R M's Consignment Market Buying Guide for the Casual Player
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- 1 Introduction
- 2 Basic Principles
- 3 So You Want to Buy a Widget
- 4 Caveat Emptor: Prices, Bids, and You
- 5 Caveat Emptor II: Special Cases
- 6 The Bull Market Can Be a Real Bear
- 7 Conclusion
If you are reading this, chances are you are not that interested in the consignment markets except as a place to find cheap Single Origins, or buy that Invention Enhancement you've been wanting. When it comes to spending your time crafting, or making a fortune by buying low and selling high, you could not care less—you just want to go out and bust some head, and plunk down your hard-earned Influence or Infamy to trick your character out with the latest and greatest Stuff. You do not want to get a PhD. in Economics for the enjoyment of your favorite game.
If that is the case, then you have come to the right place.
This guide will cover some common-sense tips for buying on the market and paying a reasonable price—or at least not losing your shirt. It will not cover selling, except where it relates to buying. Also, I will not go too deeply into the mechanics or economics—this is a strictly practical guide. If you want to delve further into the depths of Black Market black magic, you should check out some of the guides available on the "Guides" or "The Market" forums on the City of Heroes main board.
If you are interested in learning more about the market in general, PeterPeter's Wentworth's 101 is a good broad introduction to its principles and mechanisms. You can also learn more by following the ParagonWiki links within this guide.
Enjoy the guide, and I hope it will be very helpful to you.
—Robotech Master 19:15, 2 June 2008 (UTC)
Welcome back to City of Heroes! I've made a few modifications and updates to clarify how the market in the new [I25] version running on Homecoming differs from the old [I24] version found on other revived servers. For the most part, things still work pretty much the same. I hope the information in this guide continues to be helpful to you.
The consignment markets work on a blind bidding system. Sellers list their items at the minimum prices they want to receive. Buyers bid the amount they are willing to pay, without being able to see what the sellers' list prices are. If they bid more than at least one seller's asking price, the sale will go to the seller who placed the lowest price on his item (and, in the event of a tie on sale price, to the item that was listed first). In short, highest bid buys lowest price.
Although buyers and sellers cannot see the sale prices of items up for bids, they can see the sale price (and, if they drill down, the date and time of the sale) for the last five items of that type to have been sold. This will give them a general idea of the current "going rate" for an item, from which they can determine what they would like to bid. However, the "going rate" can be deceiving.
So You Want to Buy a Widget
There are some good deals you can find on the market that don't take advance planning.
A number of marketeers sell DO or SO drops at the market rather than go out of their way to hit a store since they are going there anyway, and since they just want to get rid of them and free up their slot (and also work on the "X items sold" badges) they will list them low. If you are filling up with Single Origins on a budget, place some low bids and see what you get. (This can also be a good way for low-level characters to pick up some fast cash, by buying SOs dirt cheap and then trotting them to a store to sell at a profit. Be sure and take them to the store that matches their origin for the best payout!)
By the same token, you can often find low level Common IOs dumped on the market very cheaply by people who are working on gaining the Field Crafter Badge. Unless you're planning to get that badge for yourself, it's probably not worth it to you to craft Common IOs that low—but you can slot out with them for much less than crafting them would cost. That can be highly beneficial as you level up, since you won't have stop to replace them every few minutes. (IOs can't be resold at origin stores, though.)
Also, Inspirations can be easily found on the Consignment Market. The best bargains are from the lowest level Inspirations, which are often under 10 Inf each. Medium and large Inspirations may cost more than they are worth to anyone who is not wealthy.
More Costly Widgets
Other items for sale at the market come in three basic categories: recipes, salvage, and crafted Enhancements. The question is, which of these do you want?
Crafted Invention Origin (IO) Enhancements come in two categories: common and set. Common IOs are like Single-Origin Enhancements that do not expire (and can be, depending on level, up to 25% better than the equivalent SO). Set IOs are harder to come by, but can provide your character with additional bonuses or special abilities when you slot more than one of a set in a single character.
Recipes and salvage (and a dollop of Inf) are necessary to craft these IO Enhancements.
These IO Enhancements (or recipes + salvage + crafting costs) can be a bit expensive. However, since they do not expire the way SOs do, they can save a good deal of money in the long run.
