In the face of "baseless and relentless legal badgering" by the federal government, the manufacturer of Buckyballs is discontinuing its popular rare-earth magnet toy for adults. The company will continue to sell the remaining inventory, but will produce no more once the cupboard is bare.
Despite the fact that Buckyballs were sold at high-end stores like Sharper Image, rather than toy stores, and sported multiple labels that read, "WARNING! Keep Away From All Children," the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) pointed to "at least a dozen ingestions of the Buckyballs magnets" since 2009 in its attempt to prevent the company from selling their product to willing customers.
The demise of Buckyballs leaves Zen Magnets as the last of 13 rare-earth magnet makers, though in a statement on their website, the company says, "Magnet spheres may soon be harder to acquire than ammunition in the U.S."The CPSC is now proposing a ban on "high-powered magnets that are part of magnet sets," but is allowing the public to weigh in on the proposal until November 19 at regulations.gov.
According to GIMBY (Government in My Backyard), a non-partisan website "designed to build a more engaged citizenry and encourage better federal government performance through the healthy pressure of public opinion," opponents of the ban aren't just office desk-jockeys who enjoy fidgeting with Buckyballs as a stress reliever, but parents and teachers who see both artistic and educational value in the magnets:
“I feel especially passionate about this activity because it is such a great pastime for my son,” argues Sharon Bennett. “He is very intelligent and these balls are a great creative outlet for him. He will take them with him on planes, in the car, or to the mall. He creates things that constantly get comments from strangers. Instead of using the internet for mindless videos or games, he uses it to look up new creations for his balls.”
“I've created many objects with these magnets that have educational value in mathematics,” Edo Timmermans writes. “It is a great tool to teach people about geometry. I placed many tutorials on my Youtube channel EdoTimmermans to enable people to re-create the objects I made and improve their 3D-insight.”
Back in September, Reason TV's Kennedy spoke with Craig Zucker, co-founder and CEO of Maxfield and Oberton, the creators of Buckyballs: