An Extraordinary History of Extraordinary Gifts

As 2014 comes to a close, we’d like to thank you for making Hammacher Schlemmer the premier source for The Best, The Only and The Unexpected. Since our beginnings in 1848 as a hardware store providing hard-to-find and high-quality tools, we’ve built our reputation as the best place for unique gifts. Here are a few examples of our historic novelties for your reading pleasure.1926_Extraordinary

By 1926, our evolution from a hardware store to “The House of Fine Housewares” was well under way. Fine examples of unique gifts from that era included giant, 12-inch matches and a lighter imported from France. These extra-long matches, designed for lighting a hearth, came mounted on an enameled tray and housed in a leather case, while the lighter was adorned with gold-plated 1931_Extraordinarytrim.

Even during the heart of the Great Depression, we recognized children still needed to have fun. Among the sporting goods we offered in 1931 is The Kangru Springshu, “an invigorating sport for small boys and girls!” Like wearable pogo sticks, the shoes strapped on a child’s shoe, literally putting a spring in their step.

In 1945, World War II came to an end, and we introduced the amazing Ink Maker1945_Extraordinary Pen.  This pen used a dehydrated ink “battery” that produced a fresh supply of ink when the pen was placed in water. This fine writing instrument was “streamlined for feather-lightness and beauty.”

By 1962, four young musicians were growing in popularity across the big pond and Beatlemania took hold. We began selling The Something Box, which did nothing but flash lights in a random sequence. The novelty captured the fancy of the Beatles, who purchased hundreds of them as unique gifts.

Fast-forward to the post-Y2K era, when electronics have become part of everyday life and we want our homes to be the center of our entertainment desires. In 2008, we introduced The Personalized Whac-A-Mo1962_Extraordinaryle Game. Operating exactly like those found in amusement parks and carnivals, this one comes in a walnut veneer cabinet that opens and closes at the touch of a button, and holds other home entertainment must-haves such as glassware and bottles.

Today, we pride ourselves on continuing the tradition of offering hard-to-find goods and items that can’t be found anywhere else. It’s easy to find unique gifts for everyone with our customizable 11258_300x300gift guide that lets you focus on the interests and needs of the intended recipient.

Add Fun and Flair to the Festive Feast

Ah, the holiday gathering…everyone around the dining table, eyes wide with anticipation of the familial patriarch carving into the Christmas feast.

For most of us, this Norman Rockwell moment is not what happens. In reality, the kids are unruly, there’s that one obnoxious brother-in-law who always tells corny jokes, and it’s nearly impossible to drag the sports fans away from the TV for dinner.

Here are some fun, attention-getting 82312_300x300unique gifts that will help put the focus where it belongs: being together with loved ones, having some holiday fun, and enjoying the company all the while.

Kids of all ages will love The Indoor Flameless Marshmallow Roaster. Campfire-worthy marshmallows are toasted over a stainless steel electric heater, making it safe and easy to use with children. Ideal for creating s’mores year ’round, the roaster 86245_300x300evokes a touch of summer on winter’s coldest, darkest days.

These tipsy wine glasses are ideal for setting a relaxed, lighthearted mood at the beginning of a gathering or for a surreptitious stemware switch after guests are about to start on their second (or more) Syrah. The sight of the tipsy glass might even convince those who have over indulged that it’s time for a cup of coffee.86799A_300x300

Recalling the covert cocktail shakers developed during prohibition, this Art-Deco airplane shaker surreptitiously serves up chilled libations. The fuselage-shaped shaker rests horizontally on the winged stand with two propellers, until the launch of cocktail hour. It just might get those folks glued to the basketball game to join the party and have a civilized cocktail, along with some stimulating conversation with the family.

We have many more ideas for unique gifts that add pop to your gathering or make for the perfect hostess gift for New Year’s and other holiday gatherings all year long.

Unique Gift Ideas for the Frequent Flyer

It has been a high-flying year for profitability in the airlines industry. The drop in fuel prices has contributed, but one way the carriers have squeezed more out of passengers’ wallets is through the practice of un-bundling airfares…otherwise known to travelers as fees for checked bags and sometimes for carry-ons, too.

