Results tagged “dreidle”

Before plastic, dreidels were manufactured by casting from solid lead.  According to Sol Scharfstein the president of Ktav Publishing, the company started with his parent's idea to manufacture lead dreidels:

After a long search he found a tool and die maker who designed the world's only existing draydel casting machine. Lead is heated in a steel ladel till it melts. The molten lead is then poured into the closed mold. After 15 seconds, the lead sets, at which point the mold is opened and the hot draydel is removed. A good operator like Fannie produced about 75 draydels an hour. The first year was a great success and the exultant duo sold 25,000 lead draydel at 2 cents each, for a total of $500.00 Hallelujah! Life for Asher and Fannie was looking up.

According to the New York Times, Ktav now sells 400,000 dreidels every year.  I'm guessing that not of these are lead :).

Cast dreidels are generally well made because the shape of the piece can be precisely controlled.  Unfortunately, many of todays cast plastic dreidels are sold with a part line  going right across the tip of the dreidel.  A part line is the line between the two sides of the casting molds where a bit of material always oozes out.  This can be removed but these are cheap dreidels so this extra work is skipped.  In contrast, dreidels cast of sterling silver, pewter, brass, bronze, nambe or any other more expensive material typically have had the part line removed - and are are more likely to be well balanced.

Lead is out of vogue these days not only because its more expensive than plastic but also because of health concerns.  The dreidels below are remnants of a past era!

Cast Lead Dreidel Cast Lead Dreidel Cast Lead Dreidel Cast Lead Dreidel  
Lead  Dreidel supposedly from Eastern Europe, late 19th century.  Top and bottom are decorated with engraved ornamentation.  Measurements : Height: 4.2cm. / 1.65in. Weight : 17.8g. / 0.57oz. Price:  $750 (as of 12/16/08).  Available from Pasarel.

Cast Lead Dreidel Cast Lead Dreidel  
This vintage Israeli lead dreidel , was hand made by a jewish artist in Israel. Along with the letters are Words in Hebrew that state that the dreidel used to belong to the Bialik school.
Height:  2.54cm/1in. Diameter:  1.25cm/0.50in.  Price:  $49.99  (as of 12/16/08).  Available from Mir-El Antiques.

Cast Lead Dreidel  Cast Lead Dreidel
This early metal dreidel measures about 1" high and about ½ inches in diameter. Each Hebrew letter is embellished by a Star of David. It is unpolished.  Price:  $35 (as of 12/16/08).  Formerly available on Ebay.

Here are a couple of web sites that regularly sell antique dreidels.  Please note that I have not personally done business with these vendors - so this is just a list - not an endorsement! 

These dealers have received a positive review from a reader of this blog who purchased dreidels from them.

I have not heard any reviews about these dealers.

Also useful are these general ebay searches:

Apparently there are lots of fakes available on ebay and the internet - so beware! If you do purchase an antique dreidel, the best way to get help authenticating it is to contact a reputible antique judaica dealer.  

Ivory Dreidels

Here are a few antique bone or ivory dreidels that look like they are assembled from a couple turned and shaped parts.

Antique Ivory Dreidel Antique Ivory Dreidel

Dreidel Costumes

I've personally never been invited to Hannukah costume party - but when that day comes I've a few leads on dreidel costumes in the pictures below.  If I need a side-kick I'll dress my daughter up in a dreidel maidel costume.  I have to admit Menorah Man seems a bit cooler than Mr. Dreidel but it might just be that I find facial hair on toys is a turn-off.  What were they thinking with that "hey" mustache?

Dreidel Costume
Dreidel on Rollerskates - from eatsdirt on Flickr

Dreidel Costume
Dreidel Robot Man - from kappachan on Flickr

Dreidel Costume
Dreidel Man - from mdailey77 on Flickr

Dreidel Girl
Dreidel Girl - from pixietart on Flickr

Dreidel Costume
lone dreidel in a sea of santas at SantaCon 2006 - from sgoralnick on Flickr

Dreidel Costume
Dreidel Cyclers - learn more.

Dreidel Costum
Dorthy the Dreidel - learn more.

