Why is a broken chair worth more than one that is not?
In UO, you can't just make anything you want. If you could then there would be no concept of rare items. In essence, a "rare" is an item which is in limited supply. There could be only one, a dozen, or thousands. The fewer of an item, the more it is worth.
At launch in September 1997 and through 1998, there were very few players interested in collecting unique items. Ironically, this was also the period when unique items were bountiful. Gamemasters and Seers handed them out like candy, as blessings and at events. Eventually the rules were tightened and the number of rares given out decreased dramatically.
In 1999-2000, many players got into the hobby of collecting rares. Item values skyrocketed, from hundreds of thousands to millions of gold. The introduction of Checks helped facilitate trading at these new high prices. One item from this time period which has appreciated greatly in value are Potted Plants. For a few months after their introduction you could buy any for 5,000-10,000 gold each. Today they go for 1 million gold minimum.
From 2001 to 2004, it could be considered a rare drought. The Seer program had been canceled and many rare spawns were fixed (turned off) with the Renaissance expansion. The Age of Shadows expansion in 2003 added new items with Rarity. But most spawned so frequently, they quickly became worthless in the eyes of collectors. The most notable rarity item is the Ruined Painting.
Rare collectors got a real boost starting in 2005 with the introduction of Event Moderators. Thousands of new and unique items would be given out over the next couple of years. It was a saving grace for the profession with so many graphic only rares being introduced into the game, lowering the overall amount. Today's collectors have many more potential items to deal with than at any other time in Britannian history.
There are several classifications of rare items.
- See Category:Semi-Rares for a list.
Semi-Rare items are sometimes not rare at all. Bananas are considered to be in this category, but they are easy to acquire from NPC shops. There is an infinite supply, but at one time it was not so infinite. A counter-example for this category would be Blackmoor. This item used to spawn on every Lich Lord, but stopped after the Age of Shadows expansion. There are thousands available, keeping the price from rising to more than a few thousand gold each.
- See Daily rares for a list.
Yet another classification which is not entirely accurate. Daily Rares spawn every time the shard goes down for maintenance or crashes. So they usually spawn once a day. But if a shard has serious issues one day, half a dozen or more can be introduced from multiple crashes. These items can be picked off the ground. It is assumed that these items were forgotten to be locked down by world builders, but have been clearly left "unfixed". The Fruit Basket is one of the most desirable.
- See Category:Rares for a list.
True Rares can go by many names. Some are called Server Birth, indicating that they only spawned one time at server up. However, it is virtually impossible to verify that an item was born at the beginning of the world. Even if it was, more may have been introduced via other means. An example of a Server Birth rare would be the Covered Chair.
Another name would be "Monthly Rares" or "Return Home Spawn". This indicates that they spawned roughly once a month, when the shard would "discover" them missing and replace the decoration. This type of item stopped spawning with the Renaissance expansion. The Empty Jar is a product of this type of spawn.
Then there are items which no one knows where they came from. The item was found in an IDOC or on the ground at the bank. It is just there. Any unique rare without a history is just a nice rare to own. If you own a chest of drawers and have no idea where it came from, it is a true rare unless someone can tell you otherwise.
- See Event Items for a list.
In this category, there are a few sub-classifications. The oldest being Seer created items. These items are usually very plain, usually not hued. Most only have a special name. Then there are items given out at developer created events. One such item would be the Pilfered Painting. Recent event items mostly come from Event Moderator events.
- See Category:False Rares for a list.
While not actually rares, False Rares are an area of knowledge regarding rares that all rares collectors should be well acquainted with. In short, a false rare is an item that has been manipulated or altered to appear as a rare, or is simply an uncommonly seen yet normally occurring item that is presented as a rare to an unsuspecting or ignorant player by another player hoping to perpetrate a scam. Many items fall into this murky category such as a Cigar Box, Empty Tub or Coconuts.
- See Category:Bugged Items for a list.
Prior to Event Moderators, a sizable number of rare items fell under this category. As time past, fewer and fewer rares were introduced intentionally. But the number of items stemming from bugs did not decreased. Early into Renaissance, there were quite a few instances of vendors selling miscolored items. Very early on in the game, some bugs even allowed you to turn your Cursor into an item!
Bugged rares can be nice, but there is also a legal side. Using a bug intentionally is an exploit, something against the Rules of Conduct which all players agree to follow. The legality of bugged rares are largely up in the air when they are first discovered. Eventually, they get declared legal or not. One interesting case was Sigil Purple Items created early in Factions. At first, these items were declared legal to make. A week later the decision was reversed and making/owning the items were actionable. Many years later the items were taken off the illegal list once again. You can find a list of currently illegal items here.
The rare collecting profession faces several hurdles and daily issues which threaten the trade.
Rare collectors need to be ever vigilant for scammers. A single misstep could lead to the loss of hundreds of millions of gold. Items selling for more than 125 million gold cannot be sold via usual means. While a couple methods exist (trading a house filled with gold or using pack animals), all can be dangerous. A reputable broker is the most secure method for such high valued transactions.
Another scam players like to pull is when a brand new item is introduced to the game. The item is presented as being "very rare" or "unique" if it is difficult to acquire. The hope is that you don't know about the new item and pay outrageous amounts for it. If you don't know the item in particular then research about it before purchasing is important.
Gold inflation has jacked up the prices on all rare items. In 1998 it was practically unheard of to buy an item for more than 1 million gold. Today, a handful of items can fetch over 1 billion gold. Most unique and desirable rares go for well over 100 million gold, especially event items. Making this amount of gold manually is virtually impossible through any current game system. About the only methods available are trading items for gold to other players or purchasing gold with cash.
Duping is the highly illegal process of creating copies of an item. These copies are usually untraceable and look exactly like the original. Valuable rare items have always been a prime target for duping, especially ones that are in very limited supply. One item which has been confirmed to fall victim to this is Vine Cord Sandals. There are more today than there was when the Event Moderator gave them out. There is nothing that you can really do to stop duping except avoid trading with people you suspect doing it.
Not a True Profession
Since rare collecting is not in the UO handbook, some people contend that it is not a true profession. House placers face similar criticisms. However, developers have acknowledged this profession a little in past comments. For instance, one time Mr Tact made a comment stating he wanted to preserve old rare items by huing new event ones. Also, the introduction of Rarity items is further proof of acceptance that players like collecting rare items.
- Stratics Rares Collector Forum - The most active forum for rare collectors. The best place to ask any question about rares.
- UORares.com - A fansite dedicated to rare collecting. Many item pictures and some background information.
- Ultimate Online UO Rares Forums - Discuss and show off all your rares and trinkets in this forum.