Novelty items, by definition, are an object that serves absolutely no practical purpose whatsoever. Typically, they are only sold because of their uniqueness or just for the humor factor, although they can also be sold as “something new,” hence the term “novelty.”
There are some objects that start out being novelty, like frisbees and hula hoops, only to later move out of the “novelty” market and into the established, commonly used goods market later on. There are even food items that are described as novelty items when they first come out, like Deep Fried Mars Bars.
The earliest recorded reference to novelty items was by French mathematician Pierre Hérigone. In the early 1600’s he invented a goblet that let you spy on people while drinking (via a mirror). The most popular novelty item in recent history was Big Mouth Billy Bass and between 2000 and 2001 it is estimated that nearly 20 million pieces were sold.
So even if you have never bought these types of items or don’t even plan to buy any in the future, we are sure that you will find it entertaining to see what sort of novelty items other people are buying. These are the 25 most nostalgic, popular, and useless novelty items ever!
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You definitely don’t wear this as a fashion statement.
Sold by Bernard Food Indrustries, these are basically empty cans with the words “Bernard Dehydrated Water” on the side.
Apparently you’re supposed to break up sheets or slabs of hard toffee into smaller pieces for consumption. This is assuming, of course, that you somehow managed to acquire an over-sized slab of toffee.
Like the umbrella hat, this probably wouldn’t help you win any fashion contests, but at least you can listen to your favorite tunes.
Possibly one of the most iconic and widely used novelty item, groucho glasses were first marketed in the 1940’s.
Possibly the most famous lawn ornament in the United States, they were designed in 1957 by Don Featherstone and have become an icon of pop culture. They even won him an Ig Nobel Prize in 1996.
Big Mouth Billy Bass
This animatronic singing fish was made popular in the 2000’s and has since made several television and movie appearances.
Developed in the 1950’s, we can only guess how many important decisions were influenced by this silly toy.
Mexican Jumping Bean
Basically seed pods that have been inhabited by the larva of a small moth, jumping beans will actually jump when heated (held in your hand) because the larva spasms. Just don’t eat the beans.
Originating in 19th century Germany, these little bearded garden dwellers have become the definition of kitsch novelty items.
Horse head mask
Originally sold as a novelty Halloween costume in 2003 by Archie McPhee. They claimed that a person wearing a horse head mask “looks downright disturbing.” Today, however, it has made the transition from novelty item to meme.
This board game was part of the BunaB novelty products line that were manufactured starting in the 1950’s. It had unplayable rules.
Patented in 1918, these were one of the first mass productions of bubble blowers.
Invented in 1981 by Stephen Askin, these novelty headbands are a common party favor today.
Originally called “Yakkity Yak Talking Teeth” when they were released in 1949. All you have to do is wind them up and watch them clang together.
Also called magic worms, these little furry creatures have a string attached to them which you can pull on and make the worm look alive.
Expandable water toy
Following the development of superabsorbent polymers, these toys became a novelty hit. They will expand up to 500% after being placed in water for several days.
What list of novelty items would be complete without the ubiquitous bobblehead?
Developed in 1963 by a British accountant, these novelty items have become a staple of college dorm rooms everywhere.
Long sold under the slogan “See the bones in your hand, see through clothes!” these typically over-sized glasses have become a well known novelty item. And no, they don’t actually let you see through anything, but the mechanism by which they create their simplistic illusion has actually been patented!
A brand name for brine shrimp that seem to come to life just by adding water, sea monkey’s have even been taken to space aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery!
These days, computer nerds are sometimes referred to as propellerheads thanks to the former popularity of this novelty hat.
Chinese finger trap
Do you remember this? You stick your fingers in it and as soon as you try to take them out the trap tightens. Not very useful, but funny.
Ever since its conception by Gary Dahl in 1975, pet rocks have made the ideal pet. No need to feed, walk, bathe, or groom them. They don’t die, get sick, or disobey either.
The Useless Machine
These come in all shapes and sizes, but the best are the one’s that only have an off button.