Secrets of the Pound Chat
I know you've seen it happen. Most often, someone snagged a pet from the pound, and are wondering if they're worth trying to trade. They'll saunter into the Help Chat, pulling a still-hungry pet by the ear, and sit down for attention and assistance. “How much is this pet worth?!?!,” they'll shout.
Generally speaking, the HC (that is, Help Chat) is at a bit of a loss when asked this question. At best, the new pet owner will receive one of two answers, neither of which are strictly accurate. The first is, “The price of a [pet's colour] paint brush.” The second is, “Go to the Pound Chat, they'll put a price on it.”
One fine day, after seeing this display, I wondered how the Pound Chat really did respond to such questions. After initial surprise at what I saw in the PC, and fairly extensive research following that initial shock, I have collected a great deal of notions that all seem to factor into the supposed “value” of a pet.
But the very first thing I learned in my lurking of the PC was a very simple principle, widely-held among pet traders: If you don't intend on trading a pet, if it's a “permie,” its value really doesn't matter at all.
That said, if you're really curious about “what you could get” for one of your pets, I've collected a number of factors that can be evaluated to discern your pet's trade value. I know you're curious – you wouldn't ask about it otherwise.
There are five main factors that come into play when evaluating the trade value of a pet: Species, colour, name, how creatable the pet happens to be, and Battledome stats. I'll be talking about those subjects in order.
First of all, the species of a pet up for trade is much more important than you'd think. In some respects, this is obvious. After all, no one's going to sneeze at a Draik or Krawk, even if they're basic-coloured.
Conversely, certain species are rarely desired, and hard to trade. Rukis, Moehogs, Skeiths, and Buzzes – to list just a few undesirable species (don't look at me, I love Rukis and Moehogs!) – are almost worthless on the trading market, regardless of paint, because they are so rarely desired as species.
Even “Limited Edition” pets aren't necessarily valuable on the trading market. Hissis, Poogles, and Cybunnies may be adored, but Kikos, Jetsams, and Tonus will take a lot of work to trade without spending millions on paint (or getting very, very lucky with the lab).
Meanwhile, certain creatable species are highly coveted, particularly with nice coats of paint. Kacheeks, Kougras, Aishas, and Lupes are a few commonly coveted species. Particular species of ultimate desirability tend to vary by paint colour. In the end, this comes down to comparative popularities of species/colour combinations in pets, and will vary from year to year and month to month.
We've already dipped into talking about that second factor, colour, haven't we? Well, we may as well carry on along those lines!
Colour, as you might imagine, is often one of the most important factors in determining the trade value of a pet. However, the trade value of a colour is in not equivalent to its paint brush price. There are a few reasons for this, one of which is the species of the pet in question (as discussed above).
The second reason is that pre-made pets will almost never be worth as much as the price it costs to paint them – with brushes (or with pets painted custom for you), you are paying a premium for the chance to have exactly what you want – name, colour, and species all at once. A pre-made pet is likely to be lacking in at least one of these areas.
The last variable is a fairly direct result of how pets most often come up for trade. Most Neopians are looking to trade pets that they've zapped into a relatively expensive colour with the lab ray, for another pet of comparable trade value that they either like better, or feel they can “trade up” more easily than their own pet. This means that the Pound Chat is, in large part, a giant, communal lab ray. It also means that zappable colours are, in general, presumed to actually be zapped, and worth about as much as the lab ray itself (or less).
There are still tiers of zapped pets, based roughly upon paint brush cost. Everything from Faeries to Maraquans tends to be within the top tier of zapped pets – a tier that equates to, at best, a Royal pet in terms of custom neopets. Second tier is around Halloween to Desert, and can roughly expect a Baby neopet for a custom. Anything that costs less to paint... Well, you get the idea.
The price of the paint brush on a colour matters, but in most cases it's worth much less than you'd think. There are exceptions. Babies, Usukis, Royals, Plushies, and Pirates tend to retain a “trade value” that's closer to their morph/paint price – that's because these colours cannot be zapped. That said, if you intend on trading a pet sporting one of these colours, you're better off offering a custom than a pre-made pet. (I've seen Pre-made Pirates go for Royal Customs.)
Of course, when I speak of these tiers, I am presuming all pets involved are well-named. If they aren't, you're going to have significant amounts of trouble getting anyone to trade anything for them. But why don't I just go into the name segment now, and answer all questions at once?
A lot has been made of the apparently new-found habit of name-snobbishness on Neopets. The new age of name snobs prefer short names, with capitalized first letters, that are easily pronounceable, and sound either “pretty” or “epic,” depending upon one's gender preferences in pets. These are the names that are most common, and easiest to trade on the Pound Chat. Any other format generally requires finding someone who announces that they don't care about names to trade.
“Real word” or “real name” pets are the epitome of this tendency towards name-snobbery, and are the names that really make people who care about names drool. “Real names” on the Pound Chat are names that are spelled the same way that people you've met in person spell them, and are commonly used (no, not that random name that happened to be in the phone book, much to your surprise).
“Real words” on the Pound Chat are commonly-used, intrinsically known words without prefixes or suffixes – preferably, these words should be words that one might at least passingly think of naming a pet in real life.
While these are, for some reason, very sought-after, it's notable that if you have to clarify that a word or name is real, then it probably isn't by Pound Chat standards. You're better off marketing that pet as simply having a pretty name that flows well.
