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1970s Fads: Pet Rock

By Patrick Mondout

Before there were Koosh balls, before there were Cabbage Patch Kids, there were Pet Rocks. Perhaps the most endearing (if not enduring) fad of the Super70s, this gem of an idea was the brainchild of an advertising executive from California named Gary Dahl. Not content with traditional pets, which he considered too messy, costly, and misbehaved, he had taken on a clean, cheap and well-behaved rock as his pet. When told of his choice of pets, his friends first thought was that he was stoned. However, they soon agreed it was a good idea and Dahl spent a few weeks preparing a Pet Rock Training Manual. Topics included: "How to make your Pet Rock roll-over and play dead" and "How to house-train your Pet Rock." Little did he know that fame and fortune was just a stone's-throw away.

Dahl packaged the rock with his manual in a cardboard box designed to look like a pet carrying case and began selling them at $3.95 each. He introduced them at a gift show in San Francisco in August of '75 and, as an ad executive, was savvy enough to create a press release which he sent out, complete with his picture, to virtually every major media outlet. In October Newsweek carried an article on the fad and dozens of local newspapers picked up the story. Soon even staid Neiman Marcus was carrying them. Dahl's personal 15 minutes of fame culminated with an appearance on Johnny Carson's The Tonight Show!


Dozens of copycat rocks flooded the market (if you find one that claims to be the "Original Pet Rock," it is actually one of the copies; the one in our picture is an original) and after Christmas 1975, the fad was over. Over a million of these geological companions were sold before Americans came to their collective senses and turned their attention from Pet Rocks to Pop Rocks.


Three tons of stone from Rosarita Beach in Baja, Mexico was used to create Dahl's pets. Not surprisingly, most of these rocks soon found their way to an unceremonious burial in their master's backyard. So keep an eye out for a Super70s pet next time you mow your lawn! One wonders what geologists 10,000 years from now will make of the layer of Rosarita stone they'll find all over North American continent!

The Next Big Thing

Every since Dahl left the rest of us thinking "Why didn't I think of that?", virtually all self-styled marketing geniuses have been trying to come up with the next "Pet Rock." That is, an incredibly useless and inexpensive to produce product that captures the American imagination and sells unreasonably well. Though a few fads come to mind, no one since has been as successful with a product as useless as the Pet Rock.

Where Are They Now?

Gary Dahl, the former advertising executive and inventor of the Pet Rock is once again an ad man. He runs an ad agency near Silicon Valley, California. His creative talents are not limited to marketing, however. Proving perhaps that lightning can indeed strike twice, Dahl recently won the 18th annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. But before you go sending telegrams of congratulations to Mr. Dahl, you should be aware that the prize is awarded annually for the "best" opening sentence for the worst of all possible novels.

The prize, awarded annually since 1982 by the English Department at San Jose State University, is named for Victorian writer Edward Bulwer-Lytton whose 1830 novel "Paul Clifford" began, "It was a dark and stormy night."



Share Your Memories!

Do you have any interesting or amusing stories to tell about Pet Rocks? Share your stories with the world! (We print the best stories right here!)

Your Memories Shared!

"I was only 7 when I received my pet rock. I took the responsibility very seriously. I remember that mine had an area on it that was faintly tinted red. I always wondered if my pet rock had been injured in transit. Sadly there was no first aid advice in my owners manual.

I have no memory of ditching my pet rock. I'm sure that in some drawer in some storage garage my pet rock is alive and well. I hope there are air holes."

--Lynn Searle (5th Grade Teacher)

"Silliest thing I ever saw in my life! My teacher (of all people) had one! I had fun as a kid but I never understood the fuss over pet rocks!"


"Mom said "There's no way in #&($ I'm gonna pay 4 bucks for a rock" I had to go to the river bed and dig up a "wild" pet rock"


"I am 46 and received a Pet Rock from my boyfriend in 1975. I kept it all these years. I teach US History and showed it when we did the Super70s. A few years ago, a student thought he was funny and threw the book out. I didn't find out until later. Now, I have a Pet Rock without the book, which really makes the item. Do you know where I can get a book to complete the Pet Rock? I still use it for my classes. [Editor's note: About the only place you'll ever find them is at eBay - check our links on this page.]"

