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What if you could trade a paperclip for a house? | Kyle MacDonald | TEDxVienna

September 9, 2019

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.” He called me back two weeks later: “I did it, I got town council approval,
we can make the trade.” Turns out town council approval was getting two people
to put their hand in the air. But, full credit to Bert,
he made it happen. And we traveled to Kipling,
and there we are. That’s how you trade
a paperclip for a house. And that’s the house. (Applause) The best part about
this whole project is fun, making the trades for things. Easier to tell the story with the objects,
but it was the people behind it. In Kipling, apparently, Mounties
sign the deeds to traded houses. We had a huge house warming party, over 3,500 people
came to the town of Kipling, a town of under 1,000 people, for an entire weekend. There were live auditions on stage, 500 to 600 people in the crowd
including the volunteer fire department, in a capacity 300-person building. So, yeah, they let it slide,
but it was an amazing experience. Corbin Bernsen went out on stage,
the next day in town, and said, “Here’s the winner
of the movie role. Written on his back
was the name Nolan Hubbard. Nolan Hubbard had just graduated
from high school, was making minimum wage
at The Bottle Depot. Two months after this picture was taken, he was down in Los Angeles
working on a film with Corbin. An amazingly talented person who, without this opportunity
to make a film, might have not had that chance. And it was all about the people saying, “Yes, let’s build something,
let’s do something together, let’s collaborate,
let’s see what happens.” That was what one red paperclip
was all about. There, at this house warming party
in Kipling, Saskatchewan, Karina had the original red paperclip
around her neck in a picture frame. And people were saying to me like, “Wow, you traded with a paperclip,
but don’t you wish you had it back now?” (Laughter) That’s got to be worth a lot of money.
That’s got to be – It’s really famous. And I said to them that day
what I still say today: “It wasn’t about the paperclip, it’s not about having it,
or selling it for what it’s worth. If I hadn’t traded away
that red paperclip, I’d just be a guy sitting there at a desk
holding a paperclip in his hand, wondering what would happen
if I did something with the paperclip.” So … if you have a paperclip,
trade it away. You might only get a fish pen, but it might be the single step
that leads to an amazing journey. And, for me, that journey
will be off this red circle. So, I wish you the best. (Applause) (Cheering)

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  • Reply john cash August 9, 2019 at 11:28 am

    Someone did this in the 90s when the net first started. MSN and ask Jeeves days. Freeserve disks lol. In UK the guy started with a paperclip and ended up with a million pounds. He sold the house for a milllion. I remembered coz I was one of the first kids to use chat sites I was born in 87. The guy went through pencils,etc and then gota bigger with season tickets to Manchester United FC. . so this guy just copied him. It's to coincidence to not be copied. He started with paper clip then pencil. I think I remember the chat site people said it was 15 swaps. This is before internet celebs. He didn't even get his name as a household name. But good on him for doing it. Im Guna try. Can't hurt!!

  • Reply Llolipop studios August 9, 2019 at 12:28 pm

    A paper clip should be a worth house or the house would be worth a paperclip

  • Reply James Lucena August 9, 2019 at 2:49 pm

    What if you could get 13 minutes of your life back?

  • Reply Brennan Does Gaming August 9, 2019 at 4:26 pm


  • Reply Elijah Bryce August 9, 2019 at 11:00 pm


  • Reply Gabriel Demarini August 10, 2019 at 6:39 am

    I traded green skittles for the yellow ones with my bro…

  • Reply SPOOXX_RNO August 10, 2019 at 11:35 am

    Omi brought me here

  • Reply Soteriology101 August 10, 2019 at 2:35 pm

    If I could trade a paperclip for a house then I would have to pay real estate taxes.

  • Reply Angry Nun August 10, 2019 at 3:29 pm

    That was an amazing story and experience.

  • Reply the dna master August 10, 2019 at 4:30 pm

    i'll trade you america for that paperclip!

  • Reply Max Polentz August 10, 2019 at 6:06 pm

    funny how this will never happen to anyone

  • Reply Apple Applepie August 10, 2019 at 9:07 pm

    I traded 2 Pokemon Ex’s for a silver dialga.

  • Reply Nathan Rowan August 11, 2019 at 1:38 am

    I traded 13 minutes for depression…

  • Reply Jack Is Giant August 11, 2019 at 2:07 am

    Now… what’s he trading for the house?

  • Reply Mere nuisence August 11, 2019 at 5:29 am

    Justin diamond screech. Traded a pen for a house.

  • Reply garbage catman August 11, 2019 at 7:44 am

    the best tedtalk. no arguments. hands down. THE BEST.

  • Reply themruknowho August 11, 2019 at 10:08 am

    i wonder what the paperclip is worth now?

  • Reply WKGames August 11, 2019 at 10:32 am

    Nick Fury uses tape to get fingerprint off ID to access locked area

    Captain Marvel: Impressive!

    Nick Fury: You should see what I can do with a paperclip.

  • Reply IAmNotCool August 11, 2019 at 2:52 pm

    i would trade a paperclip for a house

  • Reply Lobetec August 11, 2019 at 6:42 pm

    If i started at a house, id end out at a paperclip

  • Reply Repomeister August 11, 2019 at 7:48 pm

    Only a couple real trades. None of this would have happened without media sticking their faces into it.

