Each skyland in Skytopia offers the same commodities, but different quantities of each. Commodity quantities are listed on the map as purple, blue, green, yellow, or red. These colors indicate how much of a commodity is at each skyland. A "purple" commodity is very abundant at that skyland, for example. If a commodity is "red", then it is scarce at that skyland. You will earn the most profit for a single sale if you buy at "purple" and sell at "red".
New to Skyrates and still wondering how this game works? Maybe you're frustrated that you just can't seem to make any "real progress" in the game.
Here are a few secrets that some of the older players probably don't want you to know. Most of what's here can be learned on your own by playing for a couple of days, reading the Manual and going over the FAQ, but will be elaborated in greater detail here.
Tired of minuscule profits?Edit
Trade goods are separated into common, expensive, and luxury goods; these are shown on the trade wheel as green, yellow and red, respectively. As goods go clockwise from Wood to Unobtainium, they get much more expensive, but in turn offer better profits. Beginning players traffic entirely in common goods due to the lower base prices, but if you can afford and have the Trade License to deal in them, "expensive" goods will likely yield higher profits. Luxury goods are potentially even better, but have several slight complications explained below.
Want a (fairly) sure-fire way to "make bank" on (most) trades?Edit
To stay safe, try to always trade from purple to red when first dealing with a good so you can compare it's profits to previous trades and be sure to turn a profit: however note that a purple to red (4 color "levels" different) trade for a good should be about double the profit for a purple to green (2 "levels"), so if a lower color difference is significantly shorter, that route may yield higher profits. Note however that red and purple are the most stable supply levels, so over time a purple to green trade may turn into a purple to purple trade, so keep an eye on this type of trade.
What if someone else makes a big sale ahead of me? Edit
Due to the high supply levels of most goods at Skylands, other traders usually won't have an especially significant impact on the good you're selling--typically at most one "color" value at high volumes of trading, even if blimps are trading. The major exception is when dealing with Luxury goods, as explained in the Batch Selling section.
Each time you buy or sell goods you are taxed. Each good is taxed by its individual price. Taxes can be reduced by Skills and Traders. Two max level traders can give a max discount of about 33% (or 66% for paper and steel) off the tax. Most goods have a unique tax reducing skill, except paper and steel.
Pricing of Goods Edit
Each color indicates a different price range, with prices increasing on a flat rate between colors. Due to this, Price is not determined in any way by demand or expected future value, with two exceptions: (1) Demand and future value affects skyrate behavior, which affects prices through changes in supply; and (2) Factories use--without demand--some goods, affecting the price through changes in supply.
The production and consumption of goods on skylands are controlled by factories. A factory may either be a consumer or producer of goods and will consume or produce goods at varying rates (usually every 20-60 minutes). The quantity of goods is only consumed or produced by a certain amount, and only to a specified limit, so if a "red" island has received an extreme influx of a Luxury good, it may take a couple of factory consumptions to get back down. Each factory can last from a few days to a week (or more) before disappearing.
Batch Trading Edit
When trading in Luxury Goods you may need to split your purchases and sales into batches; due to their lower overall supply levels their prices can change quickly, but usually not especially much unless each "batch" is 300 or less units. This should cause a little less than a color change at full supply levels, but still fill almost all cargo holds in one or two transactions. Batch Trading is thus only necessary in trading planes or planes with unusually large cargo holds. Due to somewhat long consumption/production rates, batch selling is currently very inconvenient to queue and time consuming at best when manually done, especially with the largest cargo holds. The ideal rate seems to be about 300 units per 20-30 minutes (whenever the skyland cycles back to "full" purple). When trading on queue, hunts or short waypoint flights may be used to space out transactions, though it is not always possible to exactly predict when to queue the second or subsequent batches.
Day Trading Edit
Since the price of goods is not affected by demand or by speculation, prices can change at the same skyland during the same day. This means that if you wait an hour, a certain good's price may have changed enough to allow you to make a profit by buying it at its lowest price, and selling at its highest. The possible benefit of day trading has been cut significantly in the Skyrates 2.5 economy; price differences between levels of supply are much more uniform, automated Skyland production/consumption of goods occurs much more slowly and irregularly and "infrared" pricing is completely gone.
Not a recommended strategy.