Author Note: After being requested a few times over the last week or so, here’s my basic guide to making money off the Exchange.
So, you’ve followed the basics laid out in our wiki page on EC grinding.You’re sitting there pretty as a newly-minted space multimillionaire, ready to take on the world… and then you look and see that everything you want is still far, far away. Don’t worry. Things get easier.
In STO, by far the easiest (though somewhat time consuming) way to make EC is by playing the exchange, bar being extremely lucky with a lockbox or something similar (we’ll get to that). This is intended as a beginner’s guide to doing so, and get nearly anyone started on a path to being spacerich.
What you’ll need:
- Most importantly, you’ll need a nest egg of initial seed money. 20-30 million EC should be enough. You can follow the tips and tricks provided here with any amount of money, of course, but with smaller amounts your ROI/time will likely be greater with the EC farming lined out in the guide linked above.
- Time and patience. Some things are relatively quick (checking for underpriced high-ticket items, for example), but for the most part you’ll need to invest a little time in searching the market to find deals that you can flip for profit.
- A basic understanding of the value of items in game. No, your [Dam]x3 phaser stun pistol is not worth the pile of EC you think it is, nor is it worth the pile of EC that someone else posted it for on the exchange. Obviously, everything is worth something, and what we’re seeking out is things that are worth more than people are selling them for, but don’t get fooled into overpaying.
- Join the in-game trading channel. It’s quite literally TheTradingChannel, and oftentimes much better deals than one can find on the exchange are posted here as someone wants ECnow rather than waiting for something to sell at its higher listed price.
Anyways. Without further ado.
Step One: Buy low, Sell high.
Buy low and sell high, the basis of market arbitrage since time immemorial. Of course, STO doesn’t have true arbitrage as something like EVE would (true arbitrage requires two or more separate markets, where you act as the middleman, buying low in one market and selling high in the other) but you can approximate it well enough.
We’ll take the key market as our prime, and fastest moving, example here. The key market is the one most often played, and the easiest for new traders to get into. This market exists for one reason only: The conversion of zen into EC.
The thing is, people are impatient. At the time of this writing, the key price on the exchange is approximately 2.15m EC/key. Now, put yourself in Average Joe’s shoes. He just spent 1000 zen on a stack of keys, and wants his EC now. What does he do? Well, he doesn’t list the keys at 2.14 and waits for them to sell.
No, he sells them at 2m, because he wants it now.
There’s profit to be made, right there. You, as our newly-minted market trader, buy the 2m EC key, and then relist it for 2.1m. You’re still undercutting the basline price (2.15m) by a fairly significant margin, so your posting looks quite nice to buy. Bam, 15 seconds later, your new listing sells, and you’re sitting on a shiny prfit of 100k EC. Easy, isn’t it?
Of course, keys aren’t the only thing that this can apply to. I tend to do a regular search round every few hours of all the high ticket items (High value traits, such as Wing Commander, Biotech Patch, Helmsman, etc, high value Duty Officers such as Technicians, DCEs, Zemok, Marion, so on) and check to see if anything is underlisted. This is where your knowledge about the value of items comes in: Someone just listed an A2B technician for 1m, the same price as the Aux Power While Cloaked technician. But the A2B tech normally runs for around 10m. Buy and flip at a significant margin, easy profit.
Step Two: Know What’s Coming.
While your simple buy/sell arbitrage will provide you with a steady income, it’s generally fairly low-pace unless you happen to get lucky with an extreme underlisting. Where most of your profit is going to come from is knowing the trends of the market, and perhaps more importantly, knowing what releases and events are coming up soon.
I’ll use the recent release of Upgrading as my example. For people who were able to access the Tribble test server (or those of us who could not access but could read the reports that people were releasing of the content), we saw that upgrades would require R&D materials to craft. Most importantly, since weapons happen to be the highest number items in the game, we knew that weapons upgrades were going to requite a lot of R&D mats.
Prior to the upgrade system dropping, Radiogenic Particles (required for beam upgrades) cost ~20k EC each. Craylon Gas (required for cannon upgrades) cost ~250k EC each. Rubidium (required for more upgrades than I care to list here) cost about 15k each.
Right now? Radiogenic Particles are selling for 200k each. Craylon Gas for 500k each, and Rubidium for 150k each. In the case of Radiogenics and Rubidium, that’s an increase in price of 1000 percent, or 10x what it used to be. If you had the foresight to see that any of these were going to be in demand (I myself only did on Radiogenics, Rubidium caught me entirely by surprise) you had the chance to quite literally dectuple your money in the space of 3 weeks.
Another good example is keys. The price of keys is severely deflated right now, due to both a key sale going on, and people trying to clear them in order to buy item upgrades. Once the key sale has passed, prices are likely to start climbing once more, resulting in a tidy (if not quite as dramatic) profit there. Keys also tend to climb immediately before and immediately after a new lockbox is released as people scramble to get the newest, coolest stuff.
There is of course risk involved, if something crashes unexpectedly then you’re out of money, but that’s the case with anything you do.
Step Three: Take a Chance Occasionally
I did say I’d get back around to lockboxes, didn’t I? While for the most part, ‘gambling’ in STO rarely pays off, there is profit to be made here and there (And frankly, it’s rather fun to do so every once in a while). But as with anything else, you have to be smart about it.
Here’s a rough list of ‘gambling’ items, listed from lowest expected ROI to highest:
Duty Officer Cadres
Queue reward R&D Packs
Duty Officer Packs
Duty Officer Mini-packs (Yes, the mini-packs have a better ROI. This is mostly because they’re priced at about the break-even point due to the glut of them on the market. This might change with the Delta lockbox introducing R&D mini-packs instead of Doff mini-packs, though.)
————–Break Even Point—————
Selected VR Duty Officer Packs (In certain instances)
For the most part, unless you’re horribly unlucky with the R&D packs and minipacks (The minipacks are a reward from the Delta lockbox, while the full packs are both a reward and an option on the C-Store), you’ll at the very least break even, and oftentimes come out a little ahead. This is generally what I’ll do when I feel like gambling.
I’m sure a few of you are looking at that last listing and scratching your heads, though, so I’ll explain: For the most part, the Very Rare Duty Officer Packs are about a break-even proposition, if not a slightly losing one, bar two. These two are the Temporal Duty Officer packs, and the Elite Gamma Quadrant Duty Officer packs, and moreso the latter than the former. This is because one of the potential drops from the Temporal packs is a little guy we call Marion, while one of the drops from the Gamma packs is everyone’s favorite connman, Zemok. You have approximately a 1/14 chance of Marion from a Temporal pack, and a 1/7 chance of Zemok in a Gamma pack. My strategy with these is to buy in bulk, when the price on the packs is low enough that getting enough packs to have ~80% of unboxing at least one of the high-ticket doffs is about the same price as just buying one of them outright. If your luck is average, you break even, if it’s good, you double or triple your money, and in the rare case it’s bad you do lose out pretty bad. I would not recommend this to someone who doesn’t already have a significant nest egg built up in order to take the loss, but the option is out there, and this is the big one that people ask me on.
Step Four: Enjoy Your Earnings!
I don’t really have to explain this one, now do I?
Anyways. I do hope that this helps a few of you out there. I only have the anecdotal evidence of my own success doing this, but many of the basic principle should apply regardless. Happy trading!