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.
These classic collectibles are thought to date back at least 150 years. The earliest known reference to similar toys is from the 1842 short story The Overcoat by Nikolai Gogol, which described a character as having a neck which was 'like the neck of plaster cats which wag their heads'. Later, larger ceramic figures of animals, ranging in size from about 6 to 8 inches, were produced in Germany. These toys had spring-connected heads, and were called 'nodders' or 'bobbers' based on the way that their heads would bob on their bodies.
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.
The first mