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Yo-yos get a new spin

February 26, 1999|By JASON MYERS

The point of a yo-yo it to make it come back to you, consistently and faithfully. Now yo-yos, those little spheres on a string, seem to be making a comeback, and it is getting easier to make them climb the string.

The Yomega X-Brain, considered by most local toy-sellers to be the most popular of the new variations on the old standard, has a centrifugal clutch that assures that it will come back to you.

Nita Knighton, a sales associate at Flights of Fancy in Frederick, Md., says the ease with which people can use the yo-yo does not detract from its fun. Rather, the frustrations of fingers unable to perform are appeased by the high-tech yo-yos.

Knighton says the store gets calls every day for yo-yos, and has had a hard time keeping them in stock.

Why this renewed interest in an old and seemingly ordinary toy?

Vernon Campbell, store manager of Kaybee Toys in Valley Mall in Halfway, said he perceives the yo-yo as "a status symbol for kids. It's like an adult with a new car."

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Brian Grady, Hagerstown Toys R Us store director, says peer influence is a reason for increased sales. "Once somebody wants it, everybody wants it," he said.

Stuart Crump, editor of Yo-Yo Times, based in Herndon, Va., estimated that nearly 100 million yo-yos were sold in 1998. He said it is impossible to determine an exact figure, "because all the big yo-yo companies are privately held and they aren't talking."

Sharon West, store manager at the Chambersburg Mall Kaybee Toys near Chambersburg, Pa., said she stocks 144 yo-yos a week and sells them nearly as quickly as she stocks them. "I could probably sell more if I got more in," West said.

She estimated the renewed popularity began last October, and has been charged by the appearance of the X-Brain. "You don't have to have a lot of skill to play with one," West said.

Corey McCarney, 10, of Maugansville, says that he has had yo-yos before but never quite mastered the skill. This past Christmas, he received an X-Brain. "I like it because it automatically comes back to you."

James Idol, 11, of Hagerstown, laments that his Duncan Butterfly "doesn't sleep very long." Sleeping is yo-yoese for spin time.

James said that despite that, he enjoys his toy. "It's something that's easily done. You can do it anywhere," he said.

He also likes the fact the yo-yo has no strings attached, so to speak - it requires no accessories.

"They're not very expensive," he said, noting the exception of a $90 yo-yo a friend has.

Vincent Iuliano, 11, of Boonsboro, has a Yomega Metallic Missile, which is so advanced in technology and design it hardly looks like a yo-yo.

"It's (easy) to sleep and do tricks," said Vincent, who has mastered 20 tricks and is determined to add three new ones to his repertoire every week. "If I'm bored, I just pick up a yo-yo," said Vincent, who has six in his collection. "It's a habit I've formed."

Yo-yos are not just for children. Three engineers at Citicorp Credit Services Inc. spend their lunch breaks dodging Firestorms, another Yomega brand.

Ujjal Shah, Rob Richards, and Thomas Kelly, of the company's Information Systems Technology department, have been engaged in friendly competition for six or eight eight months.

"We know we're real good," Kelly said in a half-joking voice as he and the others walked the dog, slept, and spinned around the world.

"It means a lot to be number one," Kelly chuckled.

Richards said that playing with a yo-yo is great way to relieve stress. All three have stopped smoking since they began the informal yo-yo club, though they were reluctant to give the toy full credit for that.

Their future also holds a Bumble Bee once they grow tired of the Firestorm. Shah mentioned one $79 yo-yo, calling it "the Porsche of yo-yos, you like to see it, but you'll never buy it."

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