All About the Gold Cap

First off, here are the answers to a few of the more regularly asked questions about the cap:

  • The in-game maximum amount of currency that a single toon can have is 214,748 Gold, 36 Silver and 46 Copper.
  • The gold cap is specific to one toon and not to an account. You can exceed the cap by spreading the currency amongst your alts.
  • Mail with gold attached, be it from other players or the AH, cannot be picked up. Attempts to do so will result in the warning message flashing on the screen “At Gold Limit.”
  • No more money, even a single copper, from any source including player-to-player trade or looting a corpse can be attained until some currency is removed from the player that has reached the cap. Most attempts to attain more money via these and other methods will result in the same “At Gold Limit” message.
  • There is no award, title, in-game achievement or special designation for reaching the gold cap. It is simply an achievement, in the most basic and personal sense of the word.
  • Items sold to vendors while at the gold cap do not yield any gold. The gold is lost although the item may be repurchased from the vendor, and you charged. Note: we didn’t test this one ourselves but it stands to reason.
  • The guild bank gold cap is higher than the personal gold cap. We didn’t decipher the exact limit but we presume it is the unsigned integer amount listed below.
  • Should you decide to share the news of having reached the cap with your server population, friends, guildmates or on the WoW forums you will be met with varying forms of only three basic categories of comments: A) “Grats!” B) “Grats! Can you give me/buy me/loan me ____” or C) “You must have no life and play all the time.” It is unwise to respond at all to comments of types B or C.

Now, here are a few facts about the WoW gold cap that you may not have known.

It’s Not Really a ‘Gold Cap’ That We’re Talking About…

Gold, in fact, is not the unit of measurement used in the game’s programming. Rather, the currency is measured by the game in its purest form, Copper. Thus, the term “Gold Cap” is not entirely accurate as it is, technically, a “Copper Cap”.

Why Such a Strange Number?

The existence of a maximum threshold at all is because of the way this aspect of the game is programmed. The most plausible explanation for the cap is that the initial developers of WoW declared the variable (that is, assigned it as an adaptable mathematical value) of copper as ‘int32’, a signed 32-bit integer. This type of assignment allows for a maximum of 31 mathematical characters with one space reserved for positive or negative designation. The designation of a variable as a signed int32 allows for a maximum value of negative or positive 2 to the power of 31 (subtracting one on the positive side of the scale). So int32 allows for a range of –2^31 to 2^31-1. 2^31 is 2,147,483,648-1 which is 2,147,483,647. Look familiar? That’s the actual Copper Cap. Translated back to ‘gold cap’ and allowing for understanding that a player must have less than the maximum it becomes 214,748.36.46. See how that works? So in computational terms, the gold cap is a < signed int32 or < 2^31-1. Complex? Maybe. But still entirely understandable.

Can It Be Fixed?

Can it? Will it? Is it even ‘broken’? Ultimately it is up the Blizzard developers to determine if they are interested in increasing the gold cap. The most plausible, albeit short-sighted, solution would be to make the number an unsigned integer thus allowing for a maximum gold amount of less than 2^32-1 or 4,294,967,295 copper (or 429,496 Gold, 72 Silver and 95 Copper) but, of course, we have no idea what impact this might have on the game’s programming or currency model. It seems like a reasonable solution because you can’t have a negative gold balance (although we know some players who sure try hard enough) so what’s the need for the extra character pos/neg designator anyway? Of course, perhaps the only reason you can’t have a negative gold amount is because of this designation so… who knows? The other possibility is that they assign the variable a different declaration, one with a longer character allowance, but again we can only theorize as to the impact of such a seemingly simple yet potentially drastic change.

In our opinion, we’d rather they didn’t attempt to tackle this problem since the work around is simply sending gold to alts or storing in a privately owned guild bank. Ever have problems on patch day? Notice odd bugs come up after the release of major content? Ever have issues with items or mail? We have. Therefore, we’re not very excited about the prospect of messing with a system that might have far reaching and unpredictable results. Particularly when it comes to results that might adversely impact our virtual wallets.

The Auction House Has its Own Gold Cap

Yes, the AH has its own, unique, gold cap. The maximum amounts for items listed in the AH are:

200,000 Gold for bid
429,496 Gold, 72 Silver, 95 Copper for buyout

However- and this is where it really gets strange- you can’t list both maximums on the same auction. That’s right. While you can list items for 200,000 bid OR items for 429,496.72.95 G buyout, you can’t do so at the same time. You have to lower one or the other or the game does it for you automatically. Also interesting is that where the bid level appears to be a hard, or fixed cap, the buyout is a bit more elusive. So any time you try to list an item above 200,000 G bid the Auction button will simply gray out. Easy enough. But listing items above the buyout max level will do things like automatically adjust your buyout level downwards to various, and mostly unpredictable, levels.

