18 Utterly Useless Products That Made Their Inventors Into Millionaires
1. Big Mouth Billy Bass (Gemmy Industries).
Yep, it’s a mechanical fish that sings. Despite this being invented solely to make people laugh, it’s earned Gemmy Industries millions.
2. The Pet Rock (Gary Dahl).
The perfect present for irresponsible kids. These cost $3.95 back in the day, and Gary pocketed $3 from each one as a profit. In the first six months of these pets being available on shelves, 15 million were sold.
3. Billy Bob Teeth (Jonah White).
Yep, they’re fake teeth that make you look like you have a bacterial infection of the gums. Jonah White came up with the idea in 1994, and by 1998 when he moved out of his parent’s place, he was making $2 million a year.
4. Tamagotchi (Bandai).
At one time, one Tamagotchi was being sold every second. They were the perfect toys for kids who couldn’t look after a real pet, and we were addicted to those little poopers.
5. Slap Bracelets (Stuart Andrews).
Stuart was an underpaid high school shop teacher before he invented the Slap Bracelet. He earned between six and eight million for this simple invention.
6. Yellow Smiley Face (Bernard and Murray Spain).
When these two started a novelty store, they bought exclusive rights to the yellow smiley face and the tagline ‘Have a nice day’. They put the image on everything they could, and netted $50 million in their first 18 months of business.
7. The iFart App (Joel Comm).
It was only a matter of time before someone invented an app to turn your phone into a whoopee cushion. It retails in the app store for $0.99. Joel’s made $2 million from it so far.
8. The Wacky Wall Walker (Ken Hakuta).
Ken’s mom sent him a version of this toy from China, and he liked it so much he bought the rights for $100,000. He brought it to the USA, and made $80 million. That’s a worthwhile investment.
9. The Slinky (Richard James)
James was working as a naval engineer when he dropped a tension spring and watched it creep along the floor. He released the toy in 1945, and had sold all 400 he’d made within 90 minutes. To date, the Slinky has made James $250 million.
10. Hula Hoop (Arthur K Melin and Richard Knerr).
It must’ve been hard to pitch this as a toy, but it worked, and by the fifties, 50,000 hula hoops were bring produced every day.
11. The Million Dollar Home Page (Alex Tew).
Alex created a home page and sold each of the million pixels for $1. He was peddling a good back story too – he needed the money to pay his way through college, and within a year he’d reached his million dollar target.
12. Beanie Babies (H. Ty Warner).
Warner debuted Beanie Babies at an Atlanta toy show and sold 30,000 of them. He played the game well, ‘retiring’ certain models or only making them available in certain stores. These days he’s resting on a comfortable fortune of $3-6 million.
13. Doggles (Doggles).
Doggles, invented by a company of the same name, are goggles for dogs. They sell for $80 a pair and for some reason people are actually buying them. The company has made over $1 million so far.
14. Magic 8 Ball (Albert Carter and Abe Brookman).
Carter’s mother inspired this toy – she was a clairvoyant. Originally, it looked like a tube filled with liquid, but was eventually developed into the ball we all know.
15. SantaMail (Byron Reese).
Byron Reece has sent over 200,000 pieces of SantaMail, each retailing for $10. You do the math.
16. The Koosh Ball (Scott Stillinger).
Scott wanted a practical toy that his young children could hold easily. Luckily, his brother was a marketing manager at Mattel. Two years after Scott had his great idea, he’d sold 50 million units.