Why do CSGO skins cost so much money?

By William Davis


Jul 26, 2022

Reading time: 4 min

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is famous for its technical gameplay and competitive esports scene, but it’s highly expensive cosmetics also get a fair share of attention. Developer Valve offers players creative ways to spend money on various cosmetics from gun skins to gloves to stickers. Players acquire skins through paid loot boxes, but players can also purchase them directly from other CSGO fans though the Steam Market. Of course, Valve also gets a cut from those sales. With that kind of monetization, it makes sense that Valve wants expensive skins to be worth as much as possible.  The most valuable skins of all can sell for well over $100,000, and some have even been valued at over $1 million. Why are people willing to spend such exorbitant sums of money on these cosmetic in-game skins instead of tangible assets?

Many skins are just plain attractive to look at

While CSGO is full of boring and forgettable filler skins, extremely rare ones are often viewed as a great investment. Unsurprisingly, many of the most attractive skins are also the most expensive. In the early days of the game, complex and beautiful graffiti patterns were rare. The few exceptions from the early 2010s are now worth insane money, with AWP | Dragon Lores and M4A4 | Howls now selling for tens of thousands. 

The skins are usually purchased by invested or even professional players, meaning they often appear in esports tournaments. Showing up frequently on stream raises the price even further. The result is that even modern attractive skins like the M4A1-S | Printstream or AWP | The Prince fetch high prices, and the limited nature of the skins means that the cost of buying them will only rise in the near future.

Rarity drives the price of CSGO skins sky-high

Attractiveness makes a skin desirable from release, but rarity is what keeps them in demand. Many of the most expensive CSGO skins are in very short supply, with very few if any being added to the pool. For this reason, skins that are difficult to get are costlier than readily available ones. When supply is low, demand can increase, causing an increase in the price of certain skins. 

Rare skins are being added to CSGO faster than ever, with yearly events called operations introducing several new collections. These skins then become very difficult to acquire after the operation, pushing prices up. The AK-47 | Gold Arabesque and AWP | Desert Hydra are two of the newest examples from Operation Riptide. These skins are of the very highest rarity a gun skin can be, and they will remain very expensive for a very long time.

Some CSGO players treat expensive skins as an investment

CSGO is growing more and more popular by the day, and skins are a way to invest in the continued growth of the game. The aforementioned M4A4 | Howl used to sell for under $100 when it first released in 2014. After a massive copyright scandal and eight years, they now sell for more than 100 times as much. The same could be true for any skin in the game, and even in the short-term, rare skins gain value.

Many people buy CS:GO skins purely as an investment with no intention of using them for gaming. The buyers treat the skins like any other form of investment where they buy and hold assets to sell later when the value appreciates. Rare skins are often in demand, making them solid investments that are likely to rise in price.

CSGO skins are very easy to buy and sell

Certain expensive CSGO skins are always in demand, which makes them easy to sell. The easiest option is the Steam Marketplace, where players can list skins with just a few clicks. The downside is that the money the seller receives is locked to their Steam account. This is still a useful feature for smaller traders, but the high rollers use alternate systems to get the most value from their skins.

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There are several third-party skin markets where players can exchange money and skins personally. This removes the significant cut that Valve takes from marketplace trades, though services still usually charge a smaller fee. The community market also has a ahrd cap for how expensive a skin can get, but no such limit exists on other sites. This allows expensive CSGO skins to reach a five, six, or even seven-digit price.

CSGO skins were originally meant to provide some visual variety to the tactical shooter, but they’ve now become one of the most stable digital investments. In some ways, the CSGO skin craze is a natural predecessor to the current interest in cryptocurrency and NFTs. Just like those investments, there is serious money interested in collecting the most attractive and rare CSGO skins. The most expensive CSGO skins today will likely be worth even more tomorrow.