Tis the season for a Yankee Exchange / White Elephant gift
November 25, 2013 10:32 AM   Subscribe

What are your suggestions or best items you have seen for a swap gift? More inside.

I find myself in a few of these Christmas/Holiday gift exchanges and am fresh out of ideas. The age ranges are wide - college age through the mid-60's. Married, single, parents, non-parents, students, workers, retired. All are people with fun senses of humor and really get into the swapping. Our limits are $25. There are no themes. I am sure others on here could use the ideas as well.
posted by maxg94 to Shopping (36 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Red Ryder BB gun, though it's a bit more than our limit.
posted by bricksNmortar at 10:33 AM on November 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

Here are the things that people have gone ape-shit for in the past:

1. Small appliance (coffee pot, crock pot, blender.)

2. Lottery tickets

3. Wine, Champagne, Alcohol.

4. Gift Cards

Here are things people HATE at these things:

1. Re-gifted bath baskets

2. Candles

3. Candy

Basically, anything you'd like to get and nothing you wouldn't.

Have fun!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:35 AM on November 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

I brought a beta fish and a bowl to one of these once, it went over pretty well.
posted by troika at 10:39 AM on November 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

Scratch-off lottery cards always get the most people excited in our various groups.
posted by jbickers at 10:43 AM on November 25, 2013

My family does this.

Things that have gone over very well:

-box of Tide Pods laundry detergent thingies
-assortment of unusual sodas
-assortment of unusual candies/snacks
-lotto tickets
-nice, utilitarian housewares (like a set of no-frills pint glasses)
-high quality miniature MagLite
-Kiva gift certificate
posted by phunniemee at 10:45 AM on November 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

There are any number of small things at Bed Bath and Beyond and the like - small appliances, etc. Usually a fair number of touchless soap dispensers and k-cup racks at ours.

Some things I've seen that stuck out -

- 2 Wine goblets and a nice small bottle
- Cheese, meat, cracker platter (Swiss Colony / Hilshire Farms)
- Boat ropes (weird bungee thing)
- "movie night" - a recent hit movie and popcorn
- "movie night" - tickets to the theatre and concessions
- themed shot / scotch / insulated / reusable tumbler collections
- yxz food kit in a jar (soup, cake, cookies)
- fuzzy silly slippers
- assortment of snacky foods in a picnic-style basket
posted by tilde at 10:46 AM on November 25, 2013

This is obviously specific to the party, but I brought a [insert local NFL team here] dog leash and that was a huge hit!

I once got smoked salmon at a gift exchange and that was really quite awesome!
posted by radioamy at 10:53 AM on November 25, 2013

Best answer: My church choir -- your usual bunch of old ladies and a few younguns sprinkled in -- has two classic pieces that are passed around year after year.

1: Pink satin baseball jacket from Branson, MO.
2. Precious unborn fawn under glass, who had been passed around so many times that she was named Fawn Leibowitz and officially retired.

The end.
posted by Madamina at 10:56 AM on November 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

A popular item at our recent work gift exchange was the Snuggie.
posted by barnoley at 10:57 AM on November 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

The two best items ever to be swapped at the gift exchanges I've been to were:

1. A series of very serious glamour shots taken by one coworker of another coworker in the Napoleon Dynamite/Gilderoy Lockhart style (all signed, natch)

2. A set of 20" plastic light up Jesus and Mary statues provided by the resident Jew (these were heavily coveted by all the Catholics in the room

Fudge, pie, and movie tickets were likewise greatly appreciated.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 11:01 AM on November 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

My solution for this is to pick a media thing I know multiple people really like. For example one year I did a couple of Johnny Cash CDs (we're southern, and I knew Cash in particular would appeal across generations and span the classic rock vs. Nashville country divide) that were a hot commodity. As physical media is less of a thing, this is harder to do.

I tend to go for something I know that a few people will specifically like, as opposed to something I think anyone would like. If a swapping war ensues, all the better, but if not, at least one person is going to go home with a thing they genuinely enjoy.

Note that the "specific media" does not work if it is something that nobody actually likes. Last year I got stuck with a DVD of the movie Ted. It is currently collecting dust somewhere in my apartment, unopened. I didn't even want to see Ted one time, let alone own it.
posted by Sara C. at 11:02 AM on November 25, 2013

a decent bottle of booze.

if the recipient is a non-drinker, booze is very easy to re-gift.
posted by philip-random at 11:05 AM on November 25, 2013

Best answer: My most successful white elephant gift was this Chocolate Handgun. It comes with a little case!

This is why I'm broke has a lot of neat stuff, ranging from reasonably priced to incredibly expensive.
posted by JDHarper at 11:15 AM on November 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

We did a white-elephant style one in the department where I worked for three years, and two classic items that came back every year were a painting of Elvis on black velvet; and one of these large bellows foot pumps, the nozzle of which was just the right size to shoot a marshmallow, accompanied by a bag of marshmallows.

For serious ones, a nice bottle of wine or likker is always appreciated, especially something with a catchy name or interesting label.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:24 AM on November 25, 2013

A spectacularly hideously fantastic coffee mug/iguana sculpture hybrid. (Mr. Mayhem and I schemed to end up with this--he still treasures it.)
A sculpture of a white elephant (holding marijuana in its trunk).
posted by mollymayhem at 11:33 AM on November 25, 2013

I once brought one of those electric fake fish tanks and people went nuts over it.
posted by interplanetjanet at 11:44 AM on November 25, 2013

I got a "Journey's Greatest Hits" CD for one of these once and people went bonkers for it.

I was at the thrift store yesterday and saw a t-shirt in men's 2XL with one of the guys from Twilight making a SUPER SERIOUS FACE with FOREVER written underneath him and it was so hilarious it made me wish I worked in an office where we did that kind of thing.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 12:02 PM on November 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: If alcohol is permitted, that's always the most popular gift in every gift-swap that I've participated in.

