Fidget Spinners, A Brief Finnegan's History

Fidget Spinners, A Brief Finnegan's History

The first time I heard of them, I didn’t hear it right. A boy about six or eight, maybe ten years old, called and asked if we carried them. Only, he had a lisp, and said his R’s in that adorable way people who can’t pronounce R’s do.

“Do we have what?” I asked.

“Schspin-ohs!” he kept repeating.

It wasn’t long before we realized spinners were a thing.

We ordered some. We sold out. And those were the Fine Fidget Spinners—$25 a pop.

We ordered another style. Sold out again.

That kept happening, and vendors were selling out, too, so we ordered more styles from more vendors. Eventually we had a few styles at a time. We put a sign in the window: “They’re here…” I recall one girl, maybe early 20’s, who found the $10 price too steep. “Jeez. You can get ‘em for three dollars online!”

We started ordering directly from factories. I think the factories contacted us.

Colbert referenced spinners, and Saturday Night Live did spoof of a diamond commercial. Distract her, with the Cartier fidget spinner, “because she has, quote, anxiety,” the seductive voice over says. “You cherish her but, let’s face it, she’s . . . a lot.”

Because we had the $25 version first, we put our spinners in a glass case, the kind of case that once held jewels or other valuables. We offer ten or so different styles at any given time, and we let people try them out, not unlike a jeweler offering diamond rings—one at a time.

We have them for ages 3+, but often the buyer is 30+. I imagine them in their production meetings, spinning productively. (We don’t carry the $100 and $200 styles.)

My favorite thing about selling spinners from behind a glass case: kids are forced to talk to me. They know what they like, or what their friends have, what they’re sister traded out from under them. They’re collectors, and not to be dissuaded by parents who tell them they already have one—or five. “How many spinners you got?” I ask, as we pass the demos back and forth.

In late December 2016, Forbes named Spinners The Must Have Toy of 2017. Originally created for ADHD sufferers, spinners are now in every convenience store from Oregon to Florida and, sure, at least one kid died when he or she ate a loose part. An LED version caught fire. But in the grand scheme of spinners, the death toll is pretty low.

I love it when an older person asks, “What is a fidget spinner?” They don’t understand the concept. “That’s it? You just . . . spin them?” Some kids have spinability contests, for speed and/or duration. Kids know when a spin is smooth, or when a bearing is sticky. One-handed spins? You betcha.

What news articles don’t mention, and what many of the adults scratch their heads over isn’t just the why? It’s how. How did they become so popular? It’s very simple, really. Toys aren’t allowed in school, but fidget toys are. Theoretically, kids who tend to fidget can listen and learn better if they have something to fidget with. Kids at my daughter’s middle school were buying the cheap ones online and selling them for a mark-up. Her teacher doesn’t mind if kids have a spinner in their hand, as long as there’s a pencil in the other hand. They may not make kids smarter, but they’re certainly not going to be the downfall of our country—or of Russia.

Fidget toys in school is not a new thing, but this year spinners were, and they quickly surpassed the Fidget Cube in popularity. The cube, while you can manipulate each side, is stagnant. Spinning is somewhat satisfying. And it’s still a thing. It’s the toy of summer, when school isn’t in session and kids can freely play with any toys they can get their hands on. My hands are busy selling spinners every day.  I noticed a co-worker spinning in between customers, and she wasn’t even one to fidget in the first place.


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