  • Reply jake friesen August 11, 2019 at 8:10 pm

    Sorry. You cannot let anyone know what you are up to… Then that becomes a story and charity. Not allowed.
    I'm not saying that it is not impossible, but would take alot longer..think about. Let's say my grandpa was going to give me his Ferrari because I graduated or something. Then I spin a story simular to this. Not acceptable.

  • Reply Eli Palmer August 11, 2019 at 8:27 pm


  • Reply Brian Rollins August 11, 2019 at 11:20 pm

    So awesome..anything is possible

  • Reply Ella Genoa August 12, 2019 at 12:17 am

    This is by far one of the best Ted Talks I have viewed in a long time.

  • Reply DannyDaDuffyDucking Daffer August 12, 2019 at 1:52 am

    Wooooow that's crazy convenient for that guy that loves snow globes

  • Reply DannyDaDuffyDucking Daffer August 12, 2019 at 1:53 am

    Ultimate Stonk

  • Reply DannyDaDuffyDucking Daffer August 12, 2019 at 1:55 am

    Legend says his stonk became so great he got all the stonk

  • Reply Kathy Fettig August 12, 2019 at 5:16 am

    Love this!

  • Reply Paolo Productions August 12, 2019 at 8:58 am

    I would've just stopped at the fish pen that looks really cool

  • Reply The trickshot Bois August 12, 2019 at 9:30 am

    I’m doing this right now…..

    I’m stuck at toilet paper

    It’s been 4 years

  • Reply Anjam Beary August 12, 2019 at 10:03 am

    Why does ted not have a view count on their videos?

  • Reply Melinda Manning August 12, 2019 at 2:39 pm

    Nice mismatched shoes :}

  • Reply Juan Manuel Penaloza August 12, 2019 at 4:32 pm

    Thank you. Now my idea of getting an AE86 with an old Celica isn't so farfetched.

  • Reply Sawyer Paul August 12, 2019 at 8:46 pm


  • Reply Solar System August 13, 2019 at 3:35 am

    This can never have been done if he had tried this in the U.S today… Trump would had put a tariff on the Canadian paperclip. Free trade is the key to success.

  • Reply Rene van Westen August 13, 2019 at 5:31 am

    He did not trade a paperclip for a house. He traded a paperclip for a fishpen ect. So he just started a company in trade business. So he is a sales man, see value in the next trade

  • Reply 魅惑のウユニ August 13, 2019 at 6:57 am

    Like Japanese folklore “warashibe choja story”

  • Reply Guthan Hunter August 13, 2019 at 11:42 pm

    anyone else wanted to get some ED after this video??

  • Reply Julia Parks August 14, 2019 at 7:00 am

    How about a red thumbtack for Professor Copperfield's Miracle Legumes? ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

  • Reply Elon Mush August 14, 2019 at 7:29 pm

    clickbaity title… TeDx is terrible

  • Reply Shawn Coffey August 14, 2019 at 7:35 pm

    So he traded a paperclip from his office job…that was theft! 😀

  • Reply Bush Camping Tools August 15, 2019 at 1:47 pm

    Great presentation!

  • Reply Jordan Borgschatz August 15, 2019 at 4:33 pm

    I have a red paper clip anyone wanna trade

  • Reply aly 884 August 15, 2019 at 8:31 pm

    i have a simpler and quicker way. trade money for a house. notice i didn't say easier. It could be easier for some people though.

  • Reply CPCubes August 15, 2019 at 10:22 pm

    2:45 someone got fired over that editing

  • Reply cole moore August 16, 2019 at 1:20 am

    dudes a flat earth nut case

  • Reply Steve Stevensteverson August 16, 2019 at 4:17 am

    The real MacGyver.

  • Reply NetMage11 August 16, 2019 at 7:50 am

    I feel like this somehow ties into the "paperclip optimizer" AI problem.

  • Reply Slimeustas August 16, 2019 at 11:35 am

    Someone needs to make an app or website that people can use to trade stuff.

  • Reply Ikeshki Beats August 16, 2019 at 7:53 pm

    they missed 90% of his jokes

  • Reply Kreo August 17, 2019 at 12:20 am

    Im trading my toilet.

  • Reply Sp0ok404 August 17, 2019 at 6:37 am

    Imagine if this story gets famous and some richy rich boy sees somebody offering a trade for a paperclip and he says "screw that noise, just take the house"

  • Reply Frida Mediero August 17, 2019 at 8:34 am

    im so sad they didnt make his thumbnail 0:25

  • Reply jeroen92 August 17, 2019 at 10:02 am

    Fake story

  • Reply OogaBooga August 17, 2019 at 2:01 pm

    Wow he could almost buy a scuf controller after all the trading

  • Reply Ryan Mc August 17, 2019 at 2:22 pm

    I have unused unopened brand new straw. Coming from a clean house, smoke free. Willing to entertain trade ideas 🙂

  • Reply Jonathan Hughes August 17, 2019 at 6:40 pm

    What if you could just ask for a house as in ask and receive? God gave to us what is. What is to come will be given to us too. Gods mind needs to be in our mind.