Names are largely important to traders because they're difficult to create. Neopets is a ten-year-old web site, and several of the most coveted names are sitting on inactive or frozen accounts, incapable of being had by anyone any longer. Many Neopians trade to avoid the stress of finding an untaken name that they really like, or in an attempt to find one of the truly exceptional names listed above. There are even names in formats that can no longer be created at all, like one-or-two letter named pets, or names that include spaces (not underscores, spaces).
In the Pound Chat, anything that is difficult or impossible to create is coveted, and a popular motivation to trade pets at all. A lot of traders are only interested in acquiring pets that they can't create themselves, be it due to the simple fact of their neopoint-balance, or outright impossibility at the current time. These are the highest-end pets traded on the Pound Chat, and can generally only be acquired by Neopians with fantastic pets up for trade.
Outside of pets with the names listed above, there are unconverted pets (that is, pets that retain the old, largely-uncustomizable art style), which are most often traded for other unconverteds, Draiks, or Krawks.
There are a few other types of pets that can no longer be created, such as pets with almost-extinct petpets attached (those are petpets that will turn into another, newer petpet if detached from the pet in question), or pets with negative stats. Even pets that are simply old have their own, small fan club. Any of these last three types of pets go for unpredictable things. The supply of such pets is small, and the number of fans of each type is even smaller.
There is one last type of pet that is often traded on the Pound Chat, and that's Battledome pets. These are some of the least-understood, rarest, and hardest to trade pets on the PC – but they get some great offers when their stats are high enough. Battle pets are unique in pet trading, because they provide a rare instance in which the colour and species of the pet in question doesn't really add or detract from the trade value. Even the name of the pet can be overlooked for truly fantastic stats, though a well-named battle pet will trade faster than its poorly-named counterpart.
Battledome pets come in two flavours: Lab statted, and hand-trained. In either case, the pet tends to be advertised in terms of its “HSD,” that is, its Hit Points + Strength + Defense.
Lab statted pets are fairly common on the Pound Chat, and don't garner much of a premium unless their HSD is 400+. That equates to more than half a year of concerted zapping of a single pet. Most pets advertised as “BD” in the Pound Chat are, in reality, overgrown lab rats of HSD 200 or less. Your average Battledomer won't be impressed, and as they're the only ones who care about stats, you may want to keep zapping for a while.
Lab rats with HSD of 700+ can and do get offers of Draiks, provided their owner has enough persistence. Don't think that lab stats are useless – several people only care about hit points and strength, which lab pets sport in spades. (After all, defense is only useful if you're using an item that defends, and movement does nothing the vast majority of the time.)
The disadvantage of lab rats is that they're “untrainable.” That is to say, their level needs to be raised to ridiculous levels to make training them in anything else possible, and doing so will make training any stats that aren't to the owner's taste prohibitively expensive.
On a similar note, if you're thinking of “evening out” the stats on your lab rat, you may want to reconsider. Do the math first. Most often, if the stats are high enough for that proposition to seem tempting, it's cheaper to train up the stats from scratch. Just keep zapping if you want its stats higher, and never mind any pretty colours it might pick up along the way. Battledomers are just as happy trading for a Green Uni as they are trading for a Maraquan Eyrie, provided the stats are great.
The other brand of Battledome pets are the hand-trained variety. Most often, this means that the pet has “even stats,” though the pet can also assume a number of specific builds (such as high defense, high hit points, and comparatively low strength) that Battledomers would know more about than I.
An even statted pet would have his hit points, strength, and defense at the same number, and his level at half of that number. Movement is generally left untrained on “even-statted” pets, because the small handful of items that utilize that stat are rare, comparatively ineffective, and ludicrously expensive. Almost no serious Battledomer would pay to raise the Movement stat.
For hand-trained pets, an HSD of 450 or so is generally enough to trade for high-end pets like Draiks. By contrast, a hand-trained pet with an HSD of 100 is more likely to be picked up by people hoping to trade the pet than battle with it.
When trading to Battledomers, you are saving them the substantial amounts of time, neopoints, and time it would take them to train the pet from scratch. It'll take about half a year to train a pet worth trading, as well as several millions of neopoints. Be warned.
Okay! You've now read about almost everything Pound Chatters and pet traders look for when exchanging Neopets. You know everything that can increase or decrease the value of a pet, and you've read the best guide possible to your question of, “How much is this pet worth?” Odds are, you're now completely, utterly confused about the value of your own pets. And you should be.
The truth is, there are a lot of different people on the PC, and they all value different things. Usually, what they value is somewhere in this article, but the person who values everything here is probably nonexistent. The points outlined above merely demonstrate what traits in a pet are most desired by the largest number of people.
The trouble is that when you trade pets, you're only trading with one person.
If you wanted to trade with me, for instance, you'd need a pet whose name was a little on the long side, most likely with a certain harsh quality of sound that appeals to my ears. He would need to be relatively inexpensively painted, because I don't want to re-paint a Boochied Pirate or Maraquan, and I would if that was why I liked the pet. I also wouldn't take an unconverted pet if you were giving it to me for free. I just don't like 'em.
And such quirks, I dare say, are not unusual. You probably have a fair number of quirks yourself, and odds are they make you love your own pets quite a lot.
After all, we love our pets for the way in which they appeal to us. Their oddnesses, their “flaws,” the things that “devalue” them in the eyes of others... what are those to us, but their virtues?
Our pets are priceless. They're priceless not only because they're ours, but because they're exactly what we want, not what the world in general might want.
Ask a trader what their “permies” are one day. You might be surprised by how “worthless” the pets they've chosen to keep happen to be. You might also be surprised by just how little they care.
Keep enjoying Neopets, dear reader – particularly your own.