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Tom Kuhn Heirloom Yo-Yo Set
Exhibit #1752
OwnerRick Brough

An original 1989 heirloom set that I personally ordered from Tom Kuhn Custom Yo-Yos, San Francisco, California.

The quality of laser carving and finish on original wooden Kuhns is superb -- distinct and elegant. Truly playable works of art in your hand. Each yo-yo in this set is the epitome of form and function in perfect balance. Even the craftsmanship of the velvet-lined oak storage box is first-class Tom Kuhn. All together, it's a lasting legacy to Tom's name and his desire to create the finest modern wooden and aluminum yo-yos.

All the wooden yo-yos in this collector set, including the aluminum Silver Bullet yo-yo, were made in San Francisco.

The yo-yos included in this set were the following:

Top row, left to right:
• Roy Roger's Round-Up King Yo-Yo (original retail price: $20 US)
• Mandala 3 (original retail price: $20 US)
• Smothers Brothers SMO-BRO-YO (original retail price: $22.50 US)
• Silver Bullet (original retail price: $40 US)

Middle row, left to right:
• No Jive, Flying Camel, Model C (original retail price: $20 US)
• Mandala 2 (original retail price: $20 US)
• No Jive, Diamond Special, Walnut (original retail price: $25)
• No Jive, Flying Camel, Model F (original retail price: $20 US)

Bottom row, left to right:
• No Jive 3-in-1 Yo-Yo (original retail price: $18 US)
• Mandala 1 (original retail price: $20)
• No Jive, Diamond Special, Maple (original retail price: $25 US)
• Woody (side A) and Fisherman's Wharf (side B) (original retail price: $8 US)

This set contains two versions of the Flying Camel yo-yo: a classic tournament-shaped version and a butterfly-shaped version. The unusual "Flying Camel" name was explained by Tom Kuhn years ago:

"This question seemingly comes in out of the blue. And that's where the answer comes from too. Back in 1978, I was backpacking in the pristine Sierra Nevada Mountains, with my old college friend Dick Porter (now a scientist in France). We were by ourselves camped at a gorgeous granite bound and crystal clear lake laying on our backs after dinner, watching the clouds form and disappear over our heads. I had a number of yo-yo prototypes with me and was sketching designs for the first models. A butterfly landed on my finger and I watched as its proboscis probed the leftover chili powder on my fingers - it was that kind of a day. More cloud watching and one particularly interesting formation appeared, and I asked Dick if he could see the FLYING CAMEL above our heads. He laughed and said, "YES! I see it." I got my sketch pad and captured the image. It seemed an evocative and perfect image for a new breed of carved wooden yo-yo."

The yo-yos with the silver hex nut in the center are covered by U.S. patent 4,207,701 assigned to Thomas R. Kuhn, San Francisco, CA, June 17, 1980 for a "Dismantlable tethered top with reversible halves". The silver hex nut can sometimes serve as one way for you to date vintage Kuhn yo-yos. That is, models from approximately 1977 to about 1982 or 1983 initially used flat hex nuts. Thereafter, the flat hex nuts were changed to the raised, tapered style as seen on the yo-yos in this set.

Original retail price for this heirloom set that came with the storage box, 12 yo-yos, and extra string and axles: $195 US. Other variations of this set were also sold by Tom Kuhn over the years. For example, one set included 15 yo-yos in the same storage box and retailed for $250 US. The yo-yo models included in these different sets often varied depending on what was being manufactured at the time, what was just released, or the size of the box.

Of interest...
At the time, the addition of the Roy Rogers yo-yo in this set was quite unusual. Remember: this set came out about five years before the Internet and the World Wide Web became a thing and vintage yo-yos, such as this one, were much more challenging to find. It's the only yo-yo in the set that I cannot say is mint (although it was thrown less than a handful of times, and over carpet, at that). I remember opening the old, yellowed cellophane wrapper and removing the yo-yo, studying it carefully, and then trying it out. Great stuff! On the Tom Kuhn marketing postcards that were sent out, the yo-yo was touted as:

"Mint condition. Wooden axle. Good sleeper and looper. Beautiful old time plastic. Ideal for two-handed tricks. Original spare string included. A collectors item discovered after 40 years."

At the time, you could buy a box of these vintage yo-yos directly from Tom Kuhn for $90 or a single yo-yo for $7.50. More than 35 years later, the Roy Rogers yo-yo is a fairly common item still found on eBay and other websites. There must have been thousands of them made back in the early 50s.
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