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The hottest novelty item of 1975: Pet Rock

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Vintage Pet Rock novelty toy
How hot were Pet Rocks? In late 1976 — after the craze was all but over — entrepreneur Gary Dahl, the creator of the runaway hit gag gift, had reportedly grossed an estimated $4 million. The rocks themselves came from Rosarito Beach in Mexico, for which Rock Bottom Productions paid just pennies apiece before packaging them up and selling them for $4 a pop.

“Before he unveiled the Pet Rock, Dahl was a struggling freelance advertising man,” the Associated Press wrote in February 1977. The man behind the fad added, “That’s another word for being broke.”

The hottest novelty item of 1975: Pet Rock

Pet Rock promoter makes fortune selling rocks as pets

You’re not considered ‘in’ in some circles if you don’t have a rock for a pet

And now, for only $4, the perfect pet can be yours — if you don’t mind taking a rock for a walk.

Gary Dahl, a San Jose advertising man, came up with the idea a few months ago of marketing pet rocks, hoping they would appeal to the sort of person who, well, might like a pet rock.

It turns out there are quite a few such people.

“Incredible as it may seem, we’ve sold 60,000 so far,” said Dahl’s wife, Marguerite, vice president of Rock Bottom Productions. “Those rocks are gathering green dollars instead of moss.”

For $4, the purchaser receives an egg-sized stone packaged in a cardboard box with air holes, plus a manual on the care and feeding of petrified pets. According to the manual, the Pet Rocks need no training to be able to sit, play dead or roll over. They also can be taught to attack by placing them inside a purse, then hitting a mugger on the head.

The idea for the novelty Pet Rock came to Dahl, 38, one evening as he was having a drink in a local tavern and a stranger asked if he had a pet. “I keep a rock for a pet,” Dahl responded. “You don’t need a license. You don’t have to feed it. It doesn’t mess up. It’s quiet. And there are no offspring to worry about.”

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The stranger departed before the end of the explanation, leaving Dahl to ponder his brainstorm. Two months later, he was turning a profit.

“They’re different, they appeal to a special sense of humor,” explained Mialma McWilliams, a buyer at San Francisco’s Liberty House, one of several stores doing a brisk business in the rocks.

Dahl says he’s being besieged by offers from inventors who want hint to market their ideas. One of the latest is a coin-changing machine that gives the wrong change.

“Now that’s really weird,” said Dahl.

Vintage Pet Rock novelty toy

Top photos thanks to reinhardpribish & thevarsityclub

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