WHEN Kyle MacDonald cut the red ribbon to his new house in Kipling, Canada, in July 2006, it brought back memories of the simple piece of stationary that made it all possible. One year and 14 trades earlier, Kyle was just a young man with a dream – and a single red paperclip.
00. One Red Paperclip.
It all started with that simple red paperclip. Unassuming and trivial, it was holding together the loose, discarded papers of Kyle MacDonald’s CV. He was at a crossroads. He had graduated from the University of British Columbia and travelled the world, but was now back in Montreal living with his girlfriend and between jobs. On a trip to his parent’s house in Vancouver he remembered the trading game ‘Bigger and Better’ he had played as a child and the legend that some ambitious barterers had started with a toothpick and acquired a car. Inspired by the idea he posted an advertisement on the worldwide classified server, Craigslist. Kyle asked for a trade for his red paperclip with the aim of trading up to a house. Within minutes he had several replies.
01. One fish pen.
One reply stood out from the rest. It was a fish shaped, multicoloured pen that moves like a fish. Kyle made the trade – it was definitely bigger and better than the paperclip. Pen owners Rhawnie and Corinne, who had contacted Kyle by email and phone, handed over the fish pen and Kyle eagerly gave them the paperclip. “What are you going to do with the fish pen?” they asked Kyle. He paused and turned the pen around in his hands. “I’m gonna trade it.”
02. One doorknob.
Annie from Seattle said she had a house full of items to trade for a paperclip – or now a fish pen. Kyle, who was on his way to Seattle, seized the opportunity to upgrade and arrived at Annie’s with his parents, brother, brother’s girlfriend and grandpa in tow. Kyle chose his investment wisely from an assortment of options: a vase, a doorknob, a spoon and a banana. He took the smiley face doorknob decisively from its place among the other items.
03. One Coleman stove.
Back in Montreal Kyle received over 100 emails about the red paperclip. But by now he was already on to bigger and better things, namely a very unique doorknob. Shawn from Massachusetts, who lives his life on the barter system, offered a two burner Coleman camping stove and a cold beer for the doorknob. Kyle quickly accepted and travelled to Amherst the next week. Pictures of the trade were snapped, hands were shaken and Kyle became the proud owner of a Coleman stove – with fuel!
04. One red generator.
By now Kyle was confident bigger and better items awaited. In Montreal once more he bought the domain http://www.oneredpaperclip.com and received barter offers of a wing back chair, a laz-y-boy and a Braille Book of Mormon, and a ’97 Honda Civic engine among others. But because of transportation issues chose to trade for a red 1000 watt generator, tuned and refuelled, located in Los Angeles.
05. One instant party.
While in possession of the generator, Kyle got a call from Canadian Broadcasting Corporation for a human interest piece. He gladly accepted. Another trade was soon lined up with Marcin in Queens, New York for November 2005. Marcin put together a package of one keg, one IOU a keg’s worth of beer, and one neon Budweiser sign. After using the generator to light the neon sign, Kyle realised the enormity of the trade. One instant party had the power to trade for much bigger and better things.
06. One famous skidoo.
Kyle began to build up a following and his website was featured in a small article in The Mirror, a free entertainment magazine in Montreal. Soon after, Kyle was interviewed by Patrick Lagace, a noted journalist for Le Journal de Montreal. Shortly after in December 2005, Michel Barrette, a famous radio host in Quebec offered a snowmobile in exchange for the instant party.
07. One trip to Yahk.
Within a week Kyle traded the snowmobile for a two-person trip to Yahk, British Columbia, in February 2006. The trade was offered by SnoRiders West magazine, located near Yahk, British Columbia after Kyle’s controversial admission live on TV that the only place in the world he would not go to make a trade would be Yahk. He had been there before, but could never make a trade in that remote place, he joked.
08. One cube van.
The next trade was for a very useful van in exchange for the trip for two to Yahk. Kyle received the cube van, or moving van, loaded up the snowmobile, and began his journey to Yahk secure the trade. A nervous Kyle arrived in Yahk to a welcoming party of ‘more CBC satellite TV trucks than you could shake a stick at’ and on live TV officially traded the snowmobile for a trip to Yahk, despite the fact that he was already in Yahk and had already traded the trip for a cube van.
