you had this idea to about making money via transmogrification, how'd you get started?

So the first thing I did was to establish a logical methodology that would help me identify what to buy. If you're familiar with any of the work I've done on Disenchanting Azeroth, visualization charts are the heart and soul of my methods to identify those pieces. They gave me a baseline on what was going to be hot for weapons (Ethereum Nexus-Reaver, Teebu's Blazing Longsword, the Singing Crystal Axe, the Skullflame Shield, etc.).

I knew what would be hot for weapons and shields. But I needed to get into armor. That's when I started soaking in the guides over at wowroleplaygear.com. And when I looked at those armor sets that were primarily made up of lower-level items from The Burning Crusade and vanilla, my design eye kicked in.

So for you, this was kind of like investing in art. You looked through all the models to try and pick out pieces that looked good?

Yep. It was item by item. An incredibly painstaking process. My focus was to simply identify which armor sets had the potential to visually differentiate players from their peers. That's where you get into items like the Bloodfist plate, Saltstone plate, Lord's mail, etc. Armor sets that are so different from anything we currently see in game.

You made over 1 million gold in 45 days. How? How did you wind up getting your inventory? Crafting? Farming? Buying up low-priced auctions?

Low-priced auctions, one at a time. I knew what my targets were; I just needed to find them. Those sorts of items cycled regularly on the AH for, say, 1 to 15 gold. Prior to 4.3, it was a rinse and repeat cycle of simply scanning the AH for the items I knew had potential to skyrocket and just building my inventory.

When patch 4.3 hit and the boom hit, other auctioneers couldn't keep up with me. It's not like they could craft these items quickly and catch up. My entire inventory was based on found items. So not only was I ahead in the game on the AH, but I was leagues ahead, because the only way to catch me was to simply watch and wait for those items to come back on the AH.

If you go back and look at this from a gold-makers' strategy, it was perfect. I had set myself up with a massive inventory and was leveraging items that were impossible to simply "go get." So I was leagues ahead of the game. Early planning was huge. But not without a massive amount of risk.

Since you were buying up these auctions for a few gold here and there, you really didn't need much starting capital.

Yeah, all in all prior to 4.3, I only spent a few thousand gold to build the entire inventory I released on patch day.

When patch 4.3 went live, transmogrification was a brand new market. How did you decide what to price everything at?

Well it was simple, really. I knew I couldn't list everything at the same price. In doing so, I would dilute the value of pieces that had potential to draw more attention. Case in point, the chestpiece for anything under level 70.

The key with every chest piece from The Burning Crusade and vanilla is it's the driving factor behind the look for those armor sets, whereas once you get into Wrath and beyond, it's the shoulders or the helm that actually become the visually dominant factor. So keeping things like chest/legs in mind as the key pieces, I then looked to the pricing structure that Blizz had for valor token sets. There's a hierarchy there as well; gloves simply don't cost as much because they are not the driving factor behind the look. So in the same way that there is a pricing structure to valor set items, I followed that model and created a spread for the armor slots chest/legs/belt/feet/gloves, etc.

If you were in the market for a particular BoE armor set, say the Blood Knight's mail, my gloves/boots/belt prices were going to be more entry level, whereas I'd shoot for the stars on the chest and legs.

And what, pray tell, were "the stars?" How high did you price these things?

That's where I was really blowing gold-makers' minds early on. I mean, a green item selling for 2k? 5k? 10k? It was happening left and right, and gold-makers' jaws were dropping on Twitter. People were like, how are you doing this?

I was able to do so by creating a price spread first across armor slots, then across actual armor sets themselves. So just as there is a structure to clothing IRL (Old Navy, Gap, Banana Republic, Neiman's), the more high-fashion or rare the item, the more I priced it to go at Neiman's for, say, 10k for the Vanguard chest piece. And if it was more of a commonly found item on the AH, that had a drop rate of say, 4% and it wasn't nearly as fashionable from a design standpoint, I would price it out at, say, 150g.

And I made a point of not buying out everything on the AH. I knew that I needed to leave some items on the AH, so players still felt like they could get a bargain on a basement item like the Shattered Hand plate set.

So I took the pricing spread of fashion and brought it to my markets. And in doing so, I was able to to direct buyers to what was "highly fashionable" or "highly desirable." That's when the money starting soaring in.

How much promotion did you have to do to drive sales?

Zero promotion. I think that was the first thing that surprised me. I thought for sure I was going to have to bark, but I never did.

I love a good story of how people got to the gold cap, but here's where I think your story is really interesting -- after making the million gold, you gave it all away.

Gave it all away. I've never been into it for the money; it's always been about the challenge.

How the heck do you give away 1 million gold?

In all seriousness, giving away that much gold has been pretty difficult. So far I've endured four bans.

Because Blizzard thought you were a gold seller.

It first started with 400k to a single player, which got me insta-banned because Blizzard customer service thought I was a gold seller, yes. The next step was to give away 100k to 100 players, but that got me banned again as well. And at that point, it was like well, I think there's only one way through this and that's to just give it away 1,000g at a time to different players and just endure the bans until I had reached 1M.

Thankfully, I think I had established some fans in Blizz customer service who kept unlocking my prison cell after each massive giveaway. GMs have been understanding along the way.

And how'd you decide who to give the cash to? Was it just random acts of kindness?

At first, it was random acts of kindness, but I found that to be pretty irrelevant given the theme of transmog that was driving my success and my persona of the Mogfather. So in the end, I gave half a million gold away to players who strutted around in their transmog outfits. So in a way, it was my way of giving back to the community that I had taken all the gold from.
You held an in-game fashion show. I know I've seen you talking about it in trade chat.

When I would hold my in-game events ... it was like an in-game BlizzCon, there were so many players dressed up in their new looks. It was amazing. So I would just be surrounded on Proudmoore, Earthen Ring and Tichondrius by about a hundred players, and it was a massive fashion show. And it really drew the crowds on each realm. You'd have all these players on their flying mounts and walking by just to see all the outfits. They became real community events on these realms.

I won't keep you much longer, but there's one final question I just have to ask. After spending hours researching all these transmog looks, what's your own character wearing?

My main is a priest, and what I thought was going to be unique in the Arena season 2 gear is actually now quite common since they introduced that vendor in Area 52. I thought I was going to be so niche with that armor, but alas I'm not. So the Mogfather is actually sporting a tuxedo from TJ Maxx for the moment.

My real goal is to build an outfit around the Hammer of Purified Flame, which is one of the rarest items in game that a priest could use. I literally went out and spent 20k on a Battered Hilt just so I could get it.
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, Transmogrification

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