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10 Things You Didn't Know: Bobbleheads

Did you know one of the earliest forms of bobbleheads, known as German nodders, were first produced in the late 19th century and were ceramic? Enjoy nine more interesting facts about bobbleheads in this 10 Things You Didn't Know column by Karen Knapstein.

Whether you know them as nodders, wobblers, or bobbleheads, these figures have nodded their heads into various aspects of collecting and pop culture history. In this installment of 10 Things You Didn't Know, Antique Trader Print Editor Karen Knapstein shares some fascinating facts about bobbleheads.


1 Figurines with moving heads have many names. Some of those names include: bobbleheads, nodders, nodding heads, wobblers and moving heads. Nodding figurine examples are made of composition, papier-maché, porcelain, and plastic.

2 German nodders were made of ceramic and production began in the late 1700s, early 1800s. In the 20th century, commercialized bobblehead dolls were made of papier-maché and then switched to the more durable ceramic.

3 A Russian short story published in 1842, titled “The Overcoat” (or “The Cloak”) by Nicolai Gogol, describes the main character as having a neck “like the necks of those plaster cats which wag their heads, and are carried about upon the heads of scores of image sellers.” (The short story can be read online at

4 In 1960, Major League Baseball imported papier-maché bobbleheads for each team to give away. Additional bobbleheads of specific players were made to commemorate the World Series. The players were Roberto Clemente, Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris and Willie Mays, although the “personalized” bobbleheads had the same faces as the generic team bobbleheads.

various bobbleheads

Canadian Mountie, Big Boy, Dr. Ben Casey and two Paul Bunyan bobbleheads, all very nice with only minor wear here and there; excellent-plus condition; largest measures 7 1/2 inches high, $225 (for the lot, excluding buyer’s premium). Courtesy of Dan Morphy Auctions,

5 Bobbleheads reached the height of their popularity in the 1960s, but interest waned by the end of the 1970s. However, a limited Willie Mays giveaway by the San Francisco Giants on May 9, 1999, commemorating the 40th anniversary of Candlestick Park, is credited with breathing new life into bobblehead collecting.

6 If you can think of a subject, it is highly likely there is a bobblehead available. If you can’t find one, there are many companies that make custom and personalized bobbleheads from photos (for less than $75). Here are a few options:;;;

7 In 2012, the TBS talk show “Conan” ( produced one of the largest bobblehead dolls documented. Made primarily from high-density foam, the Conan O’Brien Bobble Head stands 17 feet tall; O’Brien gifted the “bobble-statue” to the city of Chicago. After the Art Institute of Chicago rejected installation, the giant bobblehead found a home at Harold’s Chicken Shack on Wabash Avenue. (View the “Conan” bobblehead installation video at

8 Antique Place, Hallandale, Florida, sold a German Shafer and Vater bisque figurine of two women with bobble heads having tea and reading a book for $600 (excluding buyer’s premium) in December 2015. The circa 1920 porcelain figurine, stamped “Made in Germany” on the bottom, measures 6 inches high.

Pig Pen bobblehead

“Pig Pen” bobblehead figure, original label on base. Height 5 1/2 inches. Minor paint loss $40 (excluding buyer’s premium).Courtesy of John McInnis Auctioneers,

9 Subscribers to the academic legal journal The Green Bag ( may receive bobbleheads of Supreme Court Justices, although the editors “make no promises about when we will make them or who will get them.” All prototypes of the Supreme Court Justice bobbleheads (and samples of all the production versions) are archived at the Lillian Goldman Law Library at the Yale Law School.

10 The National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum is scheduled to open in 2016 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Bobbleheads: Real & Fantastical Heroism, the first glimpse of the museum, will be on view January 22 through April 30, 2016, at RedLine Milwaukee (

Compiled by Karen Knapstein
Sources: The Cardboard Connection (; Bleacher Report (;;;;; Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum (


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