Thanks to its simple craftsmanship, some versions of the classic cup and ball can be found in many different parts of the world. The toy likely originated in France during the 16th century, when young nobles amused themselves with the bilboquet. This toy consisted of a wooden ball equipped with a small hole. A string connected the ball to a pointed stick, and players would swing the stick in an attempt to align the hole and the point, which would lodge the ball in place at the end of the stick. European explorers took this toy around the globe, where it shows up in artwork and literature from Japan to North America [source: University of Waterloo].
As the toy spread, different cultures created slightly different versions; some use a wooden cup to catch the ball, while others use a flat wooden stick with a hole that the ball is supposed to pass through. Some versions, such as those found in Japan, use a two-sided cup, while the traditional pointed-stick Bilbo cup remains a common variation. While simple in design, this tough-to-master toy provides hours of enjoyment to people of all ages.