While many museum shops are just itching to sell gift buyers some pretty little example of artistic form during the holiday season, the Boston-based Museum of Useful Things is strictly about function -- durable, old-school function. It sells vintage-style wall-mounted school house pencil sharpeners ($24) because they're really good at sharpening pencils without making a mess. It sells the giant rubber doorstop wedges ($8) your grandparents had because they're really good as holding doors open. They sell thumb-click tally counters ($18) because even at a time when Apple's Next Big Technology is obsolete after a year or so, some items in the analog world have been the best tool for the job for decades at a time.
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As wonderful as going to the dollar store every year or so to replace basic supplies can be, sometimes getting it right the first time by giving someone an aluminum dustpan ($12 or $18), wooden shoe shine brush ($26) or Post Office-grade canvas basket ($88) that will still be around by the time the recipient retires is a better bet. The next time a great-uncle wonders aloud during holiday dinner why they don't make things like they used to, drop an eight-ounce stainless steel Stanley hip flask in his lap and tell him they still are.