Let’s start with a small history of bobbleheads. 2010 : A total of 334 bobbleheads have been given out as promotional items at major league ballparks. The Giants, the organization that resurrected the craze, have done the most promotions since 2010: 34 in that span, 77 total since 1999. An unofficial world’s tallest bobblehead was made by 14 year-old Henry Ermer from Brooklyn, NY standing at 16 feet tall. The Marlins opened their ballpark with a Bobblehead Museum featuring 588 bobbleheads, representing every team in baseball. The display slightly vibrates so the bobbleheads are perpetually bobbing.
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.
The modern bobble head doll typically consists of two styles of body mold: A plastic body or ceramic body. The advent of the plastic mold over the past three decades allows for more unique designs and lightweight body styles. The time tested ceramic bobble head doll remains popular, but is more delicate in nature. There are generally two subsets of design of the plastic bobble heads doll. One style is a durable, sturdy plastic mold. The second is not only sturdy, but also covered in a “flocked” material, which is generally a cloth, fuzz material.
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.
Alexander Malcolm would become one of the largest bobblehead sellers and a key figure in the history of bobbleheads, producing 48-49 million of these sentimental nodding heads. But he did not know it at the time when he sat down at a business meeting with the San Franciscio Giants during the 1990s. He was just hoping to sell some sort of promotional item for them. When Malcolm asked what they were looking for, The San Francisco Giants replied, “bobbleheads”. Malcolm agreed to provide thousands of Willie Mays bobbleheads to the professional baseball organization to be passed out to their fans for free. Malcolm went to work, but did not know he could get away with using the traditional cartoonish boy bobblehead. Instead, he made a much more real version of Mays (although Mays would disagree). So, on May 9, 1999, to celebrate the anniversary of Candlestick Park, the last year the Giants would play at this stadium by the bay, 20,000 visitors each received the Willie Mays bobblehead. It was a success! The crowd loved the semi-life-like yet cartoonish novelty item. That one game made way for the bobblehead era revival. The next year, eight Major League Baseball teams had bobblehead giveaways. And Malcolm’s small business in the 1990s flourished into the global enterprise it is today.
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