They’ve been taking over your kid’s schools and your morning commutes, and now they’re heading to your offices. But what exactly is this pronged piece of spinning plastic that’s created a toy industry boom, the likes of which has rarely if ever been seen? We take an in-depth look at the history of the fidget spinner.

What Exactly Is a Fidget Spinner?

If you’re not familiar with the fidget spinner, we’d guess you’ve just not been taking any notice. And to be honest, there’s no reason you should. A basic fidget spinner is a toy which sits like a propeller on a person’s finger, with blades (usually three) that spin around a bearing in the middle. It really is as simple as that. But depending on your taste, it can be more annoying than Eamonn Holmes or it can be more mesmerising than Lionel Messi in full flight.

For the younger generations, it’s very much the latter if sales are anything to go by. Despite being banned by many classroom teachers purely through the annoyance a constant stream of ball bearings can cause, the fidget spinner has become a national trend with retailers selling out quicker than you can say “Tamagotchi”, and experts are saying it’s become one of fastest ever trends in the toy industry. To illustrate the point, 49 of the 50 best-selling toys on Amazon are fidget spinners.

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Though there is some debate, the fidget spinner is thought to have been invented by a chemical engineer from Florida named Catherine Hettinger. Initially the toy was designed as a therapeutic tool for children with ADHD and Autism to help calm behaviours and help with concentration in the classroom. But they’ve quickly become the new ‘must-have’ around the playground.

Though they’ve only really taken off this year, it’s been around since 1993. Hettinger had been making the devices in her laundry room since 1992, using a machine she bought from a defunct sign-making manufacturer. She first began selling the fidget spinner at local art fairs before travelling to toy conventions. She even pitched the toy to Hasbro, who tested it but decided not to pursue it.

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So what’s the appeal? Well, being old enough to buy alcohol and drive abroad means we’d just be guessing. But many are suggesting the fidget spinner’s simplicity is its greatest asset, with ‘everyday carry’ toys seeing a real rise in popularity. It can be used anytime, anywhere, and it’s also cheap, with spinners usually going for around the £5 mark.

Allegedly over 200 million units of the toy have already been shipped to retailers across North America and Europe, with numerous different sizes, colours and designs available. This has led some experts to estimate that the humble fidget spinner could be worth half a billion US dollars to the toy industry. Poor Hasbro…

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