Economics of Collecting Retired Items, Complex Fun
This guide is the latest in my group of articles about the Neopian economy and will cover the vast and interesting world of RETIRED ITEMS. Now, before we get started, I must warn all readers that this item will be much longer than the previous ones. Frankly I hope that TNT puts some pretty pictures in to help with the length. The extra length is due to the fact that this is my personal favourite topic. A retired item collector myself, I know the intricacies behind them and their economic side and will try to relate as many as I can within this article. Contained within will be a multitude of topics which will cover a broad range of concepts.
But first, just what IS a retired item?
A retired item is an item that will no longer be given out on Neopets by shops, and will only rarely be given out by TNT (if at all). For the purposes of this article, we will assume there are three kinds of retired items; actually retired items, not retired but labelled so, and retired but not labelled so. To know the difference will help reflect the price and demand of the item; it will also allow you to be a smart retired item collector.
So what are these three types and what examples are there of said types? Well, all three are very self explanatory, but may seem confusing to the untrained eye.
1) Actually Retired items: These are items LABELED as R180, or retired. They are the core retired item type and are most noticed by collectors. They often carry a raised price-tag due to this fact, and sometimes at HTS prices (see last article). Examples of said items may be Black Roses, Pork Steak or any of my beloved Utility Fish.
2) Not retired but labelled so: These are items that are R180, but are still given out by other means. While chances are this is a harmless oversight by TNT, collectors should still be on the lookout for these imposters, as although they have the retired tag they will be priced like normal items. Examples of this are Wriggling Grub (still given out rarely by eating a certain kind of apple), Sketch, invisible and speckled PBs (still given out by Tarla) and Lost Desert PB (still to my knowledge given out by parts of the Lost Desert). So what is the main problem with these items? Simple; collectors like myself may be fooled into purchasing these at a higher price, even though their supply is not limited like other retired items!
3) Retired, but not labelled so: These items are most likely the single largest mixed blessing in the retired item world. Unlike most retired items, these still have their original Rarity (normally special [R101], but there are notable exemptions) and thus normally do not have an increased premium. Normally these items were given out by plots or sponsor events and retired without warning. Because of this, often it takes a long period of time for collectors to realise they are retired and stock up. Examples of this include Damp Cave Feng Shui, Fungus Ray and any other RIC or NC Card item not being currently given out. They are not labelled as retired since there is always a chance more codes lie out there, or there are unclaimed plot points, but this is doubtful, as the chances of large numbers of these items being released are slim to none.
But what makes a retired item so uniquely different than most on Neopets? All retired items (that are actually retired) have a set supply, meaning that no matter what happens to the Neopian economy, the supply of these will only go down. Some items may be lost in the void of old or frozen accounts, used up, or just lost in a simple random event. So in a perfect world under perfect economic conditions, retired items should only go up in price, making them the collectors' dream item. This is, however, not always true, because as you learn in economics the perfect model is never at play in the real world.
So just what does affect item prices after they have been retired?
Mass movements (or walling), changes of ability, mass collecting, supply halt, and something I will from now on refer to as ‘the utility fish situation’ due to my love for those guys. All of these and more will either raise or lower the prices of retired items in such a way that may not physically reflect the actual supply and demand curve.
The first concept, walling, is what I like to call those people who place large numbers of retired items at a certain price point. The idea of this is that everyone has to buy your item before the price will rise; people (or the waller) will buy out all lower priced items because they suddenly seem like a good idea. The downside of this to the model is that items under a state of walling will remain that way for a long period of time until the wall is bought out, as the wall owner will continue to buy significantly underpriced items and add them to his or her wall, effectively pausing the price of an item for a period of time.
Walling may be done for a multitude of reasons and may either be on purpose or by accident. While it is true the waller could literally be trying to halt the cost, or make a profit by raising the price point slightly, there could also be other motivations causing this phenomena. One possible legitimate reason is that a collector who bought originally low has now seen a substantial increase in the value of his investments. I know I myself never pictured that the ‘My Sisters Frilly Skirt’ which I bought for 200 NP would reach 30,000 NP when I sold around twenty. Which moves on to the next reason for a huge price increase(or decrease): the change of ability.
