The Most Ridiculous Ways People Made Money

When I was in the sixth grade I took an art class. The teacher showed us a painting that consisted of three diagonal lines, drawn in pencil, that had sold for over $3,000. The artist didn’t even have the kindness to put the lines in color. I wondered why I had hadn’t thought of the idea first. Unfortunately, I cannot share a picture of the painting, because try as I might, I cannot find it. Because of this incident in middle school, I have become interested in easy ways to make money. It doesn’t help that I am now a college student who needs to pay tuition. I am here today to share with you some absolutely ridiculous ways people manage to make money. And in honor of the $3,000 “artwork,” I will start this list with ridiculous art that has made, not thousands, but millions.


1. Blood Red Mirror - Gerhard Ritcher

This one right here is what I call a ripoff (well, they’re all ripoffs). I have no knowledge about art, and so I hesitate to say it is trash, but I can’t help it. I mean, it sold for $1.1 million. I’m about to paint a canvas all black and title it “Inner Darkness,” write some unnecessarily creative explanation and get my million dollars (don’t steal my idea; I’m watching you).


2. Untitled (1970) - Cy Twombly

This is a slap in the face to every preschooler and their parents. What a world we live in where people can sell chicken scratch as artwork. I do wonder if Da Vinci is crying in his grave. Or maybe he would fancy it; who knows at this point? It was sold for $69.6 million. Let that sink in.


3. Non-Existent Art

I hope the people who bought this know they could’ve gotten empty picture frames at Michaels and the effect would be the same, and it wouldn’t cost $10,000. Although, as a mere pleb, Michaels would still cost too much for me.



4. NYC Garbage Cubes

Pretty self-explanatory. It’s a cube...with garbage in it. Yup; sold for $50 each. ‘Tis a cruel world. Moving on. Well, wait. There is a juicy story behind this, and it’s the classic enemy line from Scooby-Doo: “I’ll show you!” The guy who invented this, Justin Gignac, was less than pleased that his co-workers didn’t see the importance that packaging plays when selling a product. So, to prove his point that good presentation can get anything sold, the NYC Garbage Cube was born. And… he was right!


5. Green blot - Ellsworth Kelly


Do you remember when you used to cut out shapes and glue them to stuff when you were younger? I’m beginning to feel that the education system is deceiving us and our parents, not letting us know that we could make $1.6 million by plastering shapes on paper.

Don’t worry, I can confidently assure you that these “artworks” are the worst it will get. They have prepared you well for what will come, because at least the other things on the list are interactive and born out of some sort of legitimate thought process. As a wise commenter on said, “...often the salesman deserves more credit than the artist.”


6. The Pet Rock

Gary Dahl was discussing with his friends how much upkeep pets were. He got the idea of making a “hassle-free” pet and came up with the Pet Rock, selling them for $3.25 each. From just one year of selling the Pet Rocks, he made $15 million. The pet came with a pet training manual and a box made to resemble a pet carrier.

The real question here is not why someone would even invent this, but why anyone would even buy it. I mean, there are so many stray rocks about. Does the fight to adopt pets rather than buy them end at the rock species? Poor rocks; so unloved and discriminated against. What a sad world.


7. Doggles

I really can’t understand why dogs need goggle. The inventor - Roni Di Lullo - saw that her dog would always squint in the sun and came up with the idea. So fine; humans need sunglasses and so do bougie dogs. My issue is, why are goggles that go on dogs sold for $80? While there are plenty goggles for humans that cost a lot, there are plenty that don’t, just as there are plenty of dogs that survive well without glasses. It is now a $3 million company.


8. The Slinky

Richard James was a Naval Engineer who got rich from a common case of butterfingers, when he dropped the tension spring he was using. He presented the invention in Philadelphia in 1945 and sold 400 of the toys in 90 minutes. Selling each slinky for $1, he raked in $250 million. The lesson here is that humans are entertained by the most useless stuff.

I am being honest when I say I have no words for this. The slinky reminds me of a stress ball; they are both perfect ways to let out anger but otherwise entirely useless.


9. The Yellow Smiley Face

Ah, my personal favorite. The Smiley was invented by Harvey Ball in 1963 for a client of his PR company. He sold it for only $45 and never trademarked the image. However, Brother Bernard and Murray Spain used the image and attached the phrase “Have a Happy Day,” to it, and later changed it to have a “Have a Nice Day.” From this reuse of an uncopyrighted invention, they made a net worth of $500 million.

All I can say is poor Harvey Ball. Moral of the story is, once you can sell/have sold it, copyright it.


10. Professional Sleeper

This is one job that would appeal to any tired college student. Companies are often willing to pay someone to sleep in their beds and tell them how comfortable it is. This ranges from hotels to hospitals who need feedback on the quality of the beds their clients will be using. Need sleep and money? Consider this job.

Do you know of any strange ways that people have made money? Share it with me in the comments section!


Images: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11

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