'Started from a paperclip, now we’re here': Man begins trading with paperclip, ends up with ice cream truck

Joel Haugen of Grand Rapids spent the last year trading items with people in West Michigan with the goal of eventually trading up to a vehicle he could use to start an ice cream business
Paperclips Ice Cream Web Pic
Posted at 5:06 PM, Sep 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-13 17:06:37-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — In about a year's time, one man with a paperclip shaped like a dog bone was able to trade his way into a new truck, and a new business venture.

To pull all the dramatics out of his story and boil it down to its basics, Joel Haugen traded a paperclip for an ice cream truck and launched Paperclips Ice Cream. Of course, with more than a few steps in between.

“This is where it all started," Haugen explained to FOX 17 Thursday morning, as he showed us the first post he made on Facebook Marketplace, at the beginning of this project.

“I just posted a picture of me holding a paperclip on Facebook Marketplace and said, I have a paperclip, what do you have? I'm trying to trade up to an ice cream truck.”

His first few trades were small but happened fast. In his first week, he traded the paperclip for a vintage brass safety pin and then traded that for a copy of Super Smash Brothers for the Nintendo Switch.

The game got traded to someone else for a tile saw, and then that for a 2-ton engine hoist.

“When growing up in youth groups, I knew a lot of youth groups around doing the going door-to-door with a paperclip and seeing what they can get up to, and I never had a chance to do it,” he said.

But after losing his job during the pandemic, he found himself with some time on his hands and knew this was the project he wanted to pursue.

"I knew I wanted to trade for things that had more ambiguous value," Haugen said.

"Like the arcade machine... to somebody it could be worth 200 bucks, to the guy I traded for, it was worth his jeep."

It took him about a year from the time he started trading his paperclip, until the point where he had his ice cream truck street-ready. He ended up finding a Ford Transport van that he decided would work perfectly for his vision.

He ended up with boats, motorcycles, campers, lawnmowers, snowblowers, and everything in between. He also received cash in addition to some of the items he got in trades.

Haugen would end up using some of that trade cash to secure the transport van.

In the whirlwind of meeting new faces, and making some killer deals, Haugen started sharing his progress via his TikTok page. He already has over 3 million likes on his videos, with over 272,000 followers.

He launched Paper Clips Ice Cream just this week and is already seeing some early success.

“I just posted on Facebook that I'm ready for hire, and woke up to over 200 messages. So, it's awesome. It's a constant headache, but in a good way,” Haugen said.

“I'm hitting the ground running, and I will probably keep going until the snow falls because it's new, it's fun, and I want to get exposure.”

**The following is a rundown of all Haugen's trades so far. You will notice that sometimes he received multiple items in a single trade, which would prompt him to break up that group of items to trade separately. Those "break off" tradelines are listed below his initial, "main" line of trades. **

Main Trade Line

  1. Normal Paper Clip
  2. Antique Brass Safety Pin
  3. Super Smash Brothers Game for Nintendo Switch
  4. 7-Inch Wet Tile Saw
  5. 2-Ton Cherry Picker
  6. Wild Big Buck Hunter Arcade Cabinet
  7. 2000 Jeep Cherokee
  8. 2 Palettes of Unopened Retail Store Returns
  9. A Yamaha Blaster ATV & Pop-Up Camper

Break Off Trade Line A— Pop Up Camper

  1. 1969 Speed Boat
  2. Bigger Boat
  3. 14 Ft Aluminum Fishing boat & Chevy Avalanche

Break Off Trade Line B— Yamaha Blaster

  1. 1998 Suzuki Intruder Motorcycle
  2. Honda Motorcycle + $1,800 Cash
  3. Dirtbike & Generator (Kept Generator)
  4. John Deere Riding Lawnmower, $2,250 Cash (Kept Cash)
  5. Oculus Rift, 2 Pairs of Jordans, Gaming Keyboard, Bluetooth stereo, 2 snowblowers, weed whacker

Break Off Trade Line C— $1,800 Cash

  1. 2 Used Arcade Games

Break Off Trade Line D— Pair of Jordans

  1. Binder of Pokemon Cards
  2. Marshall Guitar Amp, Electric Guitar, Several New Video Games

Break Off Trade Line E— Gaming Keyboard

  1. X Box 1-S, 24 Inch Smart TV

Break Off Trade Line F— X box 1-S

  1. 2012 TaoTao Moped

Break Off Trade Line G— 2 Used Arcade Machines

  1. Drone, Scwhinn Kids Bike, Go Kart Frame

Break Off Trade Line H— Go Kart Frame

  1. RC Car
  2. 3 Pairs of Retro Jordans, Dewalt Power Tools

Break Off Trade Line I— 2012 TaoTao Moped

  1. Hover-board, Boat Seat, 3D Printer, Angle Grinder, Electric Bike, Picture Frame, Bicycle, Antique Table, Masonic Temple Chair, Cricket Joy Machine, Metal Lighter

Break Off Trade Line J— Scwhinn Kids Bike

  1. X Box 360 Bundle
  2. X Box One

Break Off Trade Line K— Metal Lighter

  1. Box of Clown Statues

Break Off Trade Line L— Nick Knacks from Variety of Trades

  1. Wine Bottle Press, Fermenting Kit

Break Off Trade Line M— Cash from Trades

  1. Ford Transit Van

Break Off Trade Line N— Fishing Boat, Table Saw

  1. Van Upgrades, Wrap Around Decals