"A person with a new idea is a crank until the idea succeeds."
- Mark Twain
History is witness to the fact that there were many ideas that looked absurd and non-feasible in the beginning, but turned the 'wheel of fortune' for their ideators.
Look at the simple example of mood rings for that matter, which caught the consumer fancy in the 1970s. They went on to become a huge hit, drawing millions for their creators. Don't tell me you haven't gifted a Chia Pet to anyone yet? Although it may seem a funny gift, millions of Chia Pets have been sold already.
One look at the list of weird inventions that made millions, and you may question,'who would buy that?' But at some point or the other, most of us must have fallen into the trap of attractive advertising, wise marketing, kept pace with the trends, and indulged in such mindless shopping. This Buzzle article provides a few examples of weird inventions that made millions, which will leave you both awestruck and surprised.
Richie Rich: Gary Dahl
Claim to Fame: In a short span of 6 months, Gary Dahl sold approximately 5 million pet rocks.
I am amazed at the intelligence of the person who came up with this invention, but more so, with people who chose to buy it. Gary Dahl was an advertising executive who got the idea to undertake the business of pet rocks after he overheard people discussing the problems they had with their pets. He was convinced that this business idea would work.
He went ahead and purchased ordinary rocks from a builder's supply store and started marketing them as pets. The initial pet rocks did not have eyes or color. However, the later variations came with glued-on eyes and painted faces.
He marketed pet rocks on similar lines of a real live pet; the rock came in a cardboard box with holes and straw laid in it. He even drafted a thirty-two page official training manual titled 'The Care and Training of Your Pet Rock', which came along with the pet rock. It gave essential directions for caring for the pet rock and raising it properly. Though the profits tapered later, it did make Dahl a millionaire. Pet rocks became extremely popular. Who would have thought that this plan of selling pet rocks would bring in such rock-solid profits?
Richie Rich: Scott Boilen, President of Allstar Products
Claim to Fame: It was reported that approximately 20 million snuggies were sold to Americans (as of January 2009).
Why on earth does one need to spend on a blanket with hands? Won't you just prefer to wear a coat or sweater instead? But then a sweater can get boring; hence, many people opt for a snuggie instead. It is an embarrassing fashion trend, which makes you look as if you are wearing your bathrobe backwards!
In spite of this, you will be surprised to know that millions of people are proud owners of a blanket with hands, which is popularly known as a 'snuggie'. It comes in several patterns and colors. There is even a leopard print design for all fashionistas. Now, there are special snuggies available for children and pets as well. Owing to some of the most 'famous' commercials of snuggies, they have become a subject of parody and ridicule. However, this has only resulted in promoting the product.
Some of the famous chat show hosts have even featured it on their shows. Also, snuggies have inspired a popular trend of 'Snuggie Pub Crawls'. It is estimated that snuggies are raking in a profit of $200 million. So, if you intend to look like you just walked out of a Harry Potter convention, do give this one a try.
Richie Rich: Dr. Richard Bailey and Jonah White
Claim to Fame: It was reported that till the year 1998, they had made around $1.8 million.
Now, you may ask, why would someone spend to have choppers that give you a ghastly, unclean appearance? But it did catch public fancy back in the 90s. This invention was the result of a partnership of a dental student and an ex-college football player.
Richard Bailey and Jonah White made the famous Billy-Bob Teeth―prosthetic dentures―that are sure to give you the perfect hillbilly look. The duo made millions of dollars and also came up with several variations of these choppers.
Not only this, it also helped them get saved by the skin of their 'teeth' from a debt. These Billy-Bob Teeth must have definitely had some kind of an appeal, as it has been reported that more than fifteen million models of the Billy-Bob Teeth and allied products, like zombie feet shoes, cap with hair, etc., have been sold since 1994.
Big Mouth Billy Bass
Richie Rich: Gemmy Industries
Claim to Fame: About 1 million singing fish at $20 each were sold in 2000 itself.