If your holiday gift list includes a frequent business traveler, a college student who flies home during breaks, or a vacation-loving sightseer, we have several ideas for unique gifts 83512_300x300to help any of these folks pack lightly and travel comfortably.

The World’s Smallest Automatic Umbrella can be carried inconspicuously in a purse or trouser pocket. Only 8″ long when closed, the umbrella instantly deploys its generous 40″ diameter canopy when a button on its handle is pressed. When the skies clear, a second press of the button collapses the canopy.84239A_300x300

This Micro Packable Rain Anorak folds down to 8.5 x 7″ and zips into its own integrated pocket. Fitting unobtrusively in a briefcase, suitcase, or purse, its lightweight, durable nylon construction provides reliable water resistance without the bulk of dedicated rain jackets. A generous hood protects your hairstyle.

Airlines aren’t the only entities 83784_300x300squeezing our wallets these days. With most credit card issuers now switching us over to cards embedded with microchips, identity thieves have developed hacking techniques to pull personal information emitted by the chips’ radio frequencies. This Identity Theft Thwarting Wallet is made from featherweight carbon fiber that blocks most radio signals, keeping cards and IDs safe from unauthorized access.

For a broader selection of unique gift ideas for travelers, visit our travel page. Most can be gift wrapped and delivered in time for Christmas.

Wacky Ideas for Wonderful Gifts

Some gifts are meant to romance. Some are intended to help the recipient meet a goal. And some gifts are meant to provide a hearty laugh, a knowing smile, or the assurance that the giver will not be forgotten. We have suggestions for unique gifts that are so out of the ordinary, they will be conversation starters for years to come.


This pair of motorized forks makes an ideal and unique gift for the pasta-loving foodie. The Spinning Spaghetti Forks’ tines rotate to twirl strands of spaghetti, linguini, fettuccine, or vermicelli into perfect, neat bites. A thumb-activated button on the handle sets the fork to winding a mess-free mouthful, without the need to use a helper spoon.84447_300x300

An inspired gift for those with a reputation for consuming copious quantities of coffee, The Caffeine Craver’s Colossal Coffee Cup holds 20 servings of the energizing elixer. Besides providing reforming caffeine-dependents with the means to adhere to a one-cup-a-day pledge in practice if not in spirit, the ginormous cup is large enough to serve as a snack bowl, or even a planter.


86451_300x300For a truly unusual and unique gift that will amaze and delight the lucky recipient, look no further than The Brain Wave Animated Cat Ears. The ears move in response to your thoughts and moods like an actual feline’s. A research-grade forehead EEG sensor translates the electrical impulses given off by your brain into a corresponding motion in the motorized ears. When you are paying attention, the ears quickly perk up. In a relaxed state, the ears slowly droop down.

If these unique gifts aren’t completely the cat’s meow, explore our full selection of unexpected gifts that will help you finish off your holiday shopping.

Surprise! We Stuff Stockings too

A two-story inflatable Rudolph. A 40-foot T-Rex skeleton. A giant coffee cup that holds 20 servings of jitter juice. It’s larger-than-life gifts like these that have earned Hammacher Schlemmer a reputation for offering unexpected items. However, you may be surprised to learn that we also offer many unique gifts that stuff tidily into stockings a fraction of the size of The Brobdingnagian Velvet Christmas Stocking, while staying comfortably within your budget.84566_300x300

This polycarbonate case for the iPhone 5/5S includes integrated storage for money, credit cards, and IDs. The hinged back of the case opens and firmly snaps shut for secure, hidden storage for everything normally carried in a wallet. Made from hard shell polycarbonate that provides impact resistance, with a rubberized coating that enables a confident grip. It’s an ideal and unique gift for iPhone lovers of any age.82432_300x300

Extend the life of razors with this patented razor cleaner. It removes shaving grime that can dull blades, extending their life up to six times. The cleaner’s flexible silicone surface removes organic buildup from the blade’s edge, similar to a traditional leather barber’s strop, so blades remain sharp for dozens of shaves.

Here’s a unique gift that puts a little fun on the holiday table…these 84913_300x300classic wind-up robots spice up the passing of salt and pepper. Eliminating the inefficient and impolite practice of reaching across a fellow diner’s plate, a few turns of the robot spice shaker’s oversized key sets him marching methodically in the direction he has been aimed, dutifully delivering the requested spice.

