Christmas and Hanukah are now on the horizon and approaching at a fast clip, which means it’s time for the catalogs to start showing up in the mail. Brookstone, Levenger, Sharper Image, Hickory Farms, and the daddy of them all (with regards to containing the most useless junk at the most inflated prices) Hammacher Schlemmer.

For years I used to look forward the Hammacher Schlemmer catalog with delight. (Similar to the delight I used to show over the arrival of the new Sears Roebuck catalog when I was eight or nine. Back then there were limited ways to learn of the existence of a new toy. Either you; saw it in a television commercial, saw it in person in a store or at a friend’s house, or in the ultimate source—the Sears Catalog. The new catalog would appear toward the end of the year, and it was fat as the phone book and it stank gloriously of ink on cheap newsprint. Every toy worth owning was in there to be check marked, cross-referenced, and drooled over. Years later I discovered that there was another section of the catalog to be drooled over, but that’s neither here nor there.)

The Hammacher Schlemmer catalog was famous for featuring the three or four ridiculously priced extravagant gifts peppered amidst hundreds of moderately priced extravagant gifts. The big stupid stuff would be like things like a one-man submarine, a solid gold tennis racquet strung with platinum strings and came with a diamond encrusted tennis ball, or a full-sized hot air balloon that looked just like the Star Wars Deathstar.

After you read about the wild stuff, you could browse through the pages filled with Scandinavian Moose Hide Moccasins, replicas of the New York Public Library Reading Lamps, and the Go-Anywhere Wind Meters. It always made for quality bathroom reading.

The latest batch of catalogs have recently arrived, and they’ve got me thinking. I noticed that Hammacher Schlemmer has really cut back on their ‘big’ items. They’ve only got one, as far as I can tell. It’s an $80,000 replica of Robby the Robot from the movie Forbidden Planet. I wonder how many of those they’re going to sell this year? Back in the 1990’s with all the Internet start-up money flowing around, sure, I know three or four people who might have bought one, but do we have as many people today with ‘stupid’ money as we used to? Anyway, that’s just Robby.

I paged through the rest of the catalog and started wondering exactly how many of some of these items they were selling. Here are some examples:
$429.95 - goat suede shirt
$499.00 - gasoline powered remote controlled truck
$139.95 - fish finder watch
$269.95 - Irish walking cape (trip to Ireland sold separately)
$59.95 – two pair of Sea Island cotton socks
$699.95 – portable backyard ice rink
$1,099.95 – animated light-up Santa on motorcycle (Ms. Claus available for only an additional $949.95)
And my personal favorite—
$39.95 – The Children’s ATM Bank (which allows them to deposit money, then use their very own ATM card to withdraw said money to buy a $500 gasoline powered remote controlled truck!)

Maybe I just hang with the poor crowd, but this catalog seems to be aimed at Lotto winners and the recently bereaved that have come into a ton of inheritance money. Even so, how many goat suede shirts can they sell in a month? Have you ever seen anyone walking around in one? Ever seen anyone playing a little hockey on a portable backyard ice rink?

Maybe I’m getting too cynical in my old age. Or maybe I’m just confounded by the amount of money some people must have to burn. How could anyone spend sixty bucks for two pairs of socks? If you added up all my sock purchases over the course of my lifetime, I don’t think I’m anywhere near sixty bucks.

If I ever get stupid rich, and you see me walking around wearing a fish finder watch and an Irish walking cape, do me a favor and slap me silly, okay?

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