April 14, 2006 12:48 PM PDT

Blogger asks, 'Wanna trade a paper clip for a house?'

Kyle MacDonald is on the verge of successfully completing a project that on its surface sounds nothing less than absurd: Trading--with the help of a blog--a single red paper clip for a house.

Since embarking on his house hunt last year, MacDonald has traded with people from across Canada and the United States and is now sitting on a year's free rent for an apartment in Phoenix.

He announced on his one red paperclip blog his intention to take the clip he'd used on his resume and trade it up, step-by-step, until he got a house. And his goal is getting tantalizingly close.

"This has turned into an obsession," said MacDonald. "So many people have heard that I'm trading up to a house that if I don't make it, I'll be a schmuck. I'll take a house anywhere in the world. That's kind of the adventure, trading up to a house and then moving there."

MacDonald, 26, currently lives in Montreal and has spent the last year doing odd jobs and traveling. But the project that began as a throwback to "bigger and better," a game he and his friends played as children, has now become his full-time occupation. And it's allowed him to spawn a Net cult following that's hoping he'll succeed. Popular blogs such as boingboing have been tracking his progress for months.

MacDonald's trades have gone as follows:

• Paper clip for a fish-shaped pen
• Fish-shaped pen for a clay doorknob with a funny face on it
• Clay doorknob for a camping stove
• Stove for a generator
• Generator for an "instant party"
• Instant party for a snowmobile
• Snowmobile for an all-expenses-paid trip to Yahk, British Columbia
• Yahk trip for a panel van
• Van for a recording contract
• Recording contract for the year of free rent in Phoenix

After each trade, MacDonald posts the item he currently has and waits for people to post offers--which anyone can see. He then decides, with the help of feedback from readers of his site, which offer to accept.

"I'm a guy in Montreal who has an Internet connection and one red paper clip," said MacDonald. "If 10 people hadn't volunteered to collaborate with me on this, then I would still have the red paper clip on my desk."

Indeed, as he's moved up the barter chain, MacDonald has encountered some mundane and even odd trade items, even as he's visited the far reaches of Canada and crisscrossed North America five times.

"I like to think I live off magic," said Jody Gnant, the singer from Phoenix who traded the year of free rent for the recording contract. "There is an amazing energy going on with this project right now. I'm thrilled that Kyle asked me to be a part of it."

Gnant said she owns a duplex in Phoenix that has an empty unit and that she will use the recording contract to lay down a "one red paperclip"-themed song.

She admits the value of the rental property far exceeds that of the recording contract, but she says such calculations are of no concern to her.

"I make strange decisions every day," Gnant said. "I live off magic, not necessarily off ones and zeroes."

And her red paper clip-themed song could certainly come in handy, given that MacDonald said he was approached by a number of producers interested in making a movie about his project.

To those who've participated in the trades, MacDonald is probably the key to the success of this crazy process.

"When I met with Kyle (I found that) he's just a young enthusiast, and I wanted to contribute to helping him," said Bruno Taillefer, who traded a van for the trip to Yahk, B.C. "It has everything to do with his personality, and his drive. Not anybody could do this. He's the type of guy I wanted to get involved with as soon as I met him. I really wanted to help him get his house."

Gnant said she feels the same way about MacDonald and the project.

"I think Kyle's an amazing writer, and that has everything to do with (it)," Gnant said. "He's a pioneer of taking a blog to the next level. There are probably other people trying to do the same thing, and we just don't know about them."

MacDonald is confident he's going to succeed, and hopes it can happen by the July 12 anniversary of the project's launch.

Asked what he thinks his chances are, he replied quickly, "100 percent. It's a fine line between being oblivious and being crafty enough to make this work."

His trading partners agree.

"I can't wait until Kyle gets his house, (and) I know he's going to get his house," said Gnant. "I don't think it's going to take him very many trades at all, and I'd love to think that's how the universe works."

See more CNET content tagged:
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Anybody want a silver paperclip?
I am surprised that it took so few trades, but not that it is happening. This is standard business rules of "buy low, sell high" and "figure what the customer wants and charge an arm and a leg for it"

This reminds me of the guy who pays for everything by actually printing his own money. Now he has the government watching him but he does it by making the "money" art and a receipt. but if everyone talented enough to do this did it then the market would be glutted and it wouldn't work for anyone.

The same goes for our trader, being the first there is publicity for everyone who participates.... even a possible movie deal. but what if there were 100 "red paperclips" for trade? (doesn't need to be red or paperclip, just unique unto itself) With that many then the market is flooded and the novelty has worn off... result no one will participate.

Good luck guy... I hope you make it.
(perhaps you can trade the week for a movie contract which includes a house in the Catskills as part of its indemnification.)
Posted by qazwiz (208 comments )
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Posted by kyevkp (3 comments )
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Is nothing new. The mormons have done it forever. I know full communities who do it. Like one town I visited, I met one guy there who knew everyone else. This community sent him to college to learn a skill. He was learning architecture. So once he learned this skill, he could plan out a house for the others in the community. Then he would trade his skill for the skill of another. The man he traded his skill with would buy old broken down furniture and repair it so well, it looked like it had never left the store. When a young couple would get married, they furnished them with a house filled with furniture, carpeting, appliances, ect. Everything they needed. They in turn would contribute some skill they had back to the community. Hell they even make their own electricity. A town built by the hands of their own people.
There is nothing they do not have, and everything is done on the barter system. They do not need much money to survive. They grow their own food. The town has a post office, gas station, store, park, bar, and some other things. I am not sure how they run them, but they built them all theirself. Except for the post office. When they need money in an account, they can contract out with the skills that they know. They have their own swimming hole which is well...entertaining to say the least. So bartering is alive and well, it is just that most people do not do it. Taxes? next to nothing except for the paper money they bring in. It all depends on what you consider your needs.
Posted by Eskiegirl302 (82 comments )
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Posted by kyevkp (3 comments )
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Posted by kyevkp (3 comments )
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Red Paperclip PARODY video
How to swap one red paperclip for a crack house in the ghetto...

Posted by markdaycomedy (1 comment )
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