The Most Unusual / Oldest Wallet Patents 

In an attempt to gain inspiration for new wallet designs, I decided to do a search on various patent websites hoping to found innovation from a time gone by. What I was met with, with hundreds and thousands of various designs from as early as the late 1800s. This article is going to explore a few of the most unusual, surprising, or simply bizarre patents from this time to gauge the trends, the innovations and those who design that pushed the boundaries for what wallets has become today.

Before we get into the article please be aware that we don’t have much information on whether or not any of these wallets ever hit the market, or what happened to those who submitted the patents. I tried to research each but unfortunately with so many different patents, and such a niche industry, it’s really hard to know for definite.


An Accordion Wallet

Patented 1874, US146973A, J.G. Albert

What fascinated me about the so-called Pocket-Book Wallet was not only its age (this is the oldest wallet patent on this list) but also its cool and innovative design. When browsing through wallet patents from the 19th century I generally found some of the designs to be almost comical or exaggerated in some way. This wasn’t the case for this Accordion Style wallet first patented in 1874 by a J.G Albert. I could find little information regarding Mr. Albert himself, and the patent, due to its age, was limited in information to delve deeper into this wallet. 

In essence, the wallet is in an accordion design similar and named after the popular musical instrument. This allows for the wallet to be expanded or compressed at will allowing for extension, and easy access, when use, yet a more minimalist size when stored away. It has an almost modern look and it wouldn’t be out of place in the market today. A similar example of this wallet on the market today is the Ta-Da! Wallet by Hardgraft which we reviewed back in 2020 and found it to be a decent wallet broadly speaking. For more information on this patent check it out in more detail on espacenet using the link below. 


The Safety Bill Holder

Patented 1921, US1035946A, J.L. Smith

Patented not long after the second world war, it’s crazy to me to think it’s entirely possible someone could have rocked a wallet similar to this design. I’m confident money Clips existed before this patent, but what impresses me is the ingenuity and engineering behind its designs as it uses a similar mechanism to what many money clips use today. Along with this the clip just looks great, a modern look that wouldn’t fit out of place today, and durability thanks to being made from metal. The Money Clip also used a chain (popular in Biker Wallets today) that is slightly shown as No.29.

An example of this money clip in the modern era is something like the M-Clip, which uses a similar design, shape, and material choice opting for metal as opposed to classic leather money clips. It’s really hard to know if this money clip patent was the first of its kind and a new idea on the market. But considering the patent was granted (more so for the mechanism that controls it) it’s definitely possible this was an early example of a money clip in a time where their popularity was growing. For more information on this patent check out the official documentation using the link below. 


The Pocket Book 

Patented 1885, US550302A, J.Thompson

Probably my favorite wallet on this list simply down to its bizarre design, and the fact I’ve honestly surprised nobody has tried anything like this in recent times (not that I’m aware of anyway). The wallet itself is a smaller-sized wallet in a bi-fold style. Where it gets weird is protruding from the top are two folded flaps of leather designed for inserting your fingers for a more secure hold and grip.

It very much reminds me of the popular smartphone accessory pop socket, that uses a similar attachable device that allows you, again, a better and easier way to hold your phone. Along with this, you can’t deny it also resembles the likes of a knuckle duster, although I’m not sure this wallet is gonna do much damage. Overall it’s a fun design and gave me a great laugh when I came across it. For more information on this patent click the link below.


A Minimalist Wallet

Patented 1903, US720324A, A. Bushnell, Jr.

This wallet was one of the only patent examples I stumbled across that took a similar design to what would commonly be known as a minimalist wallet. What I love about this design is it’s actually designed in various different sizes to accommodate different sizes of paper. Think of the traditional paper sizes of today (A5, A4, A3, etc..) and you wouldn’t be far off. Although to today’s standard the wallet wouldn’t be anywhere near a minimalist wallet, this wallet definitely has a contender for being the slimmest in width, thanks to again, an accordion-style design that keeps things compact when not filled completely. 

The design itself also reminds me of many popular wallets today that take the same minimalist styling, rectangular in shape (to mimic the shape of a credit/debit card) and the safety/fastener band around the middle. A good example of this can be seen in the likes of x that resembles the same sort of design and use of materials. For more information on this awesome patent check out the full document using the link below. 


A Timeless Wallet Design

Patented 1912, US146973A, James R. Cardwell

On first inspection of this wallet patent, you might think this is quite a boring or normal wallet design. But for me, that’s what makes it so great. This is one of the only approved patents I came across that truly resembled a classic bi-fold (or billfold) wallet with very little variation in what we see today on the market (and still the most popular wallet design in the world).

Along with its traditional shape, the wallet is also much thinner along with including a money clip near the middle of the fold where notes, or stamps in many cases, could be tucked under for added security. You may have noticed that the wallet doesn’t have any card slot, and that’s down to the fact that most people at the time didn’t carry any cards as the technology had yet to be invented. For more information on this wallet, patent check it out in more detail using the link below. 


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