'Red Paperclip' house up for bids

Got something interesting to barter with? The blogger who achieved fame and a house by trading up from a single paper clip wants to hear from you.

Jon Skillings Editorial director
Jon Skillings is an editorial director at CNET, where he's worked since 2000. A born browser of dictionaries, he honed his language skills as a US Army linguist (Polish and German) before diving into editing for tech publications -- including at PC Week and the IDG News Service -- back when the web was just getting under way, and even a little before. For CNET, he's written on topics from GPS, AI and 5G to James Bond, aircraft, astronauts, brass instruments and music streaming services.
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Jon Skillings
3 min read

Two years ago, Kyle MacDonald acquired a house through a series of Web-chronicled trades that began with a red paper clip. Now he's ready to trade it away.

The asking price for the modest two-story house, located in Kipling, Saskatchewan? Nothing in particular, MacDonald says--just make it interesting.

Kyle MacDonald's house
The house at 503 Main St. in Kipling. Courtesy of Kyle MacDonald

"I'm looking for someone with an idea, something that would benefit the community," MacDonald told CNET News.com over the phone. Really, he says, it's about "finding the right person to trade with. I'm interested in the experience more than material gain."

He does elaborate a bit on his One Red Paperclip site. Ideally, the acquirer of the house would live there or operate a business from within the four walls, and would be someone who "understands the house is a tourist attraction in Kipling."

MacDonald has set a deadline of July 11 for offers to be submitted, and plans to consummate the trade the following week. But lollygaggers beware: He's ready to make a deal earlier, if the proposition is a good, "time-sensitive" one.

That four-week window is quite a bit shorter than the time it took MacDonald to acquire the house himself. Over the course of a yearlong quest that wound up in July 2006, he proceeded through 14 trades, moving ever upward through a series of mundane objects (including a Coleman stove and a Ski-Doo snowmobile) and celebrity encounters (a date with 1970s goth rocker Alice Cooper and a speaking role in a Corbin Bernsen movie).

Now the itch has struck again. "It's just time to make a move," MacDonald said. "I'm really keen to start trading again, and see what happens."

The house could fetch some inventive offers. Along with the notoriety that accrued from the One Red Paperclip quest, MacDonald has this going for him: an oil boom in Saskatchewan, he says, is helping fuel a housing shortage in Kipling.

But so far, in the one day since he put the house on the market, MacDonald says, the most interesting pitch has been a combo offer of a diesel Mercedes sedan and a hot dog.

Although it was the Internet that propelled the original trading process from a quirk to a bona fide phenomenon, what made it a success was MacDonald himself. In 2006, News.com's Daniel Terdiman talked to some of the people who made trades and found that it was MacDonald's personality and excitement that drew them in. Here's how MacDonald responded to a question on that point in a July 2006 interview with Terdiman:

Maybe it's because I approached it like a kid's game and kept things simple. I created a word called "funtential," which is the potential for fun, and I really made trades based on the funtential of them. I really made trades that had the most funtential. For instance, an afternoon with Alice Cooper has a lot more funtential than an envelope full of money...

...I think this touched people from 8 to 88 because I went and met these people. I know them. I shook hands with everyone that I traded with, even Alice Cooper, and I think actually doing that struck a chord because it wasn't just something on a computer.

In return for whatever gets anted up this time around, the eventual homeowner will get a humble but fully furnished abode that features three bedrooms and two baths, hardwood floors, gas heat, and a giant red paper clip on the front lawn. (There's an even bigger paper clip--of world-record proportions--just around the corner.)

Originally from Vancouver, and a sometime Montreal resident, the well-traveled MacDonald says that over last couple of years he's probably spent more time in Kipling (about 70 miles north of the North Dakota border) than anywhere else. He even served a day as honorary mayor.

"This is something I view as an adventure," he said. "I can't wait to see where it takes us."