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Tom Kuhn SB-2 - Tortoise - San Francisco
Exhibit #3661
ColorBlack and tortoise shell
PackagingDisplay Boxed
ConstructionMulti-piece aluminum
Diameter57 mm
Width26 mm
Weight48 gm
OwnerRick Brough

In 1987, Tom Kuhn and Don Watson began research and development on a playable, high-performance yo-yo to surpass the original Tom Kuhn Silver Bullet. After three years and the release of 39 pre-production prototypes known as the Turbo-Yo in the summer of 1990, the Silver Bullet 2 or SB-2 made its debut November 1990. Based on the engraved year and serial number, the yo-yo in this exhibit was among the first SB-2s ever released. It's possible that it was made by the same person or people who made the Turbo-Yo just a few months earlier.

The model was released in a polished aircraft aluminum version. And, in another first, it was also released in a tortoise shell version of black and bronze anodizing on the rims/inner face and a black anodized body on the outer face (shown). It was the first anodized yo-yo model ever made. Both versions had full engraving, including serial numbering and year of production. The yo-yo came in a Tom Kuhn-branded blue display box, along with a Flight Manual (user guide), two weight rings, two gap adjusting screws, pack of strings, string gap tool, and a spare bearing.

One oddity of the yo-yo seen in this exhibit is that each halve has a ring of missing tortoise shell anodizing from its inner face (see Internals image). When I asked Tom about this detail, he had no explanation. Interestingly, the rings appear to be covered with a clear coat of some kind; the raw aluminum itself is not exposed at all. It's unknown if this cosmetic flaw is found on all yo-yos from this release time frame or if it is a random occurrence. I have seen these same rings on two other 1990 tortoise shell SB-2s (one of which is owned by Hans Van Dan Elzen owner of YoYoFactory.) One theory is that the rings may have something to do with the rack that was used during the anodizing process. For such a low serial number, however, it is odd that something like this would slip through quality control. Or, perhaps the rings are by design after all and not a flaw given that they are found on other pieces from the same year. One thing is certain: the rings are not caused by string wear against the inner sides. Any ideas or other examples of this "artisanal mark" out there?

See the Tom Kuhn postcard announcing the SB-2 in November 1990.

The original Silver Bullet 2 is still made today, albeit in polished aluminum only and by a different maker. It continues to use a size I ball bearing axle, just like the Turbo-Yo and the original San Francisco-era release. It also has the same adjustable string gap.

Today, players take ball bearing yo-yos for granted. But back in 1990, it was a special experience for me to be among the first to try a yo-yo that was so exciting, different, and disruptive to the venerable world of fixed-axle yo-yo play.

Original Tom Kuhn Silver Bullet series:
Silver Bullet (SB-1) - 1984
Turbo-Yo (SB-2 prototype) - 1990
Silver Bullet 2 (SB-2) - 1990 in Tortoise shell and in Polished aluminum
Silver Bullet 3 (SB-3) - 2012
Silver Bullet Series limited box set 4 (contains SB-1, SB-2, and SB-3)
Silver Bullet 4 (SB-4) - 2014

Original retail price: $75 US (about $176 in 2023).
Other Views
Side B, large
Comparison of 1990 and 1996 Tortoise Shell versions

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