Dreidel Design

Thinking about designing your own dreidel?  I recently had to put together a "game dreidel" prototype for a variation on the traditional dreidel game.  Here are some things to consider.

A good game dreidel needs to be able to be stuffed in a pocket - so something between one and two inches tall/wide/diameter is about right.

Assuming we want to spin the dreidel with one hand as is traditional, a game dreidel can't be too heavy.  A good target is 0.3 to 0.4 oz (10 grams) based on a quick survey of the wood and plastic dreidels in my house.  Note that the weight of the dreidel in combination with the shape and spinning tip affects how long the dreidel spins.

It turns out that many dreidels are weighted.  This doesn't translate into unfair advantages when playing basic dreidel - however, it affects the game play.  If, for example, most spins result in a nun then the game gets really boring.  The solution is to have a precision fabricated dreidel.  In addition,  a smooth and regular spinning tip and a shape that allows for a clear fall can minimize the affect of fabrication imperfections.

Spinning Tip
The point where the top touches the ground is the spinning tip.  A sharper tip typically means that the top will spin longer.  If the tip is made from a relatively soft material like wood, however, a sharper tip is more fragile - if its dented the dreidel can't spin evenly.  Many non-dreidel spinning tops are created with a sharp metal spinning tip for this reason.  Most dreidels however have a more rounded tip - and most inexpensive dreidels have a tip of the same material as the top body.

Body Shape
As mentioned above, the body shape needs to be balanced for fair spinning.  The shape of the body also affects the spinning difficulty, the duration of the spin and the dynamics of the dreidel landing.  The location of the center of gravity in relationship to the overall height of the dreidel affects stability of the dreidel.  Center of gravity is also affected by the width of the dreidel and the distribution of the weight in relationship to the spinning axis.  The bottom line with regard to the shape of a basic game dreidel is that it should be forgiving of a slow spin or an off center spin.  

The body shape also has a very functional constraint: a good game dreidel must clearly display the result of the spin.  This rules out rounded shapes where a dreidel can come to a stop in between letters.  Four and only four possible landing positions are a must.


Also known as the shaft or stem of the dreidel, the handle is typically cylindrical.  Some times shaft has decorative flourishes but as long as the cross section is semetrical around the axis, spinning shouldn't be affected.  For example, driedels with a small ball at the top or with an "X" cross section are generally easy to spin as long as they roll easily across one's finger tips when they are being spun.

Keep in mind that the thicker the diameter of the handle, the harder it is to squeeze, particularly for small fingers.  Also, a thinner diameter handel can typically be spun faster because the spinner gets more TPF (turns per flick).  I settled on a 3/8" or 1/4" diameter handle and it seems to work well.  

The length of the handle needs to be long enough to let ones fingers grip the shaft, but not too long that the dreidel is unstable and the spinner can't maintain the spinning access.  Tops can be design for one handed spinning or two handed spinning which requires a longer shaft.  Because a long thin handle would be harder to fit in a pocket - and a dreidel is traditionally a one handed top I recommend sticking with a handle of about 1/2".

Consider not only the pocket stuffing requirement but also the frequent falls off the dining room table and the occasional sneaker crushing on the hard wood floor.  Obviously a steel dreidel comes to mind - but my recommendation here - for the sake of both the dreidel and the floor - is a solid plastic dreidel.  Wood and various metals also do well depending on the shape and construction.


In addition to strength, the choice of materials also affects manufacturing cost, fabrication precision, and weight of the dreidel.  A blown glass dreidel can never be precisely made - for better of for worse the shape will always have one of a kind imperfections that will likely affect the spin.  The material also will affect the quality of the fall, causing a plop, a klunk, or an extended bounce across the floor and under the radiator.

Spinning Dynamics
I always assumed that a longer spin is a better spin.  Think about this though - dreidel is a pretty boring game to begin with and who wants to spend more time just watching the dreidel spin and spin and spin and spin.  I recommend that a game dreidel spin elegantly about 5 seconds - but no longer.

