Duncan Butterfly/Imperial - Damaging to the hobby?

As a spinoff of a not-so-popular debate post, (you ask why, I ask why not) I had put into a “Why fixed axle?” thread, that was not welcome there, Id like to clarify my stance of why I think that the Butterfly/Imperial models are more damaging than helpful in getting people into the hobby, without hijacking or offending the other thread.

Unpopular thought: “The butterfly is garbage.”
Should have added “The butterfly is garbage… to an aspiring yoyoer”

It will take quite some doing for me to change my outlook on something I see nearly everyday turn people OFF from yoyoing. (I work at a toy store, and one of the few places to get yoyos in the city) so when I say things like the Butterfly is garbage, Im not just trolling the forum or looking for attention. I see this happen almost daily and it makes me sad.

I understand the place and purpose of fixed axle. I do. My negativity of the butterfly/imperial is based on hands on experience with the populace. They have plenty to teach you and the challenges never stop, but more than discouraging to the aspiring hobbyist. The non-user friendly nature is damaging to the mindset of “is this for me? Is this hobby too hard? Maybe I dont have what it takes” because the classic (dated) design makes stability non existent, you cannot unscrew to get out a knot ( you think a kid is gonna keep a seam ripper in his pocket?) Cotton string do nothing to build confidence of a harder throw, coupled with being forced to pick and prod at knots with makeshift tools (paper clips damage threads making the weak string even weaker) All of this complies into a “Too hard for me” resolve.

To clarify (minus harsh, early morning words), I simply do not see them as appropriate to someone who is: A-just starting out and B-wants to learn 1A style tricks.

Same as a bicycle. If someone wanted to learn how to ride a bicycle, would you make it easy for them, so they get a sense of “Hey, I CAN do this!” with training wheels for added success, stability, and piece of mind, or give them an unstable, difficult to operate advanced model? Which one is going to encourage them mentally that they can in fact do this physically.
This is why I put those specific models on the bottom shelf near the back. While they are marketed as beginner models, they are really for the advanced users. So its not really the yoyos themselves, but what those certain yoyos tend to do to those who might be interested in getting into yoyo. Cause I see those turn new people off faster than anything, and to me, that just sucks. Each one lost is a member of the community that we do not have. And I see PLENTY walk away after trying them and that makes me sad to see.

Is this a hit against fixed axle yoyos? No. Not even almost. Just a voice against the marketing of the most iconic (and damaging) yoyos on the market. They fact they make them so cheap, so crappy, and so difficult to operate, should be considered in their marketing ploy of trying to get people into to yoyoing. Cause I see it happen often, it does not work.

TL/DR - I attribute the duncan butterfly and imperial designs to be responsible for more people getting turned off than turned on the hobby. Directly making countless aspiring hobbyists quit before they ever had a chance to blossom due to the marketing and design of these two classic designs. Marketing as something for the beginner, and designed as something that even a pro struggles to operate properly. Counter productive at best.

What do you think?


I understand where you’re coming from. Personally, I love the Butterfly, own around 20. BUT Duncan needs to do much better with them. There are more poorly assembled Butterfly’s than there are good ones. That’s my big complaint. Halves that are put on crooked, varying gaps, etc. But when you get a good one they’re really good, IMO.

I personally have taught a number of people on Butterfly’s. It’s a great yoyo just to get the basics. However, with what I’ve mentioned above, I personally go out and buy a number of Butterfly’s find the good ones and give those to people who want to learn.

Great thing about a Butterfly, to address one of your points, they have a metal axle! You can use poly string on them ;D I have Kitty Fat on almost all of my Butterfly’s, and I put them on the ones I give away for people to learn.

I generally, depending on who I’m teaching, at least add an extra loop on the axle for people starting out. Just so they get the feel of catching a yoyo, get the feel of it going up and down the string. As they get that down, I’ll take one of the loops off the axle, so they can get the feel of a sleeper, but still get it back up easy. Finally just a single loop so they can really get a sleeper.

