Object: Balero

Latin America: possibly Peruvian
Date unknown
Materials: wood, string

This object is a balero toy from Latin America. Baleros are fashioned from a ball and a pin joined together by a string. Usually, the ball contains a small cylindrical opening that fits over the pin. Balero toys are similar to cup-and-ball games, in which players attempt to sling a ball into a cup by manipulating the movement of the ball from the string. Balero players maneuver the ball by holding the pin and swinging the ball into the air with the string while attempting to catch it on the tip of the pin.

Baleros are thought to have originated from bilboquets in France during the sixteenth century. Bilboquets are variants of the ball-and-pin toys and monarchs, such as King Henry III of France, popularized the game in the European royal courts. Eventually, the game spread to the Americas, though there is evidence similar games existed among indigenous groups for many years before interactions with Europeans. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, balero toys became fashionable among elite circles, and King Louis XV was reported to have owned several ivory ball-and-pin sets.

Today, baleros are common in tourist shops and toy stores around the world. Versions of balero toys from different countries can be seen here. The game has also been featured in music and art work, as in the work pictured to the left. However, for most children and adults, baleros remain a simple, yet enjoyable diversion.

[Lauren Simons]

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Ethnology @ SNOMNH is an experimental weblog for sharing the collections of the Division of Ethnology at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.


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