Need more ideas for unique gifts that make great stocking stuffers? Check out our gift guide for items suitable for any budget.

Unique Gifts to Help Wrap Up Holiday Shopping

If you find yourself tasked with the challenge of finding a unique gift for someone who seems to have everything, you’ve come to the right place.

Ever since its beginnings as a hardware store in 1848, Hammacher Schlemmer has been known as The Place to come for the hard-to-find, for the best quality, and for those unique items that simply cannot be found anywhere else.

As you’re perusing the web for unique gift ideas, we have several suggestions to help you wrap up your holiday shopping in one stop.84589_300x300

The Laser Illuminating Binoculars allow you to see subjects in the dark over 150 yards away with a diffused, wide-angle laser. The 532nm green laser generates an ever-widening cone of light that spots subjects in complete darkness. Equally useful during the daytime, the binoculars’ 32mm objective lenses provide 8X magnification.

For the iPad user, this wireless stylus 86074_300x300makes taking notes on an iPad seem as natural as writing freehand with pen and paper. Comparable in size and feel to its ink-filled cousins, the pen transforms an iPad into a blank sheet of writing paper and allows you to write fluidly, making it ideal for taking notes, jotting a quick memo, or sketching a playful doodle.

Fans of science fiction and amateur 86796_300x300starship musicians alike will love The Moog Theremin. A re-imagination of one of history’s oldest electronic musical instruments, this is the newest theremin made by renowned synthesizer pioneers Moog Music. Invented in 1920, the instrument became famous in later decades for providing the ghostly sound effects heard in Hollywood’s classic horror and science fiction movies.

Still stumped on a unique gift for that hard-to-buy-for recipient? Give the gift that lets them choose for themselves: Hammacher Schlemmer gift certificates are available in denominations from $25 to $200. Your gift certificate will arrive blank to allow you to customize it with the name of your friend or loved one.

Unique Gifts for the Aspiring Spy

James Bond has met his match. What were once exotic accessories suitable for a royally appointed intelligence officer, these unique gifts brought about by the latest video technology can now be in your hands.

Whether the goal is to increase household security, install a nanny cam, or simply pursue the pedestrian pleasure of surreptitiously capturing life around you, we have some suggestions that would make Ian Fleming sit up and take notice.83647_300x300

At first glance, The Secret Spy UFO appears to be a flying remote control toy. But this UFO sports a spy camera for taking videos and photos mid-air in the course of a secret mission. With four helicopter rotors, this highly maneuverable craft can execute any manner of covert operation its pilot can imagine. A button on the remote engages the digital camera to take up to 8,000 pictures or seven minutes of video.84603A_300x300

This analog clock features a built-in, motion-activated video surveillance camera that records audio and video, ideal for inconspicuously monitoring a room or office. The video camera’s image sensor captures video in a 62-degree angle from nine feet away while its sensitive microphone picks up sound from 16′ away. It can also take photos at 1,280 x 960 resolution.

84479_300x300The ultimate 007 device just might be The High Definition Video Pen. This ballpoint pen has a built-in video camera that automatically captures HD videos or still images. Ideal for use while secured in a pocket, the pen’s color camera lens is located just above the pocket clip and its microphone is located on the side of the barrel under the pocket clip, yet both are inconspicuous enough to avoid detection.

We have even more ideas for unique gifts for the next James Bond as well as those who are keen observers of life around them.

Turning a New Page in Our History of Innovation

At Hammacher Schlemmer, we take great pride in being the first to bring you revolutionary new technologies, usually via the pages of our long-running catalog. But with our First Augmented Reality Catalog, the innovative technology is the pages!

AUGMENT Last Chance 2014 FC_BC_Page_1After downloading the free Hammacher Schlemmer app for iPad, simply scan the specially marked interactive pages in our catalog to overlay a three-dimensional image that literally jumps off the page and onto your iPad’s screen. You can zoom in and out, spin the item 360º, play videos, and access helpful information such as user manuals and customer reviews with just a touch. Items can even be purchased directly from the app. It’s the next best thing to visiting our landmark Manhattan store in person.

Hammacher Schlemmer’s reputation for innovation usually centers on its products, with good reason. Among the revolutionary items we’ve introduced are such household staples as the pop-up toaster, the microwave oven, and the cordless telephone.

