CS:GO Skins Economy Explained: Why Skin Prices Change?

This year has been full of fluctuations in the Counter Strike skin market. Some blame the news of the game’s transition to Source 2, others the turmoil in China’s gaming economy. However, novice players have difficulty understanding why prices fluctuate at all. What is the reason why the value of an item can rise so dramatically after its release? Today we are covering all these topics, so if you are struggling to understand the economy of Counter Strike, sit back and check out what we have prepared for you.

Brief Introduction to CS:GO Skins

Weapon Skins are a key part of CS:GO and a major driver of the Steam market. Their history began in 2013, a year after Valve released Counter Strike: Global Offensive. They are cosmetic items that players can apply to firearms, gloves and knives.

What Are Cosmetic Items?

If you don’t have much experience with online games, the term “cosmetic items” may not mean that much to you. Objects that fall into this category perform solely a visual (aka cosmetic) function. That is, they do not in any way affect the combat features of the item they are applied to. The only thing they change is its appearance. And that’s exactly the purpose of skins in Counter Strike.

How Do You Obtain Skins in Counter Strike?

Acquiring skins is extremely easy (unfortunately, not always equally cheap). The most organic way to do it is through random in-game drops. However, their frequency is quite low, and to increase it enough to get the item of your dreams, you would have to spend countless hours playing Counter Strike. That’s why players usually choose to buy skins on various websites. Valve’s official marketplace is the Steam Community Market. This is a reputable platform and you can be sure that you will not be scammed when making a purchase there. Unfortunately, the developer charges a rather high percentage commission on each transaction. Other than that, you can use trusted third-party sites such as SkinsMonkey. You can often find good bargains and valuable items there. And once you’ve built your inventory, you can start trading with other players, who often offer great deals on rare skins.

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What Factors Influence a Price of a Skin?

When you start buying CS skins, you will quickly realize that their prices on the market fluctuate a lot, and sometimes for completely unknown reasons.

It is important to understand that the price of a skin is affected by many factors. Some of them already determine its initial value, and others determine the subsequent fluctuation of its worth. First, let’s review all the key features that an item holds when it is launched on the market.

Collection

Each skin belongs to a specific collection.

A collection is a set of skins that usually have some common feature relating to a particular theme. This could be a reference to one of the Counter Strike maps, or to the latest operation that has launched. For example, in April of 2023 the Anubis collection was released, which is supposed to complement the location of the same name and therefore, is styled after ancient Egypt. Depending on which collection the skin belongs to, its price will be different. Some sets of items (usually ones related to CS operations) will be more expensive than others.

Rarity

One of the most important features of a skin is its Rarity, which determines the chance of acquiring it through random drops in the game.

All weapon skins in Counter Strike have a predetermined Rarity Grade, which is indicated by a specific color. These are:

  • Gray – Common (consumer/standard grade)
  • Blue – Uncommon (industrial grade)
  • Dark blue – Rare (Mil-spec)
  • Purple – Mythical (restricted)
  • Pink – Legendary (classified)
  • Red – Ancient (covert)
  • Yellow – Immortal (contraband items)

When buying a given skin, it is essential to pay attention to the color that determines its Rarity Grade.

Float Value

Well, this one is a bit tricky.

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Each skin in Counter Strike carries something called Float Value (aka Skin Wear). This is a number that determines the wear level of an item and strongly affects its market price. Here are all the possible Float Values and their names:

  • Factory New (0.00–0.07)
  • Minimal Wear (0.07–0.15)
  • Field-Tested (0.15–0.37)
  • Well-Worn (0.37–0.44)
  • Battle-Scarred (0.44–1.00)

Factory New is a skin that is almost untouched, while Battle Scarred may already qualify for trash. The concept is quite simple to understand, so you’re probably wondering where exactly the trick is. Well, unfortunately, the Float Value is not explicitly indicated and in most cases you can only guess it based on the weapon’s appearance. This makes it very difficult to estimate the value of a skin when, for example, you want to put it up for trade. While it is easy to recognize a brand new item, judging whether it is Well-Worn or Field-Tsted is no longer so simple.

Why do the Prices of Weapon Skins Fluctuate?

Now that you know the basic factors that determine the initial CSGO skins price, it’s time for you to familiarize yourself with what influences further changes in their market value. The matter is quite simple here (or at least in theory), since the economy of Counter Strike is governed by one key law: The law of supply and demand.

What does this mean?

In practice, it implies that the more players or the fewer a given skin on the market, the higher its price will be. On the other hand, if the number of players decreases or the market is “flooded” with a given item, its value will begin to fall.

Let’s translate this into practice

Counter Strike in China

A great example of this is 2017, when Valve formed a partnership with Perfect World and released Counter Strike: Global Offensive in China. When millions of people from that region joined the ranks of users, skin prices skyrocketed momentarily. This, of course, had to do with the increased demand. The number of items on the market remained the same, but the number of people who wanted to lay their hands on them increased significantly.

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The M4A4 Howl DMCA Takedown

The infamous M4A4 Howl skin was removed from the Steam marketplace in 2014 due to the controversy surrounding it. It turned out that its design had been stolen, and the original author filed a DMCA lawsuit against Valve. Since then, Howl’s price has skyrocketed, and today it is one of the most expensive items in gaming history. This was determined not only by the publicity surrounding the whole case, but above all by the fact that the number of copies currently available online is scarce, and adding this item to one’s inventory borders on the miraculous.

How to Get the Best Deals on Weapon Skins?

As you can see, the price of a particular skin is influenced by many factors and it is difficult to predict what its value will be two or three weeks after its release. In order to hunt down the best deals, the key is to keep track of what’s happening on the market and in the Counter Strike community in general. After all, it’s not just the features of an item that determine its popularity, and thus its value. Watch out for new drops, compare prices on different sites, as well as read online forums and discord groups. If you’re aware of everything that’s going on and make careful purchasing decisions, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to buy your dream items at the best time.

Conclusions

The economy of Counter Strike is far from simple and it takes a while to understand all the mechanisms that govern it. However, there is no better time to start learning than a few months before the release of the new version of the game. If you want to prepare your inventory for the move to Source 2, be sure to read this article and then look for the best deals. Remember that all skins will be imported to Counter Strike 2 for free, so it’s also better to stock up on them today rather than after the game’s release, as it will probably attract a slew of new players.

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