With a yoyo like that you’ll learn many things that you either wont learn, or will learn way down the line if you just start on an unresponsive yoyo. That’s sort of part of our society today though, we see Mickey playing 100mph and we want to do that now! Buy a yoyo, realize we can’t, and there is a learning curve, so we give up and move on. Not everyone is that way, but a lot of people are, (look in the BST at the “I bought these last year, and I’m just not good” sale posts).

BUT, with that said I do agree that if someone wants to play like Mickey, or Zach, Gentry, etc. Yeah go ahead and give them a yoyo that will do what they’re wanting. Similar to the guitar analogy you mentioned in the other post. I’ve taught guitar, for the longest time I was the “you need to learn on an acoustic, because it will make you a better player.” Which, I stand by 100%, it will make you a better player. But, if the person only wants to play Hendrix, or whatever the newest pop-punk band is, I’ve learned that it is better to get them an electric and get them learning how to create that sound. That will help them to continue to play.

So if someone wants to learn unresponsive, that’s great. BUT I think more emphasis needs to be given on the basics still. Learning to throw straight, on plane, level, how to correct tilt, etc. Again, looking through the YoYo Tricks help section here, you’ll see people attempting tricks when they can’t keep their yoyo straight, or barely bind. They’re too rushed to get to the end. Learning those basics, they’ll be able to work through advanced tricks much easier. THAT is what I think a yoyo like a butterfly can teach people, but I also understand that it’s not 100% necessary.

One other thing I see as a detriment to the Butterfly, is yoyoer’s attitudes toward them. If someone is telling you that you need something better, because that one is no good. That’ll mess with a lot of peoples heads.

That’s my .02 :slight_smile:

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A couple things come to mind. I have been throwing for many years, and one of the most common questions I get from people is, " Is that a Duncan? I had a Duncan butterfly when I was a kid".
The other thing is that the Butterfly and Imperial established the standard shape the industry still refers to today, that’s gotta be worth remembering.
This reminds me of an artical from a bicycle trade magazine that talked about the ‘invisible bicyclist’ world.
The point of the article was that the vast majority of cyclists don’t have carbon fiber frames and top notch components or really even care about it, they ride because they have to get to work and it’s easier than walking.
I would say the vast majority of folks that pick up a Duncan butterfly can get as much fun out of it as they expect to, and would not be interested in upgrading to a 125 dollar yo-yo that doesn’t come back when you tug on the string. Also it’s impossible to know how many people are turned off by the quality problems of the low end Duncans, and how many are compelled by them to see what else is out there that is better, like you and I did.

For sure!The word “iconic” even seems lacking to accurately describe it. Epitome might be better.
Also the history, story, and vibe of course should be be diluted or changed. and yes, everyones (for the most part) first yoyo was a duncan. Mine as well, but I do remember being one of those “This is too hard for me” seeing what people could do with them and what I was finding what little I could do with mine. I set it down a day or two later at most. It didnt click until later, but maybe that was more me simply being older coupled with having access to slightly better equipment (slightly as in transaxled yomegas) did I find enough success that first though, “OK, maybe I can do this” and stuck with it for a year or so during the 90s boom before moving on. I didnt come back to yoyoing for real until my early 30s.

I know I cant say for certain why anyone does or dos not enter the hobby. I just know how discouraging they were for me, and I see the same thing going on with them.

Also I am not making a responsive vs unresponsive debate, rather just that those standard-everyone-knows-them designs could be alot more user friendly since they are always going to be the first go-to models.

I knew I had played with a good one once! I thought it was just in my head, but it makes sense. Also the metal axle. Thats given, and voids the string issue. Good point. :slight_smile:

Aaron, i just saw your post and wanted to talk about them. You hit alot of great points! You made me think of certain things ive not talked about but agree whole heartedly.

I really like your approach of loop/single loop/double loop to give different degrees of feels its great. Ive not thought of that and appreciate the info.

Also, the basics are CORE. I used to teach workshops across the USA (digeridoo tech) and also learned direct from some of the worlds best players without question. The one things that was always driven home was to have a solid foundation first.

