When people talk about RuneScape's economy, you just know the word “rare” is going to be mentioned at least once in their discussion. What is it that makes the rares market of RuneScape so special though? Why do people claim that the rares market is such an important aspect of the economy? How many of each rare exists? What were the prices of rares 3 years ago and, perhaps more interesting, what do we expect them to be at the end of the year? What major events happened in the rares market throughout the past few years? Tons of questions that people regularly ask on the forums. A couple of them can't be answered with certainty either. We'll need to make some educated guesses to, hopefully, come up with reasonable answers. Yes, you guessed it when you read the title; this article is about rares and their fluctuation over the past years.
When writing articles, it's always a difficult trick to keep your readers interested. Therefore I'll start out with something everyone loves to see, a graph of the party hat prices since January 2003, the date I started playing RuneScape:
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Graph of Party Hats
These events are labeled on the graph:
- – The famous “dupe” of 7 November 2003.
- – Rares prices reached a top right before RuneScape 2 came out.
- – After RuneScape 2 came out, the rares prices entered a depression due to the newness of the game. Nearly all merchants went to train skills. The prices were going down for roughly 3 months, in which the prices of rares halved.
- – The first organized manipulation, the effects aren't very visible in this graph anymore though.
- – Something I like to call the “trust drop”. Prices were going sideways for 4 months, a result of too much price manipulation and many old school merchants no longer playing or merchanting.
- – This peak was a combined effect of the slayer and barrows richness and the last massive large scale manipulation.
To answer the question why the rares market is so important we really need numbers on the amount of each rare that exist. The only one who is able to give the real numbers is Jagex, of course. Since they (probably) won't give them though, the only option we really have is making a guess. As these guesses are tough, and since everyone has his or her own ideas about the actual numbers anyway, I will merely state my own guesses here, without explaining why I choose these numbers. I'll immediately calculate the total value of these rares too.
- 500 party hats sets * 660mil per set = ~330bil
- 2500 mask sets * 20mil per set = ~50bil
- 15000 santa hats * 4.5mil per hat = ~68bil
- 200 crackers * 150mil per cracker = ~30bil
- 200 half wines * 28mil per wine = ~6bil
- 1250 disks * 3.7mil per disk = ~5bil
- 2000 pumpkins * 2mil per pumpkin = ~4bil
- 3500 easter eggs * 1.8mil per easter = ~6bil
- Total value: ~500bil
Estimating the total GP somewhere around 750-800bil now (read my previous article on how I came to this estimate), the total value of the rares market seems quite significant. This is also the main reason why many people claim that rares are such an important aspect of RuneScape's economy.
Since party hats are not everything the rares market has to offer, I also kept data of the smaller rares. Here will follow a graph of them:
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Graph of Small Rares
These events are labeled on the graph:
- – Santa's topped very high early in December 2004. They nearly passed all other small rares in price.
- – The disk-bulb. Basically people were manipulating the disk price heavily around this time, mainly using a ‘rumor' that some guy with 100-150 disks had quit the game. As I knew the person who the rumor was about, and the person was pretty rich, it was probably true that he had those disks (though I never saw them). The price spike was still a huge overreaction though, and eventually the person with those 100-150 disks never quit and may have used the high prices to get rid of part of his collection. They never revived from their insane peak though.
- – Partly caused by the massive price manipulation of party hats around this time, all minor rares shot up too, but eventually had to crash too. Nevertheless, minor rares finally placed themselves in the spotlight as more merchants realized that they were rising faster then party hats at that time.
- – Halloween 2005 crash. Not much to say about this, too many people expected to sell with huge profits around Halloween time. The opposite happened, the prices crashed.
The most amazing fact about the small rares graph is that the small rares eventually recaptured their position. During January 2003 – January 2005 they barely changed price, while they, in opposite to party hats, probably weren't “duped” that much. Eventually people finally realized that the small rares were way too cheap though, which caused the huge spike in their price between March 2005 and June 2005. Currently it seems like the merchants are forgetting about small rares again, with the recent spike in party hat prices and the sideways fluctuation of small rares in the meantime.
Lastly, a graph of the fluctuation of half wines which was pretty strange:
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Graph of half wine jugs
The peak that the half wine makes in June may seem a lot like those of the other rares. However, what's so weird about the half wines is that at the time of their peak in June 2005, they were the most expensive rare around and were really rare. One would say they were much rarer then crackers. This may partly have been caused by merchants and investors noticing the nearly unlimited way in which the half wine jug skyrocketed, which in turn caused the extreme rarity that led to these insane prices.
After the peak they became much more common again though. Right now it seems foolish to claim that they are much rarer then crackers. If you check the official forums you see more sales of half wines then crackers. One possibility for this may be that the merchants all sold their half wines in the end, and that a few players who had quite a few of these half wines on their accounts sold theirs too.
Personally, I've always disliked giving future predictions and refrained from doing so. There are so many factors involved with the price development of rares that it's just not funny anymore. Jagex, the most unreliable factor in the whole game, is also one of the most important, as updates can have major impact on the prices of rares. Predicting future rare prices is like buying a ticket in the lottery: you could have luck and be right, or you just lost your money. But I announced in the introduction of this article that I would give some future expectations so I can't crawl back now…
So what would I predict? I think we may see blue party hats (currently ~190mil) pass the 500mil mark before the end of the year. Whole party sets (~660mil) will probably pass 1.5bil worth. Crackers (~150mil) will approach or pass the 400mil. Half wines (~28mil) will be going near to 100mil and mask sets (~20mil) will be approaching or passing 70mil a set. Santa hats (~4.5mil) will probably pass 15mil, easter eggs (~1.8mil) and pumpkins (~2mil) will be going over 5mil. Lastly, disks (~3.7mil) will approach or pass 10mil.
How reliable are these numbers I gave, though? Well, I based them mostly on the exponential price increase in rares the past 2 years. This was around 15% per month or, in other words, 400% per year. With two months passed, we may still see all rares increase four times this year if this historical trend proves to be true this year too. However, with party hats having doubled in the past 2-3 months already I expect them to do a bit worse the rest of the year.
In the end rares will always go up on the long term. If you had invested in them during the rock bottom of the RuneScape 2 depression, a year and eight months ago, you would have thirty or forty times the money you put in by now. The huge investment effect that rares yield contributes highly to their popularity. Besides that, rares seem to be an achievement goal for many people as well.
The rares market in RuneScape is what makes the game's economy so interesting, and regarding that, it's a shame that they stopped dropping new rares. Without rares, the class of merchants would be much smaller then it is today. Without rares, materials would have been priced much higher, and the amount of trade in them would be lower. Without rares, RuneScape's economy would be looking very different.
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