10 Weird Inventions That Made Millions


5
The Singing Fish
A Big Mouth Billy Bass lies in debris near Biloxi, Miss., after Hurricane Katrina plowed through the area. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

At some point, just about everyone has had an animatronic fish like Big Mouth Billy Bass, Boogie Bass or Rocky Rainbow Trout belt a tune at them from a wall, a grocery store shelf or a white elephant gift box.

The device was originally created by a Texas novelty toy company in the late 1990s, and it was soon reeling in the dough.

Perhaps as a monument to buyers' questionable taste and willingness to annoy family members, by the start of the 2000s, the "singing fish" had become a hugely popular gag gift and stocking stuffer. Stores sold hundreds of singing stripers each hour and struggled to keep them in stock. Sales of the fish topped 1 million in the year 2000 alone [source: Schuessler.

The fish spawned a slew of imitators, including other fish, lobsters and even Christmas trees. But, as the word suggests, novelty items depend strongly on newness. Their popularity eventually tapered off, and while you can still find the fish in many stores, it's not nearly as in demand as it once was.

Up next: from Big Mouth Billy Bass to Billy-Bob Teeth.