Whimsical/absurd gift recommendations?
September 5, 2021 8:59 PM   Subscribe

The best way my sister feels loved is through a good laugh or delightful surprise.....and that often is via a gift. I usually go to thrift stores, estate sales, or ebay looking for vintage weird things. This past year I've been avoiding people, as many of us have, so my usual supply is low. (I keep a little cubby full of gifts I find throughout the year, so whenever a gift-giving event comes up, I'm ready!) What are some of your favorite items or shops that spark delight for you?

She's in her late 30s and appreciates dark humor, loves animals (oddball animal art, especially), and vintagey stuff. It's tough to describe the exact aesthetic. But I'd love to hear either about specific items for sale, or shops (even if it's just an instagram shop), or if you can think of an item that might hit this laugh-factor that I'll search for on my own. Some things I've done....

- Gotten a mini pinata and filled it with oddball stuff (little old figurines, porcelain doll heads, wind up dinos, jelly monster things)

- Rolled up my own message to pull out of an old brass stamp roll holder (we played with the one my grandpa had in his office a lot when we were kids)

- Cut animal illustrations of sharks out of a children's book and taped them to her kitchen cabinets and made a little display on the counter with a cake I made and wool felt garlands.

- Found a huge vintage posable fuzzy spider and attached it to her Christmas tree to find when she returned to town -- the spider was holding a tea cup from the Wisconsin Dells, a place we visited once when we were little (Nostalgia plays into some of the gifts). For those wondering, the spider was big enough that her cat could chill under it.

- And, I just mailed her a wind up housefly toy.

For reference, she just had a birthday and I mailed her olive oil, like really nice basil-infused olive oil made locally....and it did not have the same punch as the $1 fly toy. I want more laughable trash (or non-trash)!

We had lived in the same city for many, many years, and now that she's across state lines, gifts are one way I am able to connect with her. I'd like to make them as big of a delight as possible. Thank you for any and all suggestions!
posted by pdxhiker to Shopping (37 answers total) 58 users marked this as a favorite
Archie McPhee toys come to mind, though I'm guessing you may have already heard of those?
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:24 PM on September 5, 2021 [1 favorite]

Something from Blue Q, perhaps?
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 9:52 PM on September 5, 2021

oddball animal art

just screams for Rooballs Key Chain (genuine kangaroo scrotum)
posted by Thella at 10:03 PM on September 5, 2021

There are always a variety of Pink Panther salt and pepper shakers available on eBay. All come with guarantee to spark delight.
posted by einekleine at 10:08 PM on September 5, 2021

How about one of those velvet paintings of dogs playing poker?
posted by AugustWest at 10:09 PM on September 5, 2021

Long distance friendship lamp!!!!! There's lots of other gently fun + luxurious-feeling type gifts on here.
posted by bleep at 10:29 PM on September 5, 2021 [3 favorites]

Need a zero-volume bottle?

Searching for a one-sided surface?

Want the ultimate in non-orientability?


Hilarious packing documents as well.
posted by nickggully at 10:37 PM on September 5, 2021 [5 favorites]

Funny taxidermy? Or is that too dark.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:34 PM on September 5, 2021

A selection of weird gifts I have received, given, or attempted to give:

1. A surprise potato showed up in the mail with their face on it

2. A surprise large box completely filled with rubber chickens

3. A large box completely filled with candy and werewolf erotica (that wasn't a surprise, it was Christmas)

4. A throw-pillow with a close-up of the gifter's (fully clothed) butt custom-printed on

5. Giant foam head or life-sized cutout of you, or of whoever, live your truth

6. Weird Victorian Christmas cards

7. Gin and Titonic and from the same site, alien abduction paperclip dispenser

8. It turns out there's a whole universe of mildly unsettling rubber duckies? I knew someone who bought a dozen 12-packs of these and hid them all over his home for his wife, who's still finding them. I think these are pretty cute. I didn't need to know that a rubber ducky uncanny valley existed but there it is.

9. The Bronx Zoo does a thing for Valentine's Day where you can name a Madagascar hissing cockroach for someone, now apparently with optional roach plushie and virtual roach encounter and scented roach candle.
posted by jameaterblues at 11:52 PM on September 5, 2021 [13 favorites]

I order from nobody in particular from Etsy and have the sellers post directly to my sister. I tend to order tons of tiny samples -- soaps, candles, lip balms, teas, etc.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:36 AM on September 6, 2021 [1 favorite]

I usually go to thrift stores, estate sales, or ebay looking for vintage weird things

Goodwill's online store might turn up some random things
posted by trig at 4:01 AM on September 6, 2021 [2 favorites]

American Science and Surplus.
Has lots of weird stuff.
posted by BoscosMom at 4:31 AM on September 6, 2021 [6 favorites]

Maybe sign her up for Bobcat in a Box, a bot which buys you odd things from around the world, from Amazon Etsy and AliExpress, based on keywords you set. You wouldn't get to choose what the gifts are but the odd surprise element is part of the fun.

