Although the origins of the yo-yo are unclear, it is believed that it most likely originated in China. Even in ancient Egyptian temples, drawings of objects have been seen in the shape of yo-yos. The first historical mention, however, was a 500 B.C. vase painting of a Greek youth playing with a yo-yo. Greek records describe toys made of wood, metal, or painted terra cotta. Such vases, as well as an actual terra cotta disk, can be found in the National Museum of Athens, Greece. There are indications that the toy once served as a weapon; and Philippine historical records indicate that 16th-century hunters used rocks tied to cords to throw at wild animals, thus enabling retrieval of the rock.

In 1791, a print was circulated of the Prince of Wales whirling his bandalore (yo-yo). As a result, the now immensely popular plaything  became known as the Prince of Wales’ toy: any person of fashion had to own one. In  June 18, 1815, Napoleon and his army were seen relaxing with their yo-yos before the famous Battle of Waterloo.

Back in the Philippines the natives were becoming experts at making and using the toy; carving and playing with yo-yos became a national pastime .

Despite Americans receiving a U.S. patent on the “improved construction of the toy, commonly called a bandelore” in 1866, the yo-yo did not become popular until a Filipino American opened the Yo-yo Manufacturing Company in Santa Barbara, California in 1928. Pedro Flores started his business with a dozen handmade toys, and within a year, was operating two additional factories in Los Angeles and Hollywood. This yo-yo was unique because it was the first one that did not have the string tied to the axle, but looped around the axle (looped slip-string), enabling the yo-yo to spin or sleep at the end of the string.ollywood.

In 1929 American entrepreneur D.F. Duncan, Sr. bought the rights to the toy from Flores and trademarked the name yo-yo, prompting the factory’s location of Luck Wisconsin to dub itself “Yo-yo Capital of the World”. The Duncan yo-yo introduced the butterfly shape (reversing the halves of the traditional/imperial yo-yo), a design that allows the player to catch the yo-yo on the string easily. Following a sales decline, in 1962 Duncan launched a media campaign  which resulted in his selling over 45 million units.

The next two decades saw many innovations in yo-yo technology, including changeable axles, free-spinning plastic sleeves, clutches with spring-loaded weights, and the addition of ball bearings enabling the creation of new tricks previously not possible. One of the most significant: MIchael Caffrey patented the Yomega Brain, resulting in an automatic return of the yo-yo when the speed drops below a given threshold.

Called “Father of the modern yo-yo”, Tom Kuhn in 1990 produced the first ball bearing yo-yo that actually worked, ensuring long spin times and good return ability. 60-second ads on cable TV in the late 80’s along with nostalgia, helped create a new market, turning yo-yos into big business. Toward the end of the Century, Yomega partnered with HPK Marketing, creating Team HIgh Performance (skilled yo-yo artists and competitors) who toured the world, helping to create a yo-yo boom which even included McDonald’s.

Yo-yo materials have also improved throughout the years: high-end yoyos can be constructed of aluminum, steel, titanium, even magnesium, gold or copper, as well as exotic plastics and woods.

Contemporary yo-yo culture includes a large online community ( including blogs and forums) and yo-yo stores as well as yo-yo contests. There are 9 divisions to compete in: to allow for mid-routine replacements, competitors bring several yo-yos to the performance.


Although you can find some yo-yos at large retail stores, such as Toys-R-Us and Wal-Mart,  for a wide variety or specialty items, your best bet is one of the several on-line stores/sites. Most of these also give guidance with your selection and include instructional videos. There are very few actual stores that specialize in yoyo goods–Bird in Hand in Chico, California, is also the site of the National Yoyo Museum and the sponsor of the National Yoyo Contest.


For Collecting:

When yo-yo collecting, first decide on an area of focus, ie. plastic yo-yos, yoyos from a specific manufacture, wooden yoyos from a certain time period, ball-bearing yoyos…or you may wish to purchase yoyos that are really beautiful or just plain different. Once you decide what to collect, remember that the more collectible ones will have one or more of the following on one or both yo-yo halves: yo-yo name, name of manufacturer, year yo-yo was made, serial number, patent number. Yoyos that have none of this information–regardless of how exotic or beautiful–are worth very little to collectors.

There are several reference books which can be most helpful to the yo-yo collector, including Collectible American Yo-Yos, Chris Cook, and Lucky’s Guide to 20th Century Yo-Yos by Lucky Meisenheimer.

Overall when purchasing old collectible yo-yo’s, look for

–no loose halves

–no excessive scrapes on outside diameter of each half

–clear impressions o f the logo or clear sharp graphics

–decals as whole as possible

–repainting or shoddy repair work,

–loose ornamentation, ie. rhinestones.

For  Playing:

There is no single best yo-yo. Certain shapes and models are better suited to various tricks and different styles of play. When selecting for/as a beginner, a standard fixed axle yo-yo with a take apart design is a good start, but one with an auto-return mechanism speeds the learning curve. Fixed axles are the most basic type, as the axle does not move when yo-yo is thrown. Once you know the basics, you can move quickly to a transaxle model. Longer spin times make learning tricks easier.

