Trading for Treasure – Everyday people who started from the bottom & traded UP

Every day, people are making trades.  

But some people take trading to a whole other level. You may have heard of The One Red Paperclip Project back in 2005? One guy set himself the task of turning a red paperclip into a house he could live in (spoiler alert: it actually worked!)

What’s more, is there are many other so called “trading legends”  who have traded their way up to success! who feature on Nimble’s list of the best trade up stories of all time. The beauty of these stories is these trades are something literally anyone could do.  All of them started with something of little value and then found someone out there who wants it more than they do.


The original: Paperclip into a House

Probably the most publicised trader on the list, Kyle Macdonald, traded his way from a single paperclip to a two-story farmhouse over 2005-2006. You beauty! Now trading your way from a paperclip to a house is impressive but this legend did it in only 14 trades.

  1. On July 14, 2005, he went to Vancouver and traded the paperclip for a fish-shaped pen.
  2. He then traded the pen the same day for a hand-sculpted door knob from Seattle, Washington.
  3. On July 25, 2005, he travelled to Amherst, Massachusetts, with a friend to trade the doorknob for a Coleman camp stove (with fuel).
  4. On September 24, 2005, he went to California and traded the camp stove for a Honda generator.
  5. On November 16, 2005, he travelled to Maspeth, Queens and traded the generator for an “instant party”: an empty keg, an IOU for filling the keg with the beer of the bearer’s choice, and a neon Budweiser sign. This was his second attempt to make the trade; his first resulted in the generator being temporarily confiscated by the New York City Fire Department.
  6. On December 8, 2005, he traded the “instant party” to Quebec comedian and radio personality Michel Barrette for a Ski-Doo snowmobile.
  7. Within a week of that, he traded the snowmobile for a two-person trip to Yahk, British Columbia, scheduled for February 2006.
  8. On or about January 7, 2006, he traded the Yahk trip for a box truck.
  9. On or about February 22, 2006, he traded the box truck for a recording contract with Metalworks in Mississauga, Ontario.
  10. On or about April 11, 2006, he traded the contract to Jody Gnant for a year’s rent in Phoenix, Arizona.
  11. On or about April 26, 2006, he traded the year’s rent in Phoenix for one afternoon with Alice Cooper.
  12. On or about May 26, 2006, he traded the afternoon with Cooper for a KISS motorised snow globe.
  13. On or about June 2, 2006, he traded the snow globe to Corbin Bernsen for a role in the film Donna on Demand.
  14. On or about July 5, 2006, he traded the movie role for a two-story farmhouse in Kipling, Saskatchewan.

Just think, this all started with just two paper clips..Imagine what he would have done with seven of them!


PlayStation 2 into a Camaro

Rachel Dempsey who was 15 at the time (and they say kids are lazy), was inspired by hearing the tales of others trading their way to fortunes.   

She looked at her old and dusty PS2 that wasn’t being used and thought, I’m going to turn that into a new set of wheels!

What’s particularly interesting with her trades, is that at one point she receives a cash payout which would have satisfied most, but not Rachel! She used that money to buy a dirt bike and an old car that she planned to continue trading. Once she got into cars, she traded her way between half a dozen vehicles before ending up with an insta-worthy classic Camaro.

Love your work, Rach!


Phone into a Porsche

Steven Ortiz might be our favourite of all. Because Steven traded his mate’s phone. It wasn’t even his!  

This guy’s mate says ‘you want this phone’ and Steven says ‘sure, I don’t need a phone, but I do need a car’.  

14 trades later and he had his car. And not just any car – a Porsche!

He even traded down for it! Yup, it’s true, he bartered his way to a 75 Ford Bronco, which was worth more than the Porsche he traded it for. But when Steven wants a Porsche, Steven gets a Porsche.

Wherever you are Steven, [slow clap] BRAVO Sir!


Tub of McDonald’s sauce for a Volkswagen

If we were to tell you that McDonald’s Szechuan sauce was a rare thing, would that surprise you?

Because it surprised us.  

The sought-after sauce has been out of production for years.  However, in 2017, the sauce spiked in popularity because of an episode of Rick and Morty and McDonald’s brought it back for a single day with fans into the thousands wrapped around participating restaurants.  

Sadly, McDonald’s didn’t plan for the incredible response there would be to Szechuan’s return, with restaurants only receiving 40 units. This led to many upset fans, and not enough sauce.

In fact, the sauce was so rare that Rachel Marie traded her tub for a Volkswagen. If that wasn’t impressive enough, she did it in one trade.  She didn’t slowly trade up piece by piece, nope, Rachel traded the sauce for the car, in one transaction. It was just that simple, she took to Facebook with her sauce and said she was open to trades. BOOM! She’s got a car.

Well done Rachel! While you didn’t taste the Szechuan sauce, you did taste greatness….


They even teach a class about it!

At the University of Chicago’s Business School, students can be assigned the ‘barter’ assignment.

The assignment instructs students to make one trade per week for ten weeks, and the trades should be made with people they don’t know. Students are told to try and trade up, to gain another object of superior value (which to tell you the truth sounds like a fun challenge).  

The assignment aims to fight several issues salespeople often encounter. The students have to ask people directly, ‘Will you trade me this for that?’, and sometimes the answer will be “no”.  

This teaches students about rejection and resilience. Seems like a great challenge for students or anyone wanting to improve their selling technique. Keen to learn more? You can  read more about it here.


So you wanna trade?

If you are inspired to take the barter challenge or if you have any great trades you’ve made, tell us about it below!


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