We’re not talking about Brian and Leon – – – we’re talking about small ﬁgures that wiggle their heads. (I guess maybe we are talking about Brian and Leon). They’re called bobbing heads, wobblers, or bobbleheads.
Sports bobbleheads ﬁrst appeared on the baseball scene in the 1950’s. They were paper mache ﬁgures, about four or ﬁve inches tall, that had stationary bodies and a spring that fastened the head. Any slight movement would cause the head to move back and forth, up or down, or just “bobble.”
Among the ﬁrst were a series produced in 1960. They included Roberto Clemente, Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, and Willie Mays. The unusual thing was that they all had the same face. Only the uniform colors and numbers were different.
The most famous of the bobbleheads weren’t baseball players at all. They were the Beatles. The famous set of four (with different heads) can command hundreds and even thousands of dollars. The phenomenon ended as quickly as most players and by the mid 70’s it was gone.
It wasn’t until 1999 that the bobbleheads reappeared. At a San Francisco Giants game honoring Willie Mays, 35,000 units were given away. These were plastic and they did have the correct head. Ever since they’ve become the giveaway of choice. The interesting tidbit, which is what we are all about, is the fact that the bobblehead is not really a baseball or sports invention. In fact, it isn’t even a 20th century one.
Bobbleheads were originally called nodders, nodding ﬁgures, or even pagods. Most were Asian and had porcelain or pottery ﬁgures with wires that attached the hands and heads. Any movement, even air, would cause the ﬁgure to move-creating a lifelike appearance.
The differences between the old nodders and the newer bobbleheads are easy to spot. Here are some guidelines:
- The old ones were usually not made of plastic.
- The old ones had wires rather than a spring.
- The old ones didn’t look like Willie Mays or Paul McCartney.
Now how’s that for bobblehead advice? (Just nod your head up and down.)