Weird inventions have some of the most interesting purposes, if they even have a purpose. We’ve seen pillows shaped as stuffed animals, wristbands that never lose their shape, rings that guess your mood, and rocks as pets. Sometimes, we’re left wondering why these inventions exist, and how they even came to exist in the first place. There are people out there who got rich off of these weird inventions and are now comfortably sitting on top of millions of dollars.
Next time you have a strange idea come to mind, instead of shrugging it off as too weird for humanity, use that idea to your advantage instead. You don’t have to be technologically advanced to create a successful invention. You never know who will buy your product, and if it becomes viral, you’ll make millions, if not billions.
The classic smiley face dates all the way back to 1963. The idea was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, by Harvey Ball. The Smiley Face is one of those weird inventions that seem very simple. Ball was commissioned to create an image to boost staff morale, which is how he came up with the idea. It took him all of 10 minutes to draw up a deconstructed face that was smiling, on yellow paper. He chose the surface because it was bright and happy. He was commissioned a whopping $45 for the smiley face, which seems like pennies for what it’s now worth. The image quickly became popular, and is now all over buttons, t-shirts, key rings, and everywhere else you can imagine (mymodernmet).
Spanx tells the story about how a few dollar pantyhose became an object with billion dollar revenue. Blakely, the creator of Spanx, was a door to door saleswoman selling fax machines when she came up with the idea. All she did was cut the feet off of pantyhose, and the first Spanx were born. All these weird inventions seem to have the simplest designs. What started with $5,000 in savings topped $4mil in Spanx’s first year revenue, and in 2013, Sara Blakely became a billionaire (Fundable).
The concept of Doggles is a walk in the park, literally. Weird inventions like this one began with a sudden idea that quickly gained traction. It started with a border collie called Midknight and the owner Di Lullo. Di Lullo had sunglasses to protect her eyes from the sun. When her dog missed the frisbee due to the sunlight, she thought, ‘well, why can’t he just wear sunglasses, too?’” Today, Doggles provide dogs with UV protection, and they’re both flexible and shatterproof. Motorcyclists love them, especially when their dogs ride in sidecars. They’re also popular with Veterinary ophthalmologists, who find them useful after canine eye surgery. They’re also incredibly cute. Di Lullo is another success story about someone getting rich from weird inventions (CNBC).
If you’ve ever collected rocks as a kid and imagined them as pets, then you could be a millionaire by now. Someone else beat you to success with this idea, though. Sometimes, weird inventions seem to have no real purpose. Inventor Gary Dahl got rich during a conversation in California, when he said he didn’t have to worry about dogs or cats destroying furniture because he had a “pet rock.” He was joking, but then decided to take it seriously. Eventually, he monetized his pet rock, and sold around 1.3 million to 1.5 million pet rocks a month. He earned over one million dollars before the fad died out (Mental Floss).
After a Thanksgiving meal and recognizing the loneliness of the wishbone, the Lucky Break Wishbone was born. Weird inventions, such as this one, was created by something we used to do as children – fight over the wishbone and hope we were the ones that got to make that wish. With the invention of the Lucky Break Wishbone, even vegetarians can make a wish. They don’t have to worry than an animal was killed and eaten in order to play with the magic wishbone (Lucky Break Wish Bone)
All of us owned a Beanie Baby (or ten) when we were kids. It was one of the greatest things to play with, and the number of Beanie Babies that existed seemed endless. It all started in 1993, with the Beanie Babies called Legs the Frog and Splash the Dolphin. Their bodies could be posed because of the plastic pebbles inside. The marketing strategy is what made the inventor, H. Ty Warner, rich. He decided to make the beanie babies “retire,” and make each one rare. If you managed to score a certain Beanie Baby and keep the tag on it, you could sell it for a hefty price because it was in mint condition (Withotis).
