When two sides trade, it's ideally for things of equal value. You can't offer your old socks in exchange for an original Rembrandt. You have to at least throw some underwear in there, too -- sweeten the pot a bit. But with a few seemingly lateral moves, a healthy dose of persistence, and a few metric craptons of luck, some folks started from the bottom, now they here:
For 17-year-old Steven Ortiz, bartering on Craigslist was a chance to transform his useless crap into gold. After a friend gave him a ratty old cell phone, Ortiz immediately hit the site in search of something better. That "something better" ended up being a Porsche -- the chariot that mid-life crises ride into battle.
"So does an affair with a 22-year-old come included, or is that a dealership-only thing?"
Of course, Ortiz didn't just luck onto a victim of recent head trauma and swap a phone for a supercar in one shot. No, he traded for two straight years to do that. Amazingly, he found a taker for the old phone. Somebody had a better phone, but was willing to downgrade for unspecified reasons. Irony points, most likely.
Ortiz then traded that better phone for an iPod, which transmogrified into a bunch of dirt bikes. The last bike magically became a MacBook, then a 1987 Toyota truck. The Toyota soon became an off-road golf cart, which bequeathed more bikes and more cars, until he wound up with a 1975 Ford Bronco. Then he traded the Bronco for a 2000 Porsche (worth less than the Bronco on paper, but more virtually everywhere else), and raced off into the sunset, cackling maniacally.
Ethan Miller/Getty Images News/Getty Images
Making it the most ridiculous Bronco moment not involving this guy.
Well, not really. Soon after gaining the Porsche, Ortiz announced plans to trade for a mid-size truck that didn't cost as much to maintain. And from there, he'll likely trade for a sailboat, to a modest home, to a small factory, and yadda yadda yadda -- anyway, that's how the brutal reign of World Emperor Ortiz started, readers from the year 2019.
"For sale or trade: gently used planet. 50,000,000 Galactic Credits, OBO."
Aside from rolling around on their backs and controlling the wild bamboo population, pandas aren't terribly useful. Luckily for panda-heavy China, other countries are so enamored with them that they'll willingly make a potential enemy stronger in exchange for the opportunity to hug one. China will happily loan out a bear or two, but in return it expects at least a million dollars per year, and a minimum ten-year commitment. Don't have the cash? Like any good supervillain, China will still negotiate if you have what they really want. Canada, France, and Australia have all ponied up fucking uranium in exchange for pandas that can't even kung-fu. It's all part of China's plan to increase their nuclear threshold at least five times over by 2050. So there's your next plot for a Bond film: sinister Chinese zoologists pimping bears for nukes.
It's Bond's hottest sex scene since Goldeneye.
Don't have any potentially sinister elements on hand? That's OK too! Scotland, for example, wanted a panda but had just run out of uranium the night before. China agreed to panda them up anyway, in exchange for access to valuable oil drilling and renewable energy technology. China is making some serious moves based solely on panda snuggles. We guess it's like they say: First you get the panda, then you get the oil, then you get the nukes, then you get the power, then you get the women.
... Then you quickly get the fuck away from the panda, because it's still a goddamn bear.
Herbert and Dorothy Vogel were an elderly New York couple living on meager salaries in a tiny Manhattan apartment. You gotta do something to keep busy in your senior years, so why not priceless art collecting? But they couldn't whip out the Visa and impulse-buy a few Klimts, so they secured their painted treasures in other, more creative fashions.
Enter the cat.
The plan to steal the Van Gogh failed when Mr. Whiskers got distracted by the laser grid.
Christo and Jeanne-Claude, an artist couple too absorbed in their work to write down some last names, had pretty pictures the Vogels wanted to buy. Christo and Jeanne-Claude liked the pair so much, they offered them a free collage in exchange for three months of cat-sitting. Since the Vogels successfully supervised the kitty without attempting to stuff it down the garbage disposal even once, they won themselves a free painting.