Change of ability is the next concept, and may be reflected in item price by either a positive or negative effect to the price. Two main things could happen with ability changes; either a retired item GAINS an ability it didn’t have before, or it LOSES one. An example of an item gaining ability is with the ‘My Sisters Frilly Skirt’ item; it was an Advent Calendar item worth next to nothing, but when it became wearable, the price shot upwards at a much larger rate than previously.
Many items jump up in price when an ability is added; however, retired items have a greater chance that they will STAY there. This is due to the nature of retired items; they are greatly sought over. The other side has a chance to greatly decrease the price; this is if an ability is REMOVED. An example of this is the Battledome item ‘Fire Whip’. This item used to have the unique ability to change a random item into a worthless ‘Million Degree Sword’. This item, considered a very unique stealing weapon, could even change an item like a 32 icon super attack pea into a 2 icon sword for the duration of the battle. Due to this, the price often reached points up to 400-600k, just due to its unique ability. When the ability stopped working, most likely due to a Battledome error, the price plummeted back down to 200-300k. If this item’s ability were ever fixed, the price would most likely shoot back up again, as there is no other item like it. This retired item is not the only item with a unique ability to be retired, and others will be explained later.
The third is mass collecting. You could almost consider this the opposite and prerequisite to walling. This is when an item, for one reason or another is met by a surge of investors at the same time. Often this item is newly retired, given a new ability, or simply mentioned to be retired when people didn’t realise. The idea is, that collectors all buy up as many of the item as they can, be it one or two people or a whole group buying as many as they can. This artificial demand does not mean there is a drop in supply; however, prices rise as collectors temporarily put their items into their SDBs and buy up copious amounts.
As the price rises, the same collectors who bought out the items may choose to resell them at a quick profit; however, unlike daily dare prizes, the chances of the items price going back down to its original or lower price is squat. During periods like this, the price will rise, fall a little, and then continue to rise once more. Eventually price will settle, often at a higher point. A main example of this is during Gadgadsbogen, when fruits get retired. In this time, collectors buy up all the cheap fruits, raising the price dramatically, then the original collectors will come back and slightly lower it. If an item was to start at say, 100 NP, it may rise up to 80k, only to drop back to 50k, all in a short period of time. However, like all retired items this price will continue to rise again.
Supply halt is most likely the rarest kind of problem to happen to an item. Supply halts do not happen on retired items, but items that were NOT retired. Supply halt is the rare circumstance when an item is retired when it is actively being traded. By actively, I mean it has been newly released and people are buying and selling it at a giant rate. The key and only example I can think of at this time is that of the Wooden Barrel. This brilliant item was given out for a very brief period of time during April Fools last year. When it was stocking, this item was selling at around 1-2k, cheap, abundant and very new. People expected the item to be given out all day during April Fools and thus the number expected to be given out was huge.
However, TNT halted the supply of this item, allowing for this very interesting concept to take place. Suddenly, as supply drastically dropped, people realised the item was retired and demand shot up. The item went up in value, up to 120k! Everyone wanted a piece of it, even though no one seemed to notice that the item was selling in groups of 30 for 1k each just hours earlier. Soon after, this collector spree of purchases halted, and as with the concept mentioned above the price dropped, this time significantly, to 30k. When at this price, however, it quickly began to rise back up, and is now already back at 99k after a year. The reason the Supply Halt is worth its own section is that it is one of the most unique and interesting retired item related economics issues I have ever seen on Neopets to this date. I can only imagine what TNT thought while watching this violent movement of items. However, as this item is reaching 99k once more, it risks the next concept happening to it: the utility fish phenomenon.
The Utility Fish Phenomenon is a unique event which I have noticed happens when a retired item reaches 99k. This is the point in which the retired item becomes ‘unbuyable’ a Neopets market concept that means it can no longer be purchased via the shop wizard. The reason I have called it the Utility Fish Phenomena is simple; I like them, and they were the first item I noticed this happened to. When an item was priced around 95-99k, and the last few were bought, trading moved into the trading post. When there, the fish shot up in price to 150-200k each!
