Let’s start with a small history of bobbleheads. 1966: Gold base baseball bobbleheads were issued. These were of inferior quality and would suffer from chips, cracks, and paint flaking. One specific player was made – Willie Mays. 1970: There was a lull in bobblehead collecting as collectors shifted to lunchboxes, action figures and video games. 1990: New manufacturing processes allowed bobbleheads to be made from plastic instead of ceramic, dramatically reducing the expense and difficulty of creating quality bobbleheads.
How are bobbleheads made? We begin with the head of the bobble head doll. The body is made of hollow plastic that is covered by felt cloth. On the head, a metal clasp is connected to the downward portion of the head to connect into the bobble head dog’s body. At the far end of the body is a bolt that acts as a weight for the head. When attached to the body, this allows for the bobble head to sway and bob around. Without the weighed bolt at the end, the bobble head would simply rise to the top of the body in a fixed position. Next up is the body of the bobble head doll. The body, which in this case is about 4″ (10.16cm) in length, is made of a hollow core like the head, but the mold is not enclosed in order to allow space for the head piece to attach to the body. To attach to the body, a small metal anchor is attached inside the upper portion of the body to allow the clasp from the head to rest in the center of the anchor. When the head is attached to the body, the bobble head bobs and glides with ease. The movement can be endless as long as the bobble head doll is in contact with motion to jostle the parts enough to cause movement.
In June 2012, the TBS talk show ‘Conan’ went to film in Chicago and produced one of the largest bobble head dolls ever documented. The Conan O’Brien Bobble Head stood at 16 feet tall! In 2016, there were many terrific MLB bobble head giveaways that focus on team mascots to legendary Dodgers broadcast Vin Scully. Both major league and minor league baseball heavily use bobble head doll promotions to drive attendance. For 2017, MLB teams plan no let down in the size and scope of bobble heads. Teams from the Mets with their Noah Syndergaard Thor themed bobble head to the Angels with three different Mike Trout bobble heads throughout the season aren’t letting up with promotions throughout the league each and every week.
The first known mentioning of the bobblehead doll is in Nikolai Gogol’s 1842 short story “The Overcoat” where one of the characters is said to looks like one. It is also believed that moder bobblehead dolls originate from 18th century Germany where they were made of ceramic. These dolls in turn originate from Ancient Japanese and Chinese string dolls. Modern bobblehead dolls were first made from paper-mache, ceramic and plastic. 20th century bobblehead dolls were first made in 1920s. New York Knicks basketball player bobblehead was produced trhen but interest in them waned by 1930s and didn’t renew until 1950s.
Due to the San Francisco Giants’ bobblehead promotion, bobbleheads went crazy. Suddenly these items did not just represent people. The mini bobbleheads, bobblehead banks, bobblehead computer sitters, and bobblehead air fresheners were born. If you could make it nod, turn it into a bobblehead seemed to be the mantra. What is it about these miniature, big-headed, nodding figures that make them not just collectible, but enjoyable? The reason: bobbleheads are real enough, but not too real. It is their whimsicalness tied with their realistic representation of a figure that has made them outlast figurines and other novelty items. It is also their connection between the industry and the fans that make them a crucial and sentimental asset. Especially with baseball, fans can increase their support by buying and collecting a nodding version of their favorite player.
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