The Day Junk Became Worth More Than Gold
Few items ever make Neopian History. Few days ever are considered very important. But The Day Junk Became Worth More Than Gold wasn't one of those days.
I suppose a quick tidbit of background information is necessary before we proceed. After fixing the machine on the Magma City Water Tower, Neopians were led to a spaceship owned by Dr. Landelbrot which was called The Coincidence. The doctor would then ask each user for 3-5 (later changed to 1-3) kinds of 3 junk items. As an example, the doctor could ask a Neopian for 5 Gelert In the Boxes, 4 Gold Trimmed Tunics, and 3 Cobrall in a Cans. For one set of these items delivered, the Neopian would get a part which would be used to build three different devices. In total there were ten pieces, and after doing a quest one had to wait for some time before taking another one.
It sounds very straightforward, and also a laudable attempt on TNT's behalf to get rid of some of the junk that had been collecting around the site.
But then it went horribly wrong. So horribly wrong that we can only assume the Meepits or Dr. Sloth were involved somehow.
As expected, the items demanded increased in prices, but most of them didn't increase by that much. They may have gone from 1 neopoint to 5, but with how easy earning neopoints is now that isn't really much of a difference.
But it went horribly wrong with some items. For some items the price crept up to around 50 neopoints, then 1,000, until finally some items became unbuyable (which means that they were worth over 100,000 neopoints)! To put this into perspective, the Gelert in the Box went up to 150,000 neopoints from 1 neopoint, a 15,000,000% increase in little under two days, something unheard of before in Neopian history.
Some other things also inflated quite a bit, like the Plushie Chomby Balloon. You must have been thinking that one could have made quite a profit by buying these items at low prices and then selling for high ones, and some people did in fact make millions of neopoints. Several lost huge amounts as well.
And so, I found the Portal Activation Center Board flooded with posts about how items worth only around 1 neopoint were reaching astronomically high prices. People were blaming resellers, TNT, and there was a whole lot of grumpiness going on while some few were breaking the bank selling items they had been hoarding.
What a time to be on Neopets. What a time.
I quickly made a board about the topic and got several responses to what people thought about the crisis. After listening to various theories and such, I noticed several things that I wanted to later clarify and comment on.
As a note, though, as I do not want to leave my readers hanging, do know that TNT stepped in and changed the item pool, so many of the expensive items dropped quickly in value. The Gelert In the Box went from being unbuyable to 30,000 neopoints in three hours. Lots of items went down in price, and as of now, the average quest doesn't cost more than 100 neopoints. I know people who spent as much as 450,000 neopoints on quest items before TNT stepped in though.
One of the most common things I noticed were hateful comments towards restockers, calling them greedy and singling them out to blame for the hyperinflation that had set in.
Of course, it is obvious that people were angry since things that were previously junk were now worth so much and they weren't able to complete their quests, so I think that restockers were a natural target to turn their anger to. It was, however, unjustified.
Supply and demand set up the market prices. No one was trying to make a group to actively change the prices of the items, they were just buying them in hopes of selling them later on, which has always been an integral part of the site. No, what caused the prices to increase was simple supply and demand. The items had been worth very little before because although there weren't that many around (the items that really inflated like Manacle Maces weren't given out that much by dailies) demand for them was low. They were, after all, things like Rotten Tomato Salads, and who wanted them? But then, this event came along and demand skyrocketed, while the supply stayed the same, leading such a huge price increase.
And another thing that I'd like to mention, selling things for a high price isn't wrong either. If you bought something for a certain value one day, and some other day it suddenly shot up in value, you'd definitely sell it to make a profit. People did just that. And doing this has always been a normal part of Neopets.
TNT Did NOT Expect This to Happen
There were quite a number of people on the boards who thought that TNT had done this on purpose and that they must have known that items would increase in value; after all, don't items normally do that when they become useful for obtaining avatars and the such? There was another interesting theory that this was an experiment by TNT to see how much people would pay for junk. Some even thought that this was a test set by TNT to see if users could cooperate enough to exchange items for reasonable prices to benefit the community, or if they would just go on and sell them for high prices for a profit for only themselves.
Of course, that was all false. TNT may have anticipated some inflation, but as I said before, a 1 neopoint item going to 10, 20, or even 50 neopoints isn't that big of a deal, but going up to over 100,000 is. TNT just didn't expect that, and thankfully they stepped in and changed the item pool pretty quickly.