Does all this sound daunting?  Yeah - buying one of those plastic dreidels doesn't sound half bad anymore...
Painted wood dreidels are generally not only inexpensive but one-of-a-kind.  Here are some nice options from Russia, India and Israel.

Russian Stacking Dreidels
Russian Stacking Doll Dreidel
These dreidels in the shape of  Russian matryoshka (stacking or nesting) dolls are colorfully hand-painted with traditional Russian decoration.  Made of wood, each set includes three dreidels and comes with a stand. The tallest dreidel is 4-1/2"t x 3"w.  Price: $85.00  (as of 12/1/08).  Available from The Jewish Museum Store.

Kashmiri Dreidel
Kashmiri Dreidel
This dreidel and matching box are covered with an intricate floral and bird design against a background of glossy black.  They are handmade in and fair-trade imported from Kashmir, India.   The box measures 2.5" T x 4.5" W x 2.75" D (6.4 cm x 11.4 cm x 7 cm); large dreidel measures 3.5" T x 2" sq. (8.9 cm x 5.1 cm)Price:  $16.95  (as of 12/1/08). Available from The Rainforest Site.

Hand Painted Dreidel
Hand Painted Dreidel    
Hand Painted Wooden Dreidel by Israeli artist Yair Emanuel.  Mr. Emanuel's work is based upon a fusion of traditional s motifs and ancient Jewish manuscripts with modern and oriental art.  3.6 (H) x 1.4 (W) x 1.4 (L) in.  Price:  $10.00  (as of 12/1/08). Available directly from Yair Emanuel.

Colorful Wooden Dreidel Colorful Wooden Dreidel
Colorful Wood Dreidels

The orange version is for use outside Israel - and features a "shin", the blue version is for use in Israel and features a "pey". (Learn more about the letters on the dreidel).     $2.40  (as of 12/1/08).  Available from

Metal Dreidels

These metal dreidels are made of a variety of alloys including nambe, aluminum, pewter, and silver and are fabricated using a variety of techniques including casting, assembly, punching and machining.

Nambe Dreidel Nambe Dreidel
Dreidel with wood stand
Designed by Marilyn Davidson, this finely polished and balanced dreidel is made of Nambe metal alloy is not only strong but also has the shine of sterling silver.  3"w x 2-5/8"h; Stand: 3"w x 2"h.     $65.00  (as of 12/1/08).  Available from

Pewter Dreidel
Contemporary Pewter Dreidel
This pewter dreidel is cast with an outline of the Star of David around the head of the top. Pewter is a beautiful silver color metal that doesn't tarnish.  Price: $21.95  (as of 12/1/08). Available from Judaica Specialties.

Dreidel Menorah
Dreidel Menorah
Israeli designer Avia Agayof combines the nine of candleholders of the menorah with a dreidel. The modular set is made of lightweight anodized aluminum, folds up for easy packing, and comes in a velvet pouch. 12 x 3 in. when open. $144.00  (as of 12/1/08).  Available from Canaan Online.  

Cones Dreidel Cones Dreidel
s Dreidel
Israeli artist Rafi Landau designed this collectible dreidel featuring a sterling silver top, with punched out holes and a radiant blue aluminum post.  2-1/4" x 3-1/4".  Price $375.00  (as of 12/1/08).  Available from the Jewish Museum.

Glass Dreidels

These glass dreidels are created using a variety of techniques including etched crystal and fused glass.   

Fused Glass Driedel 
Fused Glass Dreidel
Itay Mager is an Israeli Artist, living in Tel Aviv.  Made of thick Glass, colored and textured in a special fusing technique.  Size : 1.8 x 1.8 inchPrice:  $22 (as of 11/25/08).  Available from on Ebay.

Assorted Glass Dreidels        
Assorted Glass Dreidels   
These festive and fun dreidels made of glass are perfect for playing the dreidel game or sprinkling around your Hanukkah table.  Please allow us to choose the colors for you.  1-1/2"t x 3/4"w.  Price:  $2.50 (as of 12/1/08). Available from the Jewish Museum.