This artificial demand was fuelled by the inability to check the price on the wiz. The item is now considered to be rarer, and thus gains another wave of demand. This wave raises the prices artificially, often into a HTS level. These items then stay there for a long time, before removed entirely from the trading post. When the retired item comes back, the first trader often puts an abnormally high price on it, and subsequent collectors who are trying to check the price of the item see this HUGE price raise and place THEIR items on the market for that price. Others come in, thinking the item is actually worth that much, and buy one; this solidifies the price and makes the item likely to stay this high for a long time. Often, prices may be forced from 99k to 200k all the way up to 600k, even though supply is still high in collectors’ SDBs. Eventually, the market may realise this and equalise back to a normal price, which is normally still around 200k.
So, barring all these unforeseen events and quirks, just what makes a retired item’s price increase?
Well, if you return to the perfect model, and look at the supply and demand curve, it is rather easy to see. Demand on these items is normally constant; it does not move until certain points along its life, or until the above concepts come into play. The item will slowly be purchased by collectors and with it the price will rise. Combine this with shopkeeper and collectors alike having their accounts deleted due to age or being frozen, the price is bound to rise. The collectors place these items in galleries, SDBs, or similar until such point where the price is substantially larger than when bought.
Due to the fact this may take months or even years to come into effect, supply of retired items is constantly falling. The rate of this demand, while effectively stationary, is not uniform among all retired items. As mentioned in my first article, items have different demand pulls that influence their price depending on certain aspects. To find out more, read my previous article from Daily Dare, or wait for a more in-depth article about these demand pulls. An item such as a book, a stamp, a plushie or food is impertinently more likely to rise in price fast due to their collectability, exhaustibility, or general interest.
These differing levels of demand directly influence the loss of supply and the rate in which price increases. A worthless toy advent item may raise from 5 to 200 NP over a course of five years, while a book of similar circumstance may raise from 3,000 to 70,000 NP in a matter of a year or two, or a more valuable item like a 300k book may reach 1 mil within a year. The initial level of supply of a retired item is also important in the raising of price. It is possible for an item to have so much supply when retired that the item will not rise in price for a long time. Commonly, this would be referring to Advent Calendar prizes; however, in this case I am referring to the item ‘Ylanas Blaster’. Though this item is the staple of midrange battlers, and the most common step before Hidden Tower level weapons, this retired item has been at a set price of 800k since its release in 2008. Why, one may ask? Well, this item has a huge supply, and its supply/demand curve looks more like that of an active, unretired item.
Items of similar power and ability which are un-retired, like the NQ2 Insane items, were being sold around 2 mil, along with the retired TCG blasters. But when this new blaster was released, it effectively made all alternates gallery items. One day the ‘Ylanas Blaster’ will go up in value; however, due to its high supply, it will take years longer than most retired items in that situation. The higher than ordinary supply is a rarity, however, and does not reflect most plot Battledome items. Most retired items carry a premium BECAUSE they are retired, but this one was based purely on its ability rather than the fact it was retired.
A premium is the natural amount in which a retired item sells for greater than other items of similar supply and ability. The tag ‘retired’ makes even the most useless item seem desirable, even just the knowledge it was a plot prize is enough to spur this premium. Items such as NC Card items are much the same, due to their limited nature; they are much higher priced than similar items due to the fact they have a limited run. When the item finally does get retired, the price shoots upwards even more at a faster than average rate. While this is another possible example of supply halt, due to the expected nature of NC Card items retirements, it is safe to assume the premium is the main driving point, and when an item becomes retired having it being added on. If these NC Card items were to be re-released, as they are not R180 it is possible, the premium would be dropped, and the price would become reasonable again.
But what exactly sets how fast an item is snatched up WITHOUT ability?
Often completely useless items shoot up, while food and books rot. This demand is related to the exact way an item was retired in the first place. If an item’s rarity is suddenly raised without warning to R180, people may not notice and it will take a period of time for people to realise it is retired. As people slowly realise it is retired, they will buy more as a trickle situation, the price slowly going up at a low rate based entirely off its ability. This is how retired items should react, as there is no artificial demand being caused and there is a natural flow guiding the movement of the demand/supply curve price.