The only drawback of it, is that shipping random tat around the world, that may or may not be appreciated, isn't nearly as environmentally friendly as getting things second-hand, I guess.
posted by penguin pie at 5:23 AM on September 6, 2021 [2 favorites]

age hams?
posted by emmling at 7:25 AM on September 6, 2021 [3 favorites]

My daughter enjoys weirdness, so sometimes I like to send her funny kitchen stuff.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 7:53 AM on September 6, 2021 [1 favorite]

Croissant lamp?
posted by athirstforsalt at 8:50 AM on September 6, 2021 [1 favorite]

As someone else who loves animals and oddball animal art, Noelle Dass comes to mind. She sells her work here at the Eugene Saturday Market (and online), and it is just so, so cute and happy.
posted by DingoMutt at 8:59 AM on September 6, 2021

Ooh, another artist I really like who does oddball animal stuff is Greg Stones. His stuff always makes me laugh.
posted by DingoMutt at 9:05 AM on September 6, 2021 [1 favorite]

firebox is a UK-based shop, but you might use it for ideas and hunt down the stuff locally.
posted by sebastienbailard at 9:27 AM on September 6, 2021

I love these hybrid animal illustrations from What If Creations. Chihuanha!

I also recently learned that NASA sells oven mitts that look like astronaut mitts.
posted by carolr at 9:48 AM on September 6, 2021 [3 favorites]

Oh, so much the creepy metal hand from Target.

Do I have a use for it? No. Did I need it immediately when I saw it? Yes. Is it still delightful? Yes!
posted by past unusual at 10:09 AM on September 6, 2021 [2 favorites]

Gargoyles in Seattle specializes in small statuary, but has cat toys, art prints and other little curios and very reasonable shipping costs.

Ballyhoo also ships, has a pretty well curated vintage/antique section, as well as lots of interesting/curious taxidermy...if that's an interest.

Speaking of taxidermy, No Parking On Pike used to be a real shop but are all Etsy now, and have some cute and weird taxidermy, great insect mounts, and occasionally some interesting weird vintage.
posted by Grim Fridge at 11:16 AM on September 6, 2021 [1 favorite]

Bubbles and Frown headgear?
posted by effluvia at 11:36 AM on September 6, 2021 [1 favorite]

Far Side comics are weird and golden and perfect for people with the goofy esthetic.
I have several volumes, but here is a complete set if you want all your bizarre treats in one package.
And we still have several t-shirts. This is my favorite.
On another note, scuba t-shirts can be weird, too. Amphibious Outfitters is often found in dive shops.
posted by TrishaU at 11:46 AM on September 6, 2021

In the late 70s, early 80s, Taylor & Ng sold mugs covered in, originally, bunnies. When you looked closer, the bunnies were fornicating like, you know, bunnies. They still sell them, and branched out to other critters. Others are collectible, available on etsy and ebay. They're nice mugs, too.

The NASA mitts are pretty awesome as well as useful.
posted by theora55 at 12:36 PM on September 6, 2021 [1 favorite]

maybe out from left field, but this bubble machine is astonishingly good.
posted by wowenthusiast at 7:38 PM on September 6, 2021 [1 favorite]

Self-adhesive googly eyes (the bigger the absurd-er) are always fun.
posted by homesickness at 1:59 PM on September 7, 2021 [5 favorites]

I sent my mom a potato with a photo of myself on one side and that Dan Rather joke printed on the other side.

She enjoyed it to the point that she kept it in the cup holder in her car and would talk to it like it was me until it rotted and she threw it out.

And Dave Pollot repurposes classic paintings and adds pop culture images to them. I have a print of “The Scream” he made with an Apple volume mute icon over it. Moar images.
posted by bendy at 9:45 PM on September 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

Last week I sent my childhood copy of The Westing Game to my niece and since the book is about solving a puzzle I included one piece from a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle. (Next time I do the puzzle it should be much easier since it’s only 999 pieces now.)

Anything weird and random you can put in the envelope is awesome too. Relevant fortune cookie fortunes taped onto the note? Map envelopes are fun. I usually write notes on the back of origami paper. I’ve cut up and arranged Sally Ride stamps so the postage says “Ride Sally Ride.” Posters you’ve taken off bulletin boards - I have a ton of these from college.
posted by bendy at 10:04 PM on September 7, 2021 [2 favorites]

Not too long ago I took a photo of a friend and sent it somewhere that made a circular rubber stamp with his photo in the middle and “Approved by firstname lastname” in the border around the photo.

I have sticker books of dollhouses and dinosaurs and other random stuff that can always be added to envelopes to confuse the recipients.

Take a super-blurry/super-weird photograph (remember those?) and use it as a postcard - write note, address, stamp, mail.

It sounds like I send and receive a ton of snail mail but 99.99% of the time I don’t.
posted by bendy at 10:11 PM on September 7, 2021

Two words: chia pet.
posted by bendy at 10:14 PM on September 7, 2021

I’ve always been trying to figure out to whom to send the red rotary phone handset that plugs into your cell phone… Your sister might appreciate it.
posted by bendy at 10:21 PM on September 7, 2021

Previously Yellies.
posted by bendy at 10:29 PM on September 7, 2021

I sent someone this Otter Tape Dispenser a while back, and I very nearly picked one up for myself while I was at it. Super cute and random, and clearly there are lots of things that need tape.
posted by mochapickle at 1:13 PM on September 10, 2021 [3 favorites]

So many goofy, strange and fun things at American Science and Surplus!
posted by cicadagirl at 5:05 AM on September 11, 2021

I just ran across this Etsy shop and was immediately reminded of your question! Honestly I think just searching the animal of your choice + "vintage" on Etsy is going to be a goldmine for you.
posted by Mender at 8:01 AM on September 11, 2021 [1 favorite]

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