Every trick is a brick. And you are trying to build an awesome structure. And you can do that right off the bat, or at least start. But without a good solid foundation first, its a futile exercise. Your building WILL fail.
However by learning the basics properly, you will have a much better chance of success in building the structure you want. This is not to say that everyone needs to learn every basic trick, but to at least understand the majority of the core basics is paramount.

So when I say a certain yoyo is crap, its mostly in hopes that ultimatly the yoyo company hears enough complaints that maybe, JUST maybe, they could revamp this dated and non-user friendly design with some care to QC and consistant manufacturing.

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They make stuff for super market end caps and the hobby market, two totally different things.

Yep, and I have and sell both at our store :slight_smile:

The butterfly/imperial has become an ambassador of sorts to the yoyo world. I just hope that the first person they meet is well enough to help get axle knots out easier without extra tools.

When I first got my Duncan butterfly, it was a big upgrade from what I was used to. It made yoyoing so much easier! This is by no means a joke. To this day I keep that butterfly to remind me of how the struggle was worth the pain.


sadly though as someone who spent years working in hobby shops, although i was the radio control guru.
but, it’s not the equipment of the hobbies. it’s the mindset of today’s youth, and while i do know that that wont change, it is up to us to teach the next generation about how to overcome the hardness of learning anything. these are hobbies and children should be taught to work hard for what they achieve. todays kids want everything handed to them on a platter and if not they will manipulate the enviroment to accomplish that instead of any major accomplishments. that being said, i am refering to radio control. in my day every vehicle purchased had to be built from a kit, adjusted to handle a track and then the skills of racing against others. todays youth and even beginner adults only want READY TO RUN. they want to open a box charge a battery ( and half of them dont even want to do that ) and then be able to go out and compete at an event be it local club or even States. not going to happen. then those boxes are thrown into the garage and end up on craigslist a few months later. i say no. teach them to farm and they will eat for life. hand them the same duncan that we started with, and teach them perseverance. not everyone will get it. but i dont think the ready to run philosophy is making any hobby better. i know i’m a little off topic but it has to be said. IMO.


That’s awesome! Always wanted to learn digeridoo, I’ve seen some great players over the years. Finally got to the point where I said I’ll just appreciate those that can play it :slight_smile: Love that instrument though!

a year ago i came back to the hobby after 40 years. i didn’t know what happened to the yoyo. i baught a G2 Marvel. after a month of watching vids, i could not bind my yoyo. not even once. i modded it to be responsive and threw it around for a while. boring, ( not that fixed axle is boring i love that, but this was not that ) that’s not what the yoyo was designed for. nine months later i decided to try again and after a weekend i could do brain twister and atomic bomb and a basic bind. it was the brain twister and atomic bomb vids that put the bind into perstpective for me. thats how i learned. not everyone that picks up a yoyo will get it, be it the first time or the last. but some will, even if not at first. we as baby boomers seem to always be trying to find easier ways for our children to accomplish things that were much harder for us to learn. i learned all about cars, chassis and suspension set ups, engines and drivetrains by building and racing rc cars all my life. IMO

Thats me. Thats what I do. Only difference is mine was airbound, and not surface. And RTR has changed the landscape quite a bit.

Yea! something about the didge stirs something deeper, more primal than most anything. People either love it or hate it.
Heres a short clip of me and my friend playing open mic one night on a steamy night on GA’s coastal islands. Totally improv :smiley: This was before I started teaching. Ever want any tips, hit me up. :slight_smile:

Ive been able to get people binding at my store in just a matter of minutes before they hit their first solid hand slapping bind. It took me about an hour to figure it out after watching  a video that did a bad job explaining it. haha. All i did for the next few days was bind over and over again. it just felt so good!!

