5 Items Under $5 That Made Millions


America is the country of innovation and inventions, big and small. But what about those smallest, least expensive of inventions? Here are seven products under five dollars that made a million - and in some cases, a lot more than that.

Crazy Straw

Parents know: kids can be finicky eaters and drinkers. It's a problem of the ages, and back in 1936, Denver inventor Arthur P. Gildersleeve decided to bend a straw to add interest and get kids to drink milk and juice. The simple invention is still a success, and found in stores all over the world many decades after it was first invented.


This simple invention by Richard James got its start at Gimbel's department store in Philadelphia in 1945, and was a raging success from day one - the 400 Slinkies the store carried sold out in 90 minutes. Over 300 million Slinkies have sold since, making it a classic and inexpensive staple in most kids' rooms.

Pet Rock

It started as a joke: at a get-together with friends in 1975, Gary Dahl talked about how messy pets were, and how he preferred his pet rock. After having fun with the idea with his friends, Dahl wrote The Pet Rock Training Manual which he packed in a box along with the rock, with a $3.95 price tag - and the Pet Rock was born. What started as some fun in April was selling 10,000 Pet Rocks a day by October, making Dahl millions. It is estimated that the creator made over $15 million during the first half year of "production." The Pet Rock is now a long-forgotten fad, but this invention shows that sometimes a joke and a bit of determination can lead to a fortune.

Antenna Ball

It's hard to imagine when you see those little antenna balls, but someone made more than a million dollars off those things. Back in 1997, Jason Wall was inspired by a Jack in the Box commercial and started to design different antenna balls. He began selling them at his local California auto stores, and soon contracted with Wal-Mart to sell his antenna balls. Jason Wall became a multi-millionaire, and president and CEO of In-Concept.

Koosh Ball

Another simple ball invention that made millions is the Koosh ball, invented by Scott Stillinger in 1987. Stillinger wanted a ball that was easier to catch for his children, and he tied rubber bands together to create the soft Koosh ball. He expanded his endeavor to found his company OddzOn, which was later bought out by Russ Berrie and Company. Today, you can still buy Koosh balls for a few bucks, proving that some simple inventions stand the test of time.


Are you inspired? Whether your idea answers a need, like the Post-It, or a fad, like the Pet Rock, imagination can yield big bucks if you persevere. The bad news is that the odds are not in your favor as an inventor - 99.9% of inventions never see a successful product launch, so don't plan to spend your future millions just yet. The good news is that these inventors prove that you can beat those odds, with a good idea, some perseverance and a little luck.
Related Articles
  1. Economics

    The Economic and Social Effects of Corruption

    Corruption results in inefficiencies in the operations of emerging economies, and prevents such economies from reaching the maximum level of development.
  2. Personal Finance

    The 5 Coolest Airlines In The World

    These airlines have some cool features.
  3. Personal Finance

    Odd Items That Are Stolen Frequently

    As long as the black market has buyers, thieves will find a way to steal even the oddest of items.
  4. Personal Finance

    5 Expensive Pieces Of Memorabilia You Can Buy

    These movie and TV props are some of the coolest, and most expensive, you can buy.
  5. Investing

    5 Items Popular With Shoplifters

    These products are prime targets for shoplifters. These items are often easy to steal and can be sold for a profit.
  6. Personal Finance

    6 Shockingly Dangerous Jobs

    These professions might not garner the shock and awe that comes from working in the obviously risky occupations, but these six jobs are surprisingly dangerous.
  7. Personal Finance

    4 Of The Wealthiest Young Heiresses

    These 20 and 30-something heiresses are active socialites, businesswomen, investors, and philanthropists and hail from countries around the world.
  8. Personal Finance

    World's Most Expensive Theme Parks

    Here's a list of the theme parks that cost the most to visit for a single day.
  9. Personal Finance

    6 People Who Own Private Islands

    Here are some of the more notable individuals who purchased their own islands.
  10. Personal Finance

    5 Most Profitable Video Game Adaptations In Film

    Even non-gamers can enjoy these movies which is evident from their massive success. As long as video games keep producing entertaining storylines, Hollywood will continue to convert the excitement ...

You May Also Like

Hot Definitions
  1. Real Estate Investment Trust - REIT

    A REIT is a type of security that invests in real estate through property or mortgages and often trades on major exchanges ...
  2. Section 1231 Property

    A tax term relating to depreciable business property that has been held for over a year. Section 1231 property includes buildings, ...
  3. Term Deposit

    A deposit held at a financial institution that has a fixed term, and guarantees return of principal.
  4. Zero-Sum Game

    A situation in which one person’s gain is equivalent to another’s loss, so that the net change in wealth or benefit is zero. ...
  5. Capitalization Rate

    The rate of return on a real estate investment property based on the income that the property is expected to generate.
  6. Gross Profit

    A company's total revenue (equivalent to total sales) minus the cost of goods sold. Gross profit is the profit a company ...
Trading Center
You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!