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Newbies, consider station trading to make your ISK work for you!

February 10, 2014

Seems like there’s been a massive influx of new players(good!) with a number of ‘how do I make ISK?” posts(confusing!). I’ve seen casual mention of station trading as a means to fund(‘plex’) an account but they’ve mostly been pointing at stale guides with very little discussion. Having just achieved my first serious goal of 10b(woo!) net worth from station trading, I thought it might be fun to share my adventure and spark up a discussion on this topic.

I’ve been a /r/Eve lurker for a while and a casual player of EVE for years. November 29th of last year marked me getting ‘serious’ about this EVE thing and part of that was station trading. I started with ~500m that was gathered from mining, mission running and in general boring gameplay back in February-March. Fast forward ~80 days and I’m up to 10b(piles of ISK) and a semi-passive ISK faucet for my new goal of blowing up fancy internet spaceships for fun.

Tips and stuff
Station trading is very boring, unless you like numbers(I do). However, if you like money, station trading is about as safe as it gets and has the potential to earn billions of ISK/month. To achieve this requires tons of patience. Here’s a graph of my trading volume -> pretty bars. I’m patient as fuck and it has paid off.

Where to trade

If you have patience and/or a love of ISK, you need to set yourself up in a hub that has some serious volume to get that ISK faucet running. I personally have stuck with the trade hubs Dodixie and Amarr. I hear Rens is also nice this time of year and Jita is always popular. Smaller mission and staging hub stations might work but with your goal of flipping merchandise, you need a lot of buy/sell volume.

What to trade

Now that you’re in your station, cozy up and start browsing through the market. I personally used the history graphs set to three months and just looked for items that had tons of volume(hundreds of thousands/day for consumables like Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge L -> graph, hundreds/day for fittings like Small Tractor Beam II -> graph). On top of volume, you want an acceptable gross margin so as to make money. I aimed for ~10% gross margin so that after the broker and sales fees I still made some money. Generally the higher the margin the lower the volume, so super rare deadspace/officer loot and faction ships might have 70% margins but only trade once/week.

What to train
Get Accounting and Broker relations up to 4 ASAP. Sales tax and broker fees will murder you but these skills will help alleviate the pain. You can invest some time in grinding standings to lower your broker fees. I got bored and accepted it as a cost of doing business. Also trade up the various order limit skills. I started with ~45 orders but my daily throughput stagnated once I hit ~6b ISK as I was incapable of spreading my ISK across sufficient items. I’ve since bumped that to ~125 orders and the ISK once again started flowing. Lastly, trade up margin trading. Margin trading lets you leverage ISK by reducing the amount of escrow you have to supply for a buy order. Your 1b ISK just became 2.4b effective ISK with margin trading to 3. This is huge!

How much to buy/sell
Don’t ever put your entire bankroll into one item. Markets will crash and the recovery might take weeks/months. If you have 200m ISK and you buy up a single Ishtar, your station trading is then stuck waiting for that one item to sell. However, if you spread that 200m ISK over 50 items, you’ll on average have a better daily volume in my experience. My general rule was to never stick more than ~10% of my ISK into any one item. I broke that a few times when I spotted items with incredibly high margins that appeared possible to turnover quickly. Sometimes I got burnt. Sometimes I made silly amounts of ISK.

Babysit your orders. Or don’t.
Depending on the station that you trade in and the item, your order may be the top buy or sell order for 1 second or days on end. For the first two weeks I was grinding away for 1-2 hours/night, watching episodes of Archer(something something dangerzone) while updating my orders every 5 minutes. By doing this I was able to buy/sell a combined ~1.5b/day and I was easily pulling in ~50-100m ISK/day. This WILL burn you out but I viewed it as a necessary evil and by December 14th I was up to ~2.5b net worth. I then slowed down a bit, took a week off for the holidays, and started back up in January with a 3 update/day limit. Once in the morning, once when I got home from work, and once before heading to bed. This has worked well but I have also adapted to trading lower volume less competitive items.

Keep calm and don’t panic sell
Sometimes a market crashes. In most cases it will recover in anywhere from 1 day to 3+ months. If you were wise and don’t have your entire bankroll in that one item, you can opt to ride out the lull and wait for the price to recover. You can even go all-in and buy up even more of said crashing item when you feel it has hit bottom. I just recently did that with Legions and made a nice profit after waiting ~10 days. Be careful though and look at 3-6 month histories. You’ll notice most prices move in cycles, the goal is timing the lows and highs.

Next level stuff
After about a month of station trading I started to look for other things to help keep the ISK faucet flowing. One was market manipulation, another was EVE Mentat, and the last was processing the EMDR firehose.

Dictate the price
Even in big trade hubs, there are plenty of low-volume items that are ripe for a bit of manipulation. One important thing to look for in an item is something that is unique. There cannot be a lower-priced alternative to your target. Someone just recently pumped the price of Hulks in one of the hubs to what appeared to be great success. One of my examples were Tengu Electronics – Dissolution Sequencer from ~December 30th to ~January 14th in Dodixie -> graph. I casually over ~36 hours bought up many of the available Dissolution Sequencers on the market while gradually increasing a few buy orders. I bought my sequencers from between 25-30m ISK and then listed the lot @ 42.5m ISK. I then proceeded over the next two weeks to purchase every sell order that undercut me by ~5% and rode the wave down until I had sold out of goods and the market had stabilized back to ~25m ISK/sequencer. During this time I think there was another trader or two attempting the same thing and in the end we all must have profited handsomely(I earned around ~300m ISK). Just be very careful when doing this as if someone else notices and either 1) buys from another hub and sells into your buy walls 2) buys from another hub and competes with you, you could end up with a lot of overpriced garbage and tie up your ISK for a long time.

Trust the Mentat
While the legality of cache scraping is a grey area, Mentat’s effectiveness is very clear. Mentat will whip up an in-game browser script that will proceed to index your buy/sell items and scrape the price. It’ll then indicate which items have been undercut and quickly provide you with a new price so you can continue the 0.01 ISK game. I positively love Mentat, without it station trading would be TOO boring and I’d have given up long ago. I put this under ‘next level stuff’ but really you should use Mentat from day 1.

Drinking from the firehose

EMDR is a great project and has proven to be an incredible resource for market discovery. There is no possible way I could spend hours/day looking for new items to trade as old items become too crowded with other traders. EMDR gives me access to the datastream coming out of players who push their cache scrapes to the likes of eve-central. I process that stream, dump it into a database and then when I need to make some buy orders I query the database for potentially interesting items. If you are code savvy or want to pickup a language, this can be a very fun project.

Station trading can be awesome, or worst case a boring ISK fountain. It won’t provide the heart thumping adrenaline rush of PvP but it will enable you to ride that PvP wave for longer without worry. My ultimate goal was to be able to shrug off PVP loses with no care and I think with another month of this I’ll be able to plex both of my accounts and lose dozens of HACs/interceptors/AFs per month with glee. PvP is a problem best served by a bottomless pit of money so go get started on creating yours.

If you think anything in this wall of text is incorrect, let me know. I don’t claim to know even a smidgen of what it takes to be a long-term successful station trader. I’ve just kept plugging away at it and what I’m doing seems to be working. I’d love to hear other stories of market traders as I so infrequently get to chat about this particular facet of EVE.
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