I smell a 'fish' in this business. Put your hands together for yet another Billy on this list, except that this one is a singing fish. Yes that's right, Big Mouth Billy Bass is a largemouth bass, which is an animatronic singing prop. It gained popularity during the Y2K year.
When this singing fish was first created by Gemmy Industries, it was intended to startle a person, as the singing mechanism used to get activated because of a motion sensor. However later, a button was introduced to start it. I can only imagine the look on a passerby's face when a latex rubber fish, mounted on a plastic frame board, suddenly faced you and broke out in a rendition of "Take Me To The River" by Al Green and moved its tail as well.
Several other versions of the singing fish were also inspired from Big Mouth Billy Bass. There was also a Christmas tree, lobster, fish skeleton, crocodile, a standing fish with a microphone, and a deer in the other versions. It grew so popular among the masses, that stores had to run from pillar to post to keep their stocks updated.
Richie Rich: Bandai, Japanese Toy Maker
Claim to Fame: As of 2010, over 76 million Tamagotchis have been sold throughout the world.
I really don't understand this strange obsession with inanimate pets. After Pet Rocks, here is a "Tamagotchi". In the nineties, do you remember owning an egg-shaped battery-powered key chain with a virtual chirping creature on it? These creatures could be anything from tiny birds, animals, objects, or people.
This device has a black-and-white LCD interface and buttons, which you can control like you do in a video game. You have no choice but to take proper care of the creature. You have to clean its virtual excrement, feed it, put it to sleep, and even play with it. If taken proper care of, the creature will grow and transform into various versions throughout its life cycle.
However, it demands a restart if you do not give it the necessary attention and allow it to 'die'. Millions and millions of Tamagotchis were sold due to their widespread popularity among children. However, parents and teachers did not approve of this device, as children preferred to spend their entire valuable time tending to their Tamagotchis to keep them alive, instead of doing any constructive work. In the market, however, Tamagotchi is very much alive. It has even ventured onto different gaming platforms and has films based on this concept.
Richie Rich: Ken Ahroni, Lucky Break Wishbone Corp
Claim to Fame: It is estimated that sales of these plastic wishbones go over $ 2.5 million every year.
Who could have possibly thought that one could make millions and millions from a business which involved plastic wishbones? Yeah, you heard me right. Ken Ahroni, the founder of Lucky Break Wishbone Corp., came up with this brilliant idea of manufacturing and selling fake wishbones and went on to implement it.
As an interesting story goes, he got the idea about this business because of an argument over the ownership of a wishbone at a Thanksgiving dinner. It is said that his company makes around 30,000 wishbones a day. They also include customized and imprinted versions for personal and corporate use.
Apparently, he had to work at breakneck speed and fracture many a furcula to get the right material of plastic that would snap exactly like a real wishbone. These synthetic wishbones look like the real ones, and they also sound and feel like them. Now, I don't have a bone to pick with this guy, because he has the knack to sell what we would never even imagine!
Richie Rich: Former owners and manufacturers, Miralus Healthcare
Claim to Fame: It is estimated that more than 6 million tubes were sold in 2006 itself.
Ever heard about the placebo effect? Well, the effect worked wonders for the profit of HeadOn. Anyone would give anything to get some panacea for a splitting headache, so a few dollars would have been an easy bargain. HeadOn is a small homeopathic stick, which needs to be applied directly on the area of headache.
When it was introduced, it had a very annoying commercial, which immediately went viral and caught the fancy of consumers. In fact, it has a repetitive tag line that played for a long duration and became an Internet meme and a topic for several spoofs. It soon gained popularity, and the sales started multiplying.
However, it was found that the entire product was manufactured with wax and was not based on any kind of scientific research. In spite of having no guarantee, it went on to sell millions of tubes. After the change of ownership and manufacturing, it was reintroduced in 2008, and it claims that it is now a clinically proven, active ingredient meant for topical headache relief.
