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Talking with the Guy Who Made the Coolest Christmas Presents Ever

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For all photos, click to enlarge

If you’ve been on Twitter the past few days, there’s a decent chance you’ve seen a tweet from a Twtter-er named Donnachaidha O’Chionnaigh. It featured the photo shown above and the following text: “None of the kids wanted toys for Christmas this year, they just wanted cash. Understandable, but cash as a gift, while practical, always feels impersonal, so I made special packaging. Went over well.”

Obviously, it’s completely brilliant! And in a nice case of virtue being rewarded, the tweet went viral. As of this morning, it had nearly 100,000 retweets and over half a million likes — all the more remarkable considering O’Chionnaigh has 3,400 followers.

I wanted to learn more, so I got in touch with O’Chionnaigh yesterday and asked if we could do a quick email interview. He readily agreed. Here’s how it went:

Uni Watch: First, please tell me a little bit about yourself: How old are you, where do you live, and what do you do for a living?

Donnachaidha O’Chionnaigh [that’s him at right]: I’m in my thirties (which means I’m nearly 40), Chicago area, and I’m a social media specialist.

UW: How many kids do you have, and how old are they? Or were these gifts for nieces/nephews..?

DO: No kids of my own. I have nephews and a niece ranging from eight years old to 19.

UW: Is it common for you to create clever gift packages? Do your family and friends pretty much expect it from you by now?

DO: Not really. It’s time-consuming and usually I’ll only be hit by a great idea way too late. So then it becomes a struggle to find time vs. how much they might use/appreciate the gift.

UW: How did you get the idea to package $50 bills in facsimile toy blister packs?

DO: Oh, frustration mostly. The kids are all getting older and when I’d chat with their parents I was usually told they just want cash. Makes sense for the older teens — college is expensive — and the younger ones are more into video games than physical toys now.

I hate to buy a gift just for the sake of buying a gift on the off chance they might like it, or if it’s something they’ll use once or twice, then it just collects dust until it goes to the dump one day. I hate gift cards, too — “Here, it’s like cash, but severely limited!” — and they just end up in the trash too. So I thought this’d be a fun way to present the cash as a gift, using all the silly callouts on packaging to highlight all the “features” of the cash and its abilities.

They don’t really do blister packs as much anymore, I’ve found. Boxes have all become more ornate, and I didn’t want to be that extra, or that wasteful, so I went with old-style packaging — simple recyclable cardboard and plastic I reused from other purchases. I hate seeing piles of unrecyclable glittery wrapping paper or ribbons tossed away after gift-giving. I thought this’d be lower-cost and less wasteful than gift card tins or similar.

UW: Based on your tweet, it looks like you made at least six different designs. What did you base each of them on?

DO: Any old blister pack action figures with easily recognizable, iconic looks. Figured they had to be easily recognizable to cover any screw-ups or shortcuts I took. They couldn’t be too complicated, either, and they had to be things that had enough cultural longevity so that the younger kids would get the joke. So classic Star Wars, Transformers (which were mostly boxes, but whatever, I liked Transformers), G.I. Joe, and to round out I did a Masters of the Universe (simplicity) and a nondescript Marvel-type one (modeled after a 1990s X-Men toy). I did the Funko for my youngest nephew, because I know he’s got things like that before.

UW: Were you really into these types of toys (Star Wars, G.I. Joe, etc.) yourself as a kid?

DO: Yes and no. Star Wars wasn’t a big deal for me as a kid (certainly knew what it was, just wasn’t into the toys, and the movies were a bit before my time). As for the other things, I liked the shows but didn’t get the toys for them. Mad into Transformers and M.A.S.K., though, along with construction toys like Construx and Lego. I’d never get the big toy playsets like my cousins, but give me a big box of loose Lego bricks and I’d build my own Batmobiles and ThunderTanks.

UW: How did you produce the packages?

DO: Just Photoshop. I’d get the pics online of the toys, and either start them from scratch eyeballing the size and shape (the Transformers one was dead easy), or heavily modify the existing pic (there’s a reason I didn’t post close-up pics of the Masters of the Universe one, it looks soooo bad). Much more talented folks than I have brand-lookalike fonts out there for download and then it was just adding some pics of $50 bills I found online (making sure I was erasing details and heavily filtering the pics so I wasn’t getting into bother over printing currency images at Staples).

