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A daily look back at the toys, games, and objects that captured our attention as children and continue to fascinate us today.

Collector Spotlight: Doc Lucky Meisenheimer

Doc Lucky Meisenheimer collects yo-yos. We talk with the Doc about the origins of his passion for the toy and discover why he’s just as famous for his displays as he is for his collection.

Describe your collection.

I own over 4500 unique yo-yos. If you include the duplicates and the yo-yos that are similar but with different colour variations, I have well over 10,000.

The oldest yo-yo in my collection is from the 1780s; a hand-blasted yo-yo from England. I do own a rare Japanese base that is about 1100-years old. It was repaired about 200 years ago using a process that includes bronze or brass that is commonly used in museums. The base is the oldest known piece of artwork that depicts the yo-yo. It’s priceless.

My collection also includes yo-yo advertisements and other related memorabilia.

How long have you collected yo-yos, and why did you start collecting?

I’ve been collecting for about 30 years. Like many people, I played with the yo-yo as a child. That was during the craze of the 1970s. When I got into medical school, I played with the yo-yo as a way to pass time between classes. I discovered a trick book produced by Duncan, a major yo-yo manufacturer. I became proficient using the trick book and thought I was pretty good at it. A few years later, I picked up some wooden yo-yos that were just like the ones my dad had. Around that same time, Yo-Yo Times magazine began publishing and Tommy Smothers came out with his Yo-Yo Man routine. I didn’t know too much about yo-yo culture at that point but I became fascinated by the history of the toy and started talking with collectors and historians. My passion grew from there. This was before eBay, so I would mail a list of yo-yos I was looking for to other collectors and that’s how I grew my collection. I’ve since written a book about yo-yos, been recognized by the Smithsonian, and I’m in the Guinness World Records for the largest yo-yo collection.

How do you display and store your collection?

My collection is housed in my home library. I designed a two-storey display with an ironwork staircase and walkway around the second floor. The cases are fashioned from mahogany and glass. I’m probably more well known for my displays than I am for the yo-yos!

What do you consider to be the Holy Grail of  yo-yos?

The Flores yo-yo. Pedro Florez immigrated to the United States from the Philippines. He noticed a lot of money was being made by someone who produced a toy that consisted of a ball and string. He played with something as a boy he thought was more interesting, so he made what is now called the yo-yo. Flores hosted the first-ever yo-yo competition in Santa Barbara in 1928. He later sold his small yo-yo company to Duncan and worked for them as a demonstrator, travelling around the country to promote the competition – the competition helped make the yo-yo so famous. You’re really not a Jedi yo-yo collector until you have a Flores in your collection.

What advice would you give to someone who is interested in starting a yo-yo collection?

Don’t think you’re going to put your kids through college with your collection. Collect because you love yo-yos; the chances are you won’t make any money through your collection.

What resources do you use to acquire knowledge about yo-yos and connect with other collectors?

eBay is a great place to learn what is out there. Old catalogs, articles, and ads are helpful, as is connecting with other collectors.

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