The pet rock fad was begun by Gary Dahl in 1975. Dahl worked in advertising. He knew a good ad could sell even the most common item in the world. Why not rocks? It started as a joke during a night of drinking. Dahl was trying to come up with the perfect pet. He went home and in two weeks wrote a booklet called the Pet Rock Training Manual. He went to a building supply store and found a ready supply of stones from Rosarita Beach in Baja
. The rocks were distinguished for their fairly uniform gray pebble
shape. They cost a penny
. Dahl packed the manual and stone into a little box with air holes cut into it. Ha ha. He sold each pet rock for $3.95. How did he come up with that price? His business plan from the outset was whatever he sold, he wanted to keep a dollar for himself. Cheeky monkey!
Dahl decided instead of trying to market it as a toy, he would market it as a gift. Space on merchant toy shelves was hard to get but the gift world was much easier. In the summer of 1975, he got a booth at the national pre-Christmas gift convention
in San Francisco
. A buyer for Neiman-Marcus
ordered five hundred. Emboldened by the sale Dahl began sending out amusing press releases to media outlets. Amidst the Watergate
scandal, the winding down of the Vietnam war
, and terrorism
, lots of editors picked up on the story as an amusing little aside to all the troubles America was facing. Newsweek
, for example, ran a half page puff piece
. By fall, Dahl was shipping 10,000 rocks a day. By Christmas '75, Dahl had shipped 2.5 tons of rocks or about 5 million units. Following Christmas, Dahl's sales dropped like, well, dropped like a stone. The fad had pretty much run its course.
Dahl went on to become a popular motivational speaker