It is amazing the ideas that have taken hold in the last fifty years. Creative, clever, innovative, and problem-solving inventions have become significant parts of our daily lives. We cannot go a day without our smart devices, medical devices, 3-D printers, etc.
But…this article is not about those life-changing inventions. This article is about dumb inventions that turned out not to be so dumb after all! Sometimes an idea that seems silly, crazy, or even dumb turns out to be very lucrative, making you dare I say, a millionaire!
Most of our products listed are still popular today or have at least become pop culture icons along their million-dollar journey. Heck, I have several of these items tucked away in my home junk drawer! Let’s explore the top ten dumb inventions that made a millionaire!
10 Pet Rock
When people think of dumb ideas that made millions, the Pet Rock is often the first example that comes to mind. In 1975, advertising executive Gary Dahl had a dumb but brilliant idea.
The Pet Rock has become synonymous with “dumb” inventions. Dahl marketed these pets like traditional pets in cardboard boxes. The boxes even included straw and breathing holes, so the Pet Rock could be comfortable. Along with the carrying box and the Pet Rock itself, customers would also receive a manual, complete with jokes and puns. It is easy to train your Pet Rock to “sit” or “stay.”
While it may not sound exciting now, consumers jumped on this product. In 1975, Pet Rocks were priced at $3.95 and sold nearly five million units in their debut year. The Pet Rock is a classic (some might say THE classic) example of a dumb invention that made a millionaire.
9 The Million Dollar Homepage
This rare example includes some modern technology. Alex Tew, a 21-year-old student, invented the Million Dollar Homepage. In 2005, Tew had an original, creative idea.
Tew wanted to create a webpage with one million pixels. Each pixel would be able to support one link to another website. Businesses would pay Tew $1 to advertise on one pixel on the page. You can still visit this website today (though many of the links are no longer working).
The Million Dollar Homepage is an idea that may have seemed dumb at the time, but it created a very happy millionaire in student Alex Tew.
8 Billy Bob Teeth
Billy Bob Teeth were invented in 1993 by Jonah White and Rich Bailey. According to their website, Billybobproducts.com has made about $40 million selling their comical fake teeth.
Billy Bob Teeth are false teeth with strong discoloration, sometimes with missing teeth, holes, or other adornments to give the appearance of a backwoods person.
These teeth are still being sold today for about ten dollars each. While they may make the wearer look a little dumb, Jonah White and Rich Bailey must be feeling pretty smart. These classic gag gifts have made two millionaires.
7 Big Mouth Billy Bass
Another “Billy” on our list is equally dumb, although a lot louder. The Big Mouth Billy Bass was invented by Joe Pellettieri in the early 1990s and sold in 1999. This singing fish became extremely popular in the early 2000s.
The Big Mouth Billy Bass features a plastic bass fish placed upon a frame. When someone walks by (or another motion occurs nearby), the fish begins to sing and dance back and forth. The fish has sung many songs over the years, including “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” and “Take Me to the River.”
While this is undoubtedly a dumb product, people loved it! The silliness, familiarity of the song, and motion-sensing technology combined made it a big hit with older and younger generations alike. Since its invention, the Big Mouth Billy Bass has become somewhat of an iconic item.
The Big Mouth Billy Bass product made over $100 million in one year. These products were everywhere throughout homes in the 2000s and are still well known today. This is just another example of a “dumb” idea that created a millionaire.
6 Antenna Balls
You may have seen many cars with adornments atop their car antennas as you drive around—from smiley faces to sports logos, little baseballs, and more. You probably knew many people who had different ornaments on the end of their car antennas. You may even have had one yourself! This was not always the case. In the 1960s, Union Gas began putting an orange ball with the logo “76” on it.
The idea started small and expanded more and more. Disney, Jack in the Box, Walmart, and many more major corporations have capitalized on this trend. Antenna balls have expanded into an industry all of their own; you can get many different varieties of these ornaments for your vehicle. What started as an ostensibly “dumb” idea has made many, many people and companies a lot of money!
5 Silly Bandz
If you have been to an elementary school in the last 10-15 years, you are probably familiar with Silly Bandz. Silly Bandz are small rubber bands that are formed in different shapes. Originally, Silly Bandz shapes were just simple animals, but they have expanded to other forms.
Like Beanie Babies, Pokemon cards, and fidget spinners, Silly Bandz caught on in a big way with children, dramatically boosting sales. Robert Croak invented Silly Bandz in 2006 with his company Brainchild Products. Silly Bandz took off very quickly once they were created and continue to sell today.
While not an especially complicated idea, Silly Bandz represented affordable, fun, leisure items for kids. Students collect them, share them, give them as gifts, and even wear them as bracelets. While it may have seemed like a silly or crazy idea at the time, Robert Croak became a millionaire from this “dumb” idea.
4 Plastic Wishbones
The next item on our list is for the vegetarians in our lives! This dumb invention helps vegetarians participate in a great Thanksgiving tradition.
Plastic Wishbones are exactly what they sound like, a plastic imitation of the turkey wishbone. What a simple idea! Ken Ahroni invented this simple product to help more people experience this tradition. Ahroni came up with this idea in 1999 and brought it to market with his company LuckyBreak in 2004.
A Plastic Wishbone sells for $3.99 and has made Ahroni millions of dollars along the way. Ahroni allowed us to make more wishes on Thanksgiving, and he was able to make his own dreams come true with his company, which reports sales of more than $2 million annually. It seems like Ahroni was really the one with a lucky break.
Many inventions are created to solve a problem that exists. This invention does not fit that bill. Ask yourself a question. Does a dog need goggles? Probably not, but they sure look cute in them.
People are almost always willing to buy things for their pets. Roni Di Lullo noticed her dog squinting in the sunlight and created this product, Doggles, to fit the shape of a dog’s head. This idea was initially cultivated in 1997 and has made Di Lullo millions.
While maybe this product is unnecessary or even beneficial, it has sold far and wide. Doggles come in various sizes and varieties and are still selling on their website (Doggles.com). This is another example of a silly, unorthodox, dumb idea that made its inventor millions.
2 Wacky Wall Walker
This invention is not so much dumb as it is…wacky! In 1983, inventor Ken Hakuta (aptly nicknamed “Dr. Fad”) created this toy. Hakuta used a squishy elastic material formed into a shape resembling an octopus. When thrown against a wall, the Wacky Wall Walker appears to “walk” down the wall.
Wacky Wall Walkers did not start to sell immediately. Instead, it took a short article in The Washington Post to draw attention to the toy. Wacky Wall Walkers seemed to “walk” off the shelves following the article! They are still on sale for about $6 (on Amazon or through other retailers) and made Hakuta upward of $80 million. It turns out this invention was not so dumb!
You have probably heard of a Snuggie. This product went viral and was a hot item online and in stores. If you have not heard of a Snuggie, think of a blanket. Now think of that blanket with sleeves. That is a Snuggie.
The Snuggie was not the first product to capitalize on this obviously genius idea. In 1997, Gary Clegg created a very similar product called the Slanket. With limited sales, another company, called Allstar Marketing Group, brought the Snuggie to market as a competitor.
Snuggie has generated more than $500 million for Allstar Marketing Group and its founder Scott Boilen. While this may have seemed like a dumb idea when first conceived, it has sold millions, including more than $40 million in the first three months. That is enough money to keep you warm!