[Note: This post was originally published during Wrath of the Lich King and lost a while back in a nasty disaster; with the help of the Internet Archive I've recovered it, and also updated it for Mists of Pandaria.]
You’re a new level 10 player in World of Warcraft, and you barely have a copper to your name. How in the world are you supposed to make any gold in this game? How did that level 40 druid afford a 15,000 gold chopper while you’re still wearing cast-off rags? Today I’m going to show you how to put 2,000 gold into your empty wallet at level 10.
Note that this is not intended for Starter Edition players, who are unable to use the Auction House and whose interaction with other players is restricted.
The first thing you’ll need to do is to get some gold to start with. My favorite way to do this for a very broke low-level player is the guild charter signature. High level players who need a lot of storage space will create alts for the extra bank space, and then give their alts a private guild with a guild bank to store the hundreds of items they are usually selling on the auction house. When you get to max level you’ll probably do this too, but for now you can cash in on them.
Sit back and relax in Orgrimmar or Stormwind and watch Trade chat for a while. Sooner or later someone will post offering to pay anywhere from 2 to 25 gold for guild charter signatures. Go find them and sign their guild charter. I suggest you hold out for at least 5 gold; anything less is a waste of time for both you and the guy who wants the signatures. Keep in mind that you won’t be staying in the guild once it’s formed, so after that happens you can quit the guild and go sign another guild charter.
Now that you have (at least) 20 gold, it’s time to multiply that! If you don’t have 20 gold, go sign another guild charter until you do.
Turning 20 gold into 200 gold is a simple matter of finding cheap items and selling them for much higher prices to people who want them enough to pay for them. In fact, this is probably the best kept secret of making gold in World of Warcraft: Buy low, sell higher than you paid for it. The question is, at level 10, and with only 20 gold, what do you buy and who do you sell it to?
Another well-kept secret is that it is possible to trade with players of the opposite faction, when you aren’t out killing them. This is done using the Blackwater Auction House, which has outposts in Booty Bay, Gadgetzan and Everlook. Both Horde and Alliance players can use this auction house, and see the same items. So what you will do is buy certain specific companion pets and cooking recipes, take them to Booty Bay, and place them on the Blackwater Auction House at a significant markup for opposing faction players to buy. Completionists like to buy these to complete their collections of pets or recipes and so will pay significantly more than you do.
As you’ll see, this method favors Alliance players slightly, but either faction can make money doing this. So here are the items you can buy and where to find them. (These vendors may sell other items but they aren’t listed because they’re easily available to the opposing faction.)
Kendor Kabonka <Master of Cooking Recipes> in Stormwind City sells 13 different cooking recipes, 12 of which are Alliance-only or difficult for Horde players to acquire; pick up one of each, except skip Recipe: Curiously Tasty Omelet, which is also sold by a Horde vendor. Total cost 96s 40c.
Kriggon Talsone <Fisherman> in Westfall sells Recipe: Clam Chowder. Total cost 8s. (Tread carefully here; the mobs are several levels higher than you. I recommend picking this one up on the way to Booty Bay; see below.)
Total spent: 5g 40s 40c without discounts.
Total spent: 3g 30s 45c without discounts.
Now that you’ve done all that running around, it’s time to take your haul to Booty Bay and sell it!
Alliance players should go to Westfall, where the fisherman in Westfall sold you the clam chowder recipe, and then swim south toward Booty Bay. Try to stay somewhat away from shore because the mobs along the shore will be much higher level than you. Count on dying at least once during the swim anyway. Pick up the flight point when you arrive.
Horde players should go from Orgrimmar to Sen’jin Village and then swim southwest to The Barrens, then south to Ratchet. Pick up the flight point here, then take the boat to Booty Bay, and again, pick up the flight point.
On PvP servers, you will be flagged upon entering either Stranglethorn zone. In Booty Bay the guards will attack (and usually kill) people who engage in PvP combat, but this doesn’t always stop them from ganking a low level player. Your level 10 character may have to spend a little time dead, but if you’re playing on a PvP server, this is part of what you came for; you may as well get used to it now.
Visit Auctioneer O’reely next to the bank and sell your loot. Before posting something, check to see if there are any already on the auction house; if so, post yours for a few copper less than the lowest priced listing. This is called undercutting. If there are no other items, try 50 gold as a buyout price; if it doesn’t sell at 50 gold, you can always lower the price. Try to avoid selling the pets for less than 10 gold or the recipes for less than 5 gold. I always list auctions at Booty Bay for 48 hours to give them more time to sell.
If all goes well, within the next two days a number of your auctions should sell, and you should come up with somewhere between 100 and 300 gold. If items don’t sell, go back to Booty Bay and see if someone has undercut you on those items. If so, you can just undercut them. If it’s still empty of a particular item, it may just be that that item is slow to sell. You can try lowering the price to 45g, 40g, etc. But be patient; they will all sell sooner or later.
When something sells out, you can go back to the vendor, get another one, and sell it again at Booty Bay. If you notice something is selling very fast, you might try stocking several of them.
For the sake of argument I am going to assume that about one-third of your items sold and you made 200 gold. Your actual results may be higher or lower depending on your realm’s population and economy, but it doesn’t matter much; the ideas still work about as well.
For this next part it is very helpful to have an addon called Auctioneer which will help you make money on the Auction House. Once you have Auctioneer installed, go to your faction’s Auction House and click the new “get all” button at the top of the auction house window (it looks like a fast-forward icon). This will load every existing auction into Auctioneer. Now do the same at Booty Bay.
Once you’ve done so, click the new Search tab, and click Arbitrage on the left. The Arbitrage searcher lets you compare prices between two different auction houses to find out what you can move from one to the other to make money. Search between the neutral AH and your faction’s AH and you’ll get a list of items you can buy cheap at Booty Bay and sell for more at your faction’s auction house. Buy a few of these to start with (they’ll likely be the opposite faction companions and cooking recipes listed above) and take them home to Stormwind or Orgrimmar to sell there for more — sometimes much more — than you paid for them.
If Arbitrage doesn’t come up with anything for a given item, you may want to check prices manually. For instance, there might not have been any Cat Carriers listed on the Horde auction house, but someone is selling them at Booty Bay for 5g. You can buy these and sell them in the Horde AH for 20g-50g. The same goes for all of the opposite faction items. Often, since there are relatively few items listed at Booty Bay, you can just page through all the items at once and look for anything that looks like it might be a good deal.
What you’ve just seen is a simple and low-level example of what is called cross-faction trading by people who make most of their gold on the auction house. By repeatedly selling cheap items from your faction to the opposite faction through the auction house at Booty Bay, and then bringing back items from the opposite faction to your faction’s auction house, you can hit 2000 gold in just a few days to a couple of weeks, even if you don’t have a lot of time to play.