Yo! Lemme see that yo-yo, yo!



Yo-yos. They’re toys. You’ve probably seen some kid playing with one, or maybe you’ve played with one yourself, but what’s the deal with them? Where did they come from? How long have they been around? Who plays with them anymore? I’m going to attempt to answer these questions in a somewhat entertaining manner, and hopefully you’ll learn something about yo-yos that you didn’t know before reading this article. Let’s go!

From Stephen G. Miller’s Ancient Greek Athletics

Yo-yos have been around for a long time. How long? Well, at least twenty-five hundred years. In Stephen G. Miller’s book Ancient Greek Athletics he writes that the yo-yo was a popular toy in ancient Greece, and yo-yos were most commonly made from wood, bronze, or terra-cotta. The vase painting seen above, ca. 440 BC, depicts a Greek boy playing with a yo-yo. As old as the Greek records are, it’s believed that the yo-yo may have originated even earlier in China. Dude, that’s pretty old.

PICTURE_THREESo what’s the allure of this basic toy that’s lasted for more than two millennia? Some might say simplicity, which is definitely a factor, since few parts and a simple design help keep the yo-yo cheap, allowing it to continue to be a widely available toy. Yo-yos typically consist of two circular discs – these days made of plastic – that make up the two sides of the toy, and the sides are kept together by a metal axle screwed into the center of each disc. Each disc also has a groove in the middle for a metal spacer that sits on each end of the axle. A metal ring bearing rests in the center of the axle between the spacers and holds the string, allowing the yo-yo to spin, or “sleep” without automatically retracting up the string.

Image courtesy of

Yo-yos experienced a resurgence in popularity in the 1960s and have been gaining momentum ever since. Yo-yo makers like Yomega and Duncan are major players in the yo-yo world, producing several different specialized models typically tailor-made for looping tricks, or for string tricks. Yo-yo competitions are now as commonplace as radio-controlled airplane contests, model train conventions, and horseshoe championships, finding its own niche culture among enthusiasts worldwide.

Gentry Stein, winner of the Class 1A championship of the 2014 World Yo-Yo contest

So if you’ve got some yo-yos lying around, break ’em out again and give it another whirl! Or if it’s not your thing anymore, I would love to check them out in the store. Now since you’re all jazzed up about yo-yos, enjoy this video of awesome yo-yo tricks!

Author: tylermwatts

I'm a bookbuyer at McKay's in Nashville. I'm a married man (sorry, ladies) with a daughter and an adorable pooch named Geordi. My interests include video games, reading, listening to music, playing guitar, playin' with yo-yos, juggling, and other random things.

2 thoughts on “Yo! Lemme see that yo-yo, yo!

  1. I would imagine the terra-cotta yo-yos had to be handled very carefully. Wonder what the most expensive yo-yo cost?



    Here’s a fun story, and also a generally interesting website.


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