The chinchilla is a cuddly little South American animal that multiplies rapidly (three to six offspring a year). The number of chinchilla raisers has multiplied almost as fast in the last few years. Former G.I.s, clerks and housewives bought the high-priced animals (up to $1,500 a pair) and raised chinchillas in the happy belief that the fur would take over part of the mink market and make them rich.

Last week the boom met its first real test at the first chinchilla auction. Farmers Chinchilla Cooperative of America, which had staged a pre-auction fashion show, put 10,600 pelts up for...

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