Inventor of Pet Rocks Dies

Gary Dahl made millions off 1970s craze
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 1, 2015 2:40 AM CDT
Inventor of Pet Rocks Dies
Gary Dahl, originator of the Pet Rock, holds Pet Rock items in 1976.   (AP Photo/San Francisco Chronicle, File)

Pet Rocks of America, say goodbye to your creator. Gary Ross Dahl, the man who made millions of dollars selling the novelty "pets" in the 1970s—and caused millions of people to say, "I could have thought of that"—has died at the age of 78. According to a New York Times obituary, Dahl was a freelance copywriter living in a small cabin in Los Gatos, Calif., when he thought up the idea in a bar in 1975 and quickly became a millionaire. In a matter of months, he sold 1.5 million of the rocks, which came in a carrying case complete with a guide to feeding and training. The cash dried up as the fad faded and imitators sprang up, but Dahl had made enough to buy a Mercedes, a big new house, and a saloon, the Times reports.

Dahl, who grew up in Spokane, Wash., didn't replicate the success of Pet Rocks with later ideas and ended up returning to advertising work, writing Advertising for Dummies in 2001. The Pet Rock craze "was great fun when it happened," his wife tells the AP. But in the following years, "people would come to him with weird ideas, expecting him to do for them what he had done for himself. And a lot of times they were really, really stupid ideas." She says Dahl, who died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, loved to sail in San Francisco Bay and she'll scatter his ashes there. (Click to read about 20 inventions created by accident.)

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