Skill toys usually have a scientific explanation behind the tricks they
inspire. For Astrojax (ToyDirectory),
that secret ability is based on rotational dynamics.
"It's a free dimensional orbiter," explained Harold Chizick,
director of marketing for Spin Master Ltd. "The
inventor is Larry Shaw, a theoretical physicist. The optimization of the
contouring and internal weighting of the center ball to insure that the
string never tangles required two and a half years of experimentation
Astrojax looks like three balls on a string, but each ball has a precision-machined
metal weight inside. Each set of Astrojax comes with a trick sheet and
an aj-dos™ (Astrojax Docking Station™), which is useful for carrying or
storing Astrojax. Choose either the Astrojax Plus, good
for starting out because it has rubber balls; the Astrojax Saturn,
which has a button to light up the balls (disco mode included); and the
professional grade Astrojax VMAX (prices for Astrojax
products range from $7 to $9.99 each).
Duncan Speed Beetle
"The skill toy market is 99 percent boys aged 9 to 15," said
Steve Brown, marketing and promotions coordinator for Duncan Toys
"but girls are getting into it now, too. At the 2003 Singapore National
Championships, a girl won. She competed in the freestyle, which is two
hands, and blew the guys away."
That girl was Chinese 16-year-old Winnie Goh, and her yo-yo of choice
is the newly released Duncan Speed Beetle ($10). The
Speed Beetle was designed to be used right out of the package, needing
as little maintenance as possible, especially for high speed looping.
Sales of yo-yos are increasing by 60 to 100 percent every quarter, according
to Brown, who expects the numbers to continue to climb. Another recent
release by Duncan that’s expected to boost sales numbers is the Flying
Panda ($20), which is designed to be used with or without the
string. Departing from the traditional Imperial yo-yo shape, its profile
is stepped down to cut down wind that can slow a good spin.
The “made in the USA” tag is rare in the toy market today. The
is proud to be back, revived from its fame in the 1960s and now being
re-discovered by kids everywhere ($4/single pack; $7/double pack). Arrowcopters
are truly all-American: the sticks are from Maine, the rubberbands are
from Kentucky and the plastic is from New Jersey. "Hobby and kite
stores carry us, but it's mostly fairs and outdoor vendors where the toy
can be demonstrated," said Betty Evanoff, whose husband was involved
with the first Arrowcopter craze.
Stuff Design’s BeamO is an oversized
(30” diameter) flying frisbee great for younger children as well as adults
(ages 6 and up). Made of friendly soft fabric materials, the giant fabric
disc is easy to throw and catch, and travels up to 130 feet for older
users. A favorite of TDmonthly staffers, BeamO recently won an
Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal Award for 2003 ($25).
has created the mind blowing Eclipse series that includes
the red glowing Solar Eclipse ($27). This yo-yo is beautiful,
radiating red light. The Eclipse ($25) is a single-bearing
yo-yo for all-around play, which includes customized weight rings: one metal
and one rubber. The new bearing looper yo-yo, the Riot ($16),
has a narrow gap and greased bearing. Similar to the earlier Spinstastics
Spintega, it is made with a wider gap to prevent downward looping. New spin
tops from Spintastics are the Trompo Grande ($12), with
steel fixed point; and the Trompo Bearing ($16), with a
brass ball-bearing point. Both are 2.5 inches in diameter and 3.5 inches
tall. Featured colors include blue and red, or a blue-red combo.
Spinabolo and Spinabolo, Jr. look like
the traditional Diablo, but have a one-way bearing innovation
that increases how fast and how many tricks one can learn, with or without
sticks. The company website boasts that a 6-year-old can do his first
trick within ten minutes. A mostly unnoticeable diameter length (for amateurs)
is the only difference between the two. Suggested retail for Spinabolo,
Jr., which was the winning skill toy of Japan’s 2003 National Diablo competition,
The newest yo-yo from Yomega, released in summer 2003, is Xodus,
a versatile on-or-off string yo-yo. The player throws Xodus up and catches
it back on the string. The Xodus can also be used as a traditional yo-yo
by attaching the string to the axle. The Xodus is targeted to yo-yo players
ages 8 -15 ($19.95).
Ripken Quick Ball by Yomega includes a wide range of
challenging baseball games that can be played by as few as two players
or as many as 30 people in competitive or novice-friendly arenas. The
Quick Ball, a high tech improvement on the whiffle ball, is made of a
special polymer and is smaller than an actual baseball. The Quick Ball
features a patented blend of raised seams and "EZ Curve" slots
allowing for super curves and other challenging pitches. The Quick Ball
is hit with a hard plastic bat and soars like a baseball. The Cal Ripken
endorsement premiered in August 2003, and the package includes six balls,
the bat and special wrapping tape for the bat handle ($12.95).
What's Next Manufacturing
Tom Kuhn, declared the father of the modern yo-yo by Donald F. Duncan
Jr., celebrated his 25th year since creating the first detachable yo-yo
by designing the RD-1 (RD stands for Recreational Device.).
Marketed by What's Next Manufacturing (ToyDirectory),
the RD-1 is a custom wooden model of the pro aluminum Tom Cat yo-yo (which
sells for $125). The RD-1 has patented the same Turbo Disc Technology
but retails for only $19.95. "Kids like things they can take apart,”
said Brad Countryman, president and founder of What's Next. “We've found
in our research that kids want the ability to customize their yo-yo; they
love different parts."