A Token of History

If you bought or received a gift card last Christmas, you’re in good company. While the appeal of gift cards shows no sign of abating—they’ve been the most popular gift for seven years running—it brings to mind a troubled time in U.S. history when retailers experimented with another alternate currency.Hammacher-Money-Front Hammacher-Money-Back

At the height of the Civil War, the hoarding of gold and silver made coins so scarce that most merchants were unable to provide change to their customers. In response, in 1862 private businesses began to mint their own coins that patrons could exchange for store credit, much like gift cards are used today. Millions of these coins, known as “rebellion tokens”, were minted in hundreds of different designs, often featuring a patriotic message or an image of the proprietor.

Typical of Hammacher Schlemmer’s understated philosophy, our copper tokens were stamped with only our name and address and the word “Hardware” on the obverse; the reverse featured the words “not one cent” and the die striker’s name, Louis Roloff, within a closed circle of laurel branches.

Production of tokens ceased in June of 1864 when Congress passed the law that made the minting of non-government issued coins a federal crime. However, it is not illegal to own the tokens. It is estimated that about a million tokens survived of the 25 million produced, and a rare example in good condition can easily fetch hundreds of dollars from an avid exonumist.

Woo and Wow Your Valentine with Unique Gifts for Her

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, so it’s time to consider some unique gifts for her. Candy is dandy while it lasts; why not surprise your Sweetie with the unexpected gift that she’ll love all year long.Unique-Gifts-for-Her

Among our favorite gifts for women are those that will help her get more out of today’s technology. The iPhone 5/5S Polycarbonate Wallet has an impact-resisting hard shell that protects her phone, and also provides storage for money, credit cards and an ID, and also features an integrated mirror. It comes in your choice of several bold colors that complement her style, too.

The woman in your life likely has photo albums or perhaps shoeboxes filled with prints of the kids, family, and favorite vacation spots…photos that may rarely get looked at anymore. The Desktop Photograph To Digital Picture Converter takes prints, slides, and even negatives and turns them into quality 3,200 dpi resolution images. Faster and easier to use than a conventional scanner, the touch of a button records an image as a JPEG and stores it on an SD card.

For a unique gift for the woman who enjoys a little luxury (and what woman doesn’t?), The Lady’s Washable Cashmere Robe offers the warmth of wool without roughness or scratching. Hand-combed from the fine, downy undercoat of Inner Mongolia’s indigenous Kashmir goats, cashmere fibers are renowned for being the softest in the world. Yes, these durable fibers withstand machine washing, or can be dry-cleaned.

If she’s a traditionalist, i.e. a chocolate lover, treat her like a queen with The Royal Warrant Chocolate Gift Box. This collection of gourmet sweets comes from the Prestat Chocolate Company, a 35-year holder of the Royal Warrant to Her Majesty the Queen. Because the royal family bestows the Royal Warrant of Appointment only on suppliers whose goods it uses personally, epicureans consider it a mark of the highest quality.

How Many New Year’s Resolutions Survive January?

In the waning days of December, about 50 percent of us make New Year’s resolutions. And by February 1, it’s reported that 82% of those resolutions have fallen by the wayside. With a little help, you can be in the elite 18% and resolve to keep your resolutions.

According to Scranton University, the top 10 resolutions for 2014 included losing weight (#1) and getting or staying fit (#5). And today’s technology is here to assist.Wellness Monitor

Among our favorites is The Wellness Monitor. This wristband automatically tracks your daily movements and sleep cycles to determine if you are getting enough exercise and sleep. The device automatically uploads the information to a website via Bluetooth when it is within 15′ of a paired device, or data can also be synched into popular fitness apps.

Another convenient device that helps track your workouts is The Smart Pedometer. Unlike typical pedometers with miniscule memory, this activity tracker uploads data to a paired compatible smartphone to chart your movements. When the pedometer’s flip-up jack is plugged into the smartphone’s audio port, a push of a button transfers results to a free fitness app that displays data in easy-to-read graphics.

Many folks resolve that this is the year they will put together a home gym…but how about an office gym! The Elliptical Machine Office Desk pairs an adjustable-height desk with a semi-recumbent elliptical trainer to let users exercise while on the job. Designed to be pedaled at slower cadences that break neither one’s concentration or a sweat, an average user can burn about 4,000 calories in a typical workweek. Considering 3,500 calories equal one pound of body weight, that could translate to more than 50 lbs. of weight loss in a year!

To increase your chances for success, develop a strategy that lets you reward yourself at intermediary milestones and recognize that you may slip up occasionally. Keep things around that remind you of your goal. Build a small but supportive social network of others who share your goal. On the flip side, self-blame, wishful thinking, and procrastination virtually never lead to success.

The Road to Winter Driving Is Paved with Good Inventions

Many a driver has suffered a flat tire caused by a deep pothole. If you find yourself with such a roadside emergency—and perhaps an under-inflated spare to boot—help is available from The Only Automatic Cordless Tire Inflator. This is the only cordless tire inflator that automatically shuts off when it reaches the desired tire pressure. With its Cordless Tire Inflatorintegrated LED that illuminates tire valves, it’s ideal for perfect tire inflation day or night. And keeping tire pressure at the manufacturer’s recommendation ensures optimal contact between your tires and the road, improving traction.

Winter road trips of any distance call for readiness for the unexpected. The emergency preparedness kit keeps 69 essentials including sustenance, first-aid items, and tools organized and readily accessible. About the size of a toiletry case, the kit stores unobtrusively in a car or closet.

Speaking from experience, it seems a cell phone’s battery runs out of juice precisely when it’s needed most. The Hand Crank Emergency Cell Phone Charger converts one minute of hand cranking into four minutes of emergency power for a connected cell phone. It’s ideal for placing an essential call or sending a text when power is not available.

