Getting Started (or, how the heck do I make my first million?)
The art of making EC in STO can be pretty intimidating at times, but the truth is that it's not as complicated as it sounds. The first million can come pretty quickly if you know what you're doing, but here are some tips to get you going.
Tour the Universe
This repeating event lasts for one hour. During this hour, you can take a quest from an NPC from Earth Spacedock (Federation) or the First City (Klingon). Go to every sector of space your faction can visit, and gain 50,000 EC for each sector. You can repeat this quest as long as the hour isn't over.
There are maps of the optimal routes, and with some practice you can do this mission two or three times during the event, for a grand total of a little over a million EC for an hour's worth of work. Not too shabby.
"Sell" Your Dilithium
For about 125 Zen (at average market price, that's approximately 19,750 dilithium) you can purchase a single lockbox key from the Zen store. They sell for about 1.4 million EC each on the exchange. Since you can refine 8,000 dilithium per character, per day, that works out to about 2 and a half day's worth of dilithium, assuming you hit 8,000 every day.
Now, once you reach the 5 million EC mark you won't want to (and shouldn't) sell your dilithium in that manner. However if you're just starting out, and need starter cash, selling your first 20,000 dilithium for your first million might not be a bad deal.
Investing (or, Expand or Die)
This is where things get interesting. Once you've got your first million, you're going to want to turn it into something more valuable. So how do you do that?
Duty Officers (or, slave trading for fun and profit!)
Used to be, selling very rare duty officers was the way to go. Nowadays, very rare Duty Officers have dropped so precipitously in price that it's no longer profitable to make a living off of them.
Instead, consider selling your common or uncommon duty officers. The reason these officers can sell these days is because of the new starbase system. For those not in the loop, upgrading your starbase requires a huge amount of common and/or uncommon duty officers, and many people end up buying them in bulk from the exchange.
How can you get mass quantities of these duty officers? May I recommend, sir, the Duty Officer Mini-Pack. These ridiculously cheap little packs will give you four duty officers (one of which is guaranteed green or better), and you can typically sell many of them for 50,000 EC, especially the tactical and security officers.
Also, you can go to Starfleet Academy or the Klingon Academy to "grind down" any rare or very rare duty officers these packs might give you, unless the very rare is something valuable, such as a Shield Distribution Officer.
You'll typically make quite a tidy profit from these little packs, and at the very worst, break even. This method is slow, but it will get you to 5-10 million and is fairly safe.
Ripping Off the Wealthy
This method relies on the fact that there are wealthy idiots out there willing to drop a pretty penny on something that, in my opinion, is utterly garbage. What I'm referring to, is the Special Requisition Pack - Shields and related packs. At Vice-Admiral level, these packs are practically worthless. But, at Captain level ...
The reason I've got this here at the million EC mark is because you'll need a bit of initial investment capital to make this work. Each of these packs can be bought for pennies on the dollar (around 50,000 EC, last I checked, each), and when opened by a level 29 character, gives a guaranteed very rare shield/armor/weapon/whatever.
VA level purple shields and such don't sell for anything, but for whatever reason, rich idiots like to purchase purple-level shields for their captain-level ships. Why? Who knows! But it's pretty insane that you can turn a 50,000EC pack into a million EC's worth of profit. Yes, sometimes these purple shields really can sell that high.
The Big Leagues (or, Using Money to Make Money)
Once you start getting into a decent amount of cash, it's time to seriously invest in certain things. Basic arbitrage can be irritating, but it can make you a decent racket ... if you can maintain it.
What is arbitrage? To put it bluntly, it's buying low and selling high. More complicated: it's controlling a specific market. Find a niche that isn't controlled already (that can be hard, but not impossible).
A good example might be duty officers. If you've got 5-10million, you could conceivably control the price of, say, common Assault Squad officers, artificially maintaining a price of 100,000 EC each. Any one of these that appear on the exchange below that price, you purchase and re-list at 100,000.
Yes, you initially lose out on some cash, but since due to Starbase construction projects requiring boat-loads of these, your assault squad officers WILL eventually sell, and you'll get your money back plus interest.
The Keys to Wealth - Literally!
And now we get into the biggest of the big-leagues. The purchase of lock-box keys.
You're gonna need some serious cash for this. I do mean serious. Like 50 million, at least, but in a few weeks of doing the above you should be able to get there. Also, you need to be prepared, because this is a high risk gamble. But the rewards are equally high.
Now, the first thing you're gonna need to do is acquire as many lock-box keys as you can, but leave about 1-2 million EC left. At around 50million EC that's about 30 keys. Then, purchase that many Cardassian Lock Boxes.
Yes, Cardassian. Don't get the Ferengi, definately don't get Tholian, and temporal is pretty meh.
Why Cardassian? Because everything good from that box will sell. Let's see:
Galor - sells at around 80 - 85 million EC Attack Pattern Duty Officer - Sells at around 15 - 35 million EC (this one is highly volatile) Subnuke Duty Officer - Sells at around 10 million EC (at least until it's nerfed to high-heaven) Shield Packs - send these to your low-level character (if you don't have one, make one), have him open them and sell the proceeds for quite a profit Duty officer mini-packs - didn't we go over these already?
The Ferengi box's only claim to fame is the D'Kora, which sells on average 10 million less than the Galor. The Wells is hovering around 80 million, but not much else that's good comes out of that pack. The Tholian Orb Weaver is just sad, selling at only 30 million. Don't even bother; if you really want one, open Cardassian boxes, use the proceeds to buy an Orb and still have cash left over.
Now, at 30 boxes you might not get a Galor. That's OK, you'll probably still make back the 50 million you spent, if you sell off everything the boxes gave you. If you DO get a Galor, sell it immediately. Boom! Instant 80 million EC, which is more than the 50 million you spent.
I think you can guess what comes next. Yes, buy even MORE keys and repeat this process. Also, in the meantime, you're picking up Lobi Crystals. Once you hit 800 (which, if you keep repeating this process on the same character, will happen fairly soon), pick up a Temporal Destroyer. Sell it for 85 - 90 million EC on the exchange. Even more cash in your pocket!
The Art of the Deal (or, Know Your Market)
As the Ferengi would say, "Never pay more for an acquisition than you have to." It's good advice. When purchasing lock box keys, never pay more than 1.5 million. Even 1.4 million is a tad high; try to buy them at 1.3 if you can.
On the same token, don't buy mini-packs that are more than 300,000 EC in price. At that price point you're not making much profit at all. Don't be discouraged if they're at a high price; people are opening boxes all the time, and these mini-packs are some of the most common drops from them. The price rarely stays high for long as somebody is always trying to unload a pack of them.
So happy selling to you! Hopefully with this guide you'll be on your way to happiness and profits! Or at least profits.