How to Turn a Paper Clip Into a House
July 14, 2006 -- -- What is one red paper clip worth?
For Kyle MacDonald, 26, the question is simple, but the answer is more complex and more inspiring than anyone could ever imagine.
Starting with one red paper clip, MacDonald wondered whether it was possible to make enough trades to eventually get a house.
His inspiration was a childhood barter game called Bigger and Better.
"It would be cool [if] instead of getting the job to buy the house, I just played Bigger and Better till I actually traded up to the house," MacDonald said. "That's when I looked down at my desk and saw one red paper clip and said, 'I'll start with that.'"
From there, MacDonald blazed a new trail in Internet trading from his computer in Montreal, making incremental trades until this week -- a year and a day since he began his adventure -- when he made his 14th trade for a house in Kipling, Saskatchewan.
It all started July 12, 2005, when MacDonald offered to trade the now infamous red paper clip in a posting on the Internet message board Craigslist.com.
Before long, two young women from Vancouver, Canada -- Rhawnie Vallins and Corinna Haight -- stumbled across his listing.
"I was like, 'Hey, Rhawnie, check this out. This guy wants to trade a paper clip.' What can we trade him? What do we have?" Haight said. "We got to do this now, you know?"
Two days later, MacDonald traveled to a convenience-store parking lot to meet Vallins and Haight and make what he says was the most important trade in his adventure: one red paper clip for one fish-shaped pen.
"As soon as I got the call, I'm like, 'Wow, this is going to be fun,'" he said. "People actually want to do this."