Crystal Dreidel    
Optical Crystal Dreidel
This etched Dreidel by Steve Resnick is a signed work of art, each one designed and individually crafted in his studio.  Price:  $200.00 (as of 12/1/08).  Available from    

Novelty Dreidels

Got to have the latest in dreidel technology?  Give these flashy dreidels a whirl...

Talking Dreidel
The Dreidel that Talks Back
Apparently when the dreidel falls on a letter you hear a  vocal response that teaches you how to play (interspased with "The Dreidel Song" sung by Paul Zim and choir).  Price:  $11.99 (as of 12/1/08).  Available from Judaica Online.

Israel Defense Force Dreidels
This wood Israel Defense Force dreidel set come with a display kit and 10 colorful laser cut dreidels representing the various branches of the IDF. Stand: 11" x 4" x 6.5". Made in Israel. Price: $55.00 (as of 12/1/08).  Available from

Bouncing Dreidel
Bouncing Dreidel    
This bouncing dreidel also plays two Hanukkah songs and lights up as it moves.  Price:  $3.95 (as of 12/1/08).  Available from the Jewish Museum.

Inflatable Dreidel    
This huge inflatable dreidel decoration is designed for both indoor and outdoor use and measures an impressive 6 feet tall.  Price $108.95 (as of 12/1/08).  Available from

Musical Dreidel
Light-up Musical Dreidel
Give this dreidel a good spin, then watch it light-up and listen to it play the dreidel song.  2-1/4"t x 2"w.  Price: $3.95  (as of 12/1/08).  Available from the Jewish Museum.

Silver Dreidels

Silver dreidels are made using a number of techniques including casting, filligree, sheet metal, hammering, engraving, punching, beating, cutting, assembly, soldering and welding.  Here are a few example created with a variety of techniques.

Silver Filigree Dreidel
Silver Filigree Dreidel   
This silver filigree dreidel is made in Israel by Ben Zion. Filigree is a metalsmithing technique where twisted threads, usually of gold and silver, are soldered together to form an object.  This dreidel is made of "925" sterling silver, an alloy of silver containing 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% other metals, usually copper.  Apparently 99.9% pure silver is generally too soft for producing large functional objects, but sterling silver alloyed with copper has more strength while preserving the ductility of the silver and the high precious metal content. Width: 1 In., Height: 3 In. Weight: 0.03 Kg.  Price: $129.00 (as of 12/1/08).  Available from

Children's Dreidel
Children's Dreidel    
A boy and girl hold hands on the top of this dreidel which was engraved, latticed, punched, beaten, cut, and soldered by silversmith Oded Davidson.  Dimensions  H 2in x W 2.25in x D 2.25in.  Price: $120.00 (as of 12/1/08). Available from

Silver Dreidel
Sterling Silver Dreidel
This cast silver dreidel is hand-crafted with decorative edging by an Israeli silversmith.  Price:  $79.95 (as of 12/1/08). Available from

Designer Silver Dreidel
Designer Silver Dreidel
An oxidized heavy-weight silver dreidel designed by Seadia Nadav in the shape of a fig and
adorned with amethyst stones. The basic shape is likely fabricated via casting.  Measures 2" X 2". Price: $144.00 (as of 12/1/08).  Available from Zion Judaica.

Turkmen Dreidel

Turkumen Dreidel Turkumen Dreidel Turkumen Dreidel 
Here is a unique looking dreidel hand crafted by an Israeli artist, originally from Turkmenistan according to the traditional Turkumen dreidel making style.  The silver dreidel has rubies and turqoise stones on the upper and lower part of its body.  Height -  6.8cm/2.6in   Diameter - 3.40c/1.25in.  Price  $150.00 (as of 12/1/08). Available from Mir-El Antiques.

Chocolate dreidels are a great consumeable Hanukkah gift.  These molded dreidels can be used for playing the traditional dreidel game - just don't tote them around in your pocket...

