The Lost Art of Spinning Tops

by Lourens Bas & Arthur Verdoorn

With more than a thousand color photographs taken by Verdoora of the tops in Lourens Bas personal collection and 280 pages of informaton gathered during a lifetime by the Dutch collector, this book is the top in top collecting.

2011 - self published, limited edition of 500 signed copies

The Top

Universal Toy - Enduring Pastime

by D.W.Gould

Until recently, the most comprehensive book on the history of the spinning top. It proves that tops have been discovered independently by almost every culture in the world. It has 121 drawings, covering tops from ancient times to the 1960's.

1973 (1st ed.)_ Clarkston, N.Y. _ 274 pg.



by Renée Holler

This excellent book written in German covers tops from countries around the world, the history of tops, how to throw and play, plus how to make your own reproductions of diverse ethnic tops. The photograhs are B&W. A large quantity of the tops in the photographs come from the collection of of a certain Tony Halliday, from Munich as the author.

1989 - Heinrich Hugendubel Verlag

Spinning Tops and Gyroscopic Motion
A Popular Exposition of Dynamics of Rotation

by John Perry

A delightful little book from a presentation of John Perry at a meeting of the British Association in Leeds. The informal exposition, fun to read, equation-less but accurate, together with 66 illustrations, has made this a classic with several reprints. It has lots of quotable statements on the importance of playing with tops for the development of the intellect! The 1st edition was titled simply "Spinning Tops."

1890 (1st ed.)_ (pictured the cover of the 1957 Dover edition)

An Elementary Treatment of the Theory of
Spinning Tops and Gyroscopic Motion

by Harold Crabtree

Written as an undergraduate textbook, this often referenced book covers the precession of spinning tops using classical dynamics. It is unusual in the detail in which it treats the common pegtop, tackling a large number of situations, in addition to some odd tops and diabolos. However, I find the exposition somewhat outdated and slow. Not a book for non-engineering/physics readers.

1909 (1st ed.)_ Longmans, Green, and Co., London

Spin Top Official Trick Book

This booklet was published during the heyday of Duncan to promote its national spintop tournament, just before the company went bankrupt. It has more than 70 photographs illustrating 8 basic tricks, 8 advanced tricks and 8 twin spin tricks. In addition, there are contest rules, illustrations of their complete spintop line, and a forward by Donald F. Duncan, Jr. The company has also published over the years several booklets of yo-yo tricks with some spintop tricks included, using comics-style drawings.

ca 1962_ Donald F. Duncan, Inc., Evanston, Ill.

Rules of Malaysian Gasing
Malaysian Gasing Association (PEGAMA)

This is the official rulebook for gasing competition translated to English and published with the sponsorship of the Ministry of Culture, Arts and Heritage, Malaysia. It has details on the equipment, court, scoring, single, double and team play. Sixteen pages.

ca 2005

Collecting Tops
and the Lost Art of Spinning Top Tricks

by Ed Levin

This 28 page large-format booklet has several beautiful magazine-quality pictures of collectible tops and related artwork, written descriptions of 15 tricks, and some advise and comments from the author. Ed is not only a spintop collector, but he owns an antique shop and used to perform as a magician and juggler (including tops).

1996_ Ed Levin, Winettka, CA

The Tops Book
Games, Tricks, and New Twists on an Old Favorite

by Don Olney

Don Olney was the owner of The Toycrafter and is an avid collector and designer of tops. In short chapters the booklet covers the history of top toys, their classification ("top-ology"), collecting, basic tricks and games with pegtops, and how to design and build your own finger tops. It has many black and white photographs and drawings.

1994_ Running Press, Philadelphia

The Little Book of Tops

Tricks, Lore, and More

by Don Olney

This very cute, miniature-format, book, covers similar (but not identical) ground as Olney's other book, in its 94 hardbound pages. It has color drawings and an actual wooden finger top as a bookmark.

