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Internet Is a Treasure Chest of Bizarre and Offbeat Gifts


One of the best things about shopping on the Internet is finding cool things you wouldn't normally come across elsewhere. And we're not talking infomercial cook-three-dishes-in-the-same-pot stuff.

These are the kinds of gifts that won't get the response, "Oh, you really shouldn't have." Unless, of course, the recipient is someone who just made three easy payments of $39.99 for a home beef jerky machine.

People say the best gifts are those you would like to receive yourself. So with that in mind, we'll start with retro. Like a lamp made from a classic chrome cocktail shaker, another one made from a vintage iron. Clutch Industries ( in New York sells these one-of-a-kind lamps designed by Timothy Sullivan. Our picks: a toaster sconce for $250 or a '50s camera night light for $150.

If appliance lamps don't turn you on, how about re-creations of Hawaiian hula lamps from the '20s through the '40s? Hula Lamps of Hawaii ( makes cast bronze versions of the mechanical lamps (yes, the hula girls do hula). Each lamp is signed and numbered and you can customize the lamps. Prices aren't listed on the Web site. There's a toll-free number to call, but this is a case of, if you have to ask . . . . The Leilani model with palm tree shade, for example, goes for $995.

For a little aloha spirit without making poi of your bank account, try Tiki Traders Hawaiian Shop ( Oh, sure, you can find the odd tiki mug on Melrose or Vermont, but here it's all tiki all the time. Our picks: tiki cocktail napkins, $7.75 for a package of 240; a set of eight tiki mask cork coasters for $7.95; or the book "Hawaiiana--The Best of Hawaiian Design," by Mark Blackburn, for $58.95 (which is $1 cheaper than it sells for on

OK, so maybe the in-laws can't appreciate the cool kitsch of the tiki. ( has hand-carved pieces in sizes from jewelry box to steamer trunk. Also available from this store in Oregon are tables and wooden screens. Check out the men's jewelry box with nautical knots for $29.50 or the Islander three-drawer end table for $199.

Maybe a box isn't your thing. You can find the work of artisans in Morocco, Tunisia, Lebanon and Egypt through a World Bank Institute project called Virtual Souk ( The prices are pretty reasonable, too. Picks: An engraved copper teapot from Morocco for $16 and the Fish Duet table service from Tunisia (sample prices: dinner plate, $14; oval serving dish, $40).

Are we getting a little too exotic? It happens sometimes. It's very American to give a writing pen. Buckingham Pen Co. ( makes handcrafted pens and mechanical pencils in a variety of exotic woods. You pick the style and the wood. Our picks: the Executive Twist Fountain Pen in kingwood for $50 or the Windsor pen in tulipwood for $40.

You might need a classic American writing desk for that pen. Heywood-Wakefield ( has been reborn in South Miami, making new pieces of the company's classic mid-century moderne light wood furniture. Check out the M969 desk at $1,795 or the simpler M327W desk at $825. We can dream, can't we?

This Americana thing is working. What says America better than rock 'n' roll? Well, OK, it says England, too. At ArtRock (, there's a big selection of rock posters. Picks: Jimi Hendrix 1969 concert poster by Gunther Kieser for $450; a Pearl Jam 1996 Rome concert poster for $75; and 1960s East Totem West's Cheshire Cat Poster for $200.

Nearly as exciting as rock posters are snow domes. At Global Shakeup (, there are more than we've ever seen. Picks: "Lost in Space" snow dome at $18.50, or the "Cat in the Hat" and Gink snow dome, $15.

Plants always make a nice holiday gift, especially if they eat things. California Carnivores ( sells much more than the common Venus flytrap. Picks: a hybrid American pitcher plant called Judith Hindle at $15, or a sundew called Drosera capensis for $7.50.

Maybe meat-eating plants are a bit harsh for the holidays. A softer side can be found at Crafty Grannies (, where custom crochet work can be had. Try not to imagine dozens of nanas frantically doing piece work in a yarn-filled sweat shop. Pick: the classic afghan (you choose the color combos) with prices ranging from $25 to $400, depending on size.

And while we're on the subject of afghans, our last site is a better alternative than re-gifting all the junk you get but don't want: EBay ( Have you heard of it? You can sell stuff there.

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