How a discussion about pets turned into the Pet Rock phenomenon

Ten-thousand pet rocks were being sold each day at the height of the mid-1970s pop culture craze.

'I just thought the world was ready for a no-maintenance pet,' creator Gary Dahl said

Gary Dahl, the creator of the pet rock, is seen in a 1976 file photo. He once talked to CBC Radio's As It Happens about the fad that he was the father of. (San Francisco Chronicle/Associated Press)

"I think I've hit some sort of nerve with the pulse of the population," said Gary Dahl, when trying to explain the phenomenon he created with the Pet Rock.

Forty-three years ago, Dahl told CBC Radio's As It Happens that the product was then bringing in $20,000 US a day.

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Today, that per-day payout would today be north of $90,000 US, when inflation is factored in.

"We're selling about 10,000 units [a day] and we wholesale them at $2 apiece," Dahl said, when speaking to As It Happens in November of 1975. 

"We're only limited at this point by how many we can actually assemble."

Teaching a rock to play tricks

Dahl told the show he got the idea when having a discussion about the care that traditional pets required.

"I just thought the world was ready for a no-maintenance pet," said Dahl, who had many such Pet Rock-related jokes at the ready, which he rolled out during his As It Happens interview.

The Pet Rock came with a booklet that Dahl described as "a spoof of a dog-training manual," with tips on how to teach it tricks.

"One of the big tricks that a rock can be taught is to play dead," said Dahl, again with a rock joke.

"A matter of fact, they take to that trick so well that often they'll practise it on their own. You could come into a room and see your Pet Rock practising that one."

Dahl, who died in 2015, would later estimate that some 1.5 million Pet Rocks had been sold by the time the fad faded.