Chocolate Dreidel     
Solid chocolate dreidel wrapped in blue and silver foil. Kosher dairy.  1.3 oz each. Price: $3.50 (as of 12/1/08).  Available from

Chocolate Dreidel    
This 3-D certified dairy kosher semi solid milk chocolate dreidel weighs 3.5 ounces and measure 5 inches tall and 2-1/4 inches across. Price:  $142.99 for 24 (as of 12/1/08).  Available from

Chocolate Dreidel
4.5 oz solid milk chocolate dreidel.  Price:  $7.00 (as of 12/1/08).  Available from

Paper Dreidels

Its not hard to make a simple paper dreidel - but these paper variations show an amazing level of craftsmanship.

Paper Mache Dreidels
Paper-Mache Dreidles
These colorful hand-painted dreidels made in India are available in assorted designs and colors.  2 ½" H, 1¼" W.     Price:  $8.00.  Available from the Museum of Jewish Heritage.

Paper Cut Dreidel      
Dancing Children Dreidel    
This intricate lasercut work of art by Melanie and Harry Dankowicz is hand assembled, signed and numbered. Cut from antique white paper in a limited edition of 700 works, it features children dancing to the Hebrew song "Chanuka, chanuka, chag yafeh kol kach or chaviv, misaviv, gil l'yeled rach. Chanukah, chanukah, sevivon, sov, sov...sov, sov, sov ma naim vatov.  Comes in a rounded glass dome (5" x 7.5") with a painted base. Price: $66.00 (as of 12/1/08).  Available from

Candy Dreidels
Candy Dreidels
These paper dreidels are unique and individually hand made, therefore no two are identical. According to the seller, they spin superbly.  They are made by Israeli artist Nitzan Shmueli using paper-mache.  Dimensions: height: 2.5" length: 1.2" Weight 100 grams (3.5oz). Price for the three of them: $37.12 (as of 12/1/08).  Available on

Even though it says so in the song, most dreidels are NOT made of clay because its brittle and generally not a resilient material for a toy.  In addition, its hard to control the shape through the firing process during which the clay is hardened - making it unlikely that the dreidel will be well balanced and have a perfect spinning tip.  There are some beautiful collectible ceramic dreidels, however, such as these examples:

Ceramic Dreidel   
Ceramic Dreidel
This hand decorated dreidel by Israeli artist Danny Azoulay has blue and white design and and a gold plated stem. Approximately 1 1/4" tall.
 Price:  $54.95 (as of 12/1/08).  Available from

Pomegranite Dreidel  
Contemporary Red Pomegranate Dreidel
This beautiful Red Pomegranate ceramic dreidel is made in Jerusalem by Stefan Egei. Stefan studied ceramics in the Art Academy in Romania, immigrated to Israel in 1992 and lives in Jerusalem. He divides his time between creating his equisite Judaica and teaching ceramic design at the acclaimed Bezalel Academy of Art in Jerusalem. Size: 3"Diam x 3"high. Price: $110.00 (as of 11/30/08) Available from

The Macabim Dreidel
Macabim Dreidel     
This dreidel is also made in Jerusalem by Stefan Egei. Size:2"Sq x 4"high. Price $95.00 (as of 12/1/08).  Available from Jacob's Ladder Judaica.

Stone Dreidels

Stone isn't the first material that comes to mind for a dreidel - but here are two elegant examples.  Just don't try using them on grandma's glass table top.

Hasmonean Dreidel
The Hasmonean Dreidel

Designed by Israeli artist Michael Kupietzky this dreidel was created with Jerusalem Stone from the land of the Maccabees (Hanukkah celebrates the founding of the Hasmonean Empire by the Maccabee family.) 3x2 cm.  Available from the artist at            

Antique Agate Dreidel
Antique Italian Sterling Silver Dreidel

This Antique Italian Sterling Silver Dreidel was hand made by a jewish artist in Italy during the late 1920s. The dreidel body is made of agate stone. The base and handle are made of sterling silver. 2.54 cm/1 in heigh, 1.20cm/0.5in diameter. Price:  $50.00.  Available from Mir-El Antiques.

Dreidel Crafts

I wouldn't necessarily recommend doing it out of clay - but making your own dreidel can be an engaging Hanukkah activity.

Here are directions and a printable template for making a paper dreidel that can be assembled with glue and a pencil or a straw for the handle.  A nice variation is the paper droidel.  If you want all the materials pre-packaged you can purchase a kit

For oragami fans, here are step by step instructions for making a folded paper dreidel with accompanying photographs that illustrate the process.

