Geeks are tough to buy for because they like such weird stuff. To make matters worse, geeks buy the latest new thing for themselves as soon as it comes out, so you are left with what… gift certificates to Best Buy or iTunes?
If you want your gift to be more personal and you are on a budget, here is a list of cheap, geeky gifts that will show you care without breaking the bank, and hopefully, these things are obscure enough that the geeks on your shopping list don’t already have one. All of these items are under $30, and because this is my list, they are Geek Certified.
Note that I refer to all geeks in the male context, but Geeks cross gender boundaries and women can certainly be geeks, too. Please just take it as read. Geeks are often socially awkward, so if you know a single girl geek, pairing her up with a single guy geek is probably the best present you could ever give either of them, at least until they start fighting over which captain is better, Kirk or Piccard.
For the science geek: You probably shouldn’t buy them a Newton’s cradle or anything so passé. Consider the Mythbusters Blueprint Magnets Set or I reject your reality & substitute my own T-shirt. If that’s a wash, maybe a Large Hadron Collider t-shirt will fit the bill, or a shirt, mug, or bag with a DNS strand exposed by gel electrophoresis on it.
For the space geek: look, these guys universally love the accomplishments of man to better understand the cosmos. That said, Space Shuttle is history and IIS is the hot ticket, right now. Consider a few IIS expedition patches, like the astronauts wore. If they don’t own an iron or can’t sew, then try the Hubble Space telescope polo shirt.
For the literary geek: Out of Print has very cool shirts, e-book reader jackets, coasters and such, taken from covers of classic books. Clockwork Orange, Old Man and the Sea, and Slaughterhouse Five are all cool art (and incredible novels). Also note that every item purchased donates a book to a child in a third world country.
For the conspiracy geek: They are out there, the guys that frequent alt.black.helicopters or whatever, still looking for the crashed UFO at Area 51. And now, you want to buy them a present. Above Top Secret is an exposé book by Jim Marrs, dedicated to the topics of conspiracies, UFOs, paranormal, secret societies and so on. Or, if they want to hide their USB drive containing their super-secret stuff, they might appreciate the Dirty Underwear Hidden Safe. Ew.
For the cubicle-dwelling geek: Cube-toys abound, but stay away from common stress toys that need to be squeezed. Any cube-dwelling geek worth his salt has a number of these already, and unless they collect unique squeeze-toys, stay clear. Go for something unique, like the Office Monkeys Play Set, or a copy of the book, Cubicle Warfare: 101 office Traps and Pranks. Note that this book should only be given to a cubicle-dwelling geek who can ascertain for themselves what might be over the line, outright offensive, or an action that could result in termination of employment. That narrows the list of potential receivers a bit.
For the zombie geek: There are two kinds of zombie geek, those that think it could really happen and those that just think zombie movies are cool. For the ones that think it could really happen, the Zombie Emergency Response Operations Packet would be a welcome addition to their bug-out bag. For the less paranoid but not less weird counterparts who just think zombies are cool, take a browse through the AMC The Walking Dead Store, or pick them up the Walking Dead Board Game.
For the survival geek: They like to be called Preppers. Whatever. They will groove all kinds of survivalist gadgets and tools, but it can’t be cheaply made. That doesn’t mean they can’t be cheap. How about an Israeli Civi Gas Mask with Nato Filter? Or maybe a military bag or pack from Flying Tigers Army / Navy Surplus? Or, for the fashion-conscious Prepper, the 2-pack of 300 lb. Paracord Bracelets. Contrary to popular belief among geeks, the towel is not the single most valuable survival tool. It is paracord. Yeah, I said it. Douglas Adams was wrong.
For the bad-boy geek: These are rare, but if you are shopping for one, a listing of local bail bondsmen would be a good investment. I’m not going to recommend lock-picks or anything, but why not get him the complete season of Beyond Scared Straight and help the boy get right, eh?
For the goth geek: Whatever you get them, make sure it is black or has a skull on it, or is black and has a skull on it. Honestly, I have no idea what to get them. If they can’t slit their wrists with it, they won’t appreciate the gift, anyway.
Maybe body jewelry from Spencers might fit the piercing – a nice nose stud or thoughtful nipple ring, perhaps? Or get him a couple of skull shot glasses to toast the bleak hopelessness of mankind. Really, you only need to get him one. He probably drinks alone.
For the Muslim\Hindu\Jewish\vegan geek: Some don’t eat meat of any kind, but none of them will eat pork. This means they do not experience the bliss of bacon. While it contains no actual bacon, they can get the imitation taste of it from Bacon flavored jelly beans. BaconFreak.com has bacon flavored everything, from gumballs and soda to pancakes and coffee. Just be sure you are getting them something that doesn’t have real bacon in it. Mmmm. Real bacon.
For the underdressed geek: T-shirts that most people don’t understand is a geek standby. Hell, I’ve even been known to have shirts made when I couldn’t find ones that say what I wanted! Hit Snorgtees and take a look around. I recommend the “Wanted dead & alive: Schrodinger’s cat” shirt for the well-read, philosophical geek, or the “5-day forecast for Alderaan” for the Star Wars geek. There’s a lot here and you can pick and choose, but have a theme in mind – something your geek digs. You certainly do not want to make the faux pas of giving an STNG shirt to an original Trek guy.
For the young geek in training: For geeky kids, Dinosaurs are almost always a hit. Consider the Raptor hoodie shirt, or maybe the Discovery moon in my room that rotates through the 12 lunar phases would work.
If none of these things are a fit for your particular geek, take a look at Think Geek. Poke around the site and I bet you will find something that works. Geeks – we are a weird bunch. I wish you all the best in your shopping endeavors.
About the author: Mitch Lavender has worked for Microsoft for 18 years and considers meeting Gene Rodenberry the highlight of his childhood, which either means he has liked Trek from an early age or he had a very bad childhood. An author of several published zombie stories; he watches The Walking Dead religiously and collects comics that feature artwork by Steranko or Kirby. He still has his D&D gaming stuff. Despite all of this, he has a wife.