I like pairing something nice with something atrocious: e.g. a nice $20 bottle of wine with a bottle of MD2020, or some nice Belgians with a four-pack of 4 Loco. This is also fun if you are doing it in the context of a holiday party where people are likely to consume some of the gifts immediately afterwards.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:17 PM on November 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: We used to do this in my old office.

Two hits that normal people would find nice:
1. Frozen Steaks of good quality. Random but prized. Also very funny to open.
2. A bottle of bourbon.

Two that were highly fought over and proves we are not normal:
1. Banana Guard
2. A toy chicken that rolled around clucking and laying eggs.
posted by advicepig at 12:19 PM on November 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

nthing Booze. I'm making it very clear at our dept meetings that last years Secret Santa Bottle of Bourbon was the BEST present EVER. Here is hoping for a repeat.

The year before that where I got a selection of LED Christmas Candles that looked to have come from a grandma's attic, not so much.
posted by PlutoniumX at 12:21 PM on November 25, 2013

This wasn't at all useful, but a white elephant statue we bought at Ross was a big hit. The recipient named it Sarah Palin and passed it on at a later gift exchange.
posted by Safiya at 12:37 PM on November 25, 2013

I don't remember that it swapped a lot, but everyone at least had a good laugh one when of the guys at work gave an autographed picture of himself.
posted by ckape at 1:22 PM on November 25, 2013

We do this with my book club, and going against what many people have said here, when I brought a bottle of liquor my first year, it did not go over well at all. The women looked at me like I brought them dish soap or something (and they like to drink!) so ymmv.

What they have liked (not brought by me; my gifts never go over well, so I'm keeping an eye on this post): aprons, stemless wineglasses with the chalk paint on the front so you can write a message on the glass, lottery tickets, the soap/lotion basket (caveat being the soaps and lotions were all organic, handmade by one of the members) and some cork board/chalk board hybrid thing to hang in your kitchen and write your "dinner menu" on (who does this? Obviously, I'm in the wrong book club...). Oh, and the shake weight (I don't know if these are still available). There was a frenzy over that!
posted by dearwassily at 1:50 PM on November 25, 2013

In terms of liquor, I think that only works if you have a really good sense of what the participants tend to drink. I would be sad if there was Cupcake or Barefoot wine, but happy if there was a good bottle of bourbon. For others, vice versa.
posted by Sara C. at 2:01 PM on November 25, 2013

My family does this every year and while booze is appreciated, it's usually not the items people fight over. A few noteworthy, fought-over times: giant fluffy blankets. A stained glass lamp. A tiny crock pot. A heated toilet seat. Anything AS SEEN ON TV! The Shake Weight cracked everyone up.

Forgot to mention! The guys always end up fighting over socket wrench sets and ridiculously high powered flashlights. Can it blind you? They will love it.
posted by chatongriffes at 2:41 PM on November 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you have fun people participating, the sorts of kids' toys that adults secretly covet themselves are often a hit:
- lego sets
- facepaints (especially if it's the sort of party where people will break them open and play around on the spot)
- seamonkeys
- ant farm
posted by lollusc at 3:52 PM on November 25, 2013

Best answer: We held one of those gift-trading games in our house one year, and one of the guests stole something from our house, wrapped it, and put it in the exchange. Sounds strange, but it was one of the funniest things ever, and became one of the more popular items in the exchange (that I took back at the end of the night, because the dog would never forgive me if we gave away the treat jar).
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 4:42 PM on November 25, 2013

Best answer: I've seen edible plants go down very well. Basil, cherry tomatoes, lettuces, chilies, etc. Something that won't require a lot of work and won't need repotting and is basically just ready to go - such as a largish pot with soil and seeds that you just add water to or an ornamental basket filled with various seedlings. Especially good if you can find something that can grow indoors as well. Here's some examples of what I'm talking about 1 2 3 4

Also, I agree with the advice above - don't try to get something everyone will like, try to get something you know two or three people would love.
posted by mosessis at 5:01 PM on November 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Chocolate, gift cards, and lottery tickets are all popular items.

The funniest one I ever saw was at my last job. One of my coworkers brought in his Fisher-Price CD player from when he was a little kid, complete with the nursery rhyme CDs. Everyone got a kick out of it!
posted by SisterHavana at 6:11 PM on November 25, 2013

Expensive olive oil or other some other consumable at a price point that would deter everyday grocery shoppers.
posted by monkeys with typewriters at 6:17 PM on November 25, 2013

Best answer: Hello Kitty toaster. Obvs.
posted by town of cats at 7:44 PM on November 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I think I am going to have fun shopping this weekend! Thanks for the great ideas, now I am kind of glad I have multiple exchanges this year.
posted by maxg94 at 6:38 AM on November 26, 2013

Tickets go over well too. Popular plays, sportsball, roller derby, music...
posted by stompadour at 8:29 AM on November 26, 2013

Hello Kitty toaster. Obvs.

I loved my Hello Kitty toaster. And it was a lot sturdier than it looked; it lasted forecer and finally gave up the ghost just last year.

My dear, departed Missy the Cat was rather fond of the box it came in.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:50 AM on November 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

My dear, departed Missy the Cat was rather fond of the box it came in.

I hope that's jam.
posted by tilde at 2:46 PM on November 27, 2013

I have a ladies group that does this at out monthly potluck night. The biggest hit ever was the last minute gift I brought when I forgot it was potluck night: a $20 bill!
posted by waterisfinite at 6:34 AM on November 28, 2013

« Older Any ideas for getting primary school children into...   |   Has anyone heard of Simpson College? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.