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Xanathar's Guide to Everything describes the gold obtained from selling a magic item.

Rarity Base price*
Common 100gp
Unommon 400gp
Rare 4,000gp
Very rare 40,000gp
Legendary 200,000gp
* Halved for a consumable item like a potion or scroll

It also describes the cost of making a spell scroll.

Spell Level Time Cost
Cantrip 1 day 15gp
1st 1 day 25gp
2nd 3 days 250gp
3rd 1 workweek 500gp
4th 2 workweeks 2,500gp
5th 4 workweeks 5,000gp

It describes the cost of buying magical items.

Rarity Asking price*
Common (1d6 + 1) × 10gp
Unommon 1d6 × 100gp
Rare 2d10 × 1,000gp
Very rare (1d4 + 1) × 10,000gp
Legendary 2d6 × 25,000gp
* Halved for a consumable item like a potion or scroll

And specifically addresses buying spellscrolls in shared campaigns.

Spell Level Cost
Cantrip 25gp
1st 75gp
2nd 150gp
3rd 300gp
4th 500gp
5th 1,000gp

The Dungeon Master's Guide describes how rare are scrolls for given levels.

Spell Level Rarity Save DC Attack Bonus
Cantrip Common 13 +5
1st Common 13 +5
2nd Uncommon 13 +5
3rd Uncommon 15 +7
4th Rare 15 +7
5th Rare 17 +9

So, with that, we can build the following price for a 4th level Spellscroll (this is an example):

  • Sell Price: 2000gp
  • Crafting Price: 2500gp + reagents cost + 2 workweeks
  • Buy Price: 5500gp (half of the average 11k gp cost of buying a magical item) or 500gp (if using the shared campaign variant)

Now, the buying price being higher than the selling price is fine for me, that's standard and simple economics within many game systems.

But the crafting price is higher than the selling price. It doesn't make sense. Unless no one in the market wanted to ever buy a spell scroll (but I'm sure many wizards do), the prices would follow the logic: crafting < selling < buying. So a scroll scribe makes a profit by selling; a distributor makes a profit by buying low and selling high; and the poor adventurer spends half his precious loot on them.

Do the prices just not make sense? Or is it reasonable to expect the crafting costs to be higher than the selling costs?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Is this question based on the premise that some other kind of values in 5e make any sense? Because they don't. \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Nov 20 at 21:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ I voted to close this question as opinion-based. But off-topic as asking for designer reasons would also be a good close reason. I think there is a question that we can answer- and that is how to reconcile this at the table, but as that doesn't seem the point of contention, I don't see a quick way of bringing this on-topic. \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Nov 20 at 21:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ If you had a question about preparing an economy for a campaign, perhaps that could be a venue, but this question also doesn't focus on that. \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Nov 20 at 21:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ Here is a similar question asking about whether the rules contradict themselves - something like it would also be on-topic rpg.stackexchange.com/q/191672/44723 , but that also doesn't seem to be the scope of your question. \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Nov 20 at 21:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ Related, possibly dupe: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/60478/… \$\endgroup\$
    – Erik
    Nov 20 at 22:03
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How to make sense of the cost/value of a spellscroll?

D&D is not an economics simulator.

If the PCs could craft items and sell them at a profit, then they would have a safer and more reliable way of making money than doing dangerous things like what the game is actually about: adventuring. The prices are set so this can’t happen, even if it doesn’t make sense. The business rules in the DMG make it largely unprofitable to operate a business for the same reason: D&D is a game of heroic adventure, not small-business entrepreneurship. Of course, there are games (board and computer) that do these things if that’s the experience you want.

That said, if you assume that the sell price represents the market for second-hand goods, then these often sell for considerably less than the initial cost of production and the price of new goods. Or you could assume that the market for selling and/or making magic items is a closed-shop, restricted by law or practice to a certain clan/class/race etc. and the pricing is a result of market-distorting rent-seeking.

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The player-facing rules for selling a magic item aren't the rules for a hedge-wizard making a living selling scrolls and potions. They're the rules for adventurers getting rid of odd bits of gear that they don't want to lug around with them. So the question is already operating from a false premise.

But that said, there really is no economy for selling powerful magic items that cost a literal fortune each. Who is the target demographic for that business? Kings? Adventurers? Do you imagine a world so full of so many incredibly wealthy high-level adventurers that you could reliably move a many-thousand-gold item every month? And spell scrolls are even worse, since they're limited by class; any noble or adventurer could potentially use a potion or sword, but powerful scrolls are generally usable only by equally powerful casters.

It may make sense in many settings for a caster to craft and sell weak magic items -- while even simple potions of healing are probably outside the reach of most commoners, it's certainly something you might see available for sale to wealthier families and those crazy people who fight dragons on the regular; and the rules do support making low level items for a profit. But powerful items just don't have a market, and the item-creation and -sale rules reflect that in the diminishing returns on powerful items.

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