Some websites list/suggest yo-yos for beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels.

Also consider yo-yo shapes. There are many different form factors, each with specific advantages, and newer shapes and technology continue to emerge; however, the three most popular configurations are

–Imperial or Standard ,best for looping, as having the weight towards the center gives increased stability in the air;

–Modified, good for looping or string tricks, as the weight around the rims creates the extra circular inertia that causes the yo-yo to sleep long;

–Butterfly, best for string tricks, as the wide gap makes it easier to catch the yo-yo on the string.

For the more skilled player, a number of yo-yo accessories are available as “after-market” modifications. These are meant to augment performance over the original model and include: different types of bearings, friction stickers, brake pads, weight rings, and slick strings.

When purchasing a yo-yo as a gift, consider the recipient’s skill level, age, and, if possible, style recipient plays or would like to play, as well as your budget. When possible, always purchase extra string with the yo-yo.


Before playing with your yo-yo, adjust the string according to your height so that the body won’t hit the floor when you throw the yo-yo down. To do this: unwind the yo-yo completely, hold onto the string and set the yo-yo on the ground between your feet. Hold the string up in front of you, cutting it just above your waistline. Tie a loop at the end, then make a slipknot by pulling part of the string through the loop. Place slipknot on your middle finger behind the first joint and roll up your yo-yo ensuring that the string comes off of the top of the yo-yo when in your hand.

It is important to find the correct string tension for each trick: tricks that require a spinner or sleeper need a loose string; tricks that require looping need a tighter string. To loosen a string, let the yo-yo hang at the end of the string and turn the yo-yo counter-clock-wise several times; to tighten, simply turn it clock-wise several times.

Basic yo-yo techniques include:

Sleeping–keeping a yo-yo spinning while remaining at the end of its uncoiled string.

Looping–keeping the body of the yo-yo in constant motion.

Freehand–using counterweight as an additional element which is thrown from hand to hand

Off-string–launching yo-yo into the air to be caught again on the string


Taking care of your yo-yo will help to ensure that it works properly. If you have a take-apart yo-yo, it is important to not over-tighten it.

New strings are safer and perform better. the new one will make your fixed axle yo-yo sleep better and will make a transaxle more responsive. Be sure to replace the string before it breaks–when it looks dirty, shows signs of wear or fraying, or feels stiff or hard. If it becomes knotted and you have to use a narrow sharp object to cut it, be very careful not to nick the axle.

To replace string: dangle yo-yo at bottom of string; spin it counter-clockwise to loosen string. When axle loop opens, slip the string off of the yo-yo. To replace, slip axle-end loop over yo-yo halves and let yo-yo hang to ground. Tie a loop in the string at the level of your belly button and cut off the extra string. Lift yo-yo off of the ground and spin it clockwise to tighten the string. Once it’s tight enough to wind up, wrap the string around the axle and throw the yo-yo hard a few times. To really break in your new string, throw a few alternating (Gemini) loops!

For maintaining wooden axles, put a small amount of wax on the last few inches of the axle end of your string; Placing a couple of drops of light oil on a bearing yo-yo will help it to sleep and return better.

In addition to regular maintenance, some yo-yoers modify  their yo-yos to improve their appearance or achieve desired performance. These “mods” include satining, beadblasting, anodizing, recessing, siliconing, bearingization ,and dyeing.


For safety:

when you are going to yo-yo, be sure you have enough space. The farthest the yo-yo can reach is the le ngth of your arm plus the string’s length. Check behind you and the ceiling clearance if you are doing tricks like “Around the World”. Some tricks are more safely practiced outside.

Keep away from small children, as string could cause choking or other injury

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Heavier yo-yos will have more angular momentum when spinning at a given speed, and will spin freely for a longer time.

The easiest way to correct the string tension is just to take the string off of your finger, letting the string hang down and unwind by itself.

Most strings will break after 6-8 hours of play.

Wacky Facts

–The Yo-yo is said to be  the first toy to fly into outer space. In 1985 NASA sent a basic spinning yo-yo on the Space Shuttle Discover to see what effect microgravity would have on it . In 1992 the yo-yo again made its way into space on the Space Shuttle Atlantis.

–The World Yo-Yo Contest is held annually in Orlando,. Florida

–Colored light-up yo-yos (with 8 LED’s ) are becoming popular among young persons.

–The highest priced yo-yo, signed by Richard Nixon and presented to Roy Acuff at The Grand Ole Opry in 1974, was auctioned off for $16,029.00.

–A giant yo-yo that can leave its string is called the Chinese yo-yo or the diablo.. It combines the leveling effect of a gyroscope with the control of a yo-yo.

One response

  1. Who created this blog, it is awesome!

    April 28, 2011 at 1:27 am

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