09. One recording contract.
After sifting through hundreds of offers for the cube van Kyle finally found ‘the one’. The trade was for 30 hours recording time at the #1 studio in Canada to make an album which would be pitched to executives at Sony-BMG and XM radio. He drove the cube van 3000 miles to Toronto where the excited new owner informed Kyle he intended to turn it into the ‘ultimate band vehicle’. Kyle realised the immense value of the contract he had just received. To him, it was practically useless, as some musical talent was clearly fundamental. To another, however this contract could change their life.
10. One year in Phoenix.
Jody contacted Kyle with an offer of a years rent in Phoenix, a deal Kyle found difficult to refuse. Jody flew Kyle to Phoenix to make the trade the next week. The announcement of Kyle’s latest trade resulted in hundreds of thousands of people visiting his site and emailing him offers. Along with the offers journalists and television stations were also requesting his story. Kyle’s celebrity status continued to grow with hundreds of newspapers, websites and TV shows wanting to interview him. At this stage Kyle was offered houses by real estate agents and casino operators wanting quick publicity. Kyle refused these offers as they were made for reasons he didn’t agree with.
11. One afternoon with Alice Cooper.
The next few days were incredibly hectic for Kyle who juggled attention from radio stations and TV networks all around the world whilst attempting to sort through the several hundred offers for the years free rent. It was ultimately a friend of Jody’s whose offer of an afternoon with her boss turned out to be more lucrative than Kyle originally anticipated. Alice Cooper agreed to trade an afternoon of his life to help Kyle get a house, promising a ‘wild ride’ for the lucky person who Kyle traded with. To promote the latest offer Kyle was invited to Coopers latest concert and joined him on stage with a giant red paper clip, which together they pumped to the beat of the music. The only condition that Cooper placed on Kyle was that he not trade the afternoon for a weekend with KISS or something similar.
12. One KISS motorised snow globe.
Kyle’s next move took many of his followers by surprise. He exchanged his afternoon with Alice Cooper with a KISS motorised snow globe. His fans swamped his website clearly distraught that he had exchanged such a valuable opportunity for something that sells for less than $50 on ebay. To so many of his fans this was indeed a ‘sad day for the red paperclip’. Yet Kyle, unbeknownst to his followers, had received an offer for a movie role from Corbin Bernsen, President of Public Media Works, some time previously. Unfortunately at that stage he had nothing of value to offer Bernsen. Kyle knew that Bernsen was an avid snowglobe fan and upon meeting Mark knew instantly that the trade would be beneficial. In his next blog Kyle pointed out that many of his followers simply didn’t understand that his project was ‘about people, and not the saleable value of objects’.
13. One movie role.
Kyle flew to Los Angeles to swap the snow globe for the movie role. Upon arriving he was surprised to find that Canadian Television were interested in covering the trade, noting that it must be an incredibly quiet day in Hollywood. The chance to be part of a movie was clearly an obsession for many others, with people offering their souls, body parts and virginity for the role, all of which Kyle thought better than to accept.
14. One house.
Kyle’s journey was completed a year to the day and 14 trades after it began. The offer he couldn’t refuse came from Bert Roach, a community development officer in Kipling and included a key to the town in Kipling, the chance to be honorary mayor for one day, and honorary lifelong citizen of the town. The town would hence forth refer to July 12 (the day of the first and final trade) as One Red Paperclip Day on which everybody will be encouraged to wear red paperclips. Most importantly the trade included a 3 bedroom house which was built in the 1920s, located at 503 Main Street Kipling, Canada. Kyle managed to turn his one red paperclip into the house he always dreamed of.
Kyle’s amazing story proves what a bit of ingenuity and motivation can do. He celebrated with a massive housewarming party in which all his followers were invited. People travelled from all over the world to toast the success of this young and very original entrepreneur.