How To Buy a House With Just One Red Paperclip

This story is 16 years old, but I just learned about it tonight while trying to think of something to write for my blog.

I was feeling good because I received an email that announced Dan Pink had released his newest Pinkcast this week. If it was anything like his previous videos, the odds were quite high that I would be able to use it as the basis for a blog post since I’ve been doing so for a few years.

But the current video was on a topic I had already written about several years ago:ย  the idea of a failure resume. Instead of creating the usual resume that focuses on one’s accomplishments, you should create a failure resume that, well, you get the idea. That was an easy post to put together, given my long list of failures.

I didn’t want to write a post about something I had already written about. Fortunately, while reading the background Dan provided in his email, he mentioned Stanford professor of practiceย Tina Seelig as the inspiration for his Pinkcast on a failure resume.

So I decided to check out Tina’s website, and while there, I discovered that she had written a book titled “What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20“. I was able to read the first chapter online at Amazon, and that chapter mentioned the story of Kyle MacDonald who started with one red paper clip and through a series of trades, owned a house in less than a year.

I couldn’t resist learning more about such a story. As it turns out, Kyle had created a website where he kept track of every single trade and added a story to each one. It’s a fun story to read, but Wikipedia offers the following shortened outline of his trades:

  1. On July 14, 2005, he went to Vancouver and traded the paperclip for a fish-shaped pen.
  2. He then traded the pen the same day for a hand-sculpted doorknob from Seattle, Washington.
  3. On July 25, 2005, he travelled to Amherst, Massachusetts, with a friend to trade the doorknob for a Coleman camp stove (with fuel).
  4. On September 24, 2005, he went to California, and traded the camp stove for a Honda generator.
  5. On November 16, 2005, he traveled to Maspeth, Queens and traded the generator for an “instant party”: an empty keg, an IOU for filling the keg with the beer of the bearer’s choice, and a neon Budweiser sign. This was his second attempt to make the trade; his first resulted in the generator being temporarily confiscated by the New York City Fire Department.
  6. On December 8, 2005, he traded the “instant party” to Quebec comedian and radio personality Michel Barrette for a Ski-Doo snowmobile.
  7. Within a week of that, he traded the snowmobile for a two-person trip to Yahk, British Columbia, scheduled for February 2006.
  8. On or about January 7, 2006, he traded the second spot on the Yahk trip for a box truck.
  9. On or about February 22, 2006, he traded the box truck for a recording contract with Metalworks in Mississauga, Ontario.
  10. On or about April 11, 2006, he traded the contract to Jody Gnant for a year’s rent in Phoenix, Arizona.
  11. On or about April 26, 2006, he traded the year’s rent in Phoenix for one afternoon with Alice Cooper.
  12. On or about May 26, 2006, he traded the afternoon with Cooper for a KISS motorized snow globe.
  13. On or about June 2, 2006, he traded the snow globe to Corbin Bernsen for a role in the film Donna on Demand.[3]
  14. On or about July 5, 2006, he traded the movie role for a two-story farmhouse in Kipling, Saskatchewan.

So there you go, from a red paper clip to a house in less than one year, no cash exchanged.

Now there were obviously some travel costs and other incidentals involved here, but that doesn’t take away from such an amazing story.

So my first thought was how could I do something similar.

I’ve been spending the past few minutes looking around my house to see what I could use as a starting point so that within a year I’d own a penthouse overlooking Central Park.

I thought I could start with the pencil I’ve been using to solve crossword puzzles, but then I realized I could probably skip a few steps if I started with something of a bit more value.

I wonder what a student would be willing to trade me for in exchange for the answer key to this semester’s final exam.

I know there are serious ethical issues involved, but come on, we’re talking a penthouse overlooking Central Park… ๐Ÿ™‚

*image from One Red Paper Clip

104 thoughts on “How To Buy a House With Just One Red Paperclip

    1. well maybe the farmhouse you owned was about to be condemned, and the paperclip you now own is actually made out of solid gold…

      and I had not thought of the tax implications, that would be an interesting twist on the story. Maybe that’s why he wrote a book about – use the proceeds to cover his tax bill…

      Liked by 1 person

  1. “I wonder what a student would be willing to trade me for in exchange for the answer key to this semesterโ€™s final exam.”

    No ethical dilemma. “A student” doesn’t imply one in any of your classes. And trading for a paper clip for semester’s final answers does not guarantee said student that the answers will be on any of THEIR finals…

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Oh that’s easy. You simply deduct small fractions of amounts – if you’re in an actual till then a few cents here and there, if you’re in the books, a half dollar here and there. If you’re on tech, simply coding it to transfer is all it takes. Smaller businesses, you have 50 cents of every transaction transferred to an account for yourself. Larger businesses, you can literally make it so small no one would even notice…a thousandth of a penny. But over the course of all of the transactions, you’ve now transferred millions to yourself.

        However, on the flip side, if you’re smart enough to come up with that, there’s always someone out there that knows how smart you are (especially if they have a similar skill set). They need only code something to take a thousandth of a penny from your account every time you receive an illegal transfer by the same method. You won’t know how much is going in because it’s different every day, and you won’t notice a few hundred dollars being rerouted without ever touching your account. So the getter got got.

        Like I said, I would make a horrible cheater – I outclass myself every time and by the time I’m done I’m terrified to even try LOL

        Liked by 1 person

      2. In theory. But when youโ€™re talking about thousandths lid a cent missing, it wouldnโ€™t be highly likely. And if youโ€™re smart, you would have an offshore account so they canโ€™t trace the wires that way either so you just collect the money. Of the audit the business, there will be more glaring issues, probably the owner him/her self skimming a bit here and there. If they audit you, your bank accounts would show that your income is all you have because they canโ€™t audit off shore accounts because they canโ€™t even acknowledged you are a customer.

        Liked by 1 person

      1. Our dates are the best, every day on the calendar.

        And our tapwater comes from deep wells, drilled down a thousand feet. Way down there, little water fairies piss in it, giving it a sweet taste. It’s delicious!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I clearly don’t travel in the same circles. I don’t know anyone who would trade me anything for a paperclip, red or otherwise. (I know a lot of people who would just take that paperclip and never think twice about it.) And I certainly don’t know anyone with the money or connections to trade for the big-ticket items. I’d have to find a different group of friends before I could make such a thing work. (And we all know it wouldn’t work, anyway.)

    I don’t know if this guy is super lucky or the best salesman on the planet. Either way, I wish he’d handle my marketing.

    Liked by 1 person

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