Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Bobbleheads? There’s a museum for that

Last September, as the Red Sox wound down a dreadful season, I decided on the spur of the moment to take in a game. As I entered Fenway, I was delighted – in the way you tend to get delighted when someone hands you some useless but fun piece of crap – to find myself handed a Pedro Martinez bobblehead doll.

Since I am in de-acquisition mode these days, I de-acquisitioned this one as a key component of a fun-packed Yankee Swap surprise box on Christmas Eve. I did not care in the least whether whoever ended up with the box of no goodies tossed it out. For all I know, it spent Christmas Day shivering in the trash can on the corner of Beacon and Charles.

As we used to say in Worcester, ‘good riddance to bad rubbish.’

Nothing personal about bobbleheads, mind you. Just not my personal collectible of choice. That would be salt and pepper shakers, which I kind of inherited from my mother. For a few years there, friends and family members added to the anchor pieces from Chez Rogers: the circus horses, the Christmas candles, the smiling pigs, the Dutch boy and girl. Occasionally, I bought some on my own. (Those darling little brown teapots I found in an antique shop.) Some of the pairs were broken up when one half of the duo got smashed to smithereens. Some I decided to toss. (Enough is enough.) And, other than a few sets that I really like, and, of course, the ones that I inherited, they’re all on the potential toss list.

In another month or so, my kitchen reno project will begin. Will there be a place for my generally fun but tacky collection of salt and pepper shakers in my swanky, modern new kitchen?

Perhaps I can find a museum that would like to take them off my hands.

Now if I had a bunch of bobbleheads, rather than a bunch of salt and paper shakers, I could give Phil Sklar and Brad Novak a holler and see if they were interested in them for their National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum in Milwaukee.

Sklar and Novak, both 31 years old, mutually decided to chuck their careers and create the soon-to-open National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum in downtown Milwaukee. If all goes as planned, in January they’ll debut a preview exhibit of their Bobblehead HOF, just a couple of blocks north of the Bradley Center, home of the NBA’s Bucks, then move later in 2016 to bigger downtown digs.

Admission price has not been determined, but Sklar suggested it will be a modest $5 to $10, with visitors treated to the full treasure trove of some 4,000 bobbleheads, most of them sports related.
(Source: Boston Globe.)

Sklar and Novak are business guys. Novak worked at U.S. Cellular; Sklar is a CPA with an MBA from Northwestern.

They recognize that the museum alone may not enable them to live the full bubblehead dream. They’ve set up a custom bobblehead business, producing small lots, as low as 1,000 units. 3D printing should let them get that lot size down to 1. Then, in our narcissistic, selfie-crazed world, they’ll really be onto something. There is, however, some competition out there, outfits that will sculpt a personalized bobblehead from your photo.

Bobbleheads have been around since the early 1960’s. They use to all pretty much look alike. If you look beyond the skintone, hair and eye color, and uniform, darned if they aren’t clones. (This cloning isn’t unique to the wonderful world of bobbleheads. Until it was recently purged, I had a punching nun puppet around here. Lift up the wimple and, low and behold, the punching nun was Margaret Thatcher. Rigid, austere, humorless. Sounds about right for many of the nuns of my youth.)

While Sklar and Novak may be hedging a bit with the custom bobblehead business, they’re still all in on bobbleheads. They know there’s a risk, but they’re young and they’re taking it:

“When I was 12,’’ [Sklar] recalled, “I was selling Beanie Babies on eBay. That was when you could buy them for $5 or $6 and sell them for hundreds or even thousands at the height of the craze. Now I’ll be at Goodwill, and those same Beanie Babies are 50 cents.’’

It’s a lesson that Sklar and Novak keep in mind. The bobblehead industry was born a half-century ago, died off, came back, and remains on a very strong run. Their belief, said Sklar, is that bobbleheads follow a Barbie-like path of perpetual sales and not the Beanie Baby’s crash-and-burn trajectory.

“We look and wonder, ‘Is it sustainable?’ ” said Sklar. “We hope so. We’ve put a lot of eggs in one basket.’’

There is, of course, an upside here.

Heritage Auction House recent sold a 14-inch NY Yankees bobblehead for $59,750. This was not a bobblehead that was given out at The Stadium. It was one of two made for a special display. Still, nearly $60K for a bobblehead.

Anything, apparently, is possible in our crazy world.

I shake my personal, attached to my body, bobblehead in disbelief.

1 comment:

trixie said...

Hmm - do you think they'd take a donation of the Pope (Benedict) bobble-head? Leftover from Yankee Swap from a couple of years ago. Wonder if it's worth anything?