Who Invented Fidget Spinners and Why? The History of the Popular Toy

Alyssa Mertes

Kyrsten Ledger

Promo Expert

Updated: May 11th, 2020

You know when you’re waiting to check out at the store, but all the stuff by the register catches your eye? At least one of those toys is likely a fidget spinner. These toys were super popular in 2017, and even today, kids and adults alike love playing with them!

So what is it about fidgeting that got the world’s attention? Let’s explore the interesting history of fidget spinners.

I would spend a lot of time in long meetings and conference calls ... and just fidget with whatever, and I thought one day there should be a device specifically for what I am doing.

– Scott McCoskery, in an interview with The National Desk

Hour Glass

History of Fidget Spinners Timeline

From a plastic prototype to a highly durable toy, the fidget spinner’s had a crazy journey. Here’s how it evolved from 1993 to today.

  • 1993

    1993 Source: classicspinner.com

    Catherine Hettinger filed a patent for her “spinning toy.” Her invention looks nothing like today’s fidget spinners, but she still paved the way for the future of spinners.

  • 1997

    1997 Source: patentimages.com

    Hettinger’s “spinning toy” patent was finally approved. This toy had a domed structure, similar to a frisbee. Shortly after receiving the patent, Hettinger pitched her toy to Hasbro. Hasbro later sent her a rejection letter.

  • 2013

    2013 Source: static.seattletimes.com

    The patent on Hettinger’s spinning toy eventually expired, which gave way for other inventors to create their own spinners. For instance, Scott McCoskery (pictured right) came up with the Torqbar, an early spinner that used a ball joint and bearing mechanism to work.

  • 2015

    2015 Source: patentimages.com

    The Torqbar was released to the public via a YouTube video in September 2015. Shortly after, a patent was filed by MD Engineering LLC to get these spinners to the public.

  • 2016

    2016 https://www.qualitylogoproducts.com/health-and-wellness/fidget-spinner.htm

    Many third-party companies started creating cheaper knock-offs of the Torqbars. McCoskery stayed ahead of the competition by adding another prong and changing the material to hard plastic. These started to be referred to as “fidget spinners.”

  • 2017

    2017

    Fidget spinners became the hottest craze, making Amazon’s top 20 best-selling toys list. They were simple, but remained popular even as other toys like Hatchimals, drones, and electronic games were released.

  • 2018

    2018 Source: /lumiere-a.akamaihd.net

    Companies jumped on the fidget spinner craze and used them to promote their brands. For instance, Disney crafted one-of-a-kind spinners that looked like Iron Man and a Frozen snowflake.

  • 2019

    2019 Source: https://www.qualitylogoproducts.com/health-and-wellness/led-lighted-fidget-spinner.htm

    The lack of a concrete patent on the fidget spinner has made it so anyone and everyone is creating their own versions. Today, you’ll find spinners in unique shapes and styles, with some lighting up and others coming with replaceable pieces.

What is a Fidget Spinner?

A fidget spinner is a toy that had a meteoric rise to fame in 2017. It’s designed to balance on your finger and whirl around as you spin it, which helps you focus, but also yields some pretty cool tricks.

People have been making tools and toys for thousands of years that are designed for fidgeting. Yo-yos date back to 500 B.C.; spinning tops, the 8th century B.C.; Rubix Cubes were invented in 1974; and then stress balls started being sold in the 1980’s.

Fidget spinners are another, modern item to add to that list. Whether it’s at work, home, school, or somewhere else, everyone can benefit from playing with a fidget spinner! It’s designed to help with concentration and anxiety, but it’s also just a fun toy to have on hand.

What is a Fidget Spinner? https://www.qualitylogoproducts.com/fidget-spinners/fun-spinner-lite.htm
Who Invented the Fidget Spinner? https://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/parenting/kids/woman-who-invented-the-fidget-spinner-isnt-getting-anything/news-story/05eb69bbd4c8598582d68ffd202e356a

Who Invented the Fidget Spinner?

Catherine Hettinger is often credited as the inventor of fidget spinners. She came out with the idea for the spinning toy back in 1993, but her original prototype was rejected by Hasbro.

Who Invented the Fidget Spinner? https://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/parenting/kids/woman-who-invented-the-fidget-spinner-isnt-getting-anything/news-story/05eb69bbd4c8598582d68ffd202e356a

Fast forward to 2013 and Hettinger’s patent expired. This led a man named Scott McCoskery to come out with the Torqbar, a toy that served as the early version of the fidget spinner. McCoskery invented this spinner simply because he wanted to focus during work-related events. If you ever sat in a long meeting, or attended a brutal training session, you understand exactly where he was coming from.

Today, there’s no one holder of the fidget spinner patent. This means that anyone and everyone can make their own version without any legal repercussions.

When Did Fidget Spinners Become Popular?

The fidget spinner became a national sensation in 2017, starring in online videos and gaining a lot of media attention on local news stations. Social media also had a lot to do with the fidget spinner’s rise to stardom.

Even celebrities got in on the craze! Take a look at a few famous faces who loved twirling their fidget spinners.

Liam Payne Source:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=31Sy1QaHB5c

Liam Payne

Kendall Jenner Source:
https://www.buzzfeed.com/lyapalater/kendall-jenner-queen-of-fidget-spinners

Kendall Jenner

Rita Ora Source:
https://www.elle.com.au/celebrity/celebrities-who-love-fidget-spinners-14346

Rita Ora

Aside from being on the news and in Facebook posts, the fidget spinner was also huge on YouTube and Instagram. People posted videos and pics of them doing crazy tricks. Word spread like wildfire, and before long, everyone wanted their very own fidget spinner.

Do Fidget Spinners Work?