--A teacher in need!

"My girlfriend of the time gave me my pet rock. I named him Stoner. Sadly, I didn't pay heed to the warning in the care and feeding book and I let him hang around with some wild rocks that lived near the patio of my apartment. You can guess what happened. I still have my training manual, though. [Editor's note: Aah! A manual without a pet! You should hook up with our teacher.]"


"I still have mine. It's the only pet my wife hasn't had put to sleep, and the kids and grandkids haven't destoyed yet (the "cage" is looking a little ratty though)."


"I bought mine Pet Rock "Jerry O'Rock" in 9th grade. I named him for my boyfriend at the time. I still have my rock, he's in a dresser drawer at my moms. Digging him out for a 70's Sleepover with my Girl Scout Troop."


"My daughter was just given a Pet Rock and she is extremely concerned as to how to properly care for it. The instruction manual has her completely perplexed as it runs contrary to EVERYTHING she ever knew about rocks.

She wants to know how it can move, how it can eat, and how it can ---you know."


"Regardless of how much I pleaded with my mother to buy me a pet rock, she wouldn't. In a desperate attempt to have one, I found my own "pet rock", named him and took him to school. As everyone in my fourth grade class gathered around to see my pet rock, someone pointed out that it was a chunk of asphault and not even a rock at all. I was mortified!"


"I remember my pet rock - his name was Harold!! he had a green speck on his face. I remember telling myself it was a tumor, and that I wanted cure for cancer real quick!. He was always really polite!"


"My pet rock had a serious headache when I received it as a stocking stuffer for Christmas -- it had a crack! I remember crying because my sister's was healthy. Nonetheless, I filled in the crack with elmer's glue and my pet rock lived happily in my backpack for till fourth grade when I lost my backpack. : ("


"Mine must not have been a "real" PetRock, since it had weird blue plastic "eyes" glued on. There was a bit of straw in the box, which did look like a pet carrying case. My sister had one just like it, but, in the way of little kids, we somehow managed to tell them apart."


"My good friend's brother was there when the Pet Rock was invented at the Grog & Sirloin Restaurant in Los Gatos, California. Yes, they were drinking that night, of course. I thought thi was a really lame idea. Then, not knowing what to get my Grandpa in Indiana for Christmas, I bought one. He loved the darn thing and even gave it a familly of jelly beans that looked like rocks so it wouldn't be lonely. After his death in 1979, I asked for the Pet Rock as a rememberance. Yep, it's still in a box of other '70's memorabilia today, alive and well. They have a very long life span, you know.

By the way, if memory serves, Gary Dahl also owned a bar in Los Gatos called Carrie Nations for a few years in the early '80's, I think it was."

--Northern California Girl

"My pet rocks's name was Rudy Rock.
His favorite place to vacation was Pebble Beach.
Favorite rock group was the Rolling Stones.
Favorite actor was Rock Hudson!
He really wanted to see Stonehenge!


"In the summer of '79 I was nine yrs old and wanted a new toy. My mother told me I had to earn the money myself. I had heard about these Pet Rocks and decided "Heck, there's a park full of them acrosss the street." I took about a dozen rocks and painted faces and sometimes shirts on them, took them around my apartment building and sold them for .50 to $1.25. Everybody in student housing owned one of my rocks and I thought I was the richest kid in the neighborhood!"

--Queen of Rock

"I am glad to see you address the pet rock on your site. My Grandparents gave me a pet rock for Christmas when I was a kid (probably 7-8 yrs old). I called my rock "Granite" I remember "training" the rock and playing with it...swinging it on a swing one time and it fell off and I thought it was hurt. That was the spring my parents told me the rock "wasn't real" and I cried. I still have Granite and am happy I I really believe she is real. :)"


"My brother gave me a pet rock in 1976, and it was then that I began questioning his sanity. Then I read the manual. It remains, to this day, one of the funniest things I have ever read. I especially liked the instruction on how to train my pet rock to attack (using either the long or short range method).

