Store of value, you say? Hedge against inflation? Quaaid, you're going crazy and taking this too seriously! You may be right about both, but there are very legitimate (and useful) conclusions that can be drawn from the real world into Azeroth.
The Real World
The example I used in my Call to Auction question was gold...as in, the precious metal that costs something like $1,350 per ounce these days. Without regurgitating my long-winded statements/questions, the gist is that holding certain valuable commodities has two effects (for our purposes): 1) it guards against inflation, and 2) it's a safe haven. $10,000 in 1970 was a lot then, and not so much now -- in the "needing to survive" sense -- however, if you plunked that $10k into gold back in 1970, you'd be in pretty nice shape today. Alternatively, if you lived in a developing country whose currency was subject to hyperinflation (South America and Africa are ripe with examples), turning your money into gold would guard against that. Regarding the "store of value", in the real world gold is a safe haven. Go look at the price of gold since 2005 or 2008 and look at it now. One can argue this point ad nauseam, but investors frequently flea uncertainty in equity markets by putting money into gold.
The Not-Real World
So, are there any items in WoW that act like real world gold? Well, not really, or not any that would have the same impact. However, there are some items I'm going to start stockpiling over the next month. I am very concerned that my decent amount of gold now will become not-so-decent once inflation hits in Cataclysm (and, boy, will it ever).
Markco's response to my question above on the Call to Auction podcast was to listen to their last few episodes for items to stockpile. He's right. They've covered this a lot. However, my unstated point was how do you dump gold now into something that can be easily liquidated in a few months? The key point here is liquidated. The two considerations in my mind are:
1) Liquidity. Sure, you may throw 200k gold into a Swift Spectral Tiger and sell it in six months for 750k. I think that's a real possibility and honestly not a terrible idea. Yeah, the aforementioned concentration risk (see my other post from a couple weeks ago) is a headache, but I think you'd come out ok in the long run. However, I want to toss gold into something liquid, such as cloth, ore, mats, etc. and be able to recoup that amount (and then some) a month or two after Cata drops.
2) Price-per-slot. This is a real killer. The most liquid items also tend to have low absolute value. Saronite Ore can frequently be bought from the AH, turned into bars, and sold at a slight profit. That's risk free. Awesome. However, the ore essentially vendors at 12g50s, meaning you don't get much bang for your buck per slot. Sure, you could pre-smelt it into bars and then titanium, but see point #1 about liquidity.
So, the idea is to find items that are fairly liquid and yet yield a decent PPS for storing in your bank.
Things I Love
- Enchanting mats and some scrolls - dusts and essences have demonstrated their ability to hold value in every expansion, and this one won't be any different. I'll be holding onto raw mats as a good PPS and liquid investment.
- Scrolls - an adjunct to the above, enchanting is a powerful profession. BoA gear creates an eternal market for old world mats as well as new world. Plus, if Cata is like WotLK, there might still be a few worthwhile mid-tier enchants that sell (e.g., sort of how Mongoose does now). These also stack incredibly well, so the PPS is through the roof. Not as liquid as I would like, but should do ok.
- Glyphs - "Quaaid, you're nuts, glyphs are still going for 40g to 50g and higher right now even a week after the patch!" Why yes, good reader, they are. They'll also likely complete their crash in a few weeks, and I imagine you can pick up some fairly cheap or just crank out your own if you have a scribe once herb prices settle down. So, it can be assumed that most players currently playing will be fully stocked on their glyphs. And what happens when all those people who quit in the pre-Cata lull come back in December? Oh yeah, they'll need glyphs. Others will get bored or frustrated and level new toons as well. That guy that rolled a DK right away when WotLK came out? Yeah, he'll be leveling a worgen too. And he probably plays enough that he's not broke, so he'll get glyphs too.
Things I Like A Bit
- Argent Tournament pets - not very liquid, but I think they'll store value really well. I've sent a few Horde pets to Alliance side and can pretty reliably net 900g to 1,100g right now. Given that Champion's Seals will dry up in Cata, and that these pets are pretty cool and should increase nicely over time. The PPS is thus awesome. I'll be fetching any that dip low enough, but this is more of a "buy and hold" item.
- Saronite Ore - sure, I just said that the PPS is low, but Saronite has so many uses I still think it's low risk enough to justify stockpiling. You can prospect it (best choice in my opinion), craft it for leveling sets, or just flat out vendor it. It's versatile enough that I will devote space to it.
- Netherweave cloth/bolts/bags - with new bags apparently available pretty cheaply in Cata, I think those doing massive stockpiling of Netherweave are in for a jolt. Yeah, it'll probably hold up ok, but the low PPS and high risk mean it's a no go for me.
- BoE items - I've read that a few people are grabbing various BoE items to sell to goblin and worgen levelers. I'm sure that'll work just fine, good luck. However, the high deposit cost for most of these items and "hit or miss" approach is extremely unattractive to me. Can you see that super leet level 49 axe for 100g? Probably. Did it just take up 8 weeks in your bags and another 20g in sunk deposits before selling? Likely.
Oh, and because anybody that read this far probably needs a random crazy picture: