The Art of the Deal: Getting a Good Trade

Tales of pursuing good trades can be humorous and entertaining.


| July 2015



Striking a deal

Buying cheaper than an item is priced is an old American tradition.

Illustration courtesy Library of Congress

It’s known by several names: bartering, trading, horse trading or just plain old begging. After all is said and done, you tried to buy it cheaper than it was priced. That is just plain old American tradition.

A good trade is one where both parties walk off thinking they beat the other in the transaction. Here are a couple that stand out in my memory.

Two cattlemen in Colorado started early one morning trying to arrive at a price on some livestock. As the day wore on, they worked through a complete package of Day’s Work chewing tobacco, broke for lunch and began whittling on sticks found beneath the shade tree where they were sitting.

With little progress made by 4 p.m., one broke out a pint of whiskey. By 6 p.m., the Day’s Work and whiskey were gone and they were down to about $100 difference on a $3,000 trade.

As darkness approached, neither moved on his offer until one man misjudged and sliced a finger deep while whittling. The other loaded him up and rushed him to the hospital, where stitches were needed to close the wound. As they left the hospital, the wounded man held out his good hand and said, “Since we burned your gasoline getting here and back home, I’ll take your offer and say we got a trade.” Neither lost face in the final deal.

While standing by at a garage sale once, I witnessed the following trade. A man was looking at a rusty, old electric iron that he knew did not work. It was tagged at 25 cents. He carried the “piece of junk with history” to the lady who was selling it. “Ma’am, could you take a little less for this old iron?” She looked him square in the eye and said, “Mister, I’ll tell you what I’ll do. If you are that cheap-minded, I will give you this iron for free.”