Maybe it didn’t come when you called it, but when it came to standard tricks such as sitting, staying still and especially playing dead, there was no pet that was easier to train. Such was the premise of one of the zaniest gag gifts to ever come from the 70s, Pet Rocks.
We can thank a man named Gary Dahl for this ingenious (and igneous) invention. While sitting at a bar and listening to friends complain about their pets, he remarked that he didn’t share those problems because he had a pet rock. Everybody got a good laugh, but it was Dahl who would have the last laugh. He introduced Pet Rocks to the marketplace in 1975 and the rest is history.
The Pet Rock came in its own cardboard carrier, complete with air holes, and a warning on the box not to remove the pet until you had read the included instruction booklet, which was filled with clever puns and helpful advice on the care of your new companion. Finally, you could own a pet that didn’t require walks, or being fed and bathed. Best of all, longevity was not an issue. The Pet Rock would outlive us all.
With a retail price of four dollars, some 1.5 million people purchased Pet Rocks during the mere six-month period that they were available. They sold especially well as a gag gift during the Christmas season of 1975. That might seem like a rather short run, but it made Dahl a millionaire. That’s because the rocks themselves only cost him a penny each. Once he printed up the boxes and instructional manuals, the rest was pure profit.
The Pet Rock was Gary Dahl’s only invention. He took the money and opened his own bar, as well as an own advertising and marketing agency, until he passed away in 2015. The Pet Rock made a comeback in 2012, but sales have yet to match the glory days of the 70s, when a simple piece of stone became one of the biggest-selling gag gifts of all time.