1993_ Running Press, Philadelphia


Ten Championship Tricks, 8 Pro Events.

by Mr. Spin Top

The "official" trick pamphlet for the Monarc top by Dwight (Mr. Spin Top) Paulson and Walter Watts. Has 16 pages with line drawings showing a spintop-shaped character, Monarc, explaning the tricks. The mold of the top was later acquired by Don Olney/The Toycrafter who continued making the Monarch top.

1973? _self published


Hagoita, Kites & Tops

The Toy Museum series

by Toshikatsu Tada

The koma section is one third of the 48 page book and has 30 gorgeous photos of traditional tops, plus a few gyroscopes and diabolos. Some of the tops, like the kimono komas, are rare. There is a short history of the Japanese tops.

1992, Kyoto Shoin editorial



The Tops

by Masaki Andou

The book (in Japanese) has many color photographs of tops in its 32 pages, mostly Japanese but also from the rest of the world.  It also has series of black and white photographs teaching how to do wrap throw tops (including beigoma) and how to perform diverse tricks. 

2002 Bunkeido, Tokyo


Chonkake Goma

The flying tops

by Sadami Yamamoto

A 32 page book dedicated to the chonkake goma top, with lots of color photographs teaching the different movements, step by step,

2004_ Bunkeido, Tokyo

Spinning Tops

by Larry Kettelkamp

A children's book describing pegtops (including games), yoyos, diabolos and gyroscopes. It has color crayon-style drawings

1966_ Morrow and Co.

Building and Experimenting with Spinning Tops

by Bernie Zubrowski

This activity book by the Boston Children's Museum teaches science using home-built tops and yoyos. It has pencil drawings.

1989_ William Morrow and Co.

and Other Spinning Toys

by Beth Dvergsten Stevens

A simple children's book with as much space devoted to yoyos as to spintops. It touches on the history of tops, how to build finger tops, games, how to throw a peg top, and a chapter on "top trivia". The tops pictured are all contemporary.

2000_ Perfection Learning

Things that Spin
from Tops to Atoms

by Irving and Ruth Adler

A children's science book with pencil drawings. A good elementary overview of the science of rotation and the things that spin, including peg tops and our Earth. Do you know how a gyrocompass works?

1960_ The John Day Co., NY

Tops and Yo-Yos
and Other Spinning Toys

From the L-W Collector's Digest series. The 1995 prices are pre-Ebay (the online auctioneer started that same year) so no longer relevant, and there is no text, but it has many beautiful (but small) pictures.

1995_ L-W Books, Gas City, IN


The Physics of Rotation in the Everyday World

by Jearl Walker

This is a compilation of articles from the Amateur Scientist department of Scientific American. Of the ten articles, two are specific on tops: "Rattlebacks and Tippe Tops"; and "Tops" (see Papers listing). A third one: "Wobbling, the delights of the wobbler, a coin or a cylinder that precesses as it spins" is closely related.



Games of the North American Indians

by Stewart Culin

This massive work was part of the 1902-03 Annual Report of the American Ethnology to the Smithsonian Institute and is a classic reference in the subject. The spintop section covers 18 pages and includes 47 drawings of tops used by the different Native American tribes.

1907 _ Government printing office. Image of 1975 Dover edition.



Korean Games

with notes on Corresponding Games of China and Japan

by Stewart Culin

Some Korean and Chinese tops discussed but most of the material on the seven pages dedicated to tops is about Japanese koma. Good reference in English for the top names. Very nice illustrations.

1895 _University of Pennsylvania. Image of 1991 Dover edition.


Making the Universal Toy

by Michael Cullen

This book by a well-known professional woodworker is beautifully illustrated with lots of color photographs showing how to turn 16 different tops, from a disc top to a tippy top. It also has chapters on tools and equipment, materials, stock preparation and finishing.

2008 - Linden Publishing


Toys in Space
Exploring Science with the Astronauts

by Carolyn Sumners

Nasa´s Toys in Space program flew several tops in two Shuttle flights. The tops included a pump top, a tippy top, a rattleback, gravitrons and gyroscope. Other spinning toys included a yo-yo and a magnetic wheel. The book is short on diagrams and the explanations could have been better.

