In a beautiful change in momentum, it would seem that the herb market on my server is returning to normal. And not a moment too soon because I was dipping closer and closer to broke, relying only on daily quests and mining income. With my new focus on ensuring my equipment is nicely enchanted/gemmed/inscribed/glyphed/scoped/armor-packed, and a sweet influx of 6 new pieces of equipment this weekend, my expenses have been much higher than I am accustomed to.
Prices haven't returned quite to where I'd like them, but at least things are moving. Even better that now my Auctioneer recommended market value is good enough for sales. I hate when commodities like herbs need a "fixed price" specified, which means that I have to inspect the situation carefully for each auction posting. All the better when I can just blindly accept Auctioneer's market price, and just make sure I refresh the data before each posting. Sure, I'm not maximizing profit, but in terms of not wasting thought cycles on a game that's already occupied too much of my mental capacity, its a good thing.
It really makes me wonder what happened. Just a dramatic plunge in prices for about 3 weeks or so, hitting all high level herbs, with some truely hitting rock bottom, while others dropped but not as much.
There's still two possible conclusions that stay at the top of the list of reasons:
1) Holiday Schedule - on a low population server, if the few raiding guilds put a freeze or slow down on their activities, the demand for herbs for raid consumables will be much lower. On a larger population, there's probably enough diversity in the raiding community to help weather slowdowns, so the prices might drop a little, but not devastating like this.
2) Post-2.3 Impact - I am still unaware of any changes, real or perceived, that came with patch 2.3 that would alter the supply of or demand for herbs; however, it is a bit suspicious that the price drop began right around the date of the 2.3 patch. If there was a change, I'm assuming it was only perceived and not real, because prices are returning to normal.
It'll be interesting to take a look at the patterns on my server over time, and from year to year, to see if these things repeat, or if its just a one time blip.