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The History of Tops

The ancient Greeks and Romans played with toys that resembled modern spinning tops. Similar items have been found at archeological sites in Iraq and China, too. We also have reason to believe that many Native Peoples in the Americas also played with tops in the 15th and 16th centuries. Tops were also often used in gambling in various parts of the world. In the early 19th and 20th centuries, spinning competitions were a common sight in many cities, although the activity was more acceptable for boys than girls. And of course, Jewish children have long played with specialized tops called dreidels during Hanukkah. Over the years, tops have been made out of multiple materials, including clay, metal, stone, and wood. Later, rubber, tin, and plastics were used. Various styles also exist, including short stem tops, long stem tops, peg tops that utilize a string, and modern pump tops. Many of these are emblazoned with special designs that create various optical illusions when they are spun. In 2000, the Japanese company Takara Tomy created a twist on this classic toy with Beyblades. Hasbro then brought Beyblades to the United States, where they became quite the phenomenon. Whether it features modern bells and whistles, mesmerizing optical illusions, or just a simple design, the top remains popular today and holds a special place in the history of human play.

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