(JACKSONVILLE, Ore.) — Gary Dahl, the inventor of the Pet Rock, has died, The New York Times reports. He was 78.
Dahl’s wife, Marguerite Dahl, confirmed that her husband had passed away from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in Jacksonville, Oregon, on March 23.
While working as a freelance copywriter in Northern California, Dahl came up with the idea for the Pet Rock, first as a joke. It turned out to be one of the great fads of the 1970s that also happened to make him rich.
Backed by two investors, Dahl bought smooth Mexican beach stones for a penny apiece and then worked up packaging that looked like a carrying case along with instructions on the proper care and feeding of the Pet Rock.
The Pet Rock hit stores around the 1975 Christmas season and within months, Dahl sold 1.5 million of them, eventually earning a whopping $15 million from his venture.
Other inventions he came up with, like the Original Sand Breeding Kit, weren’t as lucrative. While Dahl trademarked the Pet Rock name, it didn’t stop copycats from getting in on the action with their own versions of his idea.
Years later, Dahl returned to copywriting and admitted that things hadn’t exactly turned out the way he planned even though the Pet Rock made him very wealthy.
Dahl is survived by his third wife, Marguerite, several children and seven grandchildren.
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