To celebrate National Sea Monkey Day, before buying Sea Monkeys — consider this instead
After a crazy history and the death of their creator in 2003, his widow is stuck in a court battle, and has no electricity
May 16 — Yes it’s one of those weird holidays, likely based on the nostalgia for “Sea Monkeys”, a children’s novelty toy which sold like hotcakes in the 1960s — 1970s straight from the back pages of comic books. Your parents (or possibly you) may remember having them.
Sea Monkeys were a combination of selectively bred Brine shrimp, and an ingenious viral marketing campaign — before viral marketing was a thing. The creator, Harold von Braunhut, actually worked with a Microbiologist in New York, resulting in eggs that were heartier, would last longer while dry, and with a higher yield when hatching. In 1998, John Glenn actually took some Brine shrimp to space for nine days; they were unaffected and hatched back on earth, apparently unfazed by neither the journey nor the radiation.
“Sea Monkeys” were sold to children for $1.25 (with shipping and handling included) in a state of suspended animation (called crypto biosis), along with a tiny plastic aquarium, food, and “water purifier”. The amazing little creature’s eggs were to be added to water to create “instant life!” in front of surprised children.
Suffice to say, von Braunhut made millions.
Of course, this is the man who also concocted X-ray Specs and the Invisible Goldfish (which is exactly what it sounds like). Unfortunately, von Braunhut was a supporting member of the Aryan Nation — a White Supremacist. But we’re not going to hold that against his widow, Yolanda Signorelli von Braunhut, and here’s why:
After Harold von Braunhut’s death in 2003, Yolanda partnered with Big Time Toys in 2007. They would handle manufacturing and distribution, but she alone would provide the “specialized” Brine shrimp egg packets for the product — that was the deal.
Unfortunately, Big Time Toys had to be sued for copyright and trademark infringement, along with breach of contract. After paying her installments for five years, Big Time decided they could just get any old Brine shrimp from China, and sell the product as their own — claiming ownership of the company, and leaving the elderly widow without any recourse aside from legal action.
She counted on that deal to survive; she’s in her 70’s I believe.
This is the very same “Sea Monkeys” product sold on store shelves and online today, selling about $3 million worth per year, and this is why I think you should consider not buying them.
Harold’s widow Yolanda does not share in his anti-Semitic views to the best of anyone’s knowledge; however she is trying to stay warm in the cold winters of Maryland, in their palatial estate in which she still lives — and can only afford to stay within two rooms of the giant home. She has virtually nothing, and the court case has just dragged on and on.
A grand gesture instead (for those of you with means) would be to consider buying another sort of product — let’s call it “Invisible Sea Monkeys”. You could do this by writing a check directly to his widow Yolanda at the address below out of the kindness of your heart.
The Sea Monkeys were always a sham anyway — but that’s not her fault. Sure, they lived for a bit, but were underwhelming at best. Certainly receiving a check for $10 (or any amount) would really brighten up her day — as well as help her pay her utilities in this crazy world.
Yolanda Signorelli von Braunhut
P.O. Box 809
Bryans Road, MD 20616
Of course many of us are struggling right now — by all means, take care of yourselves; but helping someone who has also been kind of screwed over by capitalism isn’t the worst thing you could do.
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I (the author) have no affiliation with Big Time Toys, with the Sea Monkey brand, with the widow, Yolanda Signorelli von Braunhut, or with the lawsuit between Big Time Toys and Yolanda.