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Bobbleheads: A Beginner's Guide

While my knowledge may be a touch limited when it comes to things like egg chairs and depression glass, if there’s one thing I know about, it’s bobbleheads! My goal for this article is to help you know what to look for the next time you’re lucky enough to find some of these at your next estate sale.

The first bobbleheads were religious figures called temple nodders. They were produced in Asia in the early part of the 17th century. The bobbleheads that made their way to the United States were produced in Germany. These bobbleheads gained a lot of popularity in the 1950s.

The first sports-related bobbles came about in the 1960s in the likeness of baseball greats like Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle. They were initially made out of painted papier-mache instead of the more modern porcelain, resin, and plastic. The baseball craze really started in 1999 when Candlestick Park was celebrating its 40th anniversary. Most sports bobbleheads are distributed as SGA (stadium giveaway) and are made to commemorate a special event or celebrate a particular player. My personal favorite is my Ozzie Smith from the Game of Thrones Night at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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I got my first bobblehead about 7 years ago at a St. Louis Cardinals baseball game, and I was absolutely hooked. I began keeping up with the giveaway schedule, joining bobblehead groups on social media, and buying from local collectors. If there was a bobblehead out there, I made it my life's mission to find it. I quickly realized that collecting every bobblehead that was ever made wasn't feasible. The cost is too high, and who was that much room?

I decided to focus my efforts on collecting the bobbleheads from my favorite sports teams instead and searching for the most valuable and sought after ones. One thing rings true when collecting anything: less means more. Obviously, if there were only a few made, it’s going to drive up the value. Bobbleheads are no exception to this. There are several bobbleheads out there that are fetching a pretty penny on the market, but I'm just going to highlight a few that you should be on the hunt for.

The Beatles 1964

A set of Fab Four bobbleheads were originally released in three different sizes by Car Mascots Inc in 1964 and are one of the most sought after bobbleheads out there. To give you an idea of their value, an original 16 inch John Lennon from this collection sold for nearly $3000 a few years ago.

Gold and Green Base Vintage Baseball 1966-1971

Baseball bobbleheads started the collecting craze, so it’s not surprising that so many of them are worth a lot of money. By this time, manufacturers were beginning to use ceramic instead of papier-mache. The gold base bobbleheads came in 27 different variations and featured not only teams but mascots as well. Finding a complete set can bring in some big bucks in the resell market.

The Green Bag Supreme Court Justices

This is an interesting one. The Green Bag is a quarterly law publication that occasionally releases extremely limited edition bobbleheads. Basically, they send out certificates that give you a chance to get one of these bobbleheads. Each one is limited to between 500-2000 pieces, which makes them highly sought after. If you happen to see one of these at the next estate sale you attend, pick it up and quietly walk straight to the checkout counter. You’ve struck gold!

If you’re a bobblehead fanatic like me, I highly recommend visiting the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Phil and his crew have nearly 7,000 bobbleheads on display, as well as several exhibits. You can also get your own custom bobblehead made!

Check out a 360° tour here:

This is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to the history and collectibility of these adorable little figures. Bobbleheads are a lot of fun to collect, whether you’re a sports fan, movie buff, audiophile, or just like collecting in general. Using the EstateSales.NET Treasure Tracker is a great way to find out which sales on our site will have some of these collectibles.

Love all things estate sales? Us, too! Head over to our blog to learn about all things vintage, DIY, and more!

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