1994 - TAB Books


How to Make Paperclip Tops
Step by Step Guide to Making Tops from Wire Stock

by R.R.P.

The instructions are handwritten in pencil in this unusual 42 page booklet. It shows in detail a dozen different ways of bending a wire to make a finger top.

2013 _CreativeSpace

The Mathematical Theory

of the Top

by Felix Klein

These 4 lectures by the famous mathematician (the same as in the "Klein bottle") were meant to show the usefulness of advanced mathematics, in particular the theory of functions of complex variables, to dynamics. This grew later into his 4-volume masterpiece, "The Theory of Tops". Brace yourself to study a simple spherical top using Riemann surfaces, non-Euclidian space and complex (2-dimensional!) time. On the 4th lecture, after announcing he will apply it to the "ordinary toy top," he solves it with hyperelliptical integrals.

1897 _ Scribner's Sons


Spinning Tops

A Course on Integrable Systems

by Michele Audin

The only recognizable top is on the cover page. Well, the motion of a top (i.e. "a rigid body with a fixed point in a constant gravitational field") has differential equations that are completely integrable. But don't even try to find much about mechanics in this book: this is pure advanced math. If you want to find what a Kowalevski top is, you can read it here.

1996 _ Cambridge University Press


The Story of Spin

by Sin-itiro Tomonaga

This is the story of the gradual discovery and partial understanding of the quantum mechanical property of Spin: the ultimate fundamental top. The book by 1965 Nobel Laureate Tomonaga is for advanced physics students, except that interspersed among the equations there are many anecdotes about the scientists behind the discovery of this strange property.

1997 (translation) _ University of Chicago Press





The History of Imaginary Spinning Tops

by Nick Bantock

This miniature leather-bound book was made as an art piece in a limited edition of 300. Eight tops are described, each one with a story about the imaginary creator and an inserted color xerography plate showing the top. "This book pays homage to all those who never existed but should have done, if for no other reason than color".

1994 - Somesuch Press, Dallas

Buzz Monkey

by Sam Hill

The hero of this novel is the private detective Top Kiernan, who happens to collect and play with spinning tops! Although I am not a big fan of the genre, I enjoyed it, and so did the critics. The characters and props are interesting and the action is "movie-like". This is the first novel of the author, but he promises it will become a series. In fact, Top Kiernan is back in "Buzz Riff".

2003 _ Carrol & Graf Publishers


L'enfant de Guernica

by Guy Jimenez

This historical novel (in French) is about the carpet bombardment of the Basque city of Guernika during the Spanish civil war, the famous Picasso painting that denounced it, and the search for the truth 70 years later. A peg top is the only physical object that connects one survivor to his past and a gift to a new generation. The wooden top has a very important but sporadic presence in this well written novel.

2007 _ Oskar Editions


Tous Artistes!

by Philippe Dyon

A very personal proposal for a utopia (u-toupie?) by a wonderful spintop-turning artist. He proposes transforming the pursuit of power over others into power over oneself. "La recherche de l'équilibre passe par un révolution sur soi-même." Life without a passion is like a top not turning. Society should be based on art (defined in a very broad sense) made with passion ("vie-toupie"), not for money. Many spintop references and even pictures.

2008 _ NGA

Petite Métaphysique des Jouets
Éloge de l'intuition enfantine

by Nicolas Witkowski

In addtion to a whole chapter dedicated to spinning tops, they are mentioned throughout the book. It explores the importance of play, and specifically the traditional toys, on the development of the mind, with emphasis on the scientific brain. Beautiful color reproductions of paintings. Written in French in the peculiar style of Witkowski.

2011_ Editions de la Martinière

The Tao of Pooh

by Benjamin Hoff

A book about Taoism not tops. A delightful introduction to this eastern philosophy very subversive of the western ethos. A book for grown-ups using the characters appearing in the children books of Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne (1882-1956) .