More often than not though, the Vogels' collection methods were far simpler. They would befriend obscure underground artists, negotiate steep discounts, and offer payment plans that went as low as $10 a month. When you're a struggling artist desperate to afford ramen that month, earning 5 percent of your asking price is a hell of a lot better than no percents, so the Vogels usually made the deal.
John Dominis via vogel5050.org
"Today's special: pour your very soul into the canvas and receive a free bag of catnip!"
The end result: a one-bedroom apartment stuffed with over 2,500 paintings, many of which were stacked on top of one another like old newspapers. The Vogels even chucked their couch so they could house more art. It was easily the most pretentious hoarding habit in history. But despite owning a collection easily worth millions and millions of dollars, the Vogels weren't in it for the money. They never sold a thing. In 1991, they donated all of it to a museum. Herbert Vogel died in 2012 after 50 years of collecting; he and Dorothy had amassed over 4,000 works of art by then. They presumably all smelled like mothballs and Werther's Originals.
In 1974, Russia and PepsiCo first agreed to work together. The deal was mutually beneficial: Russia would get Pepsi while telling Coca-Cola to go screw, and PepsiCo received permission to distribute Stolichnaya vodka in their territories. But by 1990, it was re-dealing time. The whole sickle-and-hammer spiel was running thin, so Russia opted instead to fatten their wallets. The best way to do that would be opening more Pepsi plants, but they were low on capital. So in exchange for syrup and water combination tools, they traded away half their navy.
"The Pepsi Challenge" suddenly got a lot more menacing to anyone living near a port.
Pepsi agreed to buy 10 commercial ships, three warships, and 17 submarines. At first that sounds like a pretty sweet deal for Russia -- free soda and you get to offload some crap? Sign us up! It's only when you look at the costs do you realize how one-sided the deal was. Those submarines, for example, ran Pepsi a paltry $150,000 each. So for the same money as a modest down payment on a house in LA, Pepsi got their own working full-size submarine.
Marc Slingerland/iStock/Getty Images
"Coke's for hippes."
Despite possessing the artillery to finally win the Cola Wars decisively and brutally, Pepsi tore the ships apart and sold them internationally as scrap. Increased business, one final kick to the junk of its home country's already-downed foe, and an ingenious resale that almost certainly earned them their money back. Pretty savvy move, we suppose. But nobody calls you "admiral" because of your business acumen, Pepsi. You chose ... poorly.
In 1889, future Hall of Famer Cy Young joined the Canton baseball team, a small-town Minor League ball club with big dreams of still existing in 1890. Young had a decent rookie year, winning one out of every two games. It was certainly good enough for the Cleveland Spiders, a Major League team who came a-courtin' in the offseason. Remember: these were old-timey sports, before players routinely drowned in swimming pools full of money. The Spiders wanted Young badly, but couldn't afford to give up much in exchange. Their offer was pure bullshit: $300 ($7600 in today's money -- peanuts even back then) and a suit. Not even a bunch of suits, but one suit. For like, the whole team to share, we guess? They offered some pocket change and cloth in exchange for a whole human being, and it worked.
Design Pics/Design Pics/Getty Images
"I'm supposed to be taken to the cleaners; what's your excuse?"
Canton accepted (was it a magic suit?), and almost immediately upon landing in Cleveland, Cy Young powered up to his true form: Cy Motherfucking Young. He won a record 511 games, the 1895 Temple Cup, and the World Series proper in 1903. To this day, he's universally recognized as one of the greatest players in history.
Library of Congress
Though in that getup, we imagine he still often thought about the suit that might have been.
Canton, meanwhile, failed to reach their new goal of surviving to 1891, and faded into obscurity. But hopefully they looked damn good while doing it.
Alexander Pan has never traded anything of substance in his life (aside from insults and Pokemon cards). If you want to talk about the trades you've made or just want to trade emails because you have nothing better to do, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For items you can purchase to start your trading odyseey, check out 11 Useful Products Too Embarrassing to Actually Use and The 10 Most Absurdly Expensive Products on Amazon.com.