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  • Translator: Queenie Lee Reviewer: Cristina Bufi-Pöcksteiner

  • My name is Kyle, I'm the red paperclip guy.

  • But before I get started on that story,

  • I want to draw attention to this slide behind me.

  • On the beginning of every TED video out there,

  • the whatever it's called, the screenshot that precedes the video,

  • [where] everyone's standing like this ...

  • all of them.

  • So, demand more from TED, post comments online poking fun at this,

  • we need better screenshots for these videos.

  • We can make a better world of TED with better screenshots.

  • Onto the paperclip though.

  • This is this kind of crazy idea I had when I was -

  • Y'know, about 10 years ago, I was looking down at my desk,

  • and I saw a red paperclip sitting there.

  • And I said, "Y'know what, I remember this game called 'Bigger and Better'

  • where you start with something small, trade it for something bigger,

  • and then you repeat.

  • I wonder what would happen if I took this red paperclip and tried to trade it?"

  • I posted a picture of that red paperclip on a website called "craigslist."

  • Two girls named Ronnie and Karina responded and said,

  • "Hey, that's pretty cool!

  • We'd like to trade with you. We got a pen shaped like a fish."

  • (Laughter)

  • I was really excited, this was a cool pen.

  • This was bigger and better than a red paperclip.

  • "How far can I go with this idea?

  • Anybody want a pen shaped like a fish?"

  • "Absolutely, my name is Annie,

  • and I've got a doorknob with a crazy face on it."

  • (Laughter)

  • Two trades in, I've already gone way up from a paperclip,

  • and I was thinking,

  • "How far can I go with this?

  • Maybe I can keep going until one day I owned a house or something from this."

  • Shawn says, "Come down to my place,

  • I'll cook your burgers,

  • and I'll trade you my camping stove for that doorknob,

  • because I need it to fix the knob on my stovetop espresso maker.

  • (Laughter)

  • We're moving liabilities into assets; we're creating value.

  • We're improving each other's lives, albeit on a small scale.

  • But the Sergeant, David J, of the US Marine Corps, he said,

  • "I've been looking for that exact model of camping stove.

  • I've got extra generators, would you like an electric generator?"

  • To me this was a dream come true: an electric generator.

  • Finally, my teenage dreams of being able to create power were realizing.

  • (Laughter)

  • Unfortunately, most people on the internet didn't suffer from a blackout,

  • they didn't need power.

  • So, my trading in for bigger and better things

  • that I thought had value

  • turned into a liability.

  • It took me several weeks to be able to trade this.

  • But I actually found another person just recently out of his teenage years

  • who did want to create power with this generator.

  • His name was Martin, and he was in New York City.

  • He says, "Look, I've got an empty beer keg,

  • I'll trade you an IOU to fill the keg with beer

  • and a neon with "Budweiser" sign.

  • What do you say?"

  • So I met up with him.

  • We made the trade, and here's us showing all parts of the trade work.

  • (Laughter)

  • I rebranded the mishmash of IOU beer keg and neon "Budweiser" sign,

  • and called it an instant party.

  • Does anybody out there want to party?

  • "My name is Michel Brett,

  • I'm a famous radio and TV personality in the province of Quebec,

  • and I want to make a trade with you."

  • "Absolutely Michel, what do you have to trade?"

  • "I'll trade you my worst snowmobile."

  • I was intrigued just by the idea of somebody's worst snowmobile.

  • It implied that he not only had more than one snowmobile,

  • but he was kind of cheeky and willing to prove to me

  • that, you know, I've got better ones, but I'll trade you my worst.

  • I was really happy to trade with him.

  • He was a great guy, and it was a pretty nice snowmobile.

  • Seeing how it was the middle of winter in Canada,

  • and it was very cold,

  • and a snowmobile at that time of year had more value than in the summer,

  • a snowmobile magazine called "SnoRiders West"

  • called me up and said,

  • "Hey, we would like to offer you two trips for two to the Canadian Rockies

  • in exchange for that snowmobile.

  • It'll probably give our magazine some publicity,

  • and who doesn't want to go to the Rockies at this time of year?"

  • I said, "Yes, alright, what's the catch?"

  • They said, "The catch is you can come to the Rockies;

  • you can't come to the town of Yahk in British Columbia."

  • I said, "Alright, I got to find a loophole around this."

  • So we decided to kind of blackmail a national news organization.

  • It's a really long story, but what ended up happening was

  • I got on TV wearing the logo for the shirt I was wearing.

  • It was called Cintas, the uniform company.

  • It was just sort of an inside joke:

  • my cousin's husband had given me this shirt ...

  • an even longer story to explain the whole thing.

  • However, the head honcho of that company

  • saw me on TV with his corporate uniform on,

  • and said, "Wait a second, this is a huge liability to me,

  • but it's also an opportunity."

  • And we met up one night.

  • He says, "I'd like to make you a trade. What d'you say?"

  • And I'm like: "I think that's the perfect way we can work together

  • without selling our souls to the corporate ownership devil."

  • He said, "Great, let's meet up."

  • So we met up.

  • He offered this van for the trip for two to the Rockies,

  • I drove the van to the Rockies; he flew because the trip included that.

  • And I wound up with this giant, huge machine,

  • much bigger than a paperclip,

  • arguably better, worst fuel mileage,

  • but to transport a lot better things than just that.

  • So, I said, "Does anybody out there want to trade?"

  • And I realized bigger and better was just really getting bigger,

  • but how could it get better, what was the opportunity here?

  • And I realized that I've been offered a recording contract,

  • a piece of paper, a promise,

  • an opportunity to someone who is good at music.

  • "Does anybody want to be a recording artist?"

  • So I traded the van for the recording contract with Brandon.