Marshmallow dreidels are a creative and yummy project - and while they don't spin terribly well - any activity with icing and chocolate kisses is ok in my book. 

If you are looking for a more traditional wood dreidel, has a nice set of parts that you can assemble on your own.  You can also purchase blank wood dreidels from and nvo.comHebrew letter rubber stamps can be used to mark the sides.

And if you really want to follow the song, here are instructions to make a little dreidel out of clay.
Sterling Silver DreidelHow much does the most expensive dreidel cost?  Well, how much are you willing to pay?  This object d'art from craftsman Dan Givon on runs a cool $4,900.00.  

Of any single object, the Dreidel most exemplifies the history of the endurance of the Jewish people from destruction. The Dreidel, like the Jewish people, falls only to rise anew in strength, standing upright against all forces again and again. Israeli Dan Givon has designed this Dreidel in a powerful position standing forevermore upright, expressing the Jewish people's strength to eternally defy all forces of adversity, torment and destruction. The Dreidel is surrounded by a prayer blessing Hashem for our strength and existence.
I'm not sure how you know for sure if you have spun a gimel or a hay given the driedel's round cross section and the fact that it doesn't fall, but then the dreidel design is clearly more about symbolic reference, fine craftsmanship and good looks than about game play.
Dreidel isn't just a little kids game!  At its core, dreidel is a gambling game - and so its not surprising that the latest in dreidel game variations is Texas Hold'em Dreidel:

Take Dreidel, combine it with poker, and you've got a new dreidel experience that is truly fun. You'll check, bet, raise, or fold depending on the strength of your dreidel hand (or how much you like to bluff).

There are also few gambling games that are very similar to a dreidel such as Put and Take a popular bar game around the world.  Here is a list of many Put and Take variations from around the world.

Hanukkah fairs and Hanukkah parties are sometimes not the best place for a traditional dreidel game - particularly for younger kids.  Human Dreidel and Dreidel Musical Chairs are great alternative versions that use the traditional dreidel top as an integral game element.

Human Dreidel has a few variations:

Version 1: 

  1. Create a mat decorated with the 4 hebrew letters of the dreidel - one to a corner
  2. Participants are blindfolded and must spin in the center of the mat.
  3. After each spint they take off the blindfold and see where they are facing.  If its not a gimel then they can spin again.  If its a gimel then they get a prize.

Version 2:

  1. All participants starts spinning at the same time.
  2. The last participant standing is the winner and receives a prize.

Version 3:

  1. The game leader spins a real dreidel
  2. The participant needs to see if they can spin - and remain standing - longer than the dreidel spins.  If they do - they can play another round.  (For most, each round gets progressively harder as they get more and more dizzy.)

For very young kids a good dreidel variation is pass the dreidel.

There are a couple nice "mashup" versions of dreidel for grade schoolers including dreidel roulette and dreidel poker.  Here are rules for Dreidel baseball.

"Call a letter out then take three 'swings' (spins).  If a letter appears once out of three, it's a single!  Twice -- double!  All three times -- triple!  After a triple or a double you receive an extra turn to spin one more time.  Guess the outcome exactly and its a home run."

This last variation is from the book A Different Light, and originally from an article by Larry Bush and Susan Griss - which describes a few more variations including Prophetic Dreidel, Dreidel Yahtzee, Dreidl Huff 'n' Puff race track game, Chai Score blackjack-based game, Dreidl Olympics and Stack the Latkes, a musical chairs game:

"Players march (skip, hop, go backwards, twirl) in a circle around the chairs while the dreidl is spinning (a veteran spinner should do the spinning). When dreidl stops, everyone finds a chair or a lap! Unlike in the classical game, no one is "out," but one chair is removed with each round until, by game's end, the players are stacked up on the last remaining (sturdy!) chair."

For Hanukkah parties with older kids try a traditional game of dreidel - or better yet a competitive dreidel tournament.  For teen or adult hanukkah parties try these additional variations.