FURS: Chinchilla Comeback?

Said one rancher: "If the price is too low, we'll go out of business. If it's high, a lot of us will pay off our mortgages."

In this kill-or-cure atmosphere, some 250 fur ranchers and buyers gathered last week in downtown Manhattan for an event of prime potential importance to the $500,000,000-a-year U.S. fur industry.

It was: 1) the first auction in 23 years of the once fabulously expensive chinchilla; 2) the first formal sale of U.S.-raised chinchilla skins. Mindful of the $20,000 to $100,000 that chinchilla coats once brought, some furriers glibly forecast a fantastic $250 a pelt.

Of the 3,315 pelts...