It will work best if you decide ahead of time what Invention Enhancements you plan to slot, and when. Knowing well in advance what you will need will give you plenty of time to lay your plans to meet those needs.
Caveat Emptor: Prices, Bids, and You
Another important thing to decide is how much you should bid. This is where many players make mistaken assumptions that unnecessarily cost them a good deal of money.
The Last Five Sales
When you open an auction, you see five sale prices listed in a window to the right. These are how much the bidder paid for each of the five most recent of those items to sell. Now bid 1 inf on that item, and click on the bid listing that appears at the bottom of the auction window. Click the blue button to the right that says "More" and you will see the dates and times of those bids as well as the price. You will also see how many of that item are currently for sale, and how many bids have been placed for it. (You may then cancel the bid after you finish looking.)
When the last five sales are all at the same price, or relatively close in price, it is easy to assume that "that's just how much it costs," and bid accordingly. However, this could end up costing you more than you need to pay. What you should remember is this:
- The last five sales are only what the last five buyers were willing to pay. They are not necessarily what the next seller is willing to take.
For example, say you are buying a piece of salvage that normally goes for 500 Inf. What if you come to the marketplace listing and find the last five of that salvage sold for 30,000 Inf? Does this mean you will have to pay 30,000 Inf to get that salvage? No—someone could have come in since then and dropped a dozen pieces in for 1 Inf, hoping to capitalize on the high price. You might get it for a bid of 100.
(In fact, this is a common technique used by marketeers, called "honeypotting": they place low bids for something they want, then buy five of it at very high prices. When people drop it on the market at low sale prices to take advantage of the apparent high bid price, the honeypotters clean up. It is also common for dedicated crafters, such as the "value-added resellers" I will mention later on, to bid higher than the going rate for salvage to get it right away so they can craft faster.)
The new I25 version of the market uses a "bucketing" system for salvage. Effectively, there are only three "buckets" for salvage: Common, Uncommon, and Rare. Any time anyone sells any salvage of one of those three rarities, it goes into the bucket for it. Then any time someone else buys one, it comes out of that bucket.
This has the effect of regularizing prices across all different types of salvage, meaning that there are no longer any unloved Rare salvage types that only go for a few hundred or thousand Inf—now every rare salvage will sell for about half a million Inf, and there's no point in "honeypotting" anymore. Also, it's no longer possible to corner the market on any given type of salvage, as was sometimes done in the pre-I25 days. As long as there are any Rare salvages at all available, you can buy one of that kind.
The bucketing system also applies for IO set recipes and Enhancements, and special Enhancements such as Hami-Os too—if someone sells a level 30 Karma Knockback Resist and you want to slot it at level 10 for the widest range of effectiveness, you can place a bid on the level 10 and the level 30 will be magically turned into it. This means you can expect to pay a lot less for that recipe or IO than you would have under the old system—and you can even buy the Attuned version of an IO for the same price as regular and save 4 million Inf over using a Catalyst.
Some might feel this bucketing makes the market a little less fun, but from your point of view as a casual player, it makes it a lot easier to find the things you need at a reasonable price (no more hundred million Inf proc IOs, or 2 billion inf PVP IOs), and know that you can get a reasonable amount for any Rares you have to sell.
Current Sales and Bids
The last five sales are not the only reason to look at the "More" panel, however. The number of bids and sellers can also tell you something.
When there are more sell offers than bids, it means that people will have set their prices lower to try to sell sooner than the other sellers. You can probably get this item with a pretty low bid. (Note that in the [I25] "bucketing" market (as explained above), this doesn't apply to salvage at all, and only applies to set IOs by the individual kind of IO across all its available levels and Attunement.)
When there are more bids than sell offers, it means that people will not be as concerned about lowering their sale prices—sooner or later, someone will come along who wants the thing badly enough to pay a high price for it. In fact, when there are very few sell offers, those last few are probably priced well above the last five sales. But this also means that a lot of those waiting bids will be for lower prices—so if someone else could sell that thing for less and still make a profit, he will have a lot of ready-made sales. Sooner or later, someone who can do that will come along, and the price will come down.