The next situation is during a sponsor event. New items may be given out to a particular part of the world, and the rest of the world may not realise it. When this sponsor event ends, however, the item is effectively retired and the price will begin to rise. This raise is slower than average items, for even after the item is noticed it may not be seen as ‘retired’. This is due to the fact that often items of this nature are not R180, and thus do not carry that absolute assurance, false assurance or not, of a true retired item. The supply will still drop, like all retired items, but at a normal buy rate.
People will rarely buy these items for collection purposes unless they are explicitly told by another that the item is retired. An example of this is the sponsor items given out during a Limited Too promotion in 2002. Due to their R130 nature, the items stayed at their original price point for years, only very slowly rising as time went by. However, when collectors realised these items were there, and retired, the remainder were snapped up... if you can call buying five years later snapping.
The third has the opposite effect, and is a lot more exciting to witness. When fifteen items were retired recently, and if any more are retired in a similar manner over the coming weeks, their price shot up. Normally 200 NP items were suddenly worth 400 times their old values and why, you may ask? Well, if you do, it is obvious you didn’t see how they were retired. The retirement was announced on the New Features of the site.
While names were not given the push was there to find the newly retired items. As they were found, collectors scrambled to get them, almost like retiring items were rare. Naturally, the more useful ability wise items still rose the most, but this dramatic increase of price was purely due to TNT intervention. If it was mentioned on the new features, ‘IT'S YOUR LAST WEEK TO GET XYZ ITEM FROM THIS SPONSOR EVENT’, it is guaranteed those items would rise at a similar speed. This faster than average price increase highlights the importance of knowledge.
So how does a collector avoid the traps of this market?
To be brutally honest, it is impossible to truly avoid all the pitfalls and traps when collecting items such as these. This is due to the fact that we are all humans; humans naturally panic when they see trouble, and feel at ease when they see good things. We are inherently greedy, and will always try to raise our own personal wealth and we always desire power. But these are not bad things as such; they are just naturally human, and if I have shown you anything in my articles, it is that the Neopian economy is just as human driven as all others. There are many things we as investors can do to minimize loss, and calmly deal with retired items.
1) Be Aware
The first thing, is to be aware. By reading this article, you have been made aware of a multitude of aspects that affect price and demand of items. Whether you are buying them or selling them, this is always important. This way, you can prepare for the possibility of drastic price rises and falls which may affect your decision of if you want to buy or sell.
2) Be vigilant
Prices will change; they may change for the better or for the worse. It is up to you to decide when to buy. Buying too soon may be too risky, but on certain items it may be required. If you see an item in your price range that will go up in value, buy it. It may end up going down again, but over time you will be able to find the best times to snap up items.
3) Be predictive
Okay, this is BIG. If you can realise exactly when price changes will occur, you can play the market. First things first, try to work out how many of the item there are in the economy. With plots, look at the number of people actually completing the plot, its difficulty. With other items, look at their ability; are they unique? Was the item announced to all of Neopia, or was it just a sponsor event item? With a little luck, you should be able to predict what will soar and what will take forever. The idea is that if you can predict prices before they soar, you can save money by only investing in the most profitable retired items.
4) Be patient!
A good collector knows when to sell, if at all. Sure you could sell early on for an easy profit, but you have no idea just how far it will go! Sell too soon, lower profits; sell too late, you may not be ABLE to sell. If you don’t want to sell, just keep the item. Don’t worry if it isn’t rising in value or rarity straight away; be patient and eventually your collection will be good.
5) Be reassuring.
The most common thing people experience online or offline when making a large purchase is buyer’s remorse. Normally marketing is meant to tell you that you made a good purchase, but on Neopets that is up to you. It may seem a little hollow to use a marketing concept when collecting, or even in a paper about economy, but it makes sense. If you find yourself regretting your purchase, you will most likely re-sell it, or worse, watch as the prices go up and down cheering and jeering after every little hiccup. With retired items, you have to reassure yourself, unless some are re-released, you will EVENTUALLY make a profit. Even if you bought a 1 mil NP item at 2 mil in the rush of it, chances are if it is retired it will eventually reach 5 mil anyway.