However, throughout our 166-year history, we have also pioneered progressive conveniences that greatly enhanced our customers’ shopping experience. We were one of the original 271 subscribers to the Bell Telephone Company, one of the first stores to install electric lighting, and among the first online retailers during the 1980s. Augmented Reality continues this rich tradition of innovation.

Blending the familiarity and convenience of a traditional catalog with the multimedia capabilities of the iPad, our new Augmented Reality Catalog lets you interact with our unique products in a new way that’s not possible with any other catalog. It’s the next evolution of catalog shopping, and it’s only available from Hammacher Schlemmer.

The free Hammacher Schlemmer app can be downloaded from or from the iPad app store. For more information about The First Augmented Reality Catalog, please visit

Delight Teens and ‘Tweens with Unique Gifts for iPad

Once upon a time, kids’ gifts served a specific purpose to entertain or educate…trucks and tractors, weaving looms, little ovens with light bulbs that really baked.

But with today’s tablet technology, that is no longer the case. The iPad is the toy that does it all, exposing teens and ‘tweens to a universe of possibilities. If “there’s an app for that”, odds are there’s also a unique gift you can add on to make an iPad ever more useful.83155_300x300

For teens and ‘tweens alike who enjoy karaoke singing, The Sing Along iPad Microphone transforms an iPad into a personal soundstage. Crooners simply connect their device to the dock and use the attached microphone to sing along with music saved in their library.

Many kids learn the joy of cooking at 86399C_300x300an early age. For the next future chef, here is a helpful iPad holder that mounts under a cabinet for easy viewing of online recipes, instructional videos, or simply for listening to musical culinary inspiration. The dock’s extendable arm pivots freely at two points, positioning the tablet at the optimal level for users of any height.84162_300x300

For the budding artist, The iPad Paintbrush is a unique gift that allows the user to create works of art on a tablet or smartphone. The brush’s synthetic hairs provide the same taper, flexibility, and strength as a traditional brush for an authentic feel.

For more delightful and unique gifts for tablet users of all ages, we have dozens of ideas that help make an iPad even more useful and definitely more fun.

Shopping for Someone Who Has Everything…Except for These Unique Gifts

He might be the impulsive type: as soon as he sees it, consider it purchased. She might be a hard-driving businessperson, used to getting what she wants, when she wants it. Finding the perfect gift for those who seem to have everything presents a daunting challenge, especially for those of us who may lack the time or patience for shopping.

That’s where Hammacher Schlemmer can help. With 166 holidays under our belt, we’ve learned a thing or two about how to delight the difficult-to-shop-for. You might say it’s our unique gift. Here are a few others from our assortment of the Best, the Only and the Unexpected.81696_300x300

We defy anyone to resist smiling when they see this flying inflatable clownfish and his companion, the air shark. These remote-controlled fish “swim” effortlessly through the air with the same graceful movements as underwater. Reciprocating tail fins provide forward motion, just as a real shark’s or clownfish’s tail pushes against water.86652A_300x300

A handsome addition to any home bar is The Authentic Jacob Bromwell Copper Flask. This handsome, hand-forged flask continues a tradition begun in 1819 with a design true to the 19th century original. The flask’s craftsmanship and attention to detail make it the ideal vessel for Bourbon, another distinctively American product. This flask along with a bottle of Kentucky’s finest would be much appreciated.86805_300x300

The truly one-of-a-kind Personalized Bobblehead features the unique facial features of a family member, friend, or perhaps yourself. Artisans sculpt a poly-clay model from a photograph of the subject. Clothing, talents, hobbies, or any other details that reflect the unique character of the subject may be specified. This is a unique gift that will delight any tough-to-buy-for recipient.

Finally, the person who has everything may frequently find himself presented with a bevy of seemingly useless gifts. 12623_300x300So why not go with the flow? With its hardware-bound exterior, this box suggests the functionality of an appliance. However, when its toggle switch is turned on, a mechanical “finger” appears from inside the box and flips the switch back off. This box elicits a smile simply by defying one’s intent into perpetuity.

Still stumped? Our Gift Guide makes it easy to select the perfect gift according to your criteria, such as a person’s interests, gift type, and your budget.