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Tom Kuhn No Jive Mandala - Aspen
Exhibit #4309
TypeSpecial Release
ShapeStandard (-)
AxleTransaxle - Wood
FinishStained
ColorBrown
PackagingNone
ConstructionThree piece wood
ResponseNone
Diameter55mm
Width34mm
GapFixed
Weight45.05gm
ConditionMint
Date1985
To1986
OwnerRick Brough
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The No Jive 3 in 1 Mandala Aspen in a Classic (known as "Model C") configuration. This exquisite and scarce yo-yo is the most challenging Tom Kuhn laser carved, production model to find. It is also considered by collectors to be the most valuable in the entire Kuhn catalog of production (not prototypes or errors) wood and aluminum yo-yos. Unless you happened to visit a particular gift shop in Aspen Colorado, in 1985, and were willing to spend $18 to $25 (about $50 to $70 in 2023) for a wooden yo-yo—at a time when yo-yos were not at all popular, either—you likely never knew about this fleeting, short-lived model. No Tom Kuhn printed catalogs or post card mailers ever mentioned the Aspen.

The yo-yo, made by Lasercraft of Santa Rosa, California, features a stained maple body with a birch transaxle sleeve, and tapered aluminum hex nuts (flat aluminum hex nuts were used on Kuhn yo-yos from 1977 to about 1981). Laser carved on both convex sides with “ASPEN”, an oversized dendrite-type snowflake pattern, and a single quaking aspen leaf (Populus tremuloides).

As with all Tom Kuhn No Jive Mandala models, the halves could be reconfigured by the user. You could reverse the halves to create a Flying Camel configured yo-yo (more commonly known as a butterfly or bowtie), or you could create a Pagoda Yo where the halves are configured in a piggy-back style.

Tom's memory is hazy on details, but he has related two different stories about the events that led to the Aspen yo-yo.

The first story occurs about the mid 1980s when Tom Kuhn visited Aspen, Colorado. He stopped in at a local gift shop where store employees and customers liked his wooden laser carved yo-yo that the store was selling at the time. Tom believed it was the No Jive Flying Camel, Model C (laser carved on the classic or convex side). On leaving the store, Tom gave an employee his TK Custom Yo-Yos business card to give to the store's buyer. Later on, the buyer called and asked Tom if he could make a custom laser carved yo-yo for the town's namesake, for the store to sell.

The second story, like the first, occurs about the mid 1980s, but the details from there are slightly different. Tom says, "I recall visiting a gift shop that had some wood toys. I was carrying a couple of laser-carved yo-yos with me and asked the manager if they would be interested in carrying any TK Yo-Yos. I left a business card [with the store]. They connected with me and requested not any of our models, but a custom Aspen Yo-Yo. Not sure about the origin of the artwork. It's not my design."

Regardless of which story you believe to be the most accurate, "the rest is history" (to use an old, worn out platitude). Tom has long since forgotten how the yo-yo's laser carved design came to be. But he suggested that about 50 to 100 were made for and sold by the [unknown] gift shop in 1985. A few B-grade Aspens were also sold from Tom's own San Francisco-based shop around the same time period. (Rick: I suspect the amounts that Tom guessed were made was much less. Given that this model is so difficult to find now, and its distribution was limited to a single shop in a small, pricey ski town—for about one year, no less—a production amount of 25–50 seems much more plausible.)

Tom couldn't recall if this model was sold in No Jive packaging (see the Boxed and complete contents picture in that exhibit), or in a velour drawstring bag similar to the Tom Kuhn Abercrombie & Fitch model, or sold stand-alone.

Recipe
Diameter: 55mm
Width: 34mm
Weight: 45.05gm
Axle: Birch transaxle sleeve
Body: Eastern hard rock maple

Original retail price: approximately $18-$25 US.
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