One Red Paperclip

Mary Katharine Ham points to the interesting story of one red paperclip. It’s a weblog chronicling the adventures of Kyle MacDonald, an enterprising fellow from Montreal who is attempting to parlay one red paperclip into a house through a series of trades.

The first such trade took place on July 15:

This morning Rawnie and Corinna from Vancouver called me up and offered to make a trade of their fish pen for the paperclip. Ronnie and Corinna are Vegans. I figure’d they’d used the fish pen to write out all sorts of cool stuff on paper and, being vegans, wanted very little to do with a fish. They probably needed the paperclip to clip all those papers toghether so it was the ideal win-win situation. I happened to be in town for the day and had never traded a paperclip with a vegan before, let alone two, so I figured, what the hay, let’s do this.

Rawnie found the pen camping and was sad to see it go, but was pretty stoked on her new paperclip.

I’m pumped on having the pen, but in the name of the game, it’s gotta go too.

So, please get back to me if you’re down with trading me something bigger and better than a wooden fish pen to get yourself the said pen.

The pen was traded for a doorknob, which turned into a Coleman stove, a red generator, the rations for a keg party, a snowmobile, and, as of December 11,

The current item up for trade is an all-inclusive three-day trip to Yahk, British Columbia, Canada. This trip was put together by Jeff Cooper of SnoRiders West magazine. Jeff seems like a super awesome guy and is a very good photojournalist. You can check out his personal website here:

SnoRiders West gets one famous skidoo, you get one trip to the Canadian Rockies and Yahk.

one trip to yahk includes:

-Return airfare for one person from anywhere in North America
-Three nights Accommodation in a ‘swanky’ hotel.
-Full-day guided snowmobile trip in and around Yahk (Michel Barrette̢۪s actual snowmobile will be there too)
-1 day skiing at either Fernie or Kimberley Alpine resort (If you̢۪re not interested in skiing, a day at hot springs or something similar can be arranged.)
-lots of other stuff planned, stay tuned for more details.

Pretty amazing.

Andrew Roth is impressed, and argues that, “All econ professors should use it in their course material to illustrate how a good’s value is subjective. And how commerce is not a zero-sum game.”

Quite right. As one reads the stories, it becomes clear that, while each of these things had more value to Kyle than the thing he was trading away, the reverse was true for their owners. Indeed, I would value a generator far more than a keg of beer and a neon sign–and couldn’t imagine trading a snowmobile for either of them. For that matter, I would probably pay good money not to spend three nights in Yahk.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. McGehee says:

    And if I were asked to make a trade with this guy, I’d undoubtedly consider the value of taking part in what is obviously a popular project.

  2. James Joyner says:

    Yep, that crossed my mind as well. He’s gotten quite a bit of exposure, including some Canadian television coverage. The “value” of his trades will undoubtedly benefit from that.