Harvesting Hidden Wealth: Trading Up For Cash (Part 1)

Hidden value in a paper clip could mean quick cash for you.Every day around the world, things of value are disappearing from the radar screen. They are being ignored, disliked, or neglected by their owners. In turn, there are always a few clever people who spend their time recovering this hidden wealth. Discovering hidden wealth is thrilling. Converting it to cash can change your life.

Hidden Wealth 101

In 2005, a young Canadian named Kyle MacDonald traded a small red paper clip for a house, in fourteen steps.  By posting a free online ad at Craigslist.org in the “barter” section, he first traded up for a pen, then a handmade doorknob, then a camp stove, then a generator, and so on, until he owned an actual home in Kipling, Saskatchewan. His trades took one year, and included several fun twists and turns. They made a great story.


Kyle’s story is no lark—it had a very real and substantial payoff. How did he do it? How did he trade items of small value for items of greater value, over and over again? The answer lies in a concept we call hidden wealth.


In each case, the people Kyle traded with valued their own items at less than their true market value. Perhaps the idea of selling them seemed like too much work. In any event, they were happy to trade with Kyle, even though it meant giving up the opportunity to make more money for themselves.


Hidden Wealth Rule #1:  Whenever an item is valued by its owner at less than its true worth, it contains hidden wealth.


This is a remarkable insight that we will explore in this article, but first let’s return to Kyle’s tale. Several of Kyle’s trading partners valued their own items realistically, yet were willing to trade for Kyle’s item, PLUS a chance to become part of his story. They were happy to share in Kyle’s fame and enjoyed the thought they were helping an ambitious young man.


“Intangible rewards” such as the thrill of participation, entertainment, or an ego boost are often included in a sale or trade. As every trader knows, you can buy something for less if you throw in a few friendly words, a chance for recognition, or simple entertainment. Intangible rewards are not puffery or fraud. They are part of the normal course of doing business.


Hidden Wealth Rule #2:  An intangible reward is another form of hidden wealth that is traded in a transaction: One party creates it, and the other party wants it.


Kyle MacDonald not only understood hidden wealth, he knew what every good trader knows: how to offer amazing intangible rewards. He also knew how to obtain free publicity with an intriguing story, and he recognized the power of the internet in the instant, “viral” spread of a message. In short, he understood several of today’s most effective methods to garner success.



Where Does Hidden Wealth Come From?


Look in the garage for hidden wealth.

You can find hidden wealth anywhere. Start by checking your garage or storage unit.

Remember Rule #1? Hidden wealth is created every time one person is willing to part with a possession for less than it’s worth to someone else. Since the value we place on our material possessions is both fickle and fleeting, hidden wealth is created all the time. An item that seemed like a “must buy” yesterday may lose its luster the moment we take it home and set it on a shelf. Whether it happens sooner or later, we all eventually tire of holding onto things, or we move in new directions and no longer need the things that once seemed so critical to own. Plus, there is a cost involved to sell or store anything. It requires our time and effort—something we may not be in a position to supply.


Hidden wealth is often as close as your garage.

Clear out clutter and harvest hidden wealth.

When we’re ready to part with an item, we may not realize it still has considerable value to other people. Sometimes the market value of an item skyrockets over time, and we aren’t even aware of it. Often the only way to know what an item is worth is to take the time and effort to sell it ourselves, but we aren’t willing to do that. If someone came to us with an immediate cash offer, or with an offer to trade for something else, we might jump at the chance. If we need money, we may sacrifice an item in return for quick cash. When it comes down to getting rid of an item fast, we might give it away, or throw it in the dumpster.


Everyone experiences these things, so we all devalue our possessions and create hidden wealth. By choosing to make the effort, you can harvest your own hidden wealth, or harvest the wealth available from others, and generate extra income in the process.


Hidden wealth is everywhere.


How Much Hidden Wealth Exists In The World?


At any given time, there are TRILLIONS of dollars of hidden wealth sitting idle and ready to be harvested. It lies all around us—in the neighbor’s old car he never drives, or in the vacant lot down the street that has stood empty for years. Many attics and garages are filled with hidden wealth. Where the ordinary person sees some rusty old engine blocks, the hidden wealth harvester sees crisp $20 bills from the recycling center across town.


A true trader knows that one person’s junk is another’s hidden fortune. In fact, many items are always in demand and selling them is easy. Never underestimate the dirty, worn, or unattractive—it makes no financial sense unless you’re certain the cost to resell is more than any wealth you expect to harvest.


Win/Win Harvesting Through Exchange


Whenever we trade one thing for another, both parties win. How can we be certain? Those who sell get rid of their unwanted item in exchange for something they value. Those who buy give up cash, other items, or intangibles for something they value more. If either party doesn’t see the value in the trade it won’t happen. Actions speak louder than words.


In many trades, both parties get far more than they gave. This happens when both items traded contain a lot of unwanted, hidden wealth.


We can draw two quick lessons: (1) Value is in the eye of the beholder so it’s okay to end up with something “more valuable” than the item you gave up. Also, (2) There is no way to prejudge how much hidden wealth an item holds.


Knick knacks are a potential source of hidden wealth.

Ready to clear out the old? Check shelves for unwanted knick knacks.

This makes it perfectly acceptable to start a negotiation with a “low ball” offer. What seems low to you might be exactly what the other person wants and needs. Give him any more and you are giving away your money.


The irony is that even money can contain hidden wealth if it has less meaning to the person holding it than it does for you. This would be true for the person feeling flush enough to give part of their fortune to a social cause, or for those that make a habit of throwing it away by spending on frivolous items. Selling or trading with people who value money less than you do can be especially lucrative.


For specific ideas to harvest hidden wealth and convert it into quick cash, read Part 2 of this series: “Harvesting Hidden Wealth: From Theory To Practice”.


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