Pick five yo-yos to demonstrate yo-yo history from 1950-2019?

I’ve been experimenting with yo-yo history lately which got me thinking.



If you had to walk someone through yo-yo history, from 1950 to today in 2019 by having them play five different yo-yos in order… what five “historic” yo-yos would you pick, in order of release?


I can’t really say 5, cuz this might be a bit of a weird question.
I’d say the further throws would all be much more recent, as the first yo could easily just be rock/bone tied to some twine, but the Duncan butterfly and modern ball bearings are both drastic changes to what yoyos have been for ages.
Just my two cents, maybe I’m just not trying hard enough to think of a solid list.

edit: I’m an idiot, people had much nicer things by 1950, should have read better.

I definitely think if the not just the popularity of the Duncan butterfly is enough for it to be on the list, maybe the Free Hand Zero for how much innovation that that yoyo brought around when ball bearings were first getting real popular.

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Here’s my choices:

  1. Duncan Imperial wood (1954) – I figure nothing really changed on wooden yo-yos since Flores (1928) invented the string loop on a wood axle, and the Duncan was the best known and most widely disseminated wood yo-yo, so I’m going with that.

  2. Tom Kuhn No Jive 3-in-1 (1978) – the first “modern” wood yo-yo, it can be disassembled, has an easily replaceable axle, and even flipped to Butterfly. :butterfly:

  3. Tom Kuhn SB-2 (1990) – the first ball bearing all metal yo-yo with response pads (turbo disks). Shows the evolution to “wheel” geometry versus Imperial or Butterfly, too.

  4. Turbo Bumble Bee (1997) – the first mainstream plastic with ball bearing and modern-ish similar-to-silicone (cork) response pads. This model is the foundation of the last yo-yo boom in 1999, but note that it’s still narrow wheel looping geometry.

  5. Hitman (2003) – the first mainstream ball bearing, silicone response, wide and wide gap yo-yo, every yo-yo after this would follow in the footsteps of what the Hitman laid out.


Butterfly (60’s)
No Jive
Renegade or Freehand (leaning Freehand)

Giving the Yomega Brain an honorable mention, too. I could swap out the last three for alternates but those are fairly iconic/significant imo.


Yeah reading about the Freehand that would be my vote as well. Very wide, friction stickers (versus starburst) … those are important evolutionary steps. Before wide gap, there had to be evolution in width proper?

I’m a bit torn about putting the SB-2 on my list… I just don’t know how many people could afford it, did it really popularize ball bearing yo-yos? That’s the one I am most tempted to remove from my list, but I’m not sure what pre-1997 thing I’d put on there that goes between the 3-in-1 and the Turbo Bumble Bee?


I was thinking I might need 6 and get a Proyo in there. Too many ways to tweak this and depends on the elements of yoyo design and milestones of play you think are most significant.

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Proyo is a stepping stone from wood to plastic wheel geometry and rim-weighted distribution.

That’s why I picked five… gotta have constraints to keep it interesting… ain’t nobody got time to play SIX yo-yos to learn about yo-yo history! :wink:

I suppose I could drop the SB-2 … and put the Draupnir in slot 5 as an illustration of the jump from 2003 - 2013.

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Hmm. Yohans said the first real unresponsive yo-yo is the Grind Machine, not the Hitman? Was the hitman not shipped unresponsive? Oh wait, Grind Machine was maybe the first full metal unresponsive, whereas the Hitman was a hybrid?

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Unsurprisingly, @edhaponik’s choices are pretty much exactly what I would choose, including the mentions of the Brain and ProYo. Though I’d probably replace the Peak with something from YYF. As much as I love CLYW, I have a harder time justifying it on a list as tightly focused as this one. That said, I think you can make a strong case for the Peak being a successful example of the birth of boutique-performance yoyos. I’ll also admit that my appreciation for Kuhn yoyos may allow me to place the No-Jive on a list like this when an argument could be made for other yoyos. But I’m leaving it because Kuhn and the No-Jive are an important piece of the soul of throwing, as far as I’m concerned.

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The GM was absolutely NOT the first yoyo to PLAY unresponsive. Hans is claiming that it was the first yoyo to be unresponsive out of the box. I can’t remember if that’s the case or not. But I’m inclined to trust Hans on that one. The guy knows yoyo history.

So it depends on how you view the importance of “out of the box” unresponsive. The Hitman/Speeder/etc were absolutely not designed as responsive throws, even if they didn’t perform up to their potential out of the box, and everyone who threw them was playing them unresponsive. Go look at the videos from Worlds 03-06 or whatever. But yeah, you had to clean the bearing and sometimes even add in a shim or two to get it to play the way you wanted to. This is in comparison to yoyos like the FH or Renegade that were designed as responsive yoyos but turned out to be unresponsive-ish after you screwed with them a bit.


I feel like the yomega brain should be on here. Not because it brought any lasting innovation (the auto return system was a gimmick at best, and probably done by an earlier yoyo), but because of it’s mainstream appeal. This thing was everywhere in the 90’s, and the"cool" yoyo to have when kids my age went through the “yoyo phase” (the one we never got out of). I think a lot of players started because other kids were buying this yoyo.