With the demise of Pro-Yo (also known as Playmaxx) several years ago, so too has the reputation of the once giant yo-yo manufacturer faded. Although the company, which was original founded by Donald Duncan Jr., set new standards for sponsored yo-yo professionals and yo-yo innovations, what most of us (at least the ones that have been yo-yoing for over 6 years) remember is Tom Van Dan Elzen.
Tom, the company’s owner, had a penchant for lawsuits and a reputation for holding deep grudges. For whatever reason, Tom developed a grudge against the German yo-yo manufacturer Henrys. I was working for Henrys US distributor at the time, and none of us could figure out what bee got up Tom’s bonnet. After all, Henry’s was pretty much the most innocuous company around.
It was during that time that Tom released The Mongoose. This was a metal yo-yo hub that was the same size as the hubs on a Henry’s Viper and even accepted the Viper’s rubber shells.
But Tom claimed that any similarities between The Mongoose and the Viper were coincidental and that The Mongoose was just a mini yo-yo… a very terrible mini yo-yo… That just happened to perfectly fit into Viper shells… and was named after the natural enemy of the snake.
Of course he had to deny it because Henry’s had a patent on the method of attaching the rubber shells to the yo-yo. He wasn’t selling a Viper hub with brake pads… he was selling a “Mini Yo-Yo”. I once had a conversation with Tom were he bragged about suing companies for stealing his patents while simultaneously expressing shock that Henrys was upset about the release of his patent infringing Mongoose.
What made the whole thing even more unbelievable was Tom’s plan on releasing his own set of rubber shells to fit onto Viper hubs. The String Pilot shells, which were rubber versions of the Bumblebee GT shape, never got released. I assume that if the String Pilot shells ever would have gotten released, they would have been sold as “paper weights” or something.
I’ve always prided myself on being one of the premiere “Viper Knock-off” collectors out there… and this is definitely the peak of that collection, but I’ve put the String Pilot shells and Mongoose on eBay to help raise money for a new computer.
The Tom Kuhn No-Jive was one of the earliest take apart yo-yos. It’s a reversible shape yo-yo (it can be altered from a wide gap shape to a narrow body shape) with a removable wooden axle.
It’s a classic yo-yo that, along with the Silver Bullet, brought on the era of the modern yo-yo.
One day I was talking to Dr. Mo on the phone about how the SuperYo Renegade was such a rip off of the No-Jive. Somewhere along the conversation Mo offered to mod a No-Jive into a ball bearing yo-yo for me. So I shipped him a No-Jive and a Renegade.
The mod wasn’t as easy as just switching the guts, in fact I’m very impressed as I look at all the work Mo did that I never noticed. Obviously the friction stickers are recessed, a necessary step since Renegade gaps can’t be made wider. He also had to add some metal tubes for the bolt to slide through. I do believe the axle itself is the original axle though.
The yo-yo still has a “wood” feel to it, but it plays great with ball bearings. Actually, I think Dr. Tom should sell these himself. A Tom/Mo collabo. TomMo? MoTom?
This is on eBay right now btw.
The Zero-G was a highly anticipated offstring yo-yo that never actually hit the market. It was one of Yomega’s first attempts at creating a rubber shelled yo-yo, a effort that would again appear in their Xodus, Crossfire, and Lancer.
Friction stickers and rubber shells seemed to be the two patented items that everyone wanted. Just as companies were trying to work their way around the friction brake pad patent, many were also trying to get around Henry’s patented removable rubber shells patent.
Yomega’s idea was simple, don’t make the shells removable. Which also solved the problem of how to work with soft rubber without it flying off of a high spinning yo-yo. the Zero-G’s plastic shells are assembled over the rubber shells, locking the shells in to place and making removal of the shells impossible without dis-assembling the plastic body.
Those who are familiar with the new “soft-core” process that Yomega are doing with yo-yos like the Crossfire, you may notice similarities between the assembly of the Zero-G and that of the Crossfire.
The biggest technical flaw with the Zero-G would have to be it’s trans-axle system. Yomega decided to use a trans-axle system similar to the Fireball (probably to save money), but the Zero-G’s trans-axle was much narrower. Meaning you couldn’t exchange it’s parts with a fireball or any of their ball bearing yo-yos. Around this time, Yomega really seemed to be into making all their systems incompatible. They didn’t want you to be able to buy a fireball, through in some bearings, and make your own Raider. The parts were all propietary, so that Yomega had full control of their yo-yos. Ultimately, Yomega released that making all their parts inter-changable would only help their sales (open source yo-yos), but not in time for the Zero-G
This one is on eBay right now.
In 2001, yo-yo companies were clammering for novel new ideas for a yo-yo. A few companies decided to try to out-do each other by creating the smallest playing yo-yo that they could. The first miniature transaxle yo-yo would undoubtedly have been the Mini Screwball, a Japanese yo-yo that was a narrow body design and just a little larger than a quarter. About a year later, YoYoJam, ProYo, and Tom Kuhn would all have their own entries in the mini market.
YoYoJam’s model, the MiniJam, was in my opinion the best playing of all the other models. It has a plastic hub and aluminum weight rings (as opposed to ProYo’s and Tom Kuhn’s all metal minis) and pointless rubber rings that seemed to be the hallmark of YoYoJam in those days.
The MiniJam was equiped with their “B” size bearing and negative starbursts.
It was one of YoYojam’s earliest signature series, brandished with Philip Travelant’s name on the side and the phrase “Mini Yo World Champion” underneath it. I believe that title refers to a contest that either WindWizards or YoYoJam ran were competitors entered using only miniature yo-yos.
This MiniJam is up for eBay auction here.
My buddy Shawn has posted videos of young Philip here.
With the newest batch of my yo-yos on eBay, I’ve decided to finally start my 28 Days of Yo project that I’ve been talking about on YoYoWiki Radio for some time now.
The basic goal of the project is simply to post some cool pictures of a bunch of yo-yos in my collection and share some history or personal stories related to those pieces.
In case anyone is wondering why Doc is suddenly selling off all of his most prized yo-yos, the answer is simple…. My laptop is dying/dead. So I’m doing the unthinkable (selling prototypes, etc…) to raise money for a new laptop. What type of laptop really just depends on how much I make off the auctions.
I sell a lot of modified Bolt’s through this site, but I always like to help teach folks how to modify their own yo-yos, so I’ve published How to Mod a Bolt Yo-Yo on Instructables.com.
Any feedback is always appreciated. I’d love to see more yo-yo instructables.
For those of you in the Bay Area, I’ll be doing a yo-yo demo and a yo-yo workshop at the Maker Faire this weekend. If you are at the Faire, stop by and say hi.