|Back in the 18th century, wealthy collectors in Europe sought out mechanical toys and automata which moved by the use of bellows, clockwork and other ingenious mechanisms. In about 1850 an acrobatic tumbling man appeared in a book about collectors items. This acrobat tumbled down steps backwards, and the mechanism inside involved mercury flowing from one end of a tube to the other. This changed the centre of gravity, and was the reason that the little tumbling man could perform his somersaults.
However by about 1900 this toy was discontinued, partly because of the cost of mercury, and partly because it is poisonous. However more recently a professional toy maker in Germany decided to revive this particular mechanical toy. It has a system of internal weights and levers, which allow it to recreate the original action as it tumbles down the steps with a series of backwards somersaults. However in this version no mercury is used!
Only a few of these are made each year.