If you comment, you are expected to abide by the site ToS. -- edit: I have changed my journal comments to "Friends Only" and "deleted" comments with swearing (staff can still read them but non-staff users can't).
I did not work on the Alchemy project.
I did talk with an artist and this post is my interpretation of what the effect of Alchemy is. This is not Gaia's interpretation of what should have or did happen as a result of Alchemy.
MiniwingsBackwings are currently incredibly difficult to get (you must be max Alchemy level and you must craft several formulas). IIRC, there are multiple variations (Angel, Devil, and a few color and/or size variations). At the very least, you will need to craft enough to work your way up to the max Alchemy XP.
At the time of this writing, fewer than 100 non-staff users are above level 3.0.
New Feature: Alchemy
Alchemy is a newish feature that was released last week. It's an evolution on the "exchange" system (which formerly converted crumpled paper into equippable paper products, bugs into inks, and inks into tattoos and dyes).
Alchemy is controversial because many of the ingredients are in short supply and users are unable to use many of the available formulas (which are similar to zOMG "recipes" wink until they gain a lot of Alchemy XP.
Alchemy is not a starter-user feature. It's designed to be a good feature to benefit Gaians that spend a lot of time on the site. Formulas are cheap but ingredients and XP are valuable. Those users that manage to gain lots of XP early can "craft" formulas for lower-level users. This manes Alchemy XP worth gold (it's expected that high-level crafters can charge lower-level users to craft their formulas for cheaper than a lower-level Alchemist could).
Investing on Gaia
Gaia does not have anything like US treasuries or bonds, which in RL are generally a "safer" investment than say mutual funds, stocks, commodity futures, etc. (disclaimer: I am not giving real life investment advice).
All strategic "investments" in virtual items have roughly equal risk.
There is no such thing as a "safe investment" in virtual items... on Gaia or in the real world. Investments are based on the notion that what you buy now will be valued more in the future -- but there is nothing that guarantees this trend. (Perceived) Value of virtual items is a factor of demand _and_ supply. If either the demand _or_ the supply changes, the value could change.
Demand is completely dependent upon user desires (and the number of active users on Gaia at any time). When accounts are banned, their items are never re-circulated (unless they account is later unbanned). When users go inactive, their items stay stagnant and all other items in active accounts are worth a little more.
It is guaranteed that supply will not increase for Cash Shop / Derner Cri items after they are taken out of the shops (assuming they are not re-released and no other similar items are created -- which I can not guarantee... that's up to artists).
For items in the gold shops, there is an unlimited supply at a nearly unlimited rate so there is a price ceiling on the value of the item (the gold shop value) and usually a price floor (the sellback price).
For other items (rare events, daily chance grants, "one per user" grants, towns bugs, starter items, etc.) there is a (steady) influx of new items into the economy, slowly depreciating the value of each one of those items.
Effects of Alchemy on Gaia's Item Values
Alchemy, interestingly, affects different item values in different ways.
"the Novelty Effect"
Right now, the feature is new and most users don't have access or means to craft high-level formulas. Items that require high-level crafting will be rare (and therefore expensive if there is demand for the item). There is artificially high demand for resultant Alchemy items because there is a shortage of them on the marketplace and speculators know that new items on Gaia have a much more volatile value than the average older item on Gaia.
Common items that became Alchemy Ingredients
Many items that pre-Alchemy were just common items have appreciated in value since Alchemy was released. This does not apply to all of Gaia's items and is not, therefor, inflation. There is still a novelty effect on these ingredients, but they will depreciate from their current price but they will settle above their pre-Alchemy value.
Rare items that became Alchemy Ingredients
There are many hard-to-find items that were available before Alchemy, but will become more rare as they are destroyed by the Alchemy conversion. This is maybe the most controversial part of Alchemy. These items (some of which were low-frequency CI / RIG resultant items) will become more rare than they were before. Both the ingredient items (which were resultant items from CIs / RIGs) and their crafted items (the results of crafting formulas where these are the ingredients) will appreciate in value as they become scarce. It seems clear that the maximum number of output items would be the number of existing input items (assuming input items don't get replenished -- I don't know if anyone is talking about doing something like this).
New Items that are Alchemy Ingredients
As part of the Alchemy release system, the artists created hundreds of new items. Many of these are available, but in low quantities and are continually, but slowly, added to the Gaia economy. You might find these in Daily Chance, in Rare Boxes, in "Thanks for disabling Adblock" events, etc. These are and were not meant to be flooded on the marketplace the first 2 hours Alchemy was released. They are meant to be an ongoing trickle into the marketplace. A natural effect of this distribution method is to cause a spike in value for these items and then a gradual decrease over time.
I don't expect many users to sell miniwingsbackwings on the marketplace. The users that are able to craft them will be extremely hardcore users that invest a ton of time and gold into the ingredients. I, personally, like this aspect as it doesn't favor users that spend GCash and it does heavily favor users that have previously done well in investing in the Gaia economy.
Right now they are probably more rare than Halos but as more users level up and find the ingredients, that will change.
There is a new feature on the site. Some users will engage it and some will avoid it. It will be used by some to make a lot of gold and is only mildly beneficial to paying users, but much more beneficial to very engaged users who are willing to put in the time and gold investment to level up quickly.