The Marble Game

A number of years ago, a young man by the name of Kyle MacDonald began trading up in Kyle MacDonald and red paperclipvalue from a single red paperclip. Through fourteen well thought out trades, he went from a paperclip to a house. MacDonald’s exercise is the inspiration for The Marble Game.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Sales Strategy
  • Self-Branding
  • The Relativity of  Value
  • Asset Acquisition

How to play: To play this game, I give students a marble, as a paperclip has an immediate and obvious use: it can hold paper together. A marble has a less obvious use. Perhaps it might evoke a childhood memory or someone may find value in the fact that it is shiny. The goal of this game is to take this seemingly valueless object and trade up in value as far as one can go in the course of one semester.


Tip: To avoid tax complications in the process of acquiring assets, students in my classes vote on a nonprofit of their choice to donate all goods to at the end of the game.

To view a video of one successful student’s process of trading up from a marble to over $1,600 in value, watch the following video of The Marble Game:

Jordan Barnett

The Marble Game, SMU, Meadows School of the Arts

If you would like to use these games in your own classroom, please do! If you do, let me know how how it goes and if you have suggestions for modifying a game/s. 

I can be reached at 



In July of 2015, “The Marble Game” was published as an exercise in “Experiential Entrepreneurship Exercises Journal”.

Click to access EEEJ-Issue-3.pdf

Prior to this, James Hart’s “The Marble Game” also appeared in “Educating Arts Entrepreneurs: Does, Can or Should One Size Fit All?”.

If you choose to use this game/exercise by Jim (James) Hart, please cite in the following way:

Beckman, Gary D. and Hart, James D. Chapter: “Educating Arts Entrepreneurs: Does, Can or Should One Size Fit All?” In Embracing Entrepreneurship Across Disciplines, authored by Satish Nambisan. Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd., 2015.

Please also cite James Hart and the “Experiential Entrepreneurship Exercises Journal”.


About James Hart

Jim Hart serves as Director of Arts Entrepreneurship at Southern Methodist University, Meadows School of the Arts. Hart is also the founder of The International Theatre Academy Norway and co-founder of the Society for Arts Entrepreneurship Education. Hart is a multi-award winning educator, often recognized for innovation and pedagogy.
This entry was posted in Asset Acquisition, Sales Strategy, Self-Branding, The Relativity of Value, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The Marble Game

  1. Alex Bruton says:

    Hi Jim. It was great meeting you at USASBE this year. Enjoyed this post. Looking forward to connecting again soon.


  2. Katie Brown says:

    My Intro to Arts E-Ship class is doing the marble game. They are stoked!


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