Either way, if you see something selling for more than you think it should, place a lower bid and wait. Sooner or later, a seller will notice the price is so high, and decide to make some quick bucks by selling it for less.
Also, prices rise and fall over the course of the day, or even the week, depending on when and how many marketplace-using players are logged in. If you have the time, it might be best for you to check out the market several times during the day to get a better picture of the going rate for an item. If you do not, it will still be worth your while to place a bid that is lower than the going rate. If the bid turns out to be fruitless, you can cancel it with no loss. If it turns out to get you the item, you have just saved some money.
If you have the time, one technique that you may find helpful is "bid creep"—starting with a very low bid, waiting to see if it "takes," then "creeping up" to a slightly higher bid and repeating until you have the thing you want. Unlike listing an item, there is no fee for placing a bid, so you can place and retract as many bids as you like without it costing you anything until you reach a successful amount. This may take more time than you are willing to spend, and may be unnecessary in the bargain. Because in the long run…
All You Need is Just a Little Patience
The best way to get what you want from the marketplace is developing your patience.
One of the things that makes more money for sellers than anything else is the deeply-rooted sense of impatience that many City of Heroes players have. To be fair, you are trained into it: you smack a mob, you get a reward. You see the benefit right then and there. Likewise, when you go to an "ordinary" Enhancement store, you pay the money and you get your SO immediately. (This impatience is also what can lead to powerlevelling, as players are so eager to have higher-level characters that they embrace any and every means by which to do it.) It can take some real effort to wrench yourself away from that mindset of instant gratification—but if you do, the results are rewarding.
The best way to buy (or sell, for that matter) an item in the marketplace for the amount you want to pay (or receive) is to post the bid (or sale amount) and wait. Go do something else. Play your character for a while, that is what it is for. You will be notified of any movement by the Marketplace channel. (You may wish to set up a separate tab for the Marketplace channel and check it every so often, so that the notification does not get lost in combat spam.) As long as your bid is not unrealistically low, sooner or later your low bid will coincide with the dip in the periodical price cycles, or with somebody dumping the item on the market cheap to get rid of it or work toward his sales badge—or, for that matter, because he does not know or care how much the item is worth. And you will have your item!
This is why I mentioned earlier that it is wise to plan out ahead of time what you want for your character and when. Knowing in advance what you will need to buy gives you plenty of time to place low bids on the market and wait for them to come in. If you are set on slotting Level 25 Common IOs for some of your powers when you reach level 22, place your low bids at level 19 or 20 and let them ride. You should have your Enhancements with time to spare.
Patience is the key. If you can avoid the urge to have things now, you can get some very good bargains on the market—because patient buyers can take advantage of impatient sellers.
Caveat Emptor II: Special Cases
There are a couple of special pricing cases that you should be aware of before you start to bid. These are Common Recipe sale prices, and recipes and salvage versus Pre-crafted Invention Enhancements.
Common Recipes: Gourmet Hot Dogs
Whenever a food calls itself "gourmet," that usually means it is about the same quality as the regular version, only more expensive. For example, most "gourmet" hot dogs are not significantly better (or better for you) than the regular kind—but they sure do cost more.
It is also like that with common IO recipe prices in the consignment market. Whether it is because the buyers want to cheat you, or because they do not know the price themselves, many common recipe sellers list their recipes for more than they actually cost to buy from a crafting table. If buyers do not look up the actual prices before bidding, they can end up paying more than they would at the table.
The only reason to buy recipes at the marketplace is to save money over table prices. If you have to pay the same amount as or even more than what the table will run you, there is no point buying from the market—you will be at a crafting table anyway to craft the IO, so you might just as well buy it there.
But how can you know what the table price of a recipe is while you are at the marketplace without always running back and forth to a table? Simple; ParagonWiki provides an excellent price list for Common Invention Recipes. You only need to bookmark it and open it when you are at the market—or else print out a copy if you doubt your computer can take the strain of running a web browser in addition to City.
It is all right to pay more than the listed "Resale" price for a recipe—in fact, this is a good deal for both you and the seller. But do not pay more than "Purchase" price—you are only buying "gourmet" hot dogs. If there are no bites to your bids as you creep up on the list price, buy it from the table instead.