  • He used it to drive around in his band,

  • which was currently traveling around in a 1988 Volkswagen Jetta.

  • Moving up to the van really helped him out.

  • I took the recording contract.

  • "Does anybody want to be a recording artist?"

  • It turns out pretty much everyone in the world

  • wants to record music.

  • (Laughter)

  • I was offered my soul from a soul singer,

  • a pinkie finger.

  • Someone actually offered me their virginity, which is -

  • (Laughter)

  • I don't know what the legalities, or -

  • Needless to say, I said no,

  • because Jody said to me,

  • "Look, I've got a half a duplex in Phoenix, Arizona.

  • Half of it's unrented.

  • I'll trade a year free rent in my duplex for that.

  • What do you say?"

  • I said yes.

  • I went down there. We made the trade in front of the white picket fence.

  • Very Americana.

  • Now I had a year free rent.

  • Her next door - one of her tenants actually -

  • Her next-door neighbor, Lesley, found out about this.

  • She says, "I want that free rent."

  • She offered me up an afternoon with her boss.

  • At first I was like this sort of sucks, like oo-er-hoo ...

  • (Laughter)

  • because I didn't know who her boss was.

  • She stood up - "I'll bring him out."

  • I'm, "This is weird."

  • She brings out her boss's head.

  • Her boss was Alice Cooper

  • because she worked at Alice Cooper's town in Phoenix

  • as the manager of the restaurant.

  • I was like, "An afternoon with Alice Cooper,

  • that's pretty amazing, what's it's going to be worth?"

  • His tour manager called me up and says,

  • "We're on tour in Fargo, North Dakota.

  • Come up, experience an afternoon with Alice Cooper, see what it's like."

  • And then after our afternoon this happened live on stage.

  • (Video starts) (Cheering)

  • (Applause)

  • (Video ends)

  • Alice is a really nice guy - this picture displays how nice he is.

  • (Laughter)

  • "Look, it's great you're doing this.

  • You'll find an Italian billionaire who's a big Alice Cooper fan.

  • He'll probably have several mansions. He'd easily trade you one of them.

  • Promise me one thing?"

  • "What's that?"

  • Promise you won't trade an afternoon with me

  • for a weekend with the Rolling Stones or a night with KISS.

  • (Laughter)

  • I said, "Alright, I'll try."

  • The phone rang, and it was Mark.

  • Mark says, "I'm an amateur photographer with a lot of KISS memorabilia.

  • Are you be interested in any of that?"

  • This is hard. I really wanted to trade with him.

  • "What do you have?"

  • He says, "Well, I've got this, I've got that,

  • KISS posters, KISS guitars, a KISS snow globe."

  • When he said KISS snow globe, I immediately said,

  • "Yes, and only the snow globe."

  • So, met up with Mark, traded the afternoon with Alice Cooper,

  • a priceless opportunity for a KISS snow globe.

  • And the whole world kind of sort of like oo-oo-oo -

  • and I was like this is great, it lights up, changes colors.

  • (Laughter)

  • Here's some of the various online responses from the video.

  • This is the worst trade that I've ever heard of, bar none.

  • (Laughter)

  • This is possibly the dumbest decision I've ever seen anyone make ... ever.

  • (Laughter)

  • Except for the people on Jerry Springer.

  • (Applause)

  • Other people were much more eloquent in their delivery.

  • (Laughter)

  • And this was the only time during the entire project

  • where I had another trade lined up.

  • Every other trade had come along serendipitously,

  • and it'd just been this amazing experience.

  • However, two months previous to all this, this guy had called me up and said,

  • "Hey, my name is Corbin Bernsen, I'm a huge Hollywood actor.

  • I'm making a movie

  • and I'd like to offer a paid, speaking, credited role in a Hollywood film.

  • Are you interested in trading for that?"

  • I had just done the recording contract trade,

  • and was like, "Yes, absolutely, this sounds perfect."

  • He hung up the phone,

  • and I'm, "Corbin Bernsen, who is this guy?"

  • It turns out he is very well known, he's been in many major movies,

  • and he also, according to Wikipedia,

  • has the world's largest snow globe collection,

  • over 6,500 snow globes.

  • (Laughter)

  • Since it was Wikipedia I knew it was true,

  • (Laughter)

  • and I just sort of kept it in the back of my head.

  • When Mark said he had a KISS snow globe, I was like,"This is perfect."

  • Called Corbin: "Do you want the KISS snow globe?"

  • "Send a picture."

  • Sent one. Corbin called back, "Not only do I want it, I need it."

  • (Laughter)

  • While these comments were coming in like dumbasses, etc,

  • I had no backup plan,

  • and luckily for the project and for Corbin,

  • he didn't get hit by a bus and he was still alive,

  • and we made a trade.

  • He showed us into his snow-globe lair of over 6,000 snow globes,

  • which looks kind of like this.

  • (Laughter)

  • Following this,

  • the Economic Development Officer of the town of Kipling, Saskatchewan,

  • a fellow named Bert Roth, called me up and said,

  • "We see that you've been doing this project.

  • Our town has a couple extra houses that we own.

  • Would there be a potential

  • that maybe we could trade one of these houses

  • for something you have?"

  • I say, "I have a role in the movie."

  • He's like, "That'd be perfect:

  • What we were thinking is having a huge house warming party,

  • a huge celebration, inviting everyone in the world to come to Kipling.

  • We could offer an opportunity:

  • we'll call it 'Kipling Idol.'

  • We'll have live auditions for the movie role, here, right in town."

  • I said, "That's absolutely perfect, Bert. What you need to do to make this happen?"

  • He's,"Well, we need town council approval."

  • I say, "Alright, if you can get it, that'd be great."