Of course, the strangest part of this revelation is that auctions can be set at levels higher than the maximum amount of gold a player can have. Thus, you could theoretically set an auction for a price that no player could possibly pay and, even if they could, you couldn’t receive. Take a moment and just imagine the pain of selling a 400,000 gold auction and not being able to receive it. Which brings us to our next point…

…did seeing the buyout maximum set off a sense of mathematical déjà vu? It should. The limit mentioned above could also be described as less than 4,294,967,296 which is, as stated earlier, 2 to the 32nd power. 2^32-1 is an unsigned int32 declaration. So Blizzard used a signed integer declaration for the gold cap, but not so for the AH limit. Strange. Does this mean, theoretically at least, that it is possible to have a negative gold amount somehow in the game? We don’t think so but it does raise some legitimate questions.

There may also be an in-game mailbox gold cap but, to be absolutely honest, none of us had the balls to test it out.

Capping the Gold Cap Discussion

So that’s the basics of the gold cap logic. Will the gold cap always remain at this level? Hard to say. It seems reasonable that if players are becoming more and more wealthy with each expansion pack, and items and gold sinks costing more, Blizzard would raise the limit if, indeed, they intend the game to go on for a long time. But seeing as how honor is still capped at 75,000 it may not be something that the development team is too worried about.

Hopefully we’ve not bored anyone to sleep just yet. But if reaching the gold cap is a goal you’re striving to meet it certainly can’t hurt to know more about it. Good luck in your own efforts of reaching it.


Filed under WoW Economy News, WoW Market Commentary, WoWenomic Theory and Discussion

13 responses to “All About the Gold Cap

  1. Walmar

    Using a signed integer for gold is actually quite genius.
    Whenever you are using a variable to store data that can be modified by an arithmetic operation, you have to check for overflow. Take a byte (unsigned) for example. It can represent a value from 0 to 255. If our byte has the value 100 and we add like 200 to it, our byte overflows and the new value is 44.
    With signed numbers that cannot happen. If we take a signed byte with values ranging from -128 to 127 and do the above operation our new value will be negative. So a software can check if the new value is negative and deny the operation (or print a message “At gold limit”.
    Also note that the negative range is 1 number greater than the positive. That means no matter what number you add to our value (assuming you only add other signed bytes), you always get a negative number and cannot overflow into the positive range.
    You cannot do such things with unsigned values, unless you add some overflow indicators and do checks. This way you just add and check for negative.

    • James

      I’ve been reading a lot recently on gold cap (which I have hit a few months ago), and I can’t believe all the people who have no clue why copper is stored as a signed integer. The reason the signed integer exists is quite simple. While purchasing items in game, whether it be from trade, ah, or a merchant, the ‘cost’ of the item is only a practical term. What actually occurs is your character receives negative copper and the item, while the other player (merchants don’t get anything, you just get their negative copper) receive a positive amount of copper. [technically no one receives or gives gold, only the line of code dictating the gold uniquely for each individual character is manipulated (and always ADDED to)]

  2. Zamboni

    “Items sold to vendors while at the gold cap do not yield any gold.”

    I can confirm this. I fiddled with every trick I could think of to get copper number 47 on that character. Some of them led to game crashes and corrupted game files, so I would suggest just accepting the 46 copper limit.

  3. Zardoz

    The best argument for 64-bit operating systems that I’ve heard yet!

  4. Observ

    Nice smiley on top right of the page 🙂

  5. Annini

    So is this blog dead?

  6. Mizio

    Is this site Dead?
    No more post!!

  7. Joey

    The guild bank gold cap is speculated to be a 64-bit integer (2^63). Thus, the theoretical guild bank gold cap is 922337203685477g 58s 8c. I can see the player gold cap being reached (as it has already been), but I doubt anyone will ever reach the guild bank cap which is 429496 times larger than the personal cap.

  8. Eihrister

    What Walmar said is mostly true, apart from the fact that the negative range is not 1 bigger than the positive range. The negative range ends at -1, the positive range starts at 0. It’s 50% negative, 50% positive. Computers can’t do negative values and the “signed” integer property was a way of dealing with this. It’s a way of telling the computer how to treat the first 50% of the 32-bits as opposed to the second 50%.

    For the rest, what Joey said. The new gold cap is at either 9 (signed) or 18 (unsigned) million billion gold. I’m going with signed because of all the reasons mentioned before.

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