Rascals 015

Photo courtesy of Don Olney

Rascals are metal finger-snap nesting tops. They are a failed toy attempt from the 1980s. They were manufactured as spin tops and came in two varieties: plastic ones for beginners, and metal ones for more advanced players. No research has been done, so there is no information yet on the original marketing attempt, but it seems as though it failed because Rascals are a toy that really need to be demonstrated.

Somewhere around 1994 a Minneapolis juggler named Daniel Westacott brought a few Rascals to a party at the Mondo Jugglefest in Minneapolis/St. Paul Minnesota. They were a huge hit. Especially with Mark Hayward. A few weeks later Mark got a package from Daniel that had about a dozen metal Rascals in it. Since metal Rascals are extremely tough, Daniel didn't bother with any packing material, so the UPS guy was rather sheepish as he handed over a loud, clanking box full of what he thought must be broken stuff. After playing with his new Rascals, Mark was hooked and saw the potential of this toy. On his next trip to Minneapolis, Mark stopped in at the surplus shop called The Ax Man and bought all of the remaining Rascals. It's not known how many there were, but it was a lot. Since he was a student at the time it was a big financial gamble.

Mark was a regular at juggling conventions around the Midwest, and brought the Rascals with him. The plan was to sell them at conventions to try to pay for the gas it took to get there. Mark would find a nice patch of floor and start spinning Rascals. Eventually a small circle of people would gather, and a good time was had by all. At $1 each, or 6 for $5 Rascals were usually the cheapest thing for sale at the convention, so a lot of jugglers bought them. Mark didn’t get rich selling Rascals, but gas and food were usually covered.

Rascals are spun with a snap of your fingers. You hold them by the point between your thumb and finger(s), put the back of your hand down flat on your spinning surface, and snap your fingers. The Rascal should spin on its point. You can also spin the Rascal on its rim by snapping with your palm down. The instructions that came with the few packaged ones Mark found talked a lot about "upsetting" the Rascal onto a target. They wanted you to spin the Rascal on its point in your hand, and then tip it over so that the open end would settle on a peg or another Rascal that was sitting on its rim on the table. The only problem is that this trick is nearly impossible. As long as the Rascal is spinning, it doesn't want to flip over like that, so not only is this an extremely difficult game, but since it is so incredibly unlikely that you will succeed, it is not terribly fun. This seems to further prove that the original makers of this toy were not top-spinners and really couldn't see the value of what they had made. The real fun comes in seeing how many you can get spinning at the same time, and in stacking them. The fact that Rascals came in packages of one, and were too expensive for most kids to buy a lot of them, seems to prove that the original manufacturers never discovered the joys of stacking.

The way you stack Rascals is you get one spinning really well on a surface, then snap start another one into your palm (this takes some practice), and tilt your hand until you get the one in your palm to drop into the one spinning on the surface. If you do it well, each Rascal that you add to the stack will add a little spinning energy and give you more time to add the next one. This is really fun. The unofficial world record was set by Jon Gates at his home in Lincoln Nebraska, where he got 17 metal rascals stacked just after Mark Hayward had left the room. That’s why it’s unofficial… no witnesses. While the plastic Rascals were pretty, they didn't have enough mass to spin in your hand long enough to be good for stacking.

I will add some more photos and a scan of the instructions once I find the Rascal section of my top collection. They're in a box somewhere.... -Mark