The inventor of Billy Bob Teeth, who’s also known as Caveman, found his idea after looking deep into a fire. He brainstormed cheap and inexpensive items to sell for $20 or less, and after what seemed like ages, came up with one of those weird inventions that eventually made him and his family rich. We’ve probably even worn these teeth for a Halloween costume at least once in our lives. Once he came up with the idea, he sold them everywhere he possibly could, like every house, shop, and everywhere in between (STL Mag).
Broadcast Wearables designed the LED T-shirt, one of those weird inventions you’re kicking yourself for not having come up with first. You can even connect it to your smartphone and design your shirt as anything you’d like. Nagubandi and his co-founder wife, Mahalakshmi Nagubandi, came up with this idea during a heated discussion about clothing. Nagubandi said, “women have lots of clothes, men have either a shirt or a t-shirt and there is not much possibility with a shirt. We thought ok, we can do anything to the t-shirt – there’s some scope to improve it.” They designed the LED T-shirt, which is honestly something we’d love to purchase. No more struggling to find something to wear ever again (Forbes).
If you’ve ever owned a slap bracelet, you’re like the millions of other kids and teenagers who did, too. It seems like many weird inventions were born in the 80’s, as the slap bracelet came about in 1983. The idea originated from Anders, who was in his father’s shop playing with a steel ribbon. Originally marketed as “Slap Wraps,” they were first a long piece of steel, like a steel tape measure, and covered in fabric. To get the bracelet part down, the steel curved into a bracelet shape when it was slapped onto a wrist (Bustle).
We all remember that Snuggies era. It seemed that every other commercial portrayed these weird inventions. There was no way to escape Snuggies, and most of us even owned a Snuggie or two. In 2009, it was estimated that Snuggies gained $9 million in profit. “There is a bit of the ridiculous to it,” Boilen, founder of Snuggie, said. “So that catches people’s attention.” It certainly captured our attention. We feel quite jealous that we didn’t invent the Snuggie first. Now, we can enjoy them in the comfort of our living room, wishing we were a millionaire (Mental Floss).
Hanging clothes feels like a nightmare. They never seem to stay on the hanger, and constantly fall off and onto the floor. Every time we wanted to wear our favorite dress, we couldn’t because it was wrinkled. That’s where the Huggable Hanger comes in. As obvious as it seems, it’s still one of those weird inventions that surprised us. These are velvet, no-slip hangers. “My whole life has been a focus group, because I look at the world through products,” Mangano, the inventor of the Huggable Hanger, explained. “I love products — it’s what I do organically.” We can at least thank her for her innovation and our wrinkle-free clothes (Entrepreneur).
In 1997, there wasn’t much technological entertainment, especially compared to what we have today. That’s one of the reasons Tamagotchi was such a big hit. Akihiro Yokoi and Aki Maita designed the Tamagotchi almost for the goal of it being a toy pet. We’re not sure exactly what inspired the Tamagotchi, but it’s assumed that the idea was inspired by a commercial that featured a boy with a pet turtle, who wanted to take it on a trip, but he wasn’t allowed to. That’s where Tamagotchi, the portable pet came into play (Mental Floss).
Many of us have played with a hula hoop, and most of us have probably failed. In fact, hula hoops are one of those weird inventions that have been around for centuries. The Greeks used to use hula hoops as a form of exercise. Through the centuries, the hula hoop has gone through many modifications and improvements. The original hula hoops were made of bamboo, wood, and vines. Founders Richard Knerr and Arthur “Spud” Melin, from the Wham-O company, decided to take the hula hoop and trademark it. It was then that they manufactured the toy from plastic tubing and became one of the weird inventions we see today (Wonderopolis).
Everyone wants a robotic singing fish in their living room, right? If this wasn’t one of those weird inventions that already existed, you’d probably think we were joking. Somehow, towards the end of the 90’s, Pellettieri took a pit stop at a Bass Pro Shop Outlet. Someone told him to invent a singing fish on a plaque. He felt it was promising. He said, “the idea of a fish on a plaque singing ‘Take Me To The River’ was hilarious. Novelty toys are a notoriously fickle industry. Consumer tastes ebb and flow, and marketing experts say it’s virtually impossible to predict what causes a viral hit.” Somehow, the robotic singing fish went viral, and made him tons of money (The Hustle).