It is good to note that even using these five handy tips you will still both lose and gain money. Even if you don’t plan on selling, the overall value of your investment can still be counted in your books. For example, say you have 10 million NP, and you buy an item worth 2 mil; you only have 8 mil left. Is your account worth 10 mil? Or only 8? It is worth 10.
Just because you buy an item does not mean it does not count to the value of your account, which is the true way collectors MAKE their money. Often, collectors do not literally receive rewards, but their collection is worth more. If that item rose in value to say, 12 mil, our example person would be worth 20 mil, even if he had not sold the item. As long as an asset can be resold actively on the market, that approximate resell point is the value. So don’t worry about spending large sums of money on retired items, as when you reach that point again, you will not only have all the NP you had before but also the value of your collection.
But just why are items retired in the first place?
It is one thing to have this giant collection, but why were they retired? Retired items are often an insight into the past of Neopia and can often show shifts in the website itself. Items may be changed and retired due to copyright or graphic reasons, destruction of worlds/events, because the thing giving it out is no more, due to changes in the site mentality, and often tracking down the source of these items is a lot of the fun in collecting them.
Look at the Bat Boy and the Short Fuse. These two items are the some of the only original remnants of the retired set of spooky petpets. Some of the items in the set used to be humans, monsters, or similar, all updated and retired when the site became larger, but so old this transformation was all but forgotten. The graphics of these petpets just did not suit Neopets as a whole, so they updated and retired them. This was a very common practise in the early years of Neopets, as the original Neopets graphics were often a lot different to those we see today.
Everything was a lot different in general; worlds have been destroyed, moved, or lost in time. The beloved utility fish for one, being one of the many things that did not escape when Maraqua was destroyed, may they one day find another home in Neopia. Other things also affected items: the disappearance of the volcano in Tyrannia, the most recent deactivation of Lutari Island from Neopets mobile. All of these events played a role in retiring items, and the only one that will most likely return. The items in Lutari Island are for all purposes as of now retired; however, unlike most retired items, chances are they will be un-retired if/when the island finally gets released.
The next is simple, and relates mainly to plot and sponsor events. Normally these are timed situations and after the event closes, the item will just disappear to where it came from and be retired. While these items are often not given the R180 rarity, the chances of them being re-released are so minor it is funny. So, once more, this makes up the third reason why items may be retired.
Changes in site mentality are most likely the most attention-grabbing reasons for the retirement of items. A certain adult beverage was once an item, which was later replaced with “Sparkling Apple Juice” among other items. This shows how the site changed its focus to a more family friendly environment. Not that the original items were anything bad, but still. Other examples of this are the videos. There was once a video store in Neopia; the items inside were changed into books and retired, most likely to help separate Neopia from the real world just that little bit more.
As you can see, the reasoning behind it can be very interesting, or it can be highly simple. It could be a random selection, like it was long ago during the first wave of retiring. Random items from all over Neopia were retired with no rhyme nor reason, but that is half the fun. Sometimes retired items may be scheduled to be retired, such as Gadgadsbogen, or just because they were too common like the most recent stream of retiring.
Retired items as a whole are most likely one of the most appealing things on Neopets. As not only do they offer some of the most unique economical situations, but they also act as a time capsule into the site’s past. Collecting them is a fun, enjoyable and powerful thing to do on Neopets, and if you are planning on being on the site for a long time, they are one of the best things you can hope to collect. I hope this long article has kept you entertained even though it is long, and once more I hope you have learnt a lot.
As you can most likely tell, this has been my favourite topic to write about, but chances are it won’t be my last. Next I plan on possibly trying something new, a series on the history of some worlds on Neopets and how they have changed even in the time I have been here. If, however, you are a fan of my economics papers, I still have plenty of new and interesting ideas on that front also, so stay tuned, so to speak. Until next time, go out there, buy a utility fish, and hug it.
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