Pre-Crafted Enhancements and the Value-Added Reseller
Many casual players have no desire to research fiddly bits of gameology, such as learning about crafting and how the market works in detail. (In fact, if you have read this far in my guide, I salute you; despite the title of this guide, you are probably not what I mean by a "casual" player.) They do not want to spend time crafting; they may not even want to bother learning to craft.
A group of dedicated marketeers has arisen to fill this niche, spending their time buying up salvage and recipes, crafting them, and selling the resulting Enhancements at a markup. It is possible to make a small, steady income by providing the "value-added" service of crafting Common Invention Enhancements so that the players do not have to. (It is also possible to make substantially more Inf by crafting and selling certain popular, more expensive, Invention Set Enhancements, though that is beyond the scope of this guide.)
There is nothing wrong with this approach, if the players in question can afford it. Different people play the game for different reasons, and time and effort have value. If a player finds his free time is worth the extra Inf to buy the Enhancements pre-made, that is his choice. This is also why lawnmowing services and restaurants exist—to do things a person could do more cheaply for himself, but just does not want to. It is not unusual for Invention Set Enhancements to cost millions of Inf more than the sum of the recipe, ingredients, and casting costs.
But when buying Common Invention Enhancements, you can often actually save money by buying pre-made. Pre-crafted Common IO Enhancements often sell for much less than they would cost to craft yourself, while still earning the reseller a hefty profit. This is because when a crafter has memorized a Common IO recipe (by crafting a certain amount of Enhancements), he can craft it without needing the recipe and at a lower crafting cost.
For example, a Level 50 Accuracy IO costs 454,600 for the recipe, and another 454,600 to craft—plus salvage. However, they often sell on the market for 300,000 to 400,000 Inf each—less than half the crafting price. Someone who has memorized the recipe only has a total crafting cost of 245,200 (and the salvage is so common that it generally does not cost more than a couple of thousand).
Also, players working on their crafting badges (to receive the Field Crafter accolade) may dump Enhancements on the market as soon as they craft them for very little money, meaning that bargain-hunters can snatch them up at a considerable discount.
This is another good time to check the list of Common Invention Recipes before you place your bid. Even if you do not mind crafting for yourself, the Invention Enhancement may be cheaper than the recipe, salvage, and crafting cost put together—and if you place a low bid and wait, it can be even cheaper.
Pre-Crafted Enhancements and Attunement in [I25]
One of the features of the new [I25] bucketing market is that it treats Attuned set IOs as being the exact same item as the un-Attuned versions of those IOs at any level. That is to say, if you're slotting an attack with an IO set such as Kinetic Combat, you could buy the Attuned version for the same price as you could a regular crafted version.
This means that it's no longer just lazy people who buy pre-made IOs, but also smart people who want to save 4 million Inf over buying an Enhancement Catalyst to Attune one they make themselves. This has some implications for sellers that go beyond the scope of this guide (though I've written another going into it elsewhere), but the important thing to you as a buyer is that if you want to slot up with Attuned IOs, you should not craft them yourself—instead, buy the Attuned versions of them on the Market using the advice given in this guide.
The Bull Market Can Be a Real Bear
All of the above holds true for the market 95% of the time. However, I should mention the other 5%. On certain weekends, the market goes crazy.
These are the weekends that see a huge, temporary influx of City of Heroes players: New Issue release (usually accompanied by unsubscribed account reactivation) weekends, double XP weekends, and other major special events. On these days, the servers are flooded by thousands of additional people: occasional players, unsubscribed players, returning players, and the merely curious. All of these additional players are interested in leveling up characters—and buying Enhancements for those characters. All this additional demand can cause the prices for pre-crafted Enhancements to go way up—and all the people selling salvage can make the price you get for taking that to the market to go way down. This makes it hard for casual players to get the things they need. You should try to be aware of these weekends in advance, and avoid unnecessary purchases until they pass.
But on the other hand, if you ever should want to go into the selling side of the market, you can make a great deal of Inf on high-traffic weekends.
Hopefully this guide will help you become more of a "smart shopper" and save you a bit of Influence or Infamy on your trips to the market. If you have suggestions for how it can be updated, please use the "Discussion" link above.
To learn more about the Market, check out the Market Guides & Faqs thread on the City of Heroes official bulletin board.