Old Reliable for Holiday Gifts

Formula One SpeakerWhen I wrote my weekly newspaper column, I always wrote an article about the newest goodies in the Hammacher Schlemmer catalog. It’s a retailer whose history precedes the U.S. Civil War—not many companies still around from those days (Brooks Brothers is one, another good story for another day). The old New York store was gone for a while, but last week, it reappeared. So, too, did the company’s paper catalog, something I haven’t seen in a decade or more. Nice to find it in my U.S. mail.

Flip open the first page, and there it is, something goofy that I can’t imagine ever buying, but I’m happy to know that you can buy a pair of iPhone Binoculars. “The view through the eye piece transfers to the iPhone camera’s lens, turning the phone into a viewfinder for sharing the sights with friends or taking pictures of the action.” It costs a hundred dollars.

Next page, an iPhone slot machine, complete with the one-arm pull-down level. For $40—phone not included—it’s a fun thing that you might not find anywhere else. That’s always been the magic of Hammacher. One more iPhone thing and then we’ll move on: The Tricloptic iPhone Camera Lens. Huh? It’s a set of three lenses on a wheel that attaches to the back of the phone: a fisheye, a wide angle and a telephone lens, also for $100.

The 50-Foot Snowball Launcher looks tame here, but in the field, it’s a cold, powerful weapon.

The 50-Foot Snowball Launcher looks tame here, but in the field, it’s a cold, powerful weapon.

There’s a $25,000 billiard table built into a 1959 Corvette (actually, it’s not a real Corvette, but it was finished in a body shop and it includes four white wall tires with “genuine steel rims and chrome covers.” And, an $1,800 Super 8 to Digital Video converter. They’ll sell you a Chewbacca or R2-D2 bathrobe ($100 each), but I think the 50-Foot Snowball Launcher is a much better buy for just $30.Then again, the $40 Lexicographer’s Extended Scrabble Board (441 spaces on a 21 x 21 grid, larger than the 15×15 that you have at home) is probably a gift that people would actually use more than once (especially if they’re up for very long Scrabble evenings). The 3D Clue Game isn’t nearly as cool—I wanted to be able to walk my characters into the rooms, and maybe make use of a secret tunnel for real, but “players move their pieces across the tempered glass playing surface with a view down into the chambers.” Bummer.

Also in the category of things to buy for the person who has everything: The Indoor Flameless Marshmallow Roaster, which looks to me like an upside-down fondue setup ($70).

There’s a watch that talks ($99 for “The Best Talking Watch”—I didn’t realize we had options) and a set of two motorized Spinning Spaghetti Forks, a laser chase toy for the cats ($30), and a Handheld Digital Microscope (50x—pretty impressive—for $200).

I could go on, but it’s more fun to browse on your own. First thing I found on their website: the goofy Formula One Speaker Dock ($8,500) that’s pictured at the top of this article.

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