Yo-yos: The toy that had us hooked for decades

They’re just two bits of plastic on a string, but in the right hands a yo-yo can do amazing things and they managed to capture our attention for more than four decades.

When do you think you first saw a yo-yo? Admittedly, I’m slightly younger than the YourLifeChoices audience, but I can clearly remember the yo-yo craze sweeping my school in the 1990s.

With classic tricks like rock the cradle, walking the dog and the elevator these plastic novelties were everywhere and kids couldn’t get enough.

But the yo-yo’s place in Australia goes back much further than that. Indeed, the yo-yo itself is reported to have originated in Ancient Greece, and the device has existed in various forms for millennia.

But for most, the yo-yo craze really began in the 1960s, with the Australian release of probably the most iconic yo-yo of all – the Coca-Cola yo-yo.

An original 1960s Russell Coca-Cola yo-yo.


Beginning in the late 1950s, Coca-Cola partnered with American toy manufacturer Russell to manufacture the first Coca-Cola yo-yos as a marketing gimmick. The toys were a hit with kids in the States, and they were soon shipped to Coca-Cola markets around the world, including Australia.

The yo-yos were an instant hit here as well, and soon children everywhere were practising (and showing off) their tricks in schoolyards everywhere.

Russell even conducted official competitions in Australian schools, one of the only countries outside the US to hold them, such was the Aussie fervour for yo-yos.


The yo-yo craze waxed and waned over the 1970s, but there were certainly periods of popularity. Russell-made Coke yo-yos were still popular, and the brand branched out into other Coca-Cola brands such as Fanta and Sprite.

The 70s saw a greater variation in yo-yos than the 60s, such as the original ProYo and the first Duncan yo-yos, who would go on to be a dominant player in yo-yos in future decades.

A collection of 1970s and 80s Coca-Cola, Sprite and Fanta yo-yos.


The 1980s saw a resurgence in the yo-yo phenomenon, and a big comeback for the classic Coke models.

It was also when we first saw that seemingly ubiquitous red-and-blue model that lit up when you used it. That thing was absolutely everywhere and has gone on to become a symbol of the 80s in my eyes. It also chewed through batteries, but the lights were worth it!

Did you own this yo-yo?

By this time, Duncan yo-yos had become the yo-yo of choice for any serious connoisseur, and the decade saw the release of classic Duncan models like the Professional, World Class and MetalBullet.


The yo-yo craze really hit another peak in the 90s – or maybe I just remember it that way? Either way, everybody still had the requisite Coca-Cola models, but it was the weird yo-yo designs that really set the 90s apart.

The Yomega Fireball was the Ferrari of 90s yo-yos, boasting the ability to “spin up to three times longer” than other yo-yos. ProYo made a comeback, with the ProYo II proving some classics really are timeless.

But the craziest yo-yo to come out of the 90s was known as The Brain, also made by Yomega. Using some kind of internal mechanical wizardry, it was able to sit in an endless spin at the bottom of the string without the user doing much at all, allowing you much more time to complete your tricks.

The Brain was a high-tech bit of kit.

It was a cheater’s yo-yo for sure, but it did allow you to get some slower practice in before you attempted the move on a real one.

Like any hobby, there are still die-hards dedicated to yo-yos today, but will we ever see a yo-yo craze like we saw between the 1960s and 1990s? I really hope so.

Where you into yo-yos growing up? What do you remember about the craze at your school? Let us know in the comments section below.

Also read: The official rules of handball

Brad Lockyer
Brad Lockyerhttps://www.yourlifechoices.com.au/author/bradlockyer/
Brad has deep knowledge of retirement income, including Age Pension and other government entitlements, as well as health, money and lifestyle issues facing older Australians. Keen interests in current affairs, politics, sport and entertainment. Digital media professional with more than 10 years experience in the industry.
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