When applied directly onto the forehead, this small homeopathic stick supposedly relieves headaches. While the earlier product was made almost entirely of wax and could not be backed by a single iota of scientific research, still many tubes were sold.
Richie Rich: Doggles, LLC
Claim to Fame: Doggles, LLC has, till date, sold millions of pairs to dogs at $19.90 each.
I agree that designer eyewear brands have already made billions because of selling goggles. But who would have thought that people could make millions by manufacturing and marketing Doggles or the goggle-style sunglasses for dogs? Doggles LLC did make this ridiculous idea work into a profit-spinning machine.
Doggles protects your dog's eyes from the Sun's glare, dust, debris, and even helps block UV rays. It also helps in protecting your doggy's eyes from various medical conditions.
This beneficial invention also helped to protect the eyes of dogs in uniform from the sands in Iraq. It is said that currently, research is going on to create shielding specs for search and rescue dogs as well. It is really amazing to see how this offbeat idea could work and bring lots of profit.
Richie Rich: Ty Warner
Claim to Fame: In 1995 itself, Ty Inc. had made profits of approximately $700 million.
Who would have thought that when Ty Warner quit his job at a toy company and went on a prolonged vacation to Italy, he would return to become a billionaire. While still on his vacation, he had an epiphany. He immediately returned and mortgaged his house to start Ty Inc., and today, it is world-famous for the launch of the Beanie Baby product line.
Beanie Babies were stuffed toys except that they were stuffed with beans or plastic pellets, instead of the conventional PE and PVC. Hence, they were affordable and had a distinct quality of being flexible, unlike other stuffed toys. Ty used his excellent marketing skills to sell the products. He used limited editions and secretive releases to generate interest and excitement among the consumers.
At first, his competitors laughed at him and called the idea of partially stuffed toys with natural flexibility as a 'road kill.' However, Ty moved ahead with conviction, and his products gained immense popularity among children. There was no looking back after that. He ventured into several other businesses with his profits and has turned his millions into billions today.
The Magic 8 Ball
Richie Rich: Alabe Crafts, Inc
Claim to Fame: It is said that approximately 1 million Magic 8 Balls are sold yearly.
Here is a magic ball which may not be able to predict or change your future, but it certainly brought a lot of fortune and luck for two people―Albert Carter and Abe Bookman. This fortune-telling black-and-white magic 8 ball became a huge and instant success. Albert designed the ball after getting inspired from the spirit-writing device, which his clairvoyant mother Mary used. Abe Bookman was his brother-in-law and helped him out. They filed for a patent and started marketing and selling the ball as "The Syco-Seer." They started Alabe Crafts, Inc., with other partners.
Inside the ball, there is an alcohol and dye-filled tube. It contains a 20-sided die, which has various predictions about your life imprinted on it, out of which 10 possible answers are in affirmation, 5 are negative, while the other 5 are non-committal.
Chicago's Brunswick Billiards and their advertising propaganda should also be given credit for the success of the Magic 8 Ball. It has undergone major changes over a period of time. The magic ball gained immense popularity during the 1950s and brought in millions of dollars. You can safely say that it is one of USA's favorite fortune teller. It is rightly written on the Magic 8 Ball packaging that it has been 'Solving Life's Dilemmas Since 1950!' Try it to believe it!
Apart from the above, a few more weird inventions, which have made millions are The Slinky (a helical spring that extends and can bounce up and down), Furby (electronic robotic toy), Wacky WallWalker (toy cast out of a sticky elastomer), the Koosh Ball (ball with rubber strings), Silly Bandz (rubber bands of different shapes), etc. There are several other examples as well, which might have sounded ludicrous at the ideating stage, but have helped roll in a lot of money. You may never know which idea may act as a catalyst to launch you in the millionaire's list. Hence, never discard an idea, thinking it to be fruitless; rather pursue it relentlessly and wait for the results. Now that you know about the various weird inventions that made millions, don't forget to give your "silly" idea a "serious" thought.