The plastic wheel has a magnetic axle which allows it to roll along above and below the steel rails, now brown with rust in this example. When the rails are held just off the horizontal and the wheel placed on top, as in the first image, the wheel rolls along and when it gets to the end it rolls round the curve and, with care from the operator, remains attached as it rolls along underneath the rail, because it held in place by magnetism. By gently altering the angle of the rails it is possible to keep the wheel rolling along until it completes the circuit and starts again. A skilled operator can keep the wheel spinning round and round for a long time.

When the cardboard parts in the booklet are cut out and assembled the result is an amusing ‘Mexican Peck’ when the handle is turned. The Mexican Peck is defined as the rippling effect produced when successive waves of chickens peck at the harsh baked earth in search of morsels of food. Copyright Rob Ives/Flying Pig 1999-2001.

The Austrian company Mader Kreiselmanufaktur makes many high quality spinning tops. This most unusual somersaulting top was purchased through Grand Illusions in the UK. Tim Rowett of Grand Illusions has made a very useful video showing the strange way in which this top behaves. In 2022 this video was available here. The first interesting thing is that the top will not spin on its sharp point, as most tops will. This one will promptly fall over. It will, however, spin very well on its flatter end. As Tim says, this is not the main trick of the top. The instructions which came with the top explain: ‘Spin the top normally, i.e. with the point downwards, and it will immediately fall on its side. However it will remain spinning, and it will also slowly rotate as it spins on its side. If you reach in and use your fingers to give it a nudge in the opposite direction, it will initially spin the other way, but still on its side, and it will then hop up onto the blunt end and spin happily in that orientation.’ There is a knack in getting this to happen and it is very instructive to watch Tim’s video.

This top behaves in a strange way. It has a very low centre of gravity, so that if you spin it fast and try to knock it over with your finger, it unexpectedly pops up again to a vertical position and continues to spin. Purchased in 2020 from Grand Illusions in the UK. The top is made in Japan by Swany Co. Ltd.

The image on this card has an unusual property. When holding the card close up, the message reads Merry Christmas. When viewed from a distance it reads Bah! Humbug. It is one of a series of Duillusion Cards from

The design is apparently based on a Spanish vintage tin plate clockwork toy from 1933 called ‘Estudiant’ (Student). When the student is wound up he rushes along in an erratic manner carrying his suitcases. John Davenport has fond boyhood memories of an earlier version of this toy belonging to his grandparents at Ivydene, the Davenport family home in Kent.