Slinkys were some of the most entertaining weird inventions as a kid. You’d watch a coil move down a flight of stairs. Even though it sounds boring, it was actually a huge hit. It was invented by Richard James in 1944, and slowly gained traction. Monica Smith, the head of exhibitions, said, “the Slinky was something that he saw happen and he thought it was cool. It wasn’t an obvious idea for a toy. It wasn’t something he was setting out for—it’s more serendipitous than that. He kept an open mind and found a different use for it.” Slinky means “sleek and sinuous in movement or outline.” With what started as a $500 loan quickly turned into a profitable invention that made them rich (Smithsonian Mag)
Trunki was inspired by ride-on toys in the children’s section of a department store. Rob was told, by countless companies, that his idea would never amount to anything. In 2003, he was unemployed, and decided he needed to hustle in order to make his invention work. He approached The Prince’s Trust and, eventually, experienced success. Now, it’s a famous invention that kids love to use when they travel. If we were a kid, we’d love to pack our things into a Trunki and go on a trip with our parents (Prince’s Trust).
Jason Wall started Antenna Balls, which was inspired by a mid-nineties commercial that featured Jack, the fast-food company’s spokes-character, who said they sold over 3 million antenna balls. He then created his own designs, which amounted to tremendous success, with designs that ranged from smiley faces, all the way to characters with pigtails. Who wouldn’t want to drive a car around with a quirky face smiling down at them? He’s sold almost 4 million balls to car dealerships and convenience stores, and eventually teamed up with Walmart, Circle K, and AutoZone. Now, there are over 500 Antenna Ball designs (Weird Wealth).
The Wacky Wallwalker was first introduced by Ken Hakuta. It’s quite remarkable, resembles an octopus, and comes in a variety of different colors. You can even throw it at the door, mirror, wall, or window. With patience, you can watch it unstick itself and fall to the ground. Rinse it off and it’s nearly brand new. We’d love to entertain ourselves with one of these. It seems like we could toss it around for hours. What simple times. (Best of the 80s).
The Magic 8 Ball is one of the most famous weird inventions of all time. We’ve seen it in movies, television shows, our friend’s houses, and tucked away collecting dust in our attics. It was originally a promotional product commissioned by Chicago’s Brunswick Billiards company. In 1944, it was originally called the “Syco-Seer: The Miracle Home Fortune Teller”. Eventually, the Magic 8 ball was born, which is basically just a fortune telling toy with dice sitting in murky liquid that supposedly predicts your future. If we’re honest, we’ve all used the Magic 8 Ball on more than one occasion to try and gain insight about our romantic conquests or creative pursuits (Britannica).
Patented in 1986 by engineer Scott Stillinger, Koosh Balls came about from a father who was trying to teach his kids how to play catch. The balls bounced too much, and bean bags were too heavy, so it was a lose-lose situation. Stillinger said, “I intuitively knew that a rubber-filament ball would do the trick, so I set out to try to find a way to make that.” What began with a box of rubber bands, eventually became an energy-absorbing ball, and the Koosh balls that we see today. Surely, we’d be much better at catching if we learned how to catch a ball with a Koosh ball (Mental Floss).
If you were a kid in the 1980’s, then you might remember Flowbees, one of those weird inventions that made an impact. Basically, it was something like a vacuum that sucks up your hair and then cuts it. It was a pair of crisscrossing blades that trimmed the hair pulled up by the vacuum. The Flowbee cuts hair at one-quarter inch, so you didn’t have to worry about losing an entire head of hair in a matter of seconds, which is what would concern us (Seattle Times).
The Furby was inspired by the Tamagotchi. After seeing Tamagotchi for the first time, Hampton and Chung designed an electronic companion that you could pet, unlike the Tamagotchi, which is only digital. It was originally called “Furball,” and spoke in several different languages Hampton had used in the Navy. We have a secret love for Furby, considering we pretty much grew up with the toy. Nevertheless, it’s one of those weird inventions that surprised us with its success (Bustle).
