The enemy of the money clip is fickle fortune. At the poker table, everything will go your way. You’ll hit every draw, and flushes will bet into your full houses. At the end of the night, you’ll wind up with a wad of bills fat enough to choke a goat. The well-built money clip will need to accommodate your great success.

Then, the next week, everything will sour. You’ll be dealt lousy cards, and you’ll play them poorly. At the end of the night, you’ll wind up with nothing but your driver’s license and your credit card. The same money clip, stretched wide a week earlier, will need to spring back, hold tight to what little you’ve got left.

Tony Cornett appreciated the challenge posed by these swings, and he understood that most money clips weren’t up to it. Most fall into the jewelry category: shiny silver baubles that look good in glass display cases but are too malleable, too soft to satisfy the demands of Lady Luck. What Cornett needed was a tool, something that worked.

He started thinking seriously about the problem in 2002, when he moved to University Park from San Antonio, where he’d been the brand manager of the granddaddy of beverage insulators, the Koozie. Cornett has a curious résumé: print journalist, PR man, TV news anchor, country-and-western DJ. He came here to help run a family business (it built about 300 homes in two developments before the mortgage debacle effectively shut it down last year). Now Cornett can call himself an inventor. He was awarded a design patent on his money clip in late November.

pg_18 The evolution of the Duck Bill began with the commercially available banker’s clasp (1), which Cornett used from 1998 to 2004. But it had “waggle issues,” so he taped two of them together (2). The idea really started to take off as people saw the jury-rigged contraption and asked Cornett to make them one, too. In early 2005, he bought a piece of tin at Home Depot and crafted a rudimentary version (3) in his garage. The first professionally machined prototype (4) was made in late 2005. The final product (above) can be yours for $36 at duckbilldesign.com. Engraving is extra. photography by John Gay

The Duck Bill’s ornithological theme might be a marketing masterstroke (Aflac has already bought 500; Cornett has had talks with the University of Oregon), but there’s more at work here. Its curved bill fits snug against the thumb and makes it easy to insert cash. It emits a satisfying click when money is withdrawn. Most important, the four bends in the curve of its stainless-steel jaw ensure it never loses its bite.

Quite simply, it is a well-made tool. It works. In the month we tested the Duck Bill, nearly every guy we showed it to wanted one (devotees of the giant George Costanza wallet were deaf to our proselytizing).

Cornett puts it this way: “It’s the cure for that low-grade fever that every guy has. No guy wakes up and says, ‘Today’s the day I solve that money-clip problem.’ But they get it in their hands for a week, and they’re astonished.”