Hammacher Schlemmer is a mostly mail-order company from which I've bought some lovely cashmere sweaters for my wife at Christmas. The company is renowned for its entertaining mail-order catalogue (and a great return policy) which has provided me with hours of fun reading over the years.


Often the cover features some incredibly outlandish extravagance designed solely for really wealthy folks, and which often costs a stratospheric amount of money. Top of the line at the moment is a "Five Person Exploration Submarine" which can descend to 656 feet, weighs over 7.7 tons and costs—take your seats, please—$2,700,000. As Dr. Evil used to say, "Almost three MILLION dollars."


This year's new and more reasonably priced money pit is a racing simulator for $185,000. It looks like a lot of fun, and my daughter says she rode something like it at Epcot at Walt Disney World, but something tells me that whoever receives it will lose interest 'ere long.

The exact prices are unimportant because they're silly. As far as most of us are concerned, we're far more likely to get hit by a bus than be given one of these gifts.

I genuinely enjoy Hammacher Schlemmer's catalogue simply because it's filled with incredibly weird things, like the remote-controlled flying shark mini-blimp for $40, and "The NASA Sleep Promoting Light Bulb" for $40.

There are also lots of handy things, like well-made flannel pjs, nice lined gloves, and so on. It's a real 90-page potpourri and you should definitely call 1-800-543-3366 and request a free catalogue. You can also do it online.


Once in a while I think their copy writers are overcome with enthusiasm to the point of nonsense. This year's prize goes to something called "The Prestidigitator's Wallet." As the editor of a well-known magazine on the subject of conjuring, I can tell a "Prestigitator's Wallet" from one that's not.


This is not. The item is described as "… the ultra-slim wallet that magically secures folded bills with just a flip. Simply insert cash in the middle of the wallet and close it. Next, flip it over, and, like magic, the cash is secured instantly under taut and durable elastic straps."

This, I really have to tell you, is not a magic trick at all. It's a wallet with some elastic straps in it that are there for no good reason. Nothing magical happens: if you put the folded bills inside, close the wallet, and reopen it on the other side, the bills are under those straps. They haven't disappeared or changed or anything one would consider a trick.


Now if we strip away the silliness of the name and sales pitch ("This wallet replicates a style originally invented by French waiters in the 1920s as a means to quickly squirrel away tips") then you might have a nicely priced ($40) leather billfold with pockets for credit cards and a window-pocket for your driver's license.

Still, this line of ad copy kills me, "Removing money is as easy as pulling it from the straps." No shit!