Many kids have allergies, which can feel frightening for a parent, especially when they send their kid to school. AllerMates was inspired by a mother of a child called Benjamin. His mother wanted to monitor what he was eating, and clearly explain to his teachers that he had food allergies. These bright, colorful bands are one of those weird inventions that have a wonderful purpose. Now, his teachers and friend’s parents can clearly see he has food allergies. No more having to worry (Cafe Yak).
During a period when people started exploring their feelings, the mood ring was born. It spread throughout the US. The mood ring is one of those weird inventions that has a genius design. It contains temperature-sensitive liquid crystal encased in quartz. Whenever your body temperature changes, the ring picks it up. Each color on the ring corresponds to a different mood, hence the mood ring. We can’t imagine gauging your mood from a ring, but that’s what used to happen (Stu News Laguna).
In 1937, the bendy straw was born. It was originally created for people who couldn’t sit up at a tall counter, or those who couldn’t bend their heads to drink from their cup. Sometimes, the straw was made from actual straw, but it was usually cellophane or paraffin paper. Nowadays, we see straws everywhere, as the plastic invention has invaded the world. It’s also one of the most thrown-away objects in the world, polluting our oceans and streets. They didn’t take this into consideration in the 30’s! (Smithsonian Mag)
Loom Bands are more than just bracelets. They’ve expanded beyond a simple bracelet and have become a global sensation that’s even gone as far to create a ‘Loominaries community.’ It’s surprising that some weird inventions have created communities around them. In fact, not only are they bracelets, but there’s also dresses, shoes, handbags, and watches. These rainbow styled bracelets are fun to wear, and brighten up our day. Who doesn’t want to look at a rainbow? (Blogs)
We’ve all munched on a Gummy Bear… or fifty. These delicious candies are a great snack to take anywhere. It was the first of its kind to combine sugar, gelatin, fruit flavors, and natural gum, which is part of the reason they were such a big hit. Hans Riegal Sr. was inspired by other gummy candies made from rice or starch. By the 1930’s, the Gummy Bear became a huge hit.
Since 1982, the Gummy Bear has been on the shelves at Land Of The Gummies, a company that makes superior gummies. Now, there are many different exciting shapes, like dinosaurs, and different flavors, including grape, pineapple, lemon, and apple. Sometimes, you never know what kinds of weird inventions will become a big hit (The Land of the Gummies)
The Chia Pet was born one afternoon in 1977, by Joseph Pedott. After one conversation, he discovered that a fascinating product – a head-shaped terracotta planter that, when watered, grew a patch of hair – sold well during the holidays. These “lovably tacky botanical totems,” are one of those weird inventions that did incredibly well in the market. In fact, most of us have probably owned a Chia Pet at some point during our lives, and, like most of us, it probably didn’t survive more than two weeks (Adweek).
We’re all about toned arms and a toned body, but it’s the effort that must go into getting toned that we shy away from. The handheld weight is one of those weird inventions that feels like it’s something from the future. Invented by Johann Verheem, over 4 million have already been sold since it first hit the market. Using the Shake Weight is simple, all you do is hold the weight with both hands as it pulses back and forth (The Ledger).
The Band-Aids are one of those weird inventions that are a lifesaver. Earle Dickson developed them in the 1920s, in order to create a bandage his wife could apply to herself. The Band-Aid was a big part of our childhood, since many of us spent the entire summer with band-aids plastered all over our knees. The earlier make was 3 inches wide, and 18-inches long. They had the environment in mind, because once the tins were used for the band-aids, they could be reused for anything like storing pens, money, and even sunglasses. Some bandage companies are bringing this tin idea back (Band-Aid).
