Even today, the spinning top, or Lattoo, remains a popular game in Indian villages. This game can be played by two or more players. All of the players wrap the thread around their tops and then pull it to unwind it, causing the top to rotate on the ground. The players must pick the top with the string as quickly as possible.
The price of wooden lattoo toys is Rs 6.5/piece.
An ancient Roman wooden spinning top from Tebtunis (Egypt), dated from the first to third centuries CE.
One of the oldest recognisable toys discovered on ancient sites is the top. Spinning tops have their origins in a variety of cultures around the world.
Tops have been used for gambling and prophecy in the past, in addition to being used as toys. Tops are used in some role-playing games to supplement dice in generating randomised results; this is referred to as a spinner in this situation.
As possible precursors to the top, Gould mentions maple seeds, celts (which lead to rattlebacks), the fire-drill, the spindle whorl, and the potter’s wheel, which he argues was invented or discovered several times in multiple places.
Types of Toy Spinning Tops
Although there is historical evidence of whip tops all over the world, the first ones were most likely used in China thousands of years ago and brought to Europe by sailors returning from the Orient.
The whip top is essentially cone-shaped and made of wood or clay, with stronger materials such as iron being used in the eighteenth century. Whipping may appear to be difficult on the tops, but whip tops actually last longer than standard throwing tops since the base of the tops is not continually absorbing the impacts of falling on hard surfaces.
As a side note, it’s worth noting that in the “The whip top was specifically identified as an acceptable form of play in the “Orders, Statutes and Rules” of England’s Harrow School, though the rules stated, “The Scholars shall not be permitted to play, except upon Thursday only occasionally when the weather is fine, and upon Saturday, or half-holidays after prayer.” And their only game will be driving (whipping) the top, tossing a handball, running, or shooting (archery), and nothing else.”
In some English villages, a parish top (a whip top) is also mentioned. The parish top, which could weigh up to two pounds, would be stored in the town courtyard. To maintain spinning, such a top would have needed a lot of power, similar to the top in the video below, which needed many adults whipping it to keep it upright.
The throwing top is often made up of a string wrapped around the body of a cone-shaped or peg-shaped top. In today’s world, the tossing top is the most popular type of top. Throwing and landing on the tip at the top, as previously said, is quite difficult on the toy. As a result, a normal throwing top has a far shorter lifespan than a whip, twist, or pump top. A throwing top is also known as a “peg top.” Rather than having the peg inserted into the body as it is done now, the original peg tops were cut to a point.
The peg top is a skill-building top, owing to the fact that it requires throwing. When one has personal control over a top, there are many more things one can do with it than with other tops, which limit the interface between top and player. Wood is the most common material used to manufacture toss tops, however plastic is gaining traction as a viable alternative.
As previously stated, the peg (point) was once a part of the top. Hardwoods or bone were then utilised, followed by metal points, which were driven or cemented into the hole supplied for that purpose.
Speed and spin time improved as pegs became smaller and smaller, reducing friction between the top and the playing surface. There have been and continue to be devised and played a variety of games using throwing tops (see below – Battle Tops). During the 18th and 19th centuries, tops reigned supreme in the world of toys, particularly in Europe and America.
Twist tops are generally defined as tops that are traditionally twisted with three fingers. These types of tops are the most basic and low-tech forms of this classic toy.
The longest spin times and the number of tops that can be set spinning in a given timeframe are usually the focus of twist top records.
A video of a young Indian gentleman attempting to set a record for the most twist tops set in motion in a five minute time can be found in the Records Section below. He’s hoping to break the 500-meter dash record. We haven’t heard anything about whether he was successful in establishing this record.
Readers of ToysPeriod are encouraged to share any information they may have on the subject.
Pump Gyro Tops
These tops were extremely popular in the late 1950s and are still widely available now.
A gyroscope spins inside the top once the plunger is pumped many times.
Because a gyroscope resists stopping once it has been activated, the top will continue to spin for a long time until friction between the top and the surface it is spinning on overcomes the inertial energy fed into the mechanism.
Because of the perforations indicated in the body of the top (at left), it will also make a buzzing sound (see below for further information). A sympathetic tone is struck as these apertures move through the air, allowing air to take on dynamic patterns both within and on the surface of the top, depending on the material of the top and its rotating speed.
The gyroscope mechanism isn’t used by all humming tops. A twisting action is used to operate the vintage tops shown here (and on display at the Whistle Museum).
Others are propelled by a string or yo-yo mechanism (which is considered by many, a variety of top).