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The Coca Cola Yo-yo Craze… Remember?

Do you remember the yo-yo craze that swept Adelaide (and indeed Australia) back in the 60s and 70s?

There would be very few baby boomers who, as teenagers in those years, didn’t own at least one Coca Cola yo-yo. Not surprisingly, I’ve found that many have kept them as tokens and souvenirs of their childhood.

John Niarhos shared this photo; "Remember these in the local deli"?

John Niarhos shared this photo; “Remember these in the local deli”?

The modern yo-yo is generally recognised as an American invention, although I believe its real origins were either in China or the Philippines. Australia was perhaps the most enthusiastic supporter of the fad.

James Cockington writing in the Sydney Morning Herald recently recalled that “the Australian connection began with a Coca-Cola promotion in 1958. The first Australian-released Coca-Cola yo-yos are known as the Duncan Sprite Boy, after the design on one side. It sold for three shillings and nine pence at the time (with six marked bottle tops). These original yoyos are now said to be worth up to $300, depending on condition”.

John Niarhos who sent in the featured photo of the box of Coke and Fanta yo-yos agrees, “The first Coca-Cola yo-yo was introduced in Australia by Duncan 1958. In 1961 the Jack Russell Co took over these promotions and ran them successfully for over 40 years. They sold over half a billion yo-yos around the world

Jack Russell, an American, had worked for Duncan before starting his own Russell Promotions, based in Florida. Coca Cola began to promote the craze by introducing national competitions all around the world and nowhere did these Coke promotions take off the way they did in Australia, where they even allowed yo-yo demonstrations to take place in schools.

There was always a team of so-called international yo-yo professionals, including a team from the Philippines, a Mexican team wearing sombreros and Japanese in kimonos, demonstrating amazing yo-yo tricks that we teenagers were only too happy to emulate.

ARW Facebook poster Julie Flaherty remembers some people from Bogota in South America in Coca Cola jackets “coming to my primary school (Our Lady Queen of Peace in Albert Park) and showing us tricks and giving us free yo-yos. That was in the sixties”.

And Marquess Gerry Treuren recalled; “Not an Adelaide recollection, but I can remember seeing some very weary and bored Philippino yo-yo champions showing all sorts of yoyo tricks in the supermarket on Vale Street next door to the stock and station agent in Cooma NSW in 1977 as part of a Coca-Cola promotion”.

Robert McGowan Bowman says “Walk the dog, rock the cradle … I can still do them. Yo-yo playing Coke reps came to our school in the 60s with their bag of tricks. I remember buying one for 20 cents … must have been post decimal, about 1966. Saw them at a market recently for $20”.

Grant Murrell's photo; "Here is some of my Coke yo-yo collection, dating from the 50's through to the late 70's"

Grant Murrell’s photo; “Here is some of my Coke yo-yo collection, dating from the 50’s through to the late 70’s”

Grant Murrell also sent in a photo of his yo-yo collection “They are set in an old wooden coke bottle crate. I also have the packets of original strings. Another thing I have to go with my collection is a set of old competition posters that were handed out when the yo-yo champions came to the schools”.

The yo-yo is definitely a toy that has survived time and it will most certainly be a toy that will continue to be played into the future.

 

 

 

 

16 Responses to The Coca Cola Yo-yo Craze… Remember?

  1. Maria October 21, 2014 at 4:31 pm #

    oh……. I so remember my first yoyo. I t was the 1st on the middle row. It was such a prick to do the dog on the leash walk. Bloody thing kept on vibrating due to the cap look. Oh! but I did love it. Wow it brings so much memories back. I can now show my hubby that the cap yoyo did exist.
    🙂

  2. Mick November 24, 2014 at 7:57 pm #

    The one on the back left of the shop display (or bottom, second from right in other pic)…

    I remember it well, mainly because I chipped my front teeth and split my lip when “around the world” accidently included a door. :/

  3. darril March 2, 2016 at 12:42 am #

    lets bring the yo yo craze back – it was huge in south africa – i have contacted coka cola here to consider resurrecting the craze again. Everything written above happened here as well just as described.

    I dont believe the yoyo has reached its sell by date. The yoyo you get today are shitty compared.

  4. darren June 28, 2016 at 1:42 pm #

    hi i remember these yoyo now there getting expensive to buy i won second in a school championship against this outsider he won a big coke bag and jumper pen and $10 that was now 35 years back and i won a small coke bag red and 3 yoyo the red spinner coke as there hard to come by now and now many people selling them not original like to be a collector but where to start and money worth these days to able get a brand new one wish they came back again i miss my trcks ehhe

  5. Christopher Escriva February 4, 2017 at 2:49 pm #

    Oh yes.. i was South Australian state champion at 12years of age a competition for under 16 year olds. Probably 1978… local competitions at shopping centres with Philipino proffessionals showing their amazing tricks, having just purchased a yoyo from that period im trying to get my hands on a black one as in photo above, if anyone has one for sale let me know please. Cheers to all.

    • Vlad August 16, 2018 at 7:27 pm #

      I just seen this post I have a black one your after let me know.

      • Ron Aquilina September 10, 2018 at 8:36 pm #

        Hi Vlad how much do you want for your black yo yo. I’m not a collector. I used to work for coke years ago.

  6. Matthew March 28, 2017 at 7:04 pm #

    Nice work, I like your site 🙂

  7. Jeff August 6, 2017 at 11:04 pm #

    I found a old yo yo the other day just wondering if I can send a photo of it and if u can tell me about it and what it is worth thanks

    • Ron Aquilina September 10, 2018 at 8:34 pm #

      Hi Jeff I used to work for coca cola years ago. I had alot of yo yo’s but lost them all in a house fire. What type of yo yo do you have and how much are you after. I’ m not a collector just a dad trying to show his daughters what was around when I was working there.
      Ron

  8. Mike Micanopy December 13, 2017 at 1:13 pm #

    Official yoyo champs from Coca Cola used to come out to schools to demonstrate their tricks in the late 60s. Clearly remember this at Highgate Primary. I don’t suppose it was ultimately anything to do with selling more Coke …….?

  9. Jay February 9, 2018 at 9:42 pm #

    Yep and in the 80s too! I went to Corinda State School and we had a demonstration troupe come and put on a show for us – free Coke yo-yos all round!! Wish I’d kept mine😆

  10. FJ March 25, 2018 at 3:57 am #

    HI, i have 5 brand new ones. 2 x fanta, 2 x coke and 1x sprite. with 3x new spare strings. how much can i get? they are BRAND NEW

  11. M June 14, 2018 at 11:56 am #

    Grant Murrell. A blast from the past. Hope all well. 🙂
    M. Sydney.

  12. John August 7, 2018 at 9:28 pm #

    I still have my two coca cola yo yos. One is the reflective style and the other a solid white finish with Coca cola on both sides. Both are displayed in a cabinet with other toys from my childhood. and just like Jay said, we also had a yo yo “entertainer” visit our primary school in the early eighties for a demonstration.

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