UW: Is there anything on the backs?

DO: Just white! I love the comments on the tweet, suggesting all the “collect the whole set” and character stats that should have gone on the back.

UW: My favorite touch is the little hang punch-out at the top of each display card. Did you in fact hang them from anywhere?

DO: I didn’t, but I wanted to put them there to look realistic, and delay the “Wait, what is this?!” moment a bit. Almost banjaxed the whole thing, too, cutting out those little holes with an X-Acto blade.

UW: How did the gift recipients respond?

DO: They really liked them! I was worried it’d go over their heads and be something their parents would have to explain, but they all had a good laugh. One of them said he loved his so much he didn’t want to open it, he just wanted to display it. Adorable yet counterproductive!

UW: Obviously, your tweet went viral. Do you know how that happened? Like, were there some celebrities who retweeted it? Was the tweet embedded in any articles?

DO: Just seemed to take off. I didn’t hashtag or try to jump on a twitter moment or anything. Folks just started sharing it about, and I was up so late reading all the nice comments from people. There are some really brilliant filmmakers and designers I follow — Brian Lynch, Rob Sheridan, Duncan Jones — who all retweeted or said nice things, and that was a lovely way to cap my Christmas Day. If anyone embedded it in articles, they certainly didn’t tell me, but I’m used to that based on past viral tweets.

UW: Anything else I haven’t asked that you want me to know?

DO: Not a lot. Just enjoying the kind comments before we’re all back to normal tomorrow like nothing happened. Have a happy new year, sir!


And there you have it. What a nice way to cap off our Christmas week! And a good reminder that any gift can be creative — even cash.

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Seam ripper update: Did Santa bring you a cap or jersey with an annoying maker’s mark that you wish wasn’t there? Uni Watch seam rippers can take care of that for you. I currently have ample supplies of all colors. You can order them here.

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The Ticker
By Anthony Emerson

Baseball News: Here’s a rare sight: a 1978 shot of Padres P Gaylord Perry wearing a white jersey over yellow pants (from Jerry Wolper).

NFL News: Reader Marcus Hall sent along this video about potential NFL expansion teams that didn’t work out. There’s some good footage of proposed logos in the vid. … Investigation Discovery — a cable channel focusing on crime documentaries — will soon be airing a program on the Aaron Hernandez story. A screengrab from a preview shows that all Patriots, NFL and Reebok logos have been scrubbed, at least from this still image (from James Gilbert).

College Football News: A WSU nose bumper decal ended up on the ball during last month’s Apple Cup game between the Cougars and Washington (from Blaise D’Sylva). … Timmy Donahue noticed that Louisiana Tech RB Justin Henderson’s NOB was sewn on at an angle. I was also watching this game, and can confirm several LA Tech players had uncentered NOBs, which I attributed mostly to the material of the jersey being stretchy, but these shots of Henderson make me think there might’ve just been sloppy NOB work from LA Tech. … The Military Bowl’s midfield logo is so big that it encroaches on the hashmarks, which is against the rules (from James Gilbert). … A few months ago, Iowa installed a beautiful bronze relief sculpture of Hawkeyes legend Duke Slater, the first African-American inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame (from Kary Klismet). … @CFBowlWatch — aka our friend Josh Hinton — has been keeping track of all the new bowl patches and field designs on this twitter account. … Ohio State’s scout team wears the jersey colors of their next opponent (from Sam McKinley). … I think this ESPN graphic moves beyond the apostrophe catastrophe level and goes straight to the International Court of Grammatical Crimes (from Daniel Carroll). … Eastern Michigan’s coaching staff wore auto mechanic-style shirts in last night’s Quick Lane Bowl, reportedly because of the team’s “blue collar” mentality. As you may recall, Paul wrote about the football world’s fetishizing of “blue collar,” and the many resulting layers of irony, back in 2017. (Footnote: An EMU player was ejected from the game for spitting on an opponent, and another EMU player was ejected for punching an opponent. Great blue collar values there.)

