Prior to this month, I had only ever bought one item on eBay, and it had absolutely nothing to do with either drinks or collecting. It was an ad for Clarks shoes, part of a long-abandoned, early 1980s print campaign that starred my then-bachelor dad plugging a pair of “practically beautiful” Wallabee loafers. Carefully torn from a magazine, the ad had been transferred—presumably by a comfort shoe enthusiast—to a clear plastic paper protector and stored flat for more than two decades before being sold (to me) for a cool seven bucks. Why someone decided to save the ad, let alone auction it off to the general public, I don’t know, but such is the beautiful mystery of eBay.
Since its founding in 1995, eBay has transitioned from an online yard sale of sorts to a more generalized sales service not unlike Amazon, which was founded just one year earlier. But for all intents and purposes, eBay still operates much in the same way it did during the early days of its existence, offering up an abundance of precious antiques, hard-to-find collectibles, music memorabilia and bonafide crap—all of it just a bid away.
It was a deep dive into the site’s Collectible Barware section that inspired our latest series, “Shit We Found on eBay,” in which we’ll be bidding on, hopefully winning and proceeding to auction off (to you, for free!) the items that make us scratch our heads and think, “Man, I could really benefit from owning this, but don’t know how or why.”
As to be expected, there’s plenty to choose from: eagle-shaped decanters with shot glass heads, Grecian drama-inspired jiggers with clanking bell earrings and a veritable plethora of swizzle sticks in every shape and size. This round, we even stumbled upon an expensive collectors’ market for ruby-red art deco cocktail shakers fashioned into the shape of a woman’s leg (originally made in the late 1930s, these have sold for sums averaging more than $1,500 on multiple occasions).
But what really caught our attention this month was a more modest item: a vintage, lightweight, cocktail-shaking yo-yo—an entirely unnecessary, albeit highly desirable, object offered up in an original box emblazoned with promotional phrases like “Makes drinking compulsive!”; “Keep ‘em dangling!”; and “Yo-yo ho and a bottle of rum!”
The manufacturer of the yo-yo cocktail shaker was the Alabe Crafts company, which became famous for an entirely unrelated, wholly iconic creation: the Magic 8-Ball. The company’s name was a mash-up of the names of its founders, Albert Carter and Abe Bookman, the former of whom had, in the mid-1940s, invented a cylindrical fortune-telling device inspired by his mother, the clairvoyant Madame Mary.
But back to our your yo-yo. Alabe Crafts, having been sold to Ideal Toys in 1971, almost certainly produced the shaker before then, most likely in the years following the Eisenhower Era. Per a deep-dive into the history of yo-yo patenting (which we will spare you from here), the yo-yo cocktail shaker most likely dates to the mid-1960s.
So what happened when we mixed a drink in this 50-year-old G-rated adult toy? Much to our delight, it was a success. We poured bourbon, lemon and simple syrup and dropped a modest two ice cubes into each of the yo-yo’s two adjacent compartments, and screwed tight the lids (double-checking the seals), before taking turns bouncing our double Whiskey Sours (sans egg white) into completion. Straining, admittedly, wasn’t the yo-yo’s strong point, but let’s face it: No one cared.
Selfishly, I’d like to keep this item. But, in a tip of the hat to the enduring spirit of eBay, it is time to hand over this wonderfully nostalgic and unnecessary shaker to someone new.
Editor’s Note: The sweepstakes has closed; keep an eye out for the next installment of “Sh*t We Found on eBay” for another chance to win a strange-yet-wonderful cocktail collectible.