The History of Bobbleheads

These classic collectibles are thought to date back at least 150 years. The earliest known reference to similar toys is from the 1842 short story The Overcoat by Nikolai Gogol, which described a character as having a neck which was "like the neck of plaster cats which wag their heads". Later, larger ceramic figures of animals, ranging in size from about 6 to 8 inches, were produced in Germany. These toys had spring-connected heads, and were called "nodders" or "bobbers" based on the way that their heads would bob on their bodies.

In the 1920s, a New York Knicks basketball player bobblehead was produced, and this created a renewed interest in the collectible. However, by the 1930s, interest had again waned, and from that point until the 1950s they were only produced in very limited numbers as novelty items.

By 1960, Major League Baseball produced a series of papier-mache bobblehead dolls, for each baseball team, all with the same angel-like face. Player-specific dolls for Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Roger Maris, and Roberto Clemente, were produced for the first time and sold during the 1960 World Series. Although the uniforms were different, each of them shared the same face. Unfortunately, because of their papier-mache construction, very few of these early bobble head dolls have survived without damage - usually chipping or cracking. 

In the 1970s, construction methods improved, and new bobbles were made of ceramic materials. They became popular for other sports, as well as for cartoon characters of the day. The bobblehead set for the Beatles became one of the most famous and rare of all time, and it is still a valuable collectible today. However, by the mid-1970s, bobbleheads had again fallen out of favor, and very few new bobbleheads were produced. It would take nearly two decades for them to return to prominence.

In the 1990s, new manufacturing processes allowed bobbleheads to be made from plastic instead of ceramic, dramatically reducing the expense and difficulty of creating the quality bobblehead products. 1999, the San Francisco Giants baseball team handed out 35,000 free Willie Mays nodders during one of their games, and they were a huge hit among fans and collectors. This event , and the decreased manufacturing costs, prompted a strong and rapid resurgence of the toys and the industry. The market rose exponentially to include many lesser-known cultural figures and notable people. 

After 2000, new variations of the dolls were also produced - including the mini-bobblehead, bobble computer sitters, bobblehead banks, and even bobblehead air fresheners. Customized bobbleheads also became possible and several companies began to offer this service. Many current bobblehead dolls closely resemble their real-life counterparts, including matching tattoos, hair styles, headbands, and even scars.