While very little research exists as to whether or not fidget spinners help with anxiety and focus, the U.S. National Library of Medicine found that “fidget spinners may better fine motor control to a certain extent.” These simple toys can help us complete physical tasks.

In 2018, 81 healthy adults between the ages of 23 and 51 were asked to take part in the study. They were divided into two groups, one with a fidget spinner and one with nothing at all. They were than asked to draw a spiral using a tablet and a stylus.

Do Fidget Spinners Work? Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5816623

The result? Participants who had some kind of object to manipulate, whether it was a fidget spinner or some other toy, were able to draw the spiral a lot more accurately than those without one. The study also went on to say that people with ADHD may benefit from a similar fidget object to ease restlessness.

Fidgeting is a natural response when we’re anxious or bored. This simple movement helps us positively channel our emotions, much like pen clicking, chewing gum, or tapping your foot. The fidget spinner is a good outlet for all that energy!

Who Uses Fidget Spinners?

Basically anyone can use a fidget spinner, whether it’s a student who needs to focus, a professional who can’t sit still during a meeting, and even a company that needs to advertise.

Any of the following would benefit from fidget spinners:

Theme Parks

Theme Parks

A souvenir fidget spinner is a great way to remember a roller coaster ride or your visit to a popular attraction. It’s no wonder why Sea World made a deal for branded spinners in 2017!

Sports Teams

Sports Teams

Having trouble focusing on the game? Get a fidget spinner supporting your favorite team and play with it while you’re in the crowd! Think of it as the modern version of the rally towel.

Music Festivals

Music Festivals

Baton twirling and hula-hooping are already a popular part of music festivals. Concert goers aren’t going to be able to resist fidget spinners in the merch tent, especially if it helps them show off their cool tricks.

Corporate Business

Corporate Business

Do you need stocking stuffers for your employees around the holidays? Maybe you just want something at every desk to increase focus. Look no further than fidget spinners with your logo!

Summer Camps

Summer Camps

It’s about time kids put down the electronics and went into the great outdoors! Fidget spinners are an easy way to get youngsters interested in your camp.

Community Events

Community Events

If your town is having a festival or fair, you can’t go wrong having fidget spinners on hand. The kids will love them almost as much as the cotton candy and pony rides!

Non-Profit Fundraisers

Non-Profit Fundraisers

Every penny makes a big difference. Your non-profit can raise necessary funds when you sell fidget spinners in your online shop or at your next event.

Conferences

Conferences

Seminars and trainings can get super boring really fast. Hand out fidget spinners to every attendee to lighten the mood. They also work as excellent conversation starters when it’s time to network!

Did you know?

Sea World isn’t the only big name to advertise with custom fidget spinners. Coachella, Tiffany’s, Microsoft, the NBA, and the NFL all ordered their own logoed versions of these toys!

Stats for Success

As of 2019, more than 200 million fidget spinners have shipped to retailers.

The fidget spinner was in the top 20 best-selling toys of 2017.

At their height, fidget spinners drove overall toy sales up by 10%.

In January 2017, the phrase “fidget spinner” was searched 246,000 times every day on Google.

The Bottom Line

Whether you’re an executive for a major corporation or a parent hiding it from your kids because you actually want it for yourself, anyone can use a fidget spinner. It’s your average toy, but with a fun twist!

Kyrsten Ledger

Kyrsten Ledger

Kyrsten's vast knowledge of promotional giveaways and marketing has led to several hit articles. She has also published work for PPB Magazine, a publication from the Promotional Products Association International.

References

Hullinger, J. (2015, March 24). The Science of Why We Fidget While We Work. Retrieved from,
https://www.fastcompany.com/3044026/the-science-of-why-we-fidget-while-we-work

Cafas, J. (2017, May 5). Meet the Woman Who Invented Fidget Spinners, the Newest Toy Craze Sweeping America. Retrieved from,
https://money.com/fidget-spinner-inventor-catherine-hettinger

Stevens, Cara. Fidget Spinner Tricks, Hacks & Mods. Hollan Publishing, Inc, 2017.

Gonzalez, G. (2017, June 8). The Inside Story Behind the Rapid Rise of the Fidget Spinner Trend. Retrieved from,
https://www.inc.com/guadalupe-gonzalez/who-created-fidget-spinners-catherine-hettinger-scott-mccoskery.html

Google Patents. Spinning Toy. Retrieved from,
https://patents.google.com/patent/US5591062A/en

Isbister, K. (2017, May 18). Column: Fidget Toys and Why Your Kid’s Brain Loves Them. Retrieved from,
https://www.pbs.org/newshour/education/fidget-toys-kids-brain-loves

Pappas, S. (2017, August 15). Fidget Spinners: What They Are, How They Work and Why the Controversy. Retrieved from,
https://www.livescience.com/58916-fidget-spinner-faq.html

King, David, et al. Fun with Fidget Spinners.

Torqbar. Press. Retrieved from,
https://torqbar.com/pages/press

Gara, T. (2017, May 9). Amazon’s Top 30 Best-Selling Toys Include 15 Fidget Spinners and 4 Fidget Cubes. Retrieved from,
https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/tomgara/a-nation-united-in-fidget#.twaMw9g3e

Liffreing, I. (2017, May 10). How Fidget Spinners Became the Hottest Promotional Product Since Beer Cozies. Retrieved from,
https://www.campaignlive.com/article/fidget-spinners-became-hottest-promotional-product-beer-cozies/1433043

Chang, M. (2017, September 12). 7 Celebrities Who Joined the Fidget Spinner Craze Despite Our Dire Warnings. Retrieved from,
https://www.elle.com.au/celebrity/celebrities-who-love-fidget-spinners-14346

Cohen, J., Bravi, R., Minciacchi, D. (2018, February 16). The Effect of Fidget Spinners on Fine Motor Control. Retrieved from,
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5816623