Ketchup bottles were a staple of our childhood. In 1991, Paul Brown invented the upside-down bottle. He was quite innovative and sold his product to NASA and Heinz. After receiving $14 million dollars for his invention, he retired. We would, too. Sometimes, we wish we were more innovative and creative and had the foresight to develop these inventions first. At the very least, we can thank Paul Brown for his invention, and our ability to eat French fries and hamburgers more deliciously (Owen Kelly).
All of us have a goal of making a million dollars before college. Alex Tew had the same idea but was one of the very few who actually made it happen. In 2005, he made The Million Dollar Homepage, one of the most glaring, harshest sites we’ve ever seen. He decided to advertise space on it at $1 a pixel, in 10 by 10 blocks. It worked, because his invention made him rich (WNYC Studios).
Sponges help us tremendously. They help us clean dishes, scrub the floor, and get those pesky spots we can’t reach or seem to get clean. Aaron created the smiley-faced cleaning sponge, called Scrub Daddy, which has sold more than 25 million products. When he told his family he wanted to start his own car washing business, he was frowned upon. But he stuck to his gut, and created one of the most successful, albeit weird inventions out there (The CEO Magazine).
The Juggernaut is one of those weird inventions that really make us gasp in awe. Why didn’t we think of this first? It seems simple, really, but that also means we would’ve needed to understand human anatomy a bit more. Judy Edwards experienced constipation in the bathroom and decided to do something about it. After a medical professional suggested she raise her knees on the toilet, an idea was born. That’s how she came up with the Juggernaut, an awesome invention that helps everyone use the toilet (Entrepreneur).
The Drop Stop helps save lives. Weird inventions that are more than just a silly toy really have something going for them. The Drop Stop helps prevent things falling in between the gap in your car between the car seat and center console. Marc and his friend Jeffrey, the creators of Drop Stop, began with a sponge and an old sock that had a few slits in it. Now, it’s an invention that has made them rich, while also saving the lives of many people (Shark Tank Blog).
Catherine Hettinger, the inventor of Fidget Spinners, got rich off her strange, but fun invention. The toy has a dome shape, like a frisbee. Unfortunately, her toy was rejected by Hasbro, but that doesn’t mean she wasn’t successful. We’ve all played with Fidget Spinners as kids, and can all agree they’re a great way to pass the time (Quality Logo Products).
As kids, the night before Christmas feels like one of the most magical nights of the year. We’d send Santa Claus our Christmas list, and the night before Christmas, leave milk and cookies out on the table. We’d wake up in the morning with loads of presents under the tree, and maybe even a handwritten letter from Santa. But who said we had to wait until Christmas to hear from Santa? As a kid, Santa Claus Mail is one of those weird inventions we wished existed. It’s a personalized letter from Santa. Your parents do all the background work, but you get an actual “letter from Santa.” There’s no better way to spend a Christmas than this (Santa Mail).
The iFart is one of those weird inventions we can’t believe exists. Since fart sounds are funny and slightly embarrassing, it comes as no surprise that someone invented the iFart. Basically, it’s an app that makes fart sounds. It’s simple, and again, we’re kicking ourselves for not having thought about this first. You can even get Fart Packs, including Jurassic Farts (dinosaur fart sounds), Shart Toppers, Bands, and Fart Wars (iFart Mobile).
When we were kids, the Popsicle was a staple of summer. In 1905, Frank Epperson accidentally made what has become one of the greatest desserts of all time. He left a mixture of powdered soda water, with a stick in it, on the porch. When he woke up in the morning, he had a frozen treat right before his eyes. That’s how the Popsicle was born. Let’s thank Epperson for his invention, since we couldn’t have survived summer without it (Today I Found Out).
Those stretchy bracelets are one of those weird inventions that became a huge hit. Silly Bandz launched in 2008 and quickly became popular around the world. It comes in a multitude of shapes, like dinosaurs and cowboys. No matter how much you pull and tug at Silly Bandz, they always go back to their original shape. This is probably the smartest thing about Silly Bandz, as kids are always pulling things apart and stretching them to the point of no return (Inc).