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I ended up getting into yoyoing because I picked up a crappy imperial-style yoyo with some software company’s logo on it at a booth at a trade show. I was working at the show too for my company and was bored out of my mind for several days…what saved me was that crappy yoyo that I couldn’t do anything with, except forward pass and some bad loops, but it was fun trying. That crappy yoyo inspired me to head to Toys R Us to see if I could find a Duncan Butterfly, since I’d seen those when I was a kid. Of course they had Butterflys in stock, and they had some Metal Drifters right next to them. I was feeling spendy, so I got both, at the time chastising myself for being stupid enough to spend 25 bucks on yoyos…I mean who in their right mind would spend that kind of money on yoyos?? I tried the Butterfly first, and compared to the crappy tradeshow yoyo, it was pure luxury. Then I tried the Drifter with the responsive set up, which is how it came stock, and my smile got even bigger. A few days later, I changed the Drifter to unresponsive, learned how to bind, found the tutorials on YYE and another site, and the rest is ongoing history.

Point is that a yoyo that’s even crappier than the Butterfly inspired me to take up the hobby. It’s the name recognition of Duncan and Butterfly that drew me in further, and once I tried the Butterfly I thought it was a wondrous thing compared to any other yoyo I’d ever tried. Maybe my story is unique, but in my opinion, in no way is Butterfly is damaging to the hobby. In my case, it added to the hobby.

I think it all boils down to how people are wired. Some people can sense that a pursuit or a hobby is something they will enjoy if they put in the time, practice, and patience. Some people are the instant gratification type…they just move on until they find something they’re instantly good at, or know they will be quickly. I’m not criticizing either type, but the latter type is never going to get good at yoyoing no matter what equipment they start with.


^^ good stuff man. Thanks for sharing

so well put sir.

I’m about to be 37, play a number of instruments already. At this point I’m just fine tuning my instruments, and enjoying what others play or jamming with others when I get the time :slight_smile: But thanks for the offer!

Have you heard of the band “Brother”, met and saw them a couple times, got me wanting to play the didgeridoo.

Well said. A few years ago, my son wanted a 2wd Traxxas Slash for Christmas. Ready to Run. In the next 30 days, it felt like HE replaced everything imaginable aside from actual chassis. I had severe concerns that he would grow tired of running and breaking his truck, but, he has become a pretty decent driver, and last Christmas lobbied my wife hard so that I would have a Slash under the tree (he felt bad that when I would take him to RC that I was standing around yoyoing or kendama-ing, or asking if I could take a quick turn ;D )

As someone else said, I think it is a lot about personality and if you are interested in working to learn or if you want it handed to you. We have tried to impress on our kids that you need to enjoy the process, not just the result if you want to enjoy something. I’m guessing Mickey, Gentry, Zach, Shu and most of the people on this forum enjoy the process of playing/learning yoyo, at least I hope so.

very nice

In terms of looking at low end yoyos damaging the hobby or giving kids such a horrible experience that they are turned off to throwing, it seems to me that the first person you experience (either by viewing on tv or YouTube, or in person) has a lot more to do with it than the first Yoyo you experience. Very few kids would get interested in throwing if you just handed them any yoyo and walked away.
All of the past huge booms in yoyo sales happened with yoyos that would be looked at as junky throws by folks these days.

I don’t think it’s really the yoyo that turns someone off to yoyoing. Like some other people were saying, most kids these days want to do all the tricks from the start, and get frustrated when they can’t. The yoyo I learned on was a Yomega Raider, and I was able to learn a trapeze and bind on that yoyo before getting anything butterfly shaped (I personally think people should start with “modified” shaped yoyos, so that they have better technique later on). That was 5 years ago. I think the people who aren’t easily frustrated and dedicated to learning something new will stick with it while the people who pick up the toy on a whim will let it go and find something else to do. I think the butterfly’s a pretty fun yoyo, and shouldn’t be taken too seriously.

I love Duncan Butterfly yoyos.

Every time I scope in a New tactical weapon; I always bring a whole box of Butterfly’s with me.

The moment they ‘vaporize’ on impact is a moment that never gets old.

I almost feel like I am making the World a better place by cutting down the number of horrible yoyos in existence.

Unfortunately; buying boxes of yoyo just inspires the Company to make ‘more’ yoyos…

So although I have a great time smokin plastic; in reality I am doing nothing to save anybody from anything.

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