Hmm well, I started playing a few months before BC and I think my druid was 53 when BC hit. I remember a little later in BC I leveled a priest as well and raided Karazhan and ZA with both characters every week.
I can't remember when I leveled my two shamans, but I'm pretty sure my paladin came in WotlK, my hunter and mage in Cataclysm and my monk in MoP.
It was definitely more difficult to level an alt back when, without heirloom gear and dungeon finders. Still doable, just not as many alts as people have today.
During the middle of vanilla, the record for fastest 0-60 on a brand new server was around 7 days /played. So almost 170 hours.
Now most people were leveling alts with a few pieces of twink gear and gold and not from scratch, but then they probably weren't as efficient as the level racers on the new servers. So let's just say 170 hours on average.
If you played your alt 40 hours a week like a full time job, it would take you over a month to reach cap. If you played 20 hours a week just on your alt, it would take you 2 months. Not as long as some other MMOs, but much much longer than leveling today.
I'd reckon those that had more than 2 level 60's in vanilla were putting in some crazy hours in the game. I personally only ever had 1 max level in vanilla.
I had a 60 paladin and a 40-something rogue.
Jame wrote leveling guides for both Alliance and Horde. They were amazing; effiecent, fast, fun, and most importantly, free. They were hosted over at the wow fansite he created, www.wow-pro.com. I still use his guides for 60 to 80, they make the leveling much faster. I first found Jame's guide at around level 27, back when the Alliance one started at 30. I then beat all my friends to 60, who were already ~50.
Actually if you didn't want to spend hours sitting in Ironforge looking for groups to do stuff, or do ridiculous amounts of tedious farming to support your raid group, alts were about all you had.
Yes leveling was terribly slow, but hard? No. The hardest part of the game in vanilla was getting groups together, even if your guild raided chances are you were always trying to pick up people to make up for the no shows. I spent many a day were my play time started and ended just sitting in Ironforge waiting to fill up the raid.
When I was leveling I couldn't bare to level without rest xp, so I leveled 4 chars in a rotation(hunter, warlock, druid and warrior). I would do 2 levels on one and then move to the next, by the time I got back to the first char I had full rest xp again. I think I ended up with 8 chars at the end of vanilla.
I remember 2 guilds having BWL on farm on their alts, although the two guilds that managed this were both the only guilds on the server to kill c'thun and clear Naxx, well one of them cleared Naxx the other got to 4HM.
To be fair, levelling wasn't that bad it just wasnt as easy as it was in Cataclysm, alot of the quests were memorable so most of the time you knew where you were supposed to be heading (which saved you alot of time) and with by making gold at max level you could buy gear from the AH or get boosts for gear to speed up killing.
My raiding guild used to do 20 man in Vanilla with a mix of alts and undergeared mains. Myself, in Vanilla I levelled a Hunter to 47 ish - a Rogue to 60 - a Warrior to 51 - a lock to 20 - and various other low level characters that probably got deleted... I was never an alt person back then though, I enjoyed my main (Rogue) too much.
I had one level 60 for most of classic. I had a second one hit 60 immediately before or after BC launched (I don't recall exactly).
My next highest was a level 39 parked in that PvP bracket.
After that I had a handful of level 20-30s, which still was a decent time sink back then.
I only got 2 chars to lvl 60 in classic, required to much time for me to bother with more. Didn't lvl any new chars to max lvl until the middle of BC after that (a paladin since horde just got those).
WotLK was when I first started to lvl more alts, and become an altoholic. Continued somewhat in cataclysm, but now I am back to playing few chars again.
God WoWpro... I remember that! Absolutely brilliant guide
These people saying it was harsh and time consuming to level obviously didn't play back then. Most people had at least 2 or 30 lvl 60 chars!
i started wow the feb, after it came out. my rlf had been playing since launch-ish. second day on they ran me thru rfc. they were around 35-ish. ended up becoming addicted to the game and beat all 4 of them to 60. Deadhand-warsong my warrrior was my first 60 got a thunderfury on him with a raid group called pugraid and second 60 was a priest named flashheal also on warsong. Man i wish i still had that account.
My first 60 was a hunter, then a mage and then I had a druid on 58 before tbc hit. The mage was my main from middle vanilla through maybe half of tbc, since then my main have been a rogue.
I have had lots of alts since then but I have never had a warrior, dk or monk on max lvl. Monk is prbly just because I don't want to bother with alts now in mop.
I had 3 toons in vanilla. One was in AQ40 gear, another in MC gear and the third had half MC gear/pvp rank gear.
My first alt I leveled very slowly throughout the first year or so, playing it casually when I had nothing to do on my main. I made my second alt 4 months before tbc to level with a friend when I wasn't raiding.
I only had a few back then. When BC came I went all-in on level-spree.
..:: Lvl 90's: 56 ::..
I had my 60 rogue and a ~40 druid which I deleted at some point and started it again on another server (playing together with rl friends), maxed him, made him my new mian char and started raiding MC when I was doing aq + nax with my rogue. I still got to BWL when BC hit. During BC I already had 5 chars at maxlvl (Druid, Rogue, Mage, Warri, Shaman; last one got my new mainchar in the end of BC and is it by now) increasing that number to 10 troughout the different expansions.