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From Gags to Riches

Rochel Burstyn

“Seriously? Someone paid money for that?!” Some of these crazy inventions were popular for just a short time, but some are household names to this day

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

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Everything in the world had that first person who thought, “I wonder what would happen if I…”, and then went on to invent something unique. Some of these inventions are household names today, like UGGs or the six-slice toaster. Others enjoy a wave of unexplained popularity for a short time — just enough time to make their inventors rich beyond their imaginations — while millions of other people think, Seriously? Someone paid money for that?! 

How about a peek throughout history to see some of these fad-tastic items? 


Inventor: Roni and Ken Di Lullo | Earnings: $3 million (in 2012 alone!)

It was a gorgeous day in California so Roni and Ken took their dog, Midknight, to a dog park and began playing Frisbee with him. The Di Lullos were disturbed to notice that Midknight was squinting in the sunlight and missing the Frisbee. Half-jokingly, Roni put a pair of sports goggles on the dog and immediately he stopped squinting, began catching the Frisbee like a pro, and got many admiring comments from pet owners and dog walkers in the park (and most likely, some strange looks from the other dogs!) The Di Lullos were surprised when other dog owners started requesting glasses for their dogs, too, but they willingly began ordering sports goggles and having them adjusted to better fit dogs — with a wide nose bridge and deep lens cup.


They’ve also since come up with shatterproof, anti-fog, and adjustable strap designs and even make Doggles with prescription lenses for dogs who have undergone cataract surgery or lens removal! Ken and Roni began selling Doggles from pet stores and boutiques for $16 to $20 a pair. By 2004, Doggles were on 4,500 store shelves in 16 countries!

Believe it or not, vets say Doggles really are good for dogs’ eyes. Even the US military bought more than 1,000 pairs for their service animals.


Inventor: Gary Dahl | Earnings: $6 million (in just six months!)

One fine evening in 1975, Gary got together with some friends and they were complaining about their pets. One might have complained about how expensive dog food was, another about how his cat destroyed his couch, another that his pet always wanted to be walked right when he wanted to sit down. “My pet doesn’t cause me any trouble at all,” Gary told them.

“How’s that?” his friends wanted to know.

“I have a pet rock.”

His friends laughed, and Gary decided to try to package his joke. He bought smooth Mexican beach stones for a penny each, nestled them on hay (that cost him almost nothing), put them in a cardboard carrying case, punched some air holes in the box, and included a 32-page instruction manual on the care, feeding, and house training of Pet Rocks. It began, “If, when you remove the rock from its box it appears to be excited, place it on some old newspapers. The rock will know what the paper is for and will require no further instruction. It will remain on the paper until you remove it.” It also instructed the new owner that their new pet could easily be trained to “sit” and “stay” but would need a little extra help from the trainer to “roll over.” Gary charged $4 per Pet Rock and sold over 1.5 million in six months!

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