Sunday, July 09, 2006

Canadian Trades Paperclip for House

I have in my possession a nice red paperclip, used of course. I will gladly trade it to anyone out there for a two-story farm house. Any takers?

I know; you think if I really believe I’ll get any offers for my paperclip that I must be a nut case. But a guy from Montreal did exactly that. Well, it took him a year and 14 trades, but he finally got his house.

How is this possible? A paperclip for a house?

Well, if it were not for the Internet, the guy would be trucked off to the nearest loony bin if he went around trying to trade a paperclip for a farm house. Instead, he not only got his house, he became somewhat famous as well, and increased his marketability.

It started about a year ago. The 26-year-old Canadian, Kyle MacDonald, started a blog called One Red Paperclip. Blog is shorthand for Web log, and it is simply a journal you maintain on the Web that contains whatever you want. Some would-be journalists use their blogs to report news events from a different perspective. Others use them just as a public diary. My blog contains all my newspaper columns plus other commentary that I wouldn’t dare submit to the newspaper.

MacDonald started his blog announcing he had a red paperclip he was using to keep his resume together. He posted that he would, within the span of a year, trade up to a house. “One paperclip, one house, one year,” he wrote in his blog.

People all across the U.S. and Canada were more than willing to help the guy obtain his goal. If he succeeded, they too would become part of Internet history.

He got the idea from a childhood game called bigger and better. He and his young friends played it as kids. The point, of course, is to trade something you own for something else of greater value. Then trade that for something of even greater value, and so on.

His first trade, brokered online, was his red paperclip for a fish-shaped pen. The first trade should have been the toughest if trading were based on item value. A paperclip is worth nothing and can be found any almost anyone’s desk drawer. A pen, especially a specialty pen, has at least some intrinsic value.

But the deal was made because, if MacDonald finally succeeded, the original paperclip would then be worth something as a collector’s item.

He traded the fish-shaped pen for a clay doorknob with a face on it. He traded that in for a camping stove, and the stove for a generator. He traded that for a party and the party for a snowmobile.

The snowmobile he traded for a vacation to British Columbia, which he then successfully traded for a van. He traded the van for a recording contract and he traded that in for one year’s free rent in an apartment in Phoenix.

It’s not quite a house, but it’s close. But a house is what MacDonald’s goal was and he wasn’t about the settle for less. He traded that for an afternoon in the company of rocker Alice Cooper.

Then it appeared he had lost it, trading the Alice Cooper afternoon for a snowglobe of the band Kiss. Seems like a trade down to me, way down.

But actor Corbin Bernsen, for some reason, wanted the snowglobe. So he traded a speaking role in an upcoming film, Donna on Demand, for the snowglobe.

A speaking role in a movie has some real value. It appeared MacDonald was in position to get what he wanted, just less than a year after he started. And finally, it happened. He traded his movie role to the City of Kipling, Saskatchewan for a two-story farm house.

The person with the red paperclip must be pretty happy.

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