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.
0 thoughts on “Day 4: The Mongoose”
They also made rubber prototype shells for the Ace (another little yo-yo) and these shells popped on and popped in and out so you could convert it from a butterfly to a modified shaped yo-yo.
Those rims did not fasten the same way as the Viper did, and was clearly intended to skirt around the patent. Keep in mind these things did not play well. I only saw the prototype once at a NY Toy Fair.
They made prototype offstring shells for the ACE!
Oh man, that’s incredible. I never new that.
This news will haunt me until I see a picture of one somehow… I wonder if it’s too late to kiss Tom’s ass again?
Yeaa the ace shells are sick. I played with one at han’s house. I love old school collections and stuff. Such fun. The shells were really tuff to pop from modified to butterfly. Dunno if it was just cause the matieral or no one had touched it in quite some time. I forget what color they were. O well. But still totally neat.
check this out
Just found this pic of a Mongoose. The photo is labeled as being a delrin shelled yo-yo, but I think it’s just rubber.
I once got into a flamewar with Tom on one of the forums years ago. That’s not something you see every day.. 😉