The dictionary defines a top as a child's toy with a tapering, usually metal, shod tip on which it can spin. There are six different types of top: twirlers, which have a spindle passing through the middle of a disc and which can be spun with a twist of the fingers; tops spun by winding a cord around them and then pulling it; peg tops, which also have a cord wrapped around them but need a dual action of pulling and simultaneously throwing the top across the surface; buzzers consist of a disc threaded on a cord which is held in both hands - the disc is twisted and pulled along the cord at considerable speed; yoyos are two discs on an axle with the cord wound around the axle - they can be spun up and down the cord and used to execute many complex movements. Also included should be the gyroscope, another spinning toy which can be used to demonstrate scientific principles.
Tops have an ancient history and cross many cultures. Possibly developed as a result of observing the motion of certain seed pods of trees, or equally by adapting the movement of fire-drills, tops in one or the other of their many forms have remained a popular and affordable toy across the world.
Joseph Verco in his Recollections wrote: 'But the top par excellence was known as the 'gummy'. It was turned out of a piece of the heart wood of the South Australian red gum tree, and was very heavy...the preference was generally for a rather narrow pear-shaped form, and provided with a peg made from a steel screw, the head of which was removed and its end filed to a rather sharp point. This top in the hand of a dexterous player was a formidable weapon;...' (p. 70)