On October 31st, 2002, my first Runescape character became, for all intents and purposes, wealthy. It was the day of Hallowe'en, and to celebrate Jagex distributed Halloween masks in three different colours. This was done in the same way previous holiday items were introduced to the game: a system message followed by the items appearing in random places on the world map, available for all to pick up on a first come, first serve basis. I myself was lucky enough to pick up about a dozen masks. Had I hung onto them, my character's net worth would probably be in the nine digit range by now. Unfortunately I ended up selling most of my masks on that very first day, trading them in for two sets of full adamant and two sets of full rune. In the end I only kept a single red mask for myself, which to this day is one of my prized possessions.
That same day a year earlier, Jagex had begun the tradition of holiday drops. To celebrate Halowe'en 2001, Jagex spread pumpkins across the land. The very first holiday item could not be worn, only eaten, for an amazing (at the time) 14 hit points worth of healing. This means that on that October day, millions, if not billions, of GP (in today's market) worth of pumpkins were simply eaten. This is a problem that persists to this day, and anyone trading it today would be foolish not to withdraw it in its noted form to prevent themselves from healing 14 of the most expensive HP they've ever healed.
Due to the success of the pumpkin drop, Christmas 2001 would be celebrated with a drop that was inspired by a primarily British Christmas tradition: The Christmas cracker. These crackers closely followed their real-life counterparts: They could be pulled on with another player, with one obtaining a small paper hat and the other obtaining a trinket. The paper hats especially were a hit, as the festive little 'crowns', which were the first holiday items that players could equip, were quickly spread among the player base.
Of course almost every cracker was popped those first few days for a very simple reason: The trinkets obtainable from it were worth far more than the street price of an unpulled cracker. Even as the price of party hats began to rise, the price of crackers took a very long time to rise along with it. The trend of crackers being worth more than the potential contents didn't come about until recent years, when players began to realize how truly rare crackers had become after years of popping, along with those lost to natural causes such as bans and retirements.
Bolstered by the success of pumpkins and Christmas crackers, Jagex decided to add Easter to its list of celebrated holidays with a dropping of easter eggs. These brightly coloured chocolate treats appeared all over the game world on April 20th, 2002. Like pumpkins before them they were little more than rare food, healing 12 HP for whoever ate them. Although I had already created my first account by then, the whole concept of holiday items was lost on me and I wasn't even online that day. I did get one as a gift from a friend later, but unfortunately I gave it to another friend a few weeks later, leaving me empty-handed.
Of course by the time Christmas 2002 rolled around, I was much better prepared. In the previous months I had seen the prices of the masks I had traded away skyrocket, and I had learned what holiday events actually entailed: It was a day where money rained from the sky. While I had started playing well before Easter 2002, I hadn't been online the day easter eggs were dropped and only heard about them later. Finding the Hallowe'en masks was just a coincidence, as the holiday is barely celebrated where I live and I was thus barely aware of it. For Christmas however, I was ready.
It started with selecting the right spot to await the drops. Unfortunately I was not a member at the time, so I visited several potentially empty areas before I found the perfect spot to await the drops: the area between Port Sarim and Rimmington. Of course I wasn't the only one choosing this tactic, and the spirit of the season had apparently taken the day off. Again and again I was verbally berated by other players who didn't want to share their spot. I wasn't scared off however, eventually making off with over two dozen santa hats before my mom turned off the computer for the day (to this day, this is a common problem for a large percentage of Runescape's players). I held onto them tightly for a while, although most were eventually given away or traded. Today I have eight left, which due to the new trade system will probably be stuck on my account forever.
I wasn't the only one realizing the skyrocketing value of holiday items. Jagex had taken notice too, and they weren't pleased. This wasn't entirely unexpected, as these items would only become more and more rare as time went by. This had happened before with other items that were tradeable and no longer obtainable, such as the Disc of Returning and the Half Jug of Wine. However, holiday items were intended to celebrate, not to give players easy access to huge sums of money. To prevent future releases from unhinging the economy even further, Jagex took two very simple measures: players could only pick up one item, and the items could no longer be traded.
When this new policy was first applied to the bunny ear drop of Easter 2003. Players expecting to once again rake in the gold were surprised with a warning message that they only needed one. The response was, as expected, disappointing. While some players appreciated the fact that holiday items were intended for celebration and not profit, a very vocal group of players voiced their disdain extensively. Jagex however was adamant: money would never rain from the sky again. When the scythes were released for Halowe'en 2003, complaints were once again rampant. It would be the last holiday event of Runescape classic. It would take almost 14 months before Jagex once again released a Holiday event, and instead of items simply falling from the sky players would now have to retrieve their new yo-yo at a fixed position. As time went by both events and rewards would become more complex, but money would never again rain from the skies.