For a car that’s winter-road worthy, make sure your auto has enough anti-freeze. Keep your gas tank at least half full to prevent condensation and frozen gas lines. Make sure your brakes are in good working order. Keep the windshield wiper fluid reservoir full and carry a spare bottle of fluid in your trunk. Finally, maintain a good interval from the car in front of you and remember that even four-wheel and all-wheel drive vehicles don’t stop any better or faster on ice. In fact, these heavier vehicles can lose traction more easily in icy conditions.

Dressing for Success in Jammuary

Mens Flannel PajamasThis time of year, many find themselves fighting a bit of post-holiday letdown. And while the winter solstice has passed, sunrise is still much too late to inspire ambitions of a productive day. Trading your flannel pajamas for street clothes can be a chore in itself.

To that end, we declare this month Jammuary. Through 1/31, we all have guiltless freedom to stay in our jammies all day long. In true Hugh Hefner style, Jammuary is best celebrated in the luxurious warmth of wear such as these wonderful men’s flannel pajamas. These pajamas are made in County Donegal, Ireland, from the softest flannel available in the world. For unsurpassed comfort, complement your PJs with a flannel robe and sheepskin slippers.

There’s just something satisfying, indulgent and even restorative about a lazy day of peaceful relaxation in your most comfortable items of clothing.

Nothing’s better than watching the NFL championship round in flannel pajamas or a flannel robe. You may even want to consider throwing a jammie party or family sleepover, complete with cozy man-cave sports entertainment, games for the kids, fine wine or cocktails for the adults, with other snacks and a chocolate fondue for dessert. Start the next morning with skiing or skating and laugh in the face of the polar vortex!

Newest Technology Debuts at 2014 Consumer Electronics Show

Las Vegas hosted last week the annual Consumer Electronics Show, one of the largest trade shows in the world. CES is a huge technology show that allows industry giants to show off their latest and greatest, alongside small start-ups trying to make a name for themselves with gadget prototypes that may or may not ever get produced.CES-2014

This year’s show focused heavily on smart appliances, designed to connect your home in its own electronic ecosystem. Controlling home devices such as security systems, thermostats, appliances and lighting through a smartphone has already become a reality, but it remains to be seen how willing consumers are to wire up their homes to be able to control their stoves and crock pots with their iPhones. The most promising applications so far are those that will save energy and lead toward greener homes.

Nevertheless, the possibilities are dizzying. Imagine a refrigerator that could text you when the milk is about to go bad, so you can grab a fresh gallon on the way home, or have the message sent directly to a grocery delivery service. Your mattress could monitor your sleep and automatically lower the thermostat when you kick off the covers.

As in recent years past, televisions dominated floor space at CES, with bigger and higher-resolution screens being announced. Sharp debuted the Aquos Quattron Plus line, featuring 10 million more sub-pixels than current full HD. Samsung showed off a bendable TV, although practical applications for the technology remain to be seen. And the Roku TV, to be released this fall, comes with Roku’s superior full streaming software built right in, no additional box required.

Wearable devices – namely watches – made a splash, proving Dick Tracy was truly a visionary! And “health tech” promises to be big this year, with fitness devices such as FitBit and Nike’s FuelBand leading the way in tracking a wealth of data about your activity levels.

But perhaps no other device transforms an ordinary, everyday task like the smart toothbrush from French company Kolibree. Their Bluetooth-enabled toothbrush pairs with a smartphone app to track how well you’re cleaning your teeth, including time spent brushing and number of strokes. You can share results with your dentist, so you won’t have to be looking down in the mouth when you show up for your next appointment.

Add Warmth to Your Home During Winter’s Bitter Bite

Heated Mattress PadDangerously cold wind chills…whiteout conditions…canceled flights…sky-high heating bills. For much of the nation, 2014 has opened with wintry weather like we haven’t seen in decades.

In our last article, we told you about some products to keep yourself warm. Now we’d like to tell you about some of the best items that make the surroundings of your home warmer, while allowing you to dial down the thermostat.

This heated mattress pad earned The Best rating from the Hammacher Schlemmer Institute because it generated the most consistent warmth and was the most comfortable. Panelists who slept on this mattress pad lauded its soft cushioning and virtually undetectable heating elements. Perhaps our favorite feature, the king and queen sizes allow two sleepers to set their own temperature preferences.

Sooner or later, however, you’ll have to leave that warm bed to get in the shower. Imagine stepping out of your shower to a fluffy, warm towel or toasty heated robe. The Best Heated Towel Warmer earned its rating from the Hammacher Schlemmer Institute because it left towels the warmest and produced the most consistent heat from the outer to the inner edges of two rolled towels, effectively heating the entire towel surface. The Heated Cotton Robe has rechargeable heating elements strategically placed in the front and back to deliver full-body warmth.

One of the best ways to get warm is to cozy up on the couch with someone special. And your couch becomes extra-cozy with The Heated Furniture Cover. Made from soft microsuede, this quilted cover drapes over the back, seat and arms of furniture and has a textured backing to secure it in place. It adjusts to four temperature settings and is available sized for chairs, love seats and sofas.

And don’t forget to throw another log on the fire. The Foldaway Firewood Rack holds up to a quarter cord of wood in season and folds to merely 6-1/2″ wide for convenient storage in warmer months. A waterproof 600-denier reinforced nylon cover protects the wood from rain and snow.

Finally, how about a reclining chair that will warm you, massage you, and rejuvenate you, even on the most brutally cold days? The Heated Full Body Massage Chair combines the invigorating touch of a massage therapist’s hands with the restorative sensation of hot stone therapy. When not in use as a massager, this chair converts easily into an elegant recliner with leather-like upholstery that conceals its massage functions.