Wham-O’s Super Ball was the brainchild of chemist Norman Stingley. By combining certain super-secret compounds under extreme pressure and temperature, Stingley developed a material he dubbed ‘Zectron’ which was able to retain almost all its bounciness when dropped.
After two years of further testing and refining (Stingley’s original ball had an unfortunate tendency to fall apart under use), Wham-O released the Super Ball in the summer of 1965, and the reigning kings of toy fads had yet another winner.
Dropped from an outstretched hand, the Super Ball would bounce almost all the way back up, but that was only the beginning of the physics-defying fun.
Thrown with a bit of force (or a lot), the ball would bounce over roofs, across city blocks, or right up to the fragile lights at the top of the gymnasium.
Thanks to the ball’s remarkable friction, it could bounce back toward you or even up a wall with the right spin. At times, it seemed the Super Ball followed its own internal compass, and while that may have led to a few black eyes and bruised bodies, the danger only added to the fun.
By Christmas of 1965, Super Balls were selling in the millions, and Norman Stingley was a very wealthy man.
Wham-O expanded the line into Super Mini-Balls (the originals were nearly 2″ in diameter), Super Ball Golf, Super Ball Baseball, and for the junior craps shark, even Super Ball Dice.
Unfortunately, the forces of nature were conspiring to destroy Super Ball: First, the ball still had a bit of its old structural instability, and hard throws onto rough surfaces would eventually chip Super Ball into a pock-marked sphere of uselessness.
Secondly, the fact that Super Ball was such a seemingly simple product meant that the knock-offs began to appear in droves. Even though the competitors could never match the original Super Ball’s spring-tastic rate of return, the Super Ball craze soon lost its oomph.
Super Ball valiantly mounted a comeback in the 1970s, but production was cut in 1976. An entire generation of would-be superballers grew up in ignorance, little knowing that the ‘Hi-Bounce Balls’ and ‘Super Bounce Balls’ they bought were a pale imitation of the real thing.
Finally, in 1998, Wham-O brought back the Original Super Ball for a new run at superstardom. Still made from that zippy-sounding Zectron, the Super Ball was once again ready to make high jumps, tricky spins, and plenty of mischief for a whole new generation of bounce-hungry kids.