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Bobblehead dolls in Barstow, California.

A bobblehead doll, also known as a bobbing head doll, nodder, or wobbler, is a type of collectible doll. Its head is often oversized compared to its body. Instead of a solid connection, its head is connected to the body by a spring in such a way that a light tap will cause the head to bobble, hence the name.

Although bobblehead dolls have been made with a wide variety of figures such as vampiric cereal pitchman Count Chocula, beat generation author Jack Kerouac, and Nobel-prize-winning geneticist James D. Watson, the figure is most associated with athletes, especially baseball players. Bobblehead dolls are sometimes given out to ticket buyers at sporting events as a promotion. Corporations including Taco Bell (the 'Yo Quiero Taco Bell' Chihuahua) , McDonald's (Ronald McDonald), and Empire Today (The Empire Man) have also produced popular bobbleheads of the characters used in their advertisements.



A Curtis Martin bobblehead doll.

The earliest known reference to a bobblehead is thought to be in Nikolai Gogol's 1842 short story The Overcoat, in which the main character's neck was described as "like the necks of plaster cats which wag their heads". The modern bobblehead first appeared in the 1950s. By 1960, Major League Baseball had gotten in on the action and produced a series of papier-mache bobblehead dolls, one for each team, all with the same cherubic face. The World Series held that year brought the first player-specific baseball bobbleheads, for Roberto Clemente, Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, and Willie Mays, still all with the same face. Over the next decade, after a switch in materials from paper-mache to ceramic, bobbleheads would be produced for other sports, as well as cartoon characters. One of the most famous bobbleheads of all time also hails from this era: The Beatles bobblehead set, which is a valuable collectible today. By the mid-1970s, though, the bobblehead craze was in the process of winding down.

It would take nearly two decades before bobbleheads returned to prominence. Although older bobbleheads like the baseball teams and The Beatles were sought after by collectors during this period, new bobblehead dolls were few and far between. What finally prompted their resurgence was cheaper manufacturing processes, and the main bobblehead material switched once again, this time from ceramic to plastic. It was now possible to make bobbleheads in the very limited numbers necessary for them to be viable collectibles. The first baseball team to offer a bobblehead giveaway was the San Francisco Giants, which distributed 35,000 Willie Mays head nodders at a 1999 game. The variety of bobbleheads on the market rose exponentially to include even relatively obscure popular culture figures and notable people. The new millennium would bring a new type of bobblehead toy, the mini-bobblehead, standing just two or three inches tall and used for cereal prizes and such.

Bobblehead dolls in culture

Thanjavur Bobblehead Dolls - Animated Version
Thanjavur Rocking Doll - Animated Version
  • Thanjavur Dolls of India: These bobblehead dolls are of a class known as "Thanjavur Thalayatti Bommai" in the Tamil language, meaning "Tanjore Head-Shaking Doll".
    They are a native art form in the Thanjavur region of Tamilnadu state in South India.
    These dolls are usually 6" to 12" tall (15 to 30 cm). They are made of clay or wood and painted over in bright colors. They are often dressed up in fancy clothes. They form a part of an elaborate display of dolls known as "Golu (kolu)", exhibited in Indian houses during the "Dasara (Navaratri)" festival in Sep-Oct. Another type of Thanjavur Doll is the Tanjore Roundpot Rocking Doll (in Tamil, "Thanjavur Gundusatti Bommai").
  • The popular video game Fallout 3 used bobblehead dolls for its egg-hunt element, the game Borderlands (possibly in tribute) uses them as cash items.
  • In 2006, Boston College commissioned to create a custom bobblehead of their Boston College Superfan
  • Sports teams often give away bobblehead dolls at their games - the Los Angeles Kings have chosen Dec. 5, 2009 as their first ever bobblehead giveaway night, honoring Luc Robitaille on his induction to the Hockey Hall of Fame[1].
  • In the popular NBC television show The Office, the character Dwight K. Schrute has several frequently mentioned bobblehead dolls of himself on his desk. On the NBC The Office website, customers can purchase bobblehead doll versions of all of the main and supporting characters.
  • In 2001, the German automobile company Audi aired commercials in Europe featuring an Elvis impersonator and a prototypical Wackel-Elvis ("Wobble Elvis" or "Wobbly Elvis") dashboard figure with a wobbling left arm and hip. Due to high demand of viewers after the spots aired, 165,000 Wackel-Elvis dashboard figures were produced. The figure depicts Elvis wearing the jumpsuit he wore in the 1973 Aloha from Hawaii TV broadcast.[2][3][4]


Hunter, Tim - Bobbing Head Dolls: 1960-2000 (Krause Publications, 2000) ISBN 9780873418027

See also


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