Intro to Restocking for the Collector
If you, like me, are a collecting fanatic, you know that getting your hands on all of the items you need is expensive. At times, insanely expensive. Whether you have a gallery to finish, an album to complete, a gourmet or reading trophy to obtain, or just have a secret army of plushies in your SDB (-shiftyeyes-), they can take a toll on your Neopian bank account. There are lots of ways to try to raise the funds to buy All The Things, but the biggest bang for your neopints is to learn how to restock the items you need yourself.
Some folks are already great at restocking, and make lots of NP and get tons of shinies to collect or sell (or else, how could we part with our hard-earned NP on the trading post or in auctions to add to our own collection?). For the regular Neopian collector, however, restocking and Neopian shops are a scary and strange place. Never fear! This guide will help you on your way to adding to, or completing, your own collections.
First and foremost, you need to know WHAT you are collecting. I will use my unpainted petpet gallery as an example, as it is the reason I started restocking in the first place.
A great tool to use is JellyNeo's Item Database, linked on http://www.neopets.com/fansites/index.phtml as a Recommended Fan Site. There, you can not only make a wishlist of items you need for your collection, you can see how much each one costs (approximately) and what shops they can be found in.
I do suggest buying the "cheap" ones from regular usershops first. Anything that costs more in the Neopian shops isn't worth your trouble. Look for low rarity items or ones that are given out in dailies.
Once you reach the point that you have all the cheap items, it's time to sort out your shops. Petpets, for example, can be found in about 14 different shops around Neopia. Using my trusty Jellyneo wishlist, I can keep track of the ones I still need and their approximate prices.
Open all of the shops you need in different tabs, then save them all to a single folder in your bookmarks bar. This makes it easy to pick and choose which shops you want to restock in for the amount of time you have set aside. I find it best to mix up shops that restock more often (like main Neopian shops) and ones that restock less often. The more you spend time in a shop, the more you'll get a feel for it. I would suggest working in 5-6 shops at a time. It spreads out the refreshes on each page without giving so many shops to focus on that you miss all the restocks. In another tab, open something mindless to refresh, like a card game or the Money Tree. I find using something in an extra tab to refresh and watch for awhile helps keep me from getting restock banned.
What's restock banned? If you refresh shops too often and too quickly, you become "restock banned". It means you no longer see any items in any shops for a certain amount of time. Bans vary in length from an hour or so to over a day, and they are generally no fun.
A fun extra that was added relatively recently is that all shops clear from time to time. All of the stock disappears, either immediately replaced by new stock, or stocking sometime in the following minutes with new stock. This keeps shops from getting cluttered by junk items that no one wants to buy because they aren't profitable. It also means there is a better chance of having higher-rarity items restock for you to grab. If a shop is clear, keep an eye on it for the restock. This is the best chance to catch the high-rarity, expensive items you need.
Now for the fun part.. actually restocking. You have your 5-6 shops and your brainless refresh page ready. You know the items you need for your collection. Start stocking! When you refresh a page and you see an item you need, go for it as fast as you can! Click on the item, go to the haggle page, and type in a number close to the price that the item stocks for. If it is listed for 5000 NP, for example, quick taps of 4545 should be a sufficient haggle price. Type in your amount and click on the Neopet in the captcha before the haggle box as fast as you can.
If you get your item, toss it into your collection and delete it from your list. If you miss it, try again.
The upside is, once you already own an item, if you happen to see it again, you can try to restock it again. Then you can sell that item for a profit, which adds to both your restocking fund and the NP you need to purchase any retired or "special" R101 items. Once you've collected all the items you need from a particular shop, you can stop going to that shop and focus on a different shop instead.
A few final helpful tips:
Make sure to use your F5 key to refresh the page instead of the refresh button in the shop or on your browser page, as you need your mouse free to grab items you see. I use my left hand to refresh, type numbers, and hit space to agree to haggle on an item when I click it (instead of using the mouse to click okay).
Be vigilant in updating your wishlist, especially as prices of items change as time goes on due to the economy as well as various dailies and site events. Something that may be a profit one month may not be a few months down the line (as all Hasee lovers can attest).
Don't give up! You may feel you aren't fast enough, or smart enough, or good enough. It takes time, practice, and patience. It may be a long process, but you will save millions in the long run.
So get out there and get restocking! Your collections and your bank account will thank you in the long run.