Unfortunately, a marriage and many moves since has left me with only the rock, which I named "Stoney." The box and manual have somehow disappeared.

My brother was killed eight years ago. Everytime I open my underwear drawer and see "Stoney" lying there (literally without a care in the world) or when I open my wallet and see the $2 million dollar rubber check he wrote me in 1992, I am reminded of what a really cool brother he was."

--David in Tampa

"Oh boy, do I remember the Pet Rock! I took mine with me everywhere I went. I can't really recall how old I was, I would guess about 8. But I can remember thinking my Pet Rock was alive. I totally believed in the hand book and took care of it very well. I also believed that if you held it long enough it would relieve itself in your hand. No joke!! Kids were definitely great customers back in the 70's. Who can remember "Squirmels"?"


"The Pet Rock is back this year. I licensed the copyright and trademark of the product to Fun4All Corp. in NYC which has manufactured both the original item and a key chain version and has orders from some very high powered stores including Blockbuster, 7-11, ToysRus, etc. [Editor's note: We were in contact with Gary back in 2001 and he passed this along to us. Thanks for all the info, Gary!]"

--Gary Dahl

"I was wondering if you know anything about Grocks. They are made using stones which are similar to the stones pet rocks were made from. They are glued together and painted to look like doctors, dentists, tennis players etc. Although some used decals I have some (from the Super70s) that are hand painted and signed by the artist. I was wondering if you know anything about them. I've had them since 81 0r 82. [Editor's note: Haven't heard of them myself, but I'm sure one of our readers will eventually comment on them.]"

--Roger Matthews

"I sadly missed out on the opportunity of ownership. My experienced was limited to simply admiring them from a distance! I have since, as an adult, begun my search for a elderly pet rock who is need of a good home."

--Leslie Tobin

"I just found my Pet Rock Pendant, in the original box with the bedding.. I was 17 when I bought it back in 1975. I don't see any mention of the pendant. Was it not as popular? I never wore it just tucked it away, I am now 45 and am curious as to a value? E-Bay has nothing reguarding the pendant. [Editor's note: It wasn't as popular and remember that the items on eBay change daily.]"


" I remember my pet rock Brutis with both fondness and sadness. I often wonder if he has found a good home wherein he is receiving the attention and love that he deserves. You see, although I cherished Brutis, saw to all his needs, I soon grew to take him for granted. At first, I never let him out of my sight. I nutured and trained him with great care, and proudly took him everywhere I went, being eager eager to introduce him to any curious stranger. In fact, the way Brutis saw it, there were no strangers in the world, only other rock and human friends he had not met yet. But as I grew up, and a kid's fancies developed into a young adult's pursuits, it seemed that Brutis no longer fit into my lifestyle. Even occasional periods of quality time deterioriated into long weeks of what must have semed to Brutis to be forgotten lonliness. Eventually, I forgot all about him, and when I cleaved from my parents and moved out on my own, I did not take Brutis. In fact, I'd completely forgotten about him by then. I'm not sure what became of Brutis, but I suspect he was sold at a garage sale for some pittance of a price not befitting the loyalty and companionship that he had once given me. As I approach my middle years and reminisce on the good friendships I'd fostered in my life, I lament my juvenile foolishness at having dismissed such a good friendship. Brutis, wherever you are I hope you can somehow know how much you once meant to me. And I can only hope that you might comfortably rest in some young childs innocent hands, recieving the care and affection that you truly deserve."


"I loved Pandora. She was the best Pet Rock, ever. A pendant version, with a leash attached to her. I was 9 and she went every where with me, on my bike, to bed, in the shower, everywhere! One day I thought we came home from a bike ride, but it was only myself. Pandora's leash was still attached to my handlebars, but she had gotten lost. I retraced my trail as best I could, but to no avail, never did find her. In fact, to this day when I visit home and go for a walk on the bike trail I still check the path to see if maybe I'll find her. If anyone has a pendant version that needs a good home I am in the market!"




A rarely-seen (or heard from) Pet Rock from the Super70s.

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