1982_ Penguin Books



How to Be A Player, Vol. 2
Spin Top Trick Video

This video demonstrates over 30 tricks performed by Steve Brown and company (Vol. 1 is about yoyos). It includes tricks done with a fix tip top, such as Rollercoaster, and with a bearing top, such as Bermuda Triangle, as well as some play with a giant top. Really big coolness factor but sometimes skipping on instructions. Now available in DVD (together with Vol. 1).

2001_ Duncan Toys Co.


Yo-Yo and Spin Top Instructional Video

Dale Oliver, Valerie Krantz (now Oliver ;-) and company teach over 30 top tricks and 70 yoyo tricks. The video is very instructionally oriented. It was created just before Dale invented the modern bearing top, so there are no tricks with those. Look for the freestyle play by Herman Lau.

1999_Spintastics Skill Toys, Inc.

Trompo Acrobático

Featuring Gerardo Montero

Instructional DVD from Spanish brand Trompos Space, featuring Mexican professional demonstrator Gerardo Montero and guest appearence of Marko Palma. Very well made, with slow motion and no talking, but a little short.

2010 - Trompos Space

Become a Koma Expert

Japanese instructional DVD

From the Japanese Koma Museum in Nagoya, featuring master Yoshihito Fujita, expert Tsutomu Takeda and several other players. It has 90 minutes packed with trick after trick after trick. The quality is great and the more complex tricks are shown in super slow motion. A must have for anybody interested in koma play. All in Japanese language.

2011 _ Japanese Koma Museum

Top Secrets

Featuring Rev. James Schreiber

"The Top Spinning Preacher," Rev. Schreiber used spintops to preach while teaching thousands of kids to throw tops. He is credited for showing the Duncan company what kind of tricks could be done. The documentary film includes re-enactments of his early life as a Pastor as well as a "spintop sermon."

1951 _ New Life Films Foundation

Why Does a Spinning Top Stop?

This is a demonstration to the general public by Professor Robert Greenler of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, part of the Science Bag series. Greenler spins part of his top collection, including the famous Malaysian Gasing tops, as well as tops he improvises using fruit, and a truly giant top made out of a car tire filled with water that keeps spinning for the entire hour of the presentation. He uses all of these to teach Newton's first and second laws. Now available to watch online.

Blue Sky Associates

Tom Rodal's Instructional Spintop Home Video

This video is part of a spintop kit made by (and staring) Tom Rodal. The kit also came with an Imperial and a twin (Doble) Duncan top. Tom teaches a dozen basic to intermediate classic tricks. The video would have benefited from some added coolness factor.

1988_ C.I.B. Video

Duncan 70's Spintop Instructional Video

This was filmed in the 70's by Duncan (already part of Flambeau) to promote their spintop contests. Short cuts were included in the How to Be a Player video. It can still be found in some public libraries.

Duncan - Flambeau


Famous furniture and industrial designer couple, Charles and Ray Eames, made this 1969 short film (7:15 min) that is eye candy for spintop collectors (they were collectors themselves). Lots of tops from many countries are shown spinning to beautiful music. But their first spintop film was the 1957 B&W "Tops" they made in a hurry for the TV show Stars of Jazz aired in Los Angeles.

1999 (compilation) The films of Charles & Ray Eames, Vol. 5, Pyramid Media

My Summer Story

The plot of this Hollywood movie has a significant peg top battle component so it is worth including in this list. Judith Shultz from the Top Museum provided the spintop expertise. Pay attention at how the hero and the bully have different styles of throw.

1994_Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures, Inc.


Bill Nye the Science Guy

Spinning Things

This educational program from the somewhat hyperactive science popularizer Bill Nye covers the basics of spinning things like tops. At the end has a video clip song "Spin Around" from House of Spin.

