Trading for Profit (and Fun): The One-Week Challenge, Part 2
by John Shedletsky
The goods: a new ROBLOX account and $20. The plan: trade like a maniac. The goal: accumulate tons of loot using nothing but trades.
Last week, I related the first 2 days of this experiment. During those two days I curried a brand new account starting with 1057 R$ worth of items into an account with a total value of 6567 R$. In the next five days, the trading really took off and I ended up just south of 200,000 R$. I learned a lot of things about trading along the way, and I’ve distilled them down to seven pro tips for would-be trade masters…
1. Social capital is real capital
I have a lot of jobs at ROBLOX, but sitting at my computer trading items all day isn’t one of them. Around day 2 or 3 of the experiment, I realized that I was going to sink a ton of time into generating trade offers to do the job right. I could spend all day scrounging for trades, it would work, but it would take a lot of time. As a short cut, I decided to solicit trade offers for my SuperTrader account via my Shedletsky account using status updates. Typically one status update like “Playing with the trading system – send offers to my alt: http://www.roblox.com/User.aspx?ID=30676788” was enough to bring in about 200-300 trade offers, because these updates are seen by a ton of people.
Some users noted in the comments of my last trading article that this obviously helped juice my experiment and that is exactly my point here. If you are trading for fun and profit, don’t neglect development of your social network. It won’t happen overnight, but you can develop your reputation through making friends, building a powerful group, being active in the forums, or making awesome content. Having a reputation makes it easier to get trade offers.
2. Don’t waste time looking at bad trades
In your account settings there is a secret setting called “Trade Value Ratio”. If you set it to “High” people will only be able to send you trades that are within 75% of being fair with respect to the Recent Average Price of the items. If you are not trading extremely rare items where the RAP is a poor estimator of value, you want this on all the time.
3. Trading is not about ripping people off
The sooner you understand this, the less time you will waste. I got a *ton* of *terrible* offers that I would *never* accept from hundreds of users. Someone would offer me a 200 R$ hat for a 500 R$ hat. Never going to happen. Your items are not, in general, more valuable than my items, so knock it off with the ridiculous requests. Trades are about creating value for both sides. The people who were letting me “win” the trade from the RAP point of view, were “winning” the trade on their end because they didn’t want the items they had – they were tired of them. So they didn’t value what they were giving away strictly according to the RAP. They cared about the specific items. I only cared about the price. Both sides can win.
4. When RAP is in your favor, trade it. When RAP is not in your favor, sell it.
RAP is not the final word on item value. Sometimes an item can be worth way more or way less than the RAP. Around day 3 or 4 I acquired a Burning Otaku, the Firesouled. The RAP for this item was close to 3000 and as far as most people are concerned, that is it’s trade value. However, I looked at the item page and noticed that this hat had recently been selling for 2-3x RAP. The RAP is calculated as a moving average, and so always lags price fluctuations. Instead of trading it for 3k, I was able to sell it for 8k in less than a day, even minus transaction fees, this is a great deal, because I only traded 3k worth of stuff for it.
This can happen in the other (less fun) direction too. I acquired an Improved Solar System, and the RAP at the time was about 1300 R$. If you look at the price graph, you can see demand spiked around August 1st (look at the volume!) and the price went astronomical, but that it is rapidly returning to normal. When I saw this, I became determined to trade away (not sell) my solar system as soon as possible, because less savvy traders were likely to think it was worth 1300 R$, when it seems more like a 300 R$ item to me (this is a somewhat subjective call).
4. Be conscious of when you are trading up or down – and get paid for trading down
Would you trade 4 items each worth 100 for 1 item worth 400? Most traders would jump at this chance to “trade up”, because everyone wants to ultimately “trade up” all the way to flashy “status symbol” items (the kind that you could not trade any number of 100 R$ hats to get).
If you’re trading a single item for several items of lesser value, it is reasonable to expect to “win” the trade value-wise. I did many trades where I would trade one expensive item for 3-4 other items, but I always made sure I was winning value-wise by a fair amount – often around 20%, or even more for chase items that everyone wants. On the other hand, when I was trading up, I expected to “lose” the trade value-wise and would often throw-in items that I knew I would have a hard time trading away, but that had reasonable trade value.
5. Not all items are equally desirable, regardless of RAP. Some are traps. Others are gold.
This is something I didn’t realize when I started – I made a couple of mistakes early on, executing good trades (value-wise) that left me with expensive junk that no one wanted to trade for. For instance, the Green Martian Helmet sat in my inventory for days without an offer, locking up 1200 R$ of my account value.
You can use sales volume to estimate how desirable an item is. If you look on the Green Martian Helmet’s page, right now it says 15 people have sold the item in the past 30 days. Compared to more popular items, this is not many (obviously you have to factor in how many items exist – an item with 10,000 copies will tend to have more sales). If only 15 people in the world want your item, you’re stuck with it (sales doesn’t equal the number of people who want the item, but they are correlated).
Contrawise, I discovered a handful of “chase items” that I would do an even trade for no matter what. There are some items that lots of people want, that are easy to trade quickly, and that are easy to trade up with.
Some of my favorite chase items:
Overseer’s Eye (I owned this item at least 10 times in the week of the experiment)
Classic Fedora (I only owned one, but I got so many offers for it, it was easy to get a great deal)
Perfectly Legitimate Business Hat (Insanely popular, combined with other stuff to trade up many times)
Many of the “head phone” items
Many of the “dragon heads”, especially Glaurung
Any new gear item (desirable in trade, but often a hot potato due to #6 below)
6. If your turnover is slow, you need to be aware of the direction the RAP is going while you hold the item.
During my experiment, I was doing about 500 trades per day, so I didn’t worry too much about the value of my holdings shifting under me. I was only holding each item for a day or two.
If you are trading slower than that, you need to be thinking about whether the items you are trading for are going to go up or down in value over time. Over the long term, nearly all collectible items on ROBLOX go up in value. Even the Evil Vizer, which I recall took several months to sell out when first offered at 400 R$ has climbed to 600 R$. This is because old items become ever more rare as copies of them languish in abandoned accounts, and rarity is a big determinant of value.
The Zombie Grip Bomb was a brand new collectible gear item and very popular in trades during my experiment. However, I was aware of the trend that many new collectible items follow – which is that they shoot up in value for the first 2-3 days, then start to plummet. So I tried to never end the day owning a Zombie Bomb (I have one in my inventory now, but I acquired it after the experiment ended). I traded it many times, but I didn’t ride it from 1300 R$ down to 750$.
On the other hand, I love holding onto items where only 100 or 200 of them exist – these are guaranteed winners in the mid-term. I was surprised that early on I was able to get hold of a Bastet: The Cat Goddess for around 2000 R$ trade consideration. Only 100 of them exist, and once they all find loving homes, they are going to be very difficult to come by (now that I pointed this out, a round of cat speculation may ensue – check the price graph before investing).
7. This is hard work!
Like most things in life, you get out what you put in. I waded through about 6000 trade offers to produce these results. I accepted about 2000 of them, which means I looked at 4000 bad offers. If I had had to spend the time rustling up offers instead of leveraging my Shedletsky account, I imagine I could have gotten ~100 offers per day through various means, so my results would have taken 8x or so longer to achieve. Not exactly a get rich quick scheme! Still, it was a fun experiment and that’s why we play games.
Contents of SuperTrader account on August 16th, 2012.