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Raymond the cat sits in a cat bed in Animal Crossing while reading a book. Image: Nintendo EPD/Nintendo via Polygon

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Raymond is blowing up the Animal Crossing villager black market

Millions of bells, hundreds of Nook Miles Tickets, or an array of villagers — all for a single cat

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When Tom found a buyer for Raymond the cat, he had to take some precautions. Priced at 500 Nook Miles Tickets, worth at least a few million bells in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, this was not a small transaction. The buyer had to take two trips to his island to drop all the vouchers off. Raymond, meanwhile, packed his office into boxes — the snobby feline completely oblivious to the hubbub going on outside.

“I dug a row of holes in front of Raymond’s house,” Tom told Polygon over email. The idea was to make it impossible for the buyer to reach the cat before making good on the deal. After all, when a villager decides to move out, all a visitor has to do to convince them to move to their island is strike up a conversation. Without setting up a barrier, it would be easy to steal Raymond.

But Tom didn’t want to take any chances. He was here because his girlfriend had a list of “dreamies,” inhabitants that she was eyeing to populate her own island. The entire internet may be losing it over Raymond and his heterochromia, but Tom’s girlfriend had her eyes set on other chubbier, cute villagers. Once Raymond was handed over, it didn’t take long for Tom to flip his earnings to buy Judy, the pastel Animal Crossing cub with stars in her eyes. He still has 200 Nook Miles Tickets left over, which is enough for a few more villager purchases depending on the community. There are still more dreamies to hunt, he told Polygon.

Since the game’s release on Nintendo Switch in March, an entire economy has sprung around Animal Crossing: New Horizons. On the lower end, folks trade or purchase specific furniture sets for thousands of bells. But fans have also created an industry for specific villagers, especially as folks aspire to build perfect islands. This desire goes beyond terraforming or decorations. Folks want to have the right population to accompany their islands, too.

The usual suspects can be found across most “dreamies” lists — Marshal, Whitney, or any of the octopi are often top picks. These can run dozens of Nook Miles Tickets, but they are also easier to come by.

You can, for instance, simply import these old-school villagers into your game via amiibo cards. While amiibo are selling for a premium right now, with individual cards are going for $100 or more, there’s also a burgeoning bootleg scene.

With an Android phone and some know-how, players can download any of Animal Crossing’s hundreds of villagers into their game. But there’s a huge exception: There are no amiibo for any of the new villagers. The only way to get them is to find them naturally, through sheer chance, whether that’s through Mystery Island Tours, the campgrounds, or if the game decides to have them take up an open plot.

Raymond, one of Animal Crossing: New Horizon’s new characters. Image: Nintendo EPD/Nintendo via Crossing Channel/Twitter

All of the new villagers are in high demand thanks to this asterisk, but Raymond’s fandom in particular has exploded over the last month. Beyond his striking design, many have been charmed by his willingness to wear a maid outfit.

The result is that folks will now do whatever it takes to get Raymond. For some, that might mean spending actual money on eBay, where millions of bells can go for a few dollars. For others, like New Horizons fan Alex, it might mean spending 65 hours grinding hundreds of Nook Miles Tickets through in-game challenges — nevermind the 15-plus hours she estimates it took to visit Mystery Islands over and over again, all in the name of finding Raymond. Stories like these are common.

To help facilitate all of this, entire marketplaces have sprouted over the last few weeks. Nook.market — a site where fans can peruse a store full of hundreds of items and villagers for sale — has proprietors who claim that around half of all queries going through the marketplace are for Raymond specifically.

Raymond also has the distinction of being the most wishlisted villager on nook.market, Jacob and Rory, the two minds behind the trading tool, told Polygon. Nookazon, perhaps the most-used website for trading at the moment, tells Polygon that based on listing count alone, Raymond is the top most-wanted villager in the entire site. As of this writing, Raymond can go from anywhere from anywhere from millions of bells, to multiple in-demand villagers.

Listings for Raymond on Nookazon.
What some players are willing to offer to purchase Raymond the cat.
Screenshot: Nookazon via Polygon

Discord has also become a popular place to hawk villagers. TagBackTV, a YouTube channel known for showcasing tours of five-star Animal Crossing islands, has a bustling chat room where there are two dedicated rooms just for trading.

It’s hard to keep up with conversation here — things move fast, with thousands players looking to buy or offload anything and everything. It’s bizarre to watch the buying and selling phenomenon unfold in such stark terms, with characters reduced to numbers and items, given the cutesy nature of the game.

“Villager trading has actually gotten a bit out of control the past week,” TagBackTV told Polygon over email. The admin staff at the TagBackTV Discord are looking for ways to help wrangle villager trades, which according to TagBackTV are “slowly taking over all of the trading channels.” He noted that Raymond is definitely one of the most in-demand residents, but nearly all villager trades can go for eye-popping numbers.

“Some of the asks in the trading community in general are absolutely insane, especially with villagers,” TagBackTV said. While he and his moderators encourage folks to keep things reasonable, it hasn’t helped much. He knows of a recent exchange where someone bought a few robot villagers for 300 million bells.

Perhaps this type of inflation was impossible to avoid. It’s easy to game Animal Crossing into giving you millions of bells if you play the Stalk Market, especially with sites like turnip.exchange, where players advertise islands buying veggies for a premium. (Personally, I’ve never sold my turnips for less than 500 bells a pop, and that’s just relying on my friends.)

The franchise has also entered the mainstream, which means that once small-knit communities devoted to once-niche gaming habits are exploding in size right now — and that means there’s a huge network available to game the economy.

Marshall the squirrel in Animal Crossing, eating a sandwich. Image: Nintendo EPD/Nintendo via Polygon

Players can also hunt for tarantulas, which sell for a good chunk of change — and even more if you throw them at Flick, the bug collector. Finding Flick is also just a matter of perusing marketplaces, where players advertise any characters who are visiting their island in exchange for tips, furniture, NMT, or bells. And then of course we’ve got amiibo cards, which plenty of players already have lying around, waiting to be turned into profits.

Early on, players also found a duplication glitch that allowed folks to sell high-priced items to their heart’s content. The exploit was patched out, but not before many players became bellionaires. Finally, players with modded Switches can also simply produce save files with millions of bells or dreamies. With so much capital floating around, of course players feel comfortable asking for outrageous prices.

“Some of the other crazy ones ask for 100+ Nook miles tickets and your first born child for a single villager,” TagBackTV said.

It’s a lucrative enough market that waves of scammers have dug in, hoping to make it rich by promising impossible trades. To help combat this, sites like Nookazon allow players to report others, who will then be labeled as scammers on the site.

On TagBackTV’s Discord, fans are encouraged to become a trusted trader, which is only possible after being a part of the community for a set amount of time, without any incident. Trusted traders can then choose to only deal with one another, eliminating the risk of exchanges with unknown entities. And if any player is reported for poor conduct, there’s a zero-tolerance policy. These rules have helped, TagBackTV says, but scams can still happen.

Scams are everywhere, really. On social media, it’s common to see “giveaways” where accounts promise dreamies like Raymond, popular furniture sets, and millions of bells — all for a simple follow.

For those unwilling to take a chance with strangers, or become a cutthroat capitalist, however, the market for Raymond may prove impossible. One Raymond hopeful speaking to Polygon over Discord started the day looking for the smug cat, only to give up the search hours later, once it became clear they couldn’t afford him.

“I stopped looking for Raymond because the price was very high,” Animal Crossing player Dragonoeede told Polygon. “I don’t know why people over-prize him that much. He doesn’t have anything more special than the other villagers.”

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