Spencer Berry

Thoughts from the age of the boutique yo-yo.

2009 November 11

My name is Spencer Berry, and this is the first of, hopefully, many musings.  Chris and I met in an elevator at the world contest many years ago, and since have carried a slow but enthusiastic conversation via email and telephone.  I have been playing yo-yo since 2000, participating in few competitions but present in a slew of video projects.  I was an original Duncan Crew Member from 2001-08, and now study filmmaking in San Francisco, CA.  I am not a businessman or a profiteer, instead I play yo-yo, quite selfishly, for myself and my own creative pursuits.  The yo-yo community, to me, should put people before the dollar and friendships before elitism.  That being said, I am quite opinionated and am through writing about myself.

Ebb and flow is the nature of trends and the yo-yo community does not differ.  Manufacturers are constantly hoping to initiate and ride a boom, as Yomega did in the late nineties.  Post-boom, the community shrunk, leaving only the devout to carry on the tradition. Perhaps the dwindling sales is what allowed the last ten years to have such tumultuous shifts in the level of play.  The internet allowed people to breed tricks and concepts across ocean and land alike.  The dwindling population steeped in obsession, trick complexity grew exponentially, and yo-yo technology was forced to follow.

At the turn of the millennium, most players used plastic yo-yos because of their price point and playability.  At the time, yo-yos were designed to easily return, therefore players searched for balance between response (what brings the yo-yo back to the hand) and playability.  A common choice then was the SuperYo Renegade, which starts out over-responsive.  As the plastic wears, they become smoother and smoother until losing response completely.  Some continue to use their yo-yo past the stage of lost response, hence the invention of the bind, a method of adding additional string layers into the yo-yo’s gap, adding enough friction for it to respond.  Soon manufacturers began emulating this lack of response out of package, a solution that quickly became prevalent in the metal market.  Yo-yos began to return to the hand less easily, paving the way for more complex tricks.  This turn of events has dawned a new era: the age of the boutique yo-yo.

Boutique yo-yos are small runs of metal yo-yos, made by hobbyists willing to invest a few grand in their own yo-yo.  In the past decade, the number of independently manufactured aluminum yo-yos has increased drastically, creating a plethora of toys competing for player attention.  How, then, does a yo-yo manufacturer differentiate themselves in today’s flood of high end yo-yos?

This topic was the spine of many of my conversations with Chris.  He has been developing yo-yos, albeit at a varied pace, since 1998.  Each of his designs has its own unique nature.  Each model is innovative with regards to shape and size, targeting the corners of the one handed yo-yo market and their prices match their quality of manufacture and intricacy of design.  For example, the original Envy (their H-shaped model from 2007) is only lovable if the player is willing to give up all preconceptions of how a yo-yo should play.  It is heavy and  uncomfortable in the hand, but once at the end of a solid throw, spins with a fascinating stability.  It has a stubborn and decisive personality, traits that stand out among the rest of the boutique yo-yo market.  It is the Hspin originality and quality of manufacture that has allowed Hspin to survive in the ever changing yo-yo marketplace.

Chris has found it frustrating being a single, sometimes overlooked, manufacturer in an ever expanding market of boutique yo-yos.  While there will always be manufacturers that stand out, such as Yoyo Factory, with their trend setting schtick, or Anti-yo with their less is more personality, Chris’ desires to attract a wider audience require a drastic new endeavor.  Instead of rebuilding Hspin, Chris is establishing a new brand, Genuine Spin.  But how will this brand differ?

Simplicity, reliability and functionality are the key elements of Genuine Spin.  Instead of developing more yo-yos with stylistic, personal designs, Chris’ new brand will work to create ageless yo-yos for those who prefer usability to design and simplicity to gimmick.  These new yo-yos will be defined by shapes that are universal; yo-yos without laser engraving or elaborate design choices of any sort.  Instead, Genuine Spin will cater to the care free player who prefers new tricks before new toys.  They will be yo-yos designed to play simply and age tastefully, a throwback to the days when yo-yos didn’t use gimmick to get ahead.  The innovation is a return to modern playability.  To accomplish this feat, the input of enthusiastic players will be crucial, so please, contact Chris or myself with concerns or concepts.  Did I mention Genuine Spin’s entire line will be in the sub $100 price range?