Home Success 30 Inventions That Seem Useless But Made Their Creators Millions
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30 Inventions That Seem Useless But Made Their Creators Millions

TristaNovember 9, 2020
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4. Barbie Dolls

Barbara Millicent Roberts, better known as Barbie, has long been the subject of controversies over body image and materialism. Her unrealistic body proportions were inspired by a cartoon character known as Bild Zeitung, popular in a newspaper in West Germany. In 1959, the toy company Mattel debuted the Barbie doll.

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The doll immediately created a firestorm of controversy along with a windfall of cash. Barbie dolls have remained immensely popular, and by the early 1990s, Mattel was generating over a billion dollars in income just by selling Barbies. Ruth Handler, the co-founder of Mattel and creator of Barbie, became absurdly wealthy.

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3. Big Mouth Billy Bass

The creators of Big Mouth Billy Bass were inspired by a wall-mounted bass fish and wondered, ‘What if it could talk?’ The result was a plastic bass fish mounted on a frame, and it sings and talks when you press a button. The toy missed the 1998 Christmas season, debuting on January 1, 1999. Usually, that kind of timing would kill a new product, but not so with Big Mouth Billy Bass.

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In the year 2000 alone, the company sold one million singing bass fish. While its popularity has decreased in recent years, it is still on many major retailers’ shelves. People still buy it as a gag gift for relatives at Christmas.

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2. Hula Hoops

This iconic toy from the 1950s, which remains incredibly popular today, was inspired by accessories used by Native Americans when telling stories. Richard Knerr and Arthur Melin had the idea of marketing their Hula Hoops as exercise products that would use the abdominal muscles.

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They filled the hoops with sand or water and began selling them in 1957. They sold 25 million in the first four months alone, and within two years, sales had gone up to 100 million. At the height of the Hula Hoop craze, one of the companies that manufactured them had to make 50,000 every single day. Needless to say, Knerr and Melin made plenty of money from their invention.

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1. Silly Putty

The success of Silly Putty is a story not about the creators who had a great idea but rather about a marketer who was determined to make their product a success. The truth is that we don’t know who actually invented Silly Putty – possible names include Earl Warrick, James Wright, and Harvey Chinn. But the fortune that Silly Putt made in the 1950s and beyond went to Peter Hodgson.

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Hodgson wanted to make the toy popular, and he had to borrow money to do it. Sales were low for a while, but in August of 1950, The New Yorker featured an article about it. Silly Putty became an instant hit, so much so that within three days, Hodgson sold 250,000 for a dollar apiece. It was so popular that Apollo 8 astronauts took it with them into outer space.

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