How Those Who Bought The Items Fared
A lot of players lost a large number of neopoints buying the items for their inflated prices. And the strange thing is, if TNT hadn't stepped in and changed the item pool, they would have been better off.
You might be scratching your head wondering how that makes sense. Well, it is simple, supply and demand. The prizes that were given out from the event would have been worth a whole lot more if it cost over 100,000 neopoints to complete one quest, and those people may have recuperated their losses by selling the plot prizes later on. After all, if something cost so much to get, it would have been worth a whole lot at the end, maybe even millions. If it cost over 500,000 neopoints to get a single prize, that would be reflected in that prize's value.
However, TNT changed the item pool so the items needed became cheap. Of course, when the items became cheap, everyone could complete the quests for as little as 100 neopoints so the prizes were easier to get and so dropped in value, so those people would paid that much initially for the items would not get back what they had shelled out. Now, the prices of the prizes would be based on the fact that so many got them for as little as 100 neopoints rather than the exorbitant prices paid by some.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying for a second that TNT shouldn't have stepped in. I'm merely pointing out that some people are worse for it since they bought the inflated items.
Some people put the blame on lists of the items required for the quests, stating that restockers were using that information to hoard those prizes and drive up inflation. Fan sites then began taking the item lists down when TNT changed the item pool.
To be fair, though, I don't think the blame lies with item lists at all. The prices were reflected simply by supply and demand. When TNT changed the item pool, demand dropped drastically and prices reflected that. And, after all, one could simply check the shop wizard for items to know their prices. But then again, the item lists never really did help anyone, as they already knew what items they had to get since the doctor told them.
An interesting thing to note is that through all these shenanigans, neopoints were never created or destroyed. Yup, they just changed hands. This event had no impact on the number of neopoints in Neopia, and the total number of neopoints in the entire economy remained exactly the same.
That isn't to say that everyone came out the same. No, some users made quite a lot. I know someone who made around 5 million neopoints. But I think we have to remember that 5 million neopoints in his pocket means that some people out there had lost that many. Obviously, the hoarders were the ones who benefitted the most by sellings stuff they had stored, while some Neopians who bought the items lost quite a good deal, an amount that won't come back, as I've previously noted. Those who sold their items and bought for the quests after TNT stepped in probably benefitted the most.
Some people sold a lot and bought some stuff too, so they ended up with a net profit in the end. That means of course, as no neopoints were created or destroyed, it means that several people also lost that much. While it might be hard to track just who lost how much since people must have sold and bought from several players, if we remember the simple fact that the total number of neopoints didn't change due to this event, we can surely conclude that what one person made someone else had to lose.
As with almost all things, one Neopian's gain was another Neopian's loss.
Some Concluding Comments
I saw some boards where Neopians were trading junk, that is to say, they were trading items regardless of how much they were worth for each other. Some were also giving out items they had in their SDBs instead of selling them. These efforts probably kept inflation down to some extent, and I applaud these ideas and the generosity of such people.
Another thing is that one user commented that people either seemed to gain a lot or lose a lot from the event, very few fell in-between. I have to agree, and it sort of makes sense.
After all, if someone profited hundreds of thousands of neopoints, which some did, someone obviously had to lose that many, because like I've mentioned before, the event neither generated nor created neopoints.
Maybe we should remember that if something like that happens again. If I sold a Manacle Mace I have in my SDB for 30,000 when it had inflated to that much, it means that someone bought if for that much. Maybe he or she sold it for more and maybe that person sold it again, but in the end, someone must have kept that item, and so in the end someone definitely did lose. They lost whether they chose to keep it in hopes of selling it later, as the prices deflated, and they lost if they used it for their quests, because as I've mentioned, the prizes are not going to be worth that much anymore. I know for a fact that I profited around 100,000 neopoints from the event, and I know that that had to come from somewhere. Maybe that's the reason so many people were bitter over this, because remember, for every single person who made a profit, someone lost.
In that way, I guess, some people could say that the event was extremely divisive, because on one side we have the people who made a lot, and on the other side we have the people who lost a lot. And they're almost in equal quantities.
Some people may be more reluctant to discard and deposit everything in case something like this happens again. I think it is doubtful since TNT never intended for this to happen, but then again, another mistake could be made, who knows?
One thing is for certain, though: I don't think anyone is going to forget The Day Junk Was Worth More Than Gold for a long time.