In classic raw gold farming is incredibly popular. Some of the most efficient farming methods there are based on raw gold, unlike the current situation in Retail where all the most lucrative farms focus on materials.
Inflation and the value of gold
Every day wow players generate on average more gold than they spend on basic gameplay. This is just a fact of WoW. If you go out and kill some mobs on your own level you will end with more gold than you started with, just from vendoring the drops. Obviously this means that prices rise as the amount of gold on a realm gradually increases.
This is true in both classic and retail, but the rate of inflation, and the sources of inflation have a huge impact on the relative power of farms.
Retail has a lot of gold sources that are not related to mobs. Quests, world quests, emissary caches all generate gold just from doing activities that are essentially equally fast on any character. In Legion and WoD we also generated a ton of gold from the mission tables, but this spigot has been turned off.
The fact that the majority of gold is generated passively means that inflation will be higher and most players will have more gold to throw around.
In classic the major farms are raw gold farms. Inflation is still fairly low as players do not generate that much from regular gameplay. There aren’t any specific daily tasks you need to do, and what you need to on a daily basis will probably generate a lot less gold than comparable activities on retail.
This means the majority of gold will be generated through dedicated raw gold farming. Players go crazy farming DME, or some other solo dungeon method where you vendor drops. This is still better than material farming on most realms, which should not remain the case.
Why is raw gold farming so good in classic?
The main reason is probably that the economy is new. There still is not that much gold to go around, relative to the gold sinks that exist. There are still raiders in my guild with the 60% mount. Gold is still being taken out fairly significantly. The fact that raw gold farms are so good implies that raw gold is currently more useful than any specific material. Of course some of these dungeon farms include gathering to really be optimal.
I would typically have expected material farming to be better than raw gold farming, even in classic. At least now that it has been out for a while. The fact that it’s not is very interesting. It could be that the optimal setup for raw gold farming is so rare that they still can’t really saturate the market with gold. If raw gold farming is the best farming method inflation will eventually sky-rocket and players without access to the best raw gold farm will fall behind significantly. It’s very important that average joe’s can generate enough gold to buy some cool stuff every once in a while. It will be interesting to see how the classic economy changes as inflation, leveling and professions continue to intertwine.