1995_ Buena Vista Television



"Top Spinning: Three grown-up Chicago men turn child's toy into skillful sport," Life , September 10, 1945, Vol. 19, No. 11, pg. 97

Top spinning is the only sport in the Table of Contents under the Sports section! A 3-page article with 8 pictures of trick playing! The three middle-age players learned their advanced style as kids in Chicago's South Side. "By a delicate process which is called the 'jerk system' . . . [they] kept their tops spinning in the air almost indefinitely. As a boy, Jim Mangan once performed this feat for six hours, without stopping for food or drink." . . . "They regard their hobby with a missionary's zeal . . . is a sporting challenge to any man's dexterity, offering considerable chance for individual art". . . "Tops are cheap (4¢) and the OPA has pegged the price of a top string at 1¢."


"Giant-Man and the wonderful Wasp battle the unbeatable Human Top," Tales to Astonish, Dec. 1963, Vol. 1, No. 50

Among the superpowers available in comics is the ability to spin at high speed like a top. In this issue a super-villain called the Human Top (David Cannon) was introduced. After fighting the Giant Man he went on to The Avengers with the alias Whirlwind. Spinning superpowers have also been on the side of good. Human Top was likewise the alias of a super-hero (David Mitchell) first appearing in the Invaders #24 (1978) as part of the multiracial Kid Commandos (he was black). He started of a spinning dynasty! His scientist son Twister doesn't get the superpower but uses mechanical help to spin. His son Darren (and David's grandson) does inherit the superpower and fights as Topspin for the V-Battalion.


"Scut Farkas and the Murderous Mariah," by Jean Shepherd, Playboy, April 1967, Vol. 14, No. 4, pg. 114

This is the original publication of the short story in which the movie "My Summer Story" was based. The subtitle reads: "wherein the freckled upstart of cleveland street faces an epic showdown with the fastest top in the midwest." This is the main fiction story of the issue, covering seven full pages (encompassing a play-off between playmates July, August and November). It is a wonderful family spintop story that was later published in book form. "The two insane tops, grimy, covered with mud, leaped like live things - ricocheting, leapfrogging, hovering over each other, behaving in a way that no top before or since has ever acted. They hated each other . . ."



"The World's Top Top Maker" and "Rhode Island's Top Top Spinner (and collector)," by Harriet F. Fisher, Yankee, December 1968, Vol. 32, No. 12, pg.84 & pg.186

The first article is the history of the production of spinning tops by the Wetherbee mill in Lyndonville, Vermont. At one time in the 1930's it was 'the top top manufacturer in the world' (5.5 million tops per year). It talks about the mill life, the different tops produced and the Wetherbee family, but specially shines for the incredible detailed information on the spintop manufacturing process. What happened when the 'glue' men left the tops too long in the tumbler with hot hide glue? (a big mess). The paired article is about the father of American spintop collecting: Dr. J. Walter Wilson, biology Professor at Brown University. Dr. Wilson could also throw a top: ´´. . . known to spin nine tops at once-five from one hand four from the other!'



"Top of the Line," Sports Illustrated 1998 Swimsuit Issue, pg 32

The swimsuit models follow the line of the equator while featuring some of the traditional sports played in the countries straddling both hemispheres. How appropriate that in a magazine known for capturing the raw power of professional athletes, there is this picture of an Ecuadorian man in the act of throwing his trompo, showing no less strain, skill or fury. A full page is dedicated to describing the competition in which teams of five men push a wooden plug by hitting it with eggplant-sized wooden tops along a 4 km dirt road.


" Tops in Her Field," Reminisce, November/December 1998, Vol. 8, No. 6, pg. 32

A two page article on the "Top Lady", Judith Schulz, founder and curator of the Spinning Top Museum (now Top & Yo-Yo) of Bulington, Wisconsin. There is a picture of Judith with her father, Wally, who played peg tops in the 1930's and taught her to throw one. She started collecting about 25 years earlier by chance when she bought a magnetic top. There are nice color pictures of a few of the tops in her collection that at the time already topped 5,000. There is of course mention of her role as top expert in the 1993 filming of My Summer Story.