The Fidget Spinner Inventor Isn’t Making Money Off the Popular Toy Craze

Catherine Hettinger created the plastic toy 20 years ago, but she couldn't afford to renew the patent before it became a sweeping fad.

May 8, 2017 5:00 am
A red, black, and white fidget spinner.
Fidget spinners have become the latest toy craze for kids and adults alike. (Amazon/RCL Photo Illustrtion)

Fidget spinners might be the latest must-have toy fad for children (and growing number of adults), but the woman who created it hasn’t profited a cent from its recent popularity.

Though they range in style and cost (between $2-$425), the spinners are pretty much all the same: coaster-sized plastic toys that are spun to relieve nervous energy. It was created to distract children from getting into trouble by giving them a non-destructive outlet

Catherine Hettinger, a Florida-based inventor, came up with the idea for the gadget back in the 1980’s, but didn’t produce the first fidget spinner until 1993. She held the patent for the spinners until 2005, when should couldn’t afford the $400 renewal fee.

Now, her invention has so popular that various iterations of the fidget spinner make up the top 20 toys selling on Amazon, as of May 5.

Most would be bitter about the missed opportunity, but not Hettinger. She invented the fidget spinner with altruistic intent. In fact, she’s actually excited about the toy’s popularity.

“Maybe if it was some kind of exploitative product — like a new style of cigarettes — and my only motivation was to make money, I’d have a different attitude,” Hettinger told Money. “But I am just thrilled.”

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