10 Quirky Sites for Clever Holiday Gifts

BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- With commerce at your keyboard, spending a day shopping online sounds more peaceful than fighting crowds at the go-to stores.

1. Lala.com: Can a site funded by Bain Capital and propped up by Warner Music Group be considered a "hidden gem?" Considering that Google and Facebook are just catching on to what a lot of Lala listeners already know -- that sometimes a song's only worth a dime -- Lala's reach isn't yet as broad as its big backers would indicate. Here's the basic model: Listen to a full song once for free, a Web-only version costs you 10 cents and a mp3 file goes for 79 cents. Instead of going for the bargain bin, create a custom mix for your friend. If he doesn't like the tunes you picked, he can swap them for new ones.

2. Powell's Books: Let Target ( TGT), Wal-Mart Stores ( WMT) and Amazon ( AMZN) slug it out over new online books. Oregonians and lovers of literature seek sanctuary in this one-stop new, used and rare-volume bookstand. Teeming with signed editions, staff picks and exclusive author interviews and essays, Powell's is a candy store for a kid who gets a treat out of reading J.D. Salinger's Franny and Zooey. Have fun stocking discounted copies of Sarah Palin's memoir, big boys: The Powell's crowd will be here in the corner writing in Moleskine journals, thumbing through autographed copies of John Irving's Last Night In Twisted River (Random House 2009) and Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals (Little, Brown & Co. 2009) and enjoying 30% off its New York Review of Books classics collection.

3. Etsy: This is the Overstock.com ( OSTK)

of handmade goods. Hundreds of thousands of artists and crafters sell their paintings, jewelry, soap, clothing, toys and other wares each year through this global clearing house. To give you some idea of the depth behind the site's 2 million items, there are more than 7,000 different varieties of fingerless gloves alone.

4. Ruby Jewel Treats: If you're going to make one thing, but make it well, the ice cream sandwich is a great pick. This Pacific Northwest-based company takes a few simple concepts -- cookies, ice cream, farm-fresh local ingredients -- and pours them into deliciously complex little pucks. The lemon and honey in its Lemon Cookie with Honey Lavender sandwiches are all natural, as is the mint in the Dark Chocolate Cookie with Fresh Mint sandwiches and the pumpkin from its seasonal Ginger Cookie with Pumpkin. With a case of 22 small sandwiches going for $55 and 15 large sandwiches fetching $60, they're definitely not Klondike bars. Get the variety pack.

5. Woot T-shirts: What started as a market-testing shop for electronic goods quickly became a one-day-only sale bonanza, offering items such as iRobot ( IRBT) Roomba Virtual Walls and nut roasters until 11:59 p.m. The site has since introduced outlets for wine (wine.woot.com) and children's items (kids.woot.com). The most fun can be found at its T-shirt site, where recent offerings include an image of a passed out Cookie Monster surrounded by drained shot glasses of milk entitled "The Binge."

6. Frontgate: With retail locations only in Ohio, Frontgate has been tucking away its full-sized iPod jukeboxes ($1,499), backyard outdoor theater systems ($2,499) and retro Coca-Cola coolers ($899). Online, however, anyone can buy Pac Man ($2,999) and Ms. Pac Man ($3,999) arcade games like those that once dotted pizza parlors and ice cream shops across the land

7. Rent the Runway: Do you like Netflix ( NFLX) and GameFly, but wish they made you look prettier? Look no further than Rent the Runway, where you can get a Diane von Furstenberg the same way you'd get the second disc from season three of "The Office" -- through the mail. For $50 to $200 per garment, customers can rent a Christian Siriano or Herve Leger piece for four nights and ship it back in a prepaid envelope. Dry cleaning is included and there's an optional $5 damage insurance fee, but, unlike Netflix, you're on the hook for the entire cost if a dress gets completely destroyed.

8. Piutre USA: Finally, a way to answer "I want a pony" that doesn't result in thousands of dollars in stable fees. Italian toymaker Riccardo Chiavetta originally designed these lifelike stuffed animals in the late 1970s, building some to scale. When buying a dog, you must select a Borzoi ($220-$1,023), Havanese ($200) or Shiba Inu ($145-$598) from the company's more than 70 breeds. Piutre also has standard teddy bears ($105-$234), but its clientele is more likely to go for a grizzly ($4,200) one of its dozens of wild animals or its 53-inch-tall pony ($2,875).

9. Back to Basics Toys: At Back to Basics, which caters to children of the 1960s and '70s, forgotten favorites like the Evel Knievel Super Stunt Set ($49.99), NFL Vibrating Football Game ($79.99) and Lite-Brite ($25.99) are revived in their original form or something resembling it. The "Spin Around Ride" ($25.99) sounds generic, but not to those who look at it and see their old Sit 'N Spin.

10. MoMA Store: It's not hidden, but it's not your average museum store, either. Design junkies have turned this site into an upper-class IKEA. Among the more popular offerings are a creamer shaped like a cafeteria half-pint carton ($14), inside-out Champagne glasses ($65), a tray set that makes perfect ice spheres ($16) and a transparent Louis XVI-style armchair ($410).

-- Reported by Jason Notte in Boston.
Jason Notte is a reporter for TheStreet.com. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Esquire.com, Time Out New York, The Boston Herald, The Boston Phoenix, Metro newspaper and the Colorado Springs Independent.