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Fathers Day and Birthdays: Gifts For Dads Who Have Everything

Updated on April 19, 2011

This Father's Day, Think Outside the Gift Box

Finding the perfect gift for my dad has always been next to impossible. The man has no problem buying himself whatever he wants or needs as the want or need arises. He spares little thought for his daughters who yearly struggle to find the perfect present for his birthday, for Christmas or for Father's Day. Oh no; he's that rare sort of person who doesn't ever sit around just wanting something. The only times he doesn't go ahead and just purchase whatever he wants is when that item is very expensive, which means I won't be able to afford it for him, either.

Over the years I have fallen for every retailer's merchandise display of "Great Gifts for Dads," and boy, does he have the cheesy "World's Greatest Dad" mugs and pointless golf-themed books to prove it. I've tried ties and pens and paperweights.

Finally, fed up, I have started keeping a running list of gift ideas. The perfect gift is by definition something that the person wouldn't buy for themselves. They may or may not know that they want this thing. Over the years, I have taken it upon myself to expand dad's horizons and introduce him to something new with each gift I give: new technology, a new experience, a new game. My strategy seems to be working. The present doesn't have to be expensive. It does have to be original or something won't buy for himself.

Digital picture frame

My dad didn't even know this existed when I gave it to him for his birthday, which is probably true for any number of technology-related gifts that you might give to a parent over age 50. Dad thought a digital picture frame was an ugly device into which you had to put a camera's memory card. No longer! The Kodak Pulse allows anyone to email photos directly to the picture frame, so my sisters and I constantly send dad photos of what we and his grand kids are up to. Most days he comes home to new snaps of loved ones far away. I gave him a 7-inch frame, but the 10-inch frame shows pictures even better.

Personalized playing cards are an unexpected, unique present sure to surprise.
Personalized playing cards are an unexpected, unique present sure to surprise.

Personalized playing cards.

My dad and his wife have reached the age where they've decided to take up bridge. Even before bridge, however, my dad always loved to play cards. I have semi-fond memories of him shooting the moon to beat me at hearts or scattering the deck to teach me 52 card pick-up. There also were marathon sessions of Slapjack, War and Gin. A personalized deck of playing cards is something he may not even know exists, and which make a particularly thoughtful gift. This deck is from a company called Dabney Lee, and I ordered them from a store called Soirée San Francisco.

Restaurant gift certificate

My dad and his wife like to eat out now and again, but they seldom venture far beyond their neighborhood or think to try somewhere new. They like new experiences; they also have their favorite restaurants. One year for Christmas I gave Dad a gift certificate to two new San Francisco restaurants. Neither gift certificate was quite enough to cover a meal for two, but it got my dad and his wife out to try two new spots. Even nice restaurants sell gift certificates, if you ask the host or hostess.

Vintage cufflinks

My dad doesn't put on a suit often, but when he does, he prefers to wear cufflinks. I once found a great pair of vintage cufflinks at an estate sale. A little creepy that some dead person had previously worn those cufflinks? Perhaps. But they were a unique find, and my dad wore them to my sister's wedding.

Books like "Unbroken"

It depends on the dad, but mine loves to get books he might not otherwise have read. I know the sorts of things he likes — history, particularly of California and the Bay Area, anything to do with maps, the occasional mystery. He loved one a gave him years ago called "The Company," a fictionalized history of the CIA. More recently, I sent him "Unbroken," the latest book by Laura Hillenbrand, who also wrote "Seabiscuit." Unbroken tells the story of Louis Zamperini, a U.S. Olympian widely expected to be the first person to run a 4 minute mile. Instead he served in the Air Force during World War II, survived a plane crash and over a month lost at sea on a floating raft. And that's just the beginning of this true life tale of survival. Horrifying at ties, it's a tough book to put down.

Sonos

Sonos Sound System

Blow your dad's mind with a wireless Sonos sound system. Help him graduate from the classic set up of space-hogging receiver and components that served him well once upon a time In the 21st century music is about mp3s and digital delivery. The Sonos connects wirelessly to your all the music on your computer, has an iPhone or iPod dock, and also connects to a high speed Internet connection to stream mmusic from Pandora and other Internet music providers. Very expensive, but very cool.

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