Hockey News: Team USA has desecrated their gorgeous throwbacks with Chipotle ad patches (from @Coopsta007). … Relatives of former Flyers player Frank Bathe didn’t have anything game-worn from his Flyers years, until his daughter Carrlyn — who’s now a reporter with Fox Sports West — was given Bathe’s game-worn jersey from a 1983 playoff game against the Rangers as the “ultimate Christmas gift” (from Moe Khan). … Officials had to stop a match in the UK’s EIHL between the Coventry Blaze and Nottingham Panthers because of this uniform clash. Almost impossible to tell the teams apart (from Steven Schapansky). … Here’s the backstory on Penguins players’ uni numbers (from Jerry Wolper).

Basketball News: New Jazz G Rayjon Tucker will wear No. 6 (from Etienne Catalan). … In last night’s Jazz/Blazers game, both teams had a zero and a double-zero on the roster. It’s not clear if all four of them were ever on the court at the same time. … Great DIY project from @WTHelmets, who installed a regulation basketball hoop in his playroom.

Soccer News: Celtic wore black armbands yesterday against St. Mirren in honor of club legend Duncan MacKay (from Ed Żelaski). … England’s Euro 2020 away kit has leaked, and it’s pretty bad (from Josh Hinton). … Also from Josh: Barcelona’s 2020-21 home kit has leaked, and it’s pretty good! … One more from Josh: Celtic are close to signing a kit deal with Adidas — I wonder what Celtic fans think of Adidas stripes potentially breaking up Celtic’s sacred hoops? … You can catch the rest of Josh’s daily download on his Twitter account. … Leeds United wore warm-up shirts in support of Rob Burrow, a retired Leeds Rhinos rugby league player who was recently diagnosed with ALS (thanks, Jamie). … Here’s a BBC article on the increasing use of local references — sort of like the NBA’s City uniforms — in soccer shirt design (from Thomas Courtman).

Grab Bag: The city of Columbus, Indiana, is having a design contest for its bicentennial logo (from Kary Klismet). … New third kit for Italian rugby union team Benetton (from Jeremy Brahm). … Ohio State has sent Overtime Sports a cease-and-desist letter because of Overtime’s “O” logo, which OSU thinks is too similar to theirs. Overtime has sued Ohio State in response (from Mike Chamernik). … Back in November, Fast Company visualized major tech companies’ workforce diversity by creating charts and graphs from the companies’ logos (from Sara Klein).

Comments (17)

    I so badly want to say that spitting on and punching your foes are *perfect* examples of the “blue collar” mindset, but that would probably cause problems here so I won’t.

    Are we sure the mechanics shirts weren’t a gimmick because of the bowl sponsor, Quick Lane, and not a lame attempt at being “blue collar?”

    This would mean (a) that the broadcaster’s account was wrong and (b) that one team did this but not the other.

    But it’s really a distinction without a difference. Either way, they’re playing dress-up-blue-collar-worker, which is ridiculous.

    Agreed, either scenario is ridiculous. Just different degrees of it. A heavy sigh for a bowl sponsor gimmick or a heavy eye roll for ”storytelling.” Hahahahaha!
    Appreciate all you do, Paul.

    Agreed! And editorial kudos for correctly spelling and punctuating the obscure M.A.S.K. toy line!

    I hadn’t seen the Fifty Bucks thing on Twitter, so the headline made me think it would be an interview with Jeff Wysaski: link

    Saw those packages on Instagram and pondered the ultimate debate… do you open them and ruin the mint condition!?!?!?

    Really, Ohio State? It’s an “O” for crying out loud. This is almost as foolish as trying to patent the word “The”.

    Re Auburn, and the 2020 Outback Bowl.

    Want to bet that Minnesota will be the right side (south) end zone, with Auburn on the left (north)?

    I plan to use “International Court of Grammatical Crimes” the next time one of my kids asks me to review one of their school papers.

    Thanks Paul!

    Bathe’s game worn Flyers jersey is a gem. A rarity in the NHL as it is the high-hem Cooperall style jersey design only worn by the Flyers in the big league for a couple of season.


    Speaking of rarities, not very often did we see helmetless player wearing Cooperalls. Shout out to you Bobby Clarke!


    Sad to report that all the 0/00s were not on the court at the same time in the Blazers v Jazz game. Nigel Williams-Goss (0) did not make it into the game at all.

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