No Cash, No Problem for the Barter Kings

All-new reality series Barter Kings makes its debut, but will viewers tune in to watch big-time trades?

Credit: A&E

Cash-free trading is a booming business for A&E’s Barter Kings

Trade trumps cash for the Barter Kings

You’ve probably heard the story of Kyle MacDonald, who started with a single red paperclip and set out to trade it for something more valuable, and kept on trading upwards until he wound up with a house — without spending a dime.

Somebody at A&E must have figured that would make a good TV show, and the result is Barter Kings, a new unscripted series that delves into the underground-economy subculture of cash-free, tax-free trading.

The show centres on “cashless entrepreneurs” Steve and Antonio (A&E doesn’t give their last names), who trade stuff for more-valuable stuff until they end up with merchandise worth far more than that with which they started.

As Steve reveals, his trading strategy is to say little and sit tight until the other guy makes a move. “Never talk people into anything,” he says. “Wait for them to make the first offer.”

Antonio, a “junk man’s son” who’s been bartering since childhood, has a trading philosophy that goes even further, and he abides by rules such as “never bring cash to a trade” and “never feel guilty walking away with the better item.”

Will Barter Kings Succeed?

In the debut episode, Steve (a.k.a. “Mr. Nice Guy”) decides he wants a speedboat. Since actually buying one would make him a chump, he comes up with the far more ambitious plan of starting with some vintage Elvis Presley memorabilia and trading his way to a boat. Not to be outdone, Antonio (“The Shark”) sets his own goal: he’ll start off with a used laptop computer and trade all the way up to a pickup truck.

Can a show about two guys trading junk for better junk become a hit? It just might. I never would have predicted a show about people bidding on the contents of abandoned storage lockers would attract much of an audience, yet Storage Wars has become A&E’s most successful series to date.

Judging by the first episode, Barter Kings has all the same addictive elements in place, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see these Kings ruling A&E’s summertime ratings.

BARTER KINGS premieres Tuesday, June 12, at 6 p.m. & 9 p.m. on A&E

Originally published in TVW. For daily programming updates and on-screen Entertainment news, subscribe to the free TVW e-newsletters, or purchase a subscription to the weekly magazine.