While almost everyone over a certain age recognizes this iconic toy (not to mention its memorable jingle), not so widely known is the story of its accidental invention.

In 1943, naval engineer Richard James was developing ways to stabilize nautical instruments. After knocking a helical spring over, he watched in amazement as it "walked" down a stack of books, over a table, and onto the floor, sparking an idea for a toy like no other. Charmed by its sleek movement, James' wife Betty dubbed it a "Slinky". The rest, as they say, is history.

Its play value has diminished little over the decades – it's still plain fun to manipulate, and remains mesmerizing when in motion. Not just for children, it also makes a great desk toy for adults and an intriguing project part for workshop tinkerers.

While there are numerous copycats now on the market, this all-steel version is still made by the original manufacturer in Holidaysburg, Pennsylvania. Suitable for ages 6 and up.

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