  • Reply Daniel Lugo August 18, 2019 at 12:16 am

    it costs much more to trade a paperclip for a house

  • Reply Punit Mishra August 18, 2019 at 11:07 am

    This is one of the best videos ever .. best !!????

  • Reply TobiasNL GT August 18, 2019 at 1:21 pm

    Me: DoEs sOMeOnE waNnA tRadE mY YelLOw pAPErCLiP fOR a hOuSE ?
    Girls: eHh i gOt a FiSH pEn?
    Me: oMg YEs pLeaSE

  • Reply LookRamen Ramen August 18, 2019 at 5:36 pm

    If any one is here in 2019 leave a like

  • Reply Lupe Sway August 18, 2019 at 9:11 pm

    How many hours did you spend doing the Paperclip for Villa quest, Kyle? Hmmmm?????

  • Reply Chymist August 18, 2019 at 11:08 pm

    Capitalism and free markets in a nutshell

  • Reply Justin Tibet August 19, 2019 at 4:57 am

    youre great bless you thank you

  • Reply Sean Blissett August 19, 2019 at 6:12 am

    He was trading publicity with every trade so….

  • Reply Eagle August 19, 2019 at 4:29 pm

    i wish i had a paperclip.

  • Reply Maiden fan August 20, 2019 at 2:32 am

    i remember this story from years ago what a genius idea

  • Reply Piccolo's Grunts August 20, 2019 at 3:20 am

    What if u trade ur house for a paperclip…..

  • Reply Benjamin Hartman August 20, 2019 at 3:50 am

    Umm, just noticing this now, but he is wearing two different color shoes

  • Reply LegacySeedxp August 20, 2019 at 6:46 am

    Is that Alexei from stranger things?

  • Reply cheese chisel August 20, 2019 at 8:32 am

    this is excellent

  • Reply DurgleHypes11 August 20, 2019 at 12:22 pm

    You: working 9-5 every day and struggling to find an affordable living situation

    Me, an intellectual: trading paperclips for obscure items on Craigslist until I get a house.

  • Reply Alex Gavin August 20, 2019 at 9:53 pm

    Anyone want a bottle of air

  • Reply Chef Nawaf Aljandal August 20, 2019 at 9:56 pm

    Did he Wearing a different shoes ?? ??

  • Reply Skynoze August 20, 2019 at 10:49 pm

    This guy passed from Crunk Level 1 To Gangster LVL 99

  • Reply Haroona Malanzi August 22, 2019 at 5:20 am

    Kyle MacDonald I'm just curious if your shoes was part of trading project, I mean it must been a long journey ey.

  • Reply Kuroko August 22, 2019 at 9:18 am

    can someone get this guy on rocket league trading?

  • Reply Bludy Fox August 24, 2019 at 5:10 am


  • Reply A B Bikes Cars N’ Guitars August 25, 2019 at 4:44 pm

    A beautiful journey no doubt. Very cool.

    You miss every single shot you don’t take.

  • Reply Not frank August 25, 2019 at 7:41 pm

    leveled up to 100

  • Reply kyliee c. August 26, 2019 at 8:03 pm

    But what if i need my paperclip to hold my papers?

  • Reply xisjah ig August 27, 2019 at 8:37 am

    I’ve been to Kipling before seen the biggest paper clip in the world.. live close to there

  • Reply MartinMadrazo August 27, 2019 at 8:15 pm

    Me: Stares at my stack of 100 red paper clips

  • Reply Matthew Donohue August 28, 2019 at 5:48 pm

    Would never happen without the media hype

  • Reply K F August 28, 2019 at 6:51 pm

    * finds paperclip in new house *

  • Reply Odin Pike August 29, 2019 at 12:56 am


  • Reply Mathew Ruiz August 30, 2019 at 1:17 am

    Dwight Schrute: I've taught him well…

  • Reply Corey Nelson August 30, 2019 at 4:44 am

    It's that simple folks… What's your excuse?

  • Reply Dylan Watkins August 30, 2019 at 5:17 am


  • Reply Isabelle Pohle August 30, 2019 at 8:35 am

    Oh, of course!!! Corbin!!! I know [email protected]

  • Reply Isabelle Pohle August 30, 2019 at 8:37 am

    THIS needs to be turned into a movie!!!

  • Reply Afonso Vaz September 1, 2019 at 8:44 pm


  • Reply Dap September 4, 2019 at 11:18 am

    What if you could trade a paperclip for a house?

    Me, and intellectual: then I’d have unlimited housing

  • Reply GalacticGamerX7 September 7, 2019 at 12:50 am

    Thinking out of box

  • Reply Yes B. September 8, 2019 at 7:07 pm

    Lowkey he look like alexei in stranger things

  • Reply Adam September 8, 2019 at 7:36 pm


  • Reply Jose DeJesus September 9, 2019 at 1:49 am

    Asi q las estupidas fueron las primeras q le dieron el lapiz de pez por un estupido paper clip esta cabron uno q se jode trabajando para una casa y este cabron la tuvo de gratis me imagino la cara de las del lapiz

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