The History of Bobbleheads

Rohan Mathew

Bobbleheads are miniatures having a disproportionately oversized head that is connected to the body through spring. These collectible dolls are also known as Thanjavur, nodding heads, and Tanjore head-shaking dolls. These classic miniatures are thought to date back at least 150 years. Thousands of customized bobbleheads are popular, and they possess rich History with random facts. 

So, let’s cut to the chase and discover their entire History, including where they originated and what makes them so popular.

Where Bobbleheads originated:

These miniatures originated from Japan and China in the 18th Century. But the actual known reference was founded in a Russian short story “The Overcoat” written by Gogol in 1842. The writer described a character, “Akaky,” having a neck like the neck of plaster cats which wag their heads. 

Later, various substantial ceramic figures of animals having connected spring heads were produced in Germany. They were known as dodders or bobbers, based on how their heads bob on their bodies.

Bobbleheads in the 19th Century:

In the 1920s, a New York Knocks Basketball player bobble doll was created that got a lot of fame. After that, in the 1930s, the interest had again waned. From that point until the 1950s, bobbleheads were only produced in limited numbers.

 In 1960 the Major Baseball League produced a series of papier-Mache bobbleheads dolls for every team. All the dolls have the same face but with different uniforms. Perhaps the player’s specific dolls were produced for Mackey Mantle, Roger Maris, Roberto Clemente and sold for the first time in the 1960s world series. Their Papier-Mache construction made few of them survive without damage. Unfortunately, most of them started chipping or cracking due to poor construction.

In the 1970s, the method of bobbles construction had improved, and new were made with ceramic materials. They have become popular among other sport, including football. The bubblehead set for Beatles was the rarest item and still a valuable collectible today. In the mid-1970s, bobbles had again fallen out of favor, and only a few new dolls were produced. It would take almost two decades for them to return to prominence.

In the 1990s, the latest bobblehead manufacturing techniques were introduced. In which manufacturers use plastic instead of ceramic that reduced the expenses and difficulty of crafting quality bubbleheads items. The San Francisco Giant baseball team in 1999 handed out 35,000 free Willie Mays dodders during one of their matches. They distributed the bobbleheads free to the first 20,000 visitors on 9th May to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Candlestick Park. It was the last year of Giant playing at that stadium. This event made the market rise exponentially, and more teams began offering bobbleheads as a promotional product to their fans .

Bobbleheads in the 20th Century:

In the 20th century, Modern variation occurred in the bobbleheads industry. Manufacturers started making various items, including bobble computer sitters, bobblehead banks, or even bobblehead air fresheners. Later National Bobblehead Hall of fame and Museum collection started.

 In 2003 Chunky Woolery bobblehead doll made Guinness Book of the world record. He was a TV show host; the bobblehead weighed 900 pounds and was 11 feet tall, displayed at the McCormick Place, Chicago. On 7th January 2015, a national Bobblehead Day is established. This day is the celebration for all spring-connected head bobbing items. 

In 2019 the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum opened for the public. The Museum contains 6,500 Antique bobbleheads, and over 500 dolls are available for purchase.

Now Customized Bobbleheads also became possible to produce. Several companies began to offer this service. Various latest bobblehead dolls that show a close resemblance to their real-life counterparts, including hair colors, style, hand bands, matching tattoos, and even scars become popular among people.