A yo-yo also spelled yoyo is a toy consisting of an axle connected to two disks, and a string looped around the axle, similar to a spool.
It is believed that the yo-yo most likely originated in China.
The first historical mention of the yo-yo, however, was from Greece in the year 500 BC. These ancient toys were made out of wood, metal, or painted terra cotta disks and called just that, a disc.
Even in ancient Egyptian temples, drawings of objects have been seen in the shape of yo-yos.
Yo-yos became very popular in Europe in the late 18th century, having probably arrived there via India. It enjoyed popularity with the French nobility, with many famous people having used them. It is worth noting
that the yo-yoers in this time period are recorded as being adults, who referred the yo-yo as a ‘Bandalore’ or a ‘Quiz’.
The British called the yo-yo the bandalore, quiz, or the Prince of Wales toy. The French used the name incroyable or l’emigrette. However, it is a Tagalog word, the native language of the Philippines, and means “come back.” In the Philippines, the yo-yo was used as a weapon for over 400 hundred years. Their version was large with sharp edges and studs and attached to thick twenty-foot ropes for flinging at enemies or prey.
America owes its fascination with the yo-yo mainly to Chicago businessman Donald F. Duncan Sr., who spotted it while on a business trip to San Francisco in 1928. It was being used by Pedro Flores, a Philippine immigrant who began selling a toy labeled with the name, “yo-yo,” meaning “come-come” in the native language of the Philippines.
By early 1929, Flores had secured financing, set up his own firm and manufactured more than 100,000 wooden toys and trademarketed the name “yo-yo.” Flores realized that people had to be shown how to use a yo-yo before they would buy it. He hired a team of fellow yo-yo masters to demonstrate the toy’s amazing tricks.
The name “Yo-yo” was registered in 1932 as a trademark by Sam Dubiner in Vancouver, Canada, and Harvey Lowe won the first World Yo-Yo Contest in London, England. In 1932, Swedish Kalmartrissan yo-yos started to be manufactured as well.
Declining sales after the Second World War prompted Duncan to launch a comeback campaign for his trademarked “Yo-Yo” in 1962 with a series of television advertisements.
As popularity spread through the 1970s and 1980s, there were a number of innovations in yo-yo technology, primarily regarding the connection between the string and the axle. In 1979, dentist and yo-yo celebrity Tom Kuhn patented the “No Jive 3-in-1” yo-yo, creating the world’s first “take-apart” yo-yo, which enabled yo-yo players to change the axle.
Swedish bearing company SKF briefly manufactured novelty yo-yos with ball bearings in 1984. In 1990, Kuhn introduced the SB-2 yo-yo that had an aluminum transaxle, making it the first successful ball-bearing yo-yo.
In all transaxle yo-yos, ball bearings significantly reduce friction when the yo-yo is spinning, enabling longer and more complex tricks. Subsequent yo-yo wielders used this ability to their advantage, creating new tricks that had not been possible with fixed-axle designs.
In 1992, the first World Yo-Yo Championships were held, and the contest itself included true freestyle. After this, freestyles became a major part of yo-yo competitions. In 1996, the first USA yo-yo event with a freestyle was held at the US National Yo-Yo Contest.
A number of new yo-yoing styles were created in the 1990s. The most prominent of these are freehand and offstring.
The record for the most yo-yo tricks completed in one minute is 51 and was set by Hans Van Dan Helzen (USA) on the set of Blue Peter at BBC Television Centre, London, UK on 17 May 2004. The attempt was adjudicated by Arron Sparks, the Director and Head Judge of the British Yo Yo Association.
The fastest time to complete 100m whilst throwing and catching a yo-yo is 13.9 seconds by Taro Yamashita of Littleton, Massachusetts, USA at the 1996 Yolympics at Portsmouth, New Hampshire on 25 May.
Cold Fusion and Cold Fusion GT yo-yos, manufactured by Playmaxx Inc, retail between $150 and 250 and are the most expensive mass-produced yo-yos in the world. There is also a special version called Gold Fusion, which is plated with 24k gold and sells for between $200 and $300. In 1998 Playmaxx Inc. generated approximately $96 million in retail sales and was given the Craze Of The Year award by the British Toy Association.
John ‘Lucky’ Meisenheimer (USA) has a collection of 4,586 different yo-yo’s, as of 22 February 2010, that he has amassed since 1971. Lucky first became fascinated by yo-yo’s at junior high school during the 1971 craze. Later, when he went to medical school, he began playing with yo-yo’s as a means of relaxation between classes. From that point, Lucky became so dedicated to the art of yo-yo collecting that he self-published a book called Lucky’s Collectors Guide to 20th Century Yo-Yo’s.
On 15 September 2012, Beth Johnson (USA) demonstrated the world’s largest yo-yo in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA. Measuring 3.6258 m (11 ft 10.75 in) in diameter and weighing 2,095.6 kg (4,620 lb), the disc plunged 36.5 m (120 ft) on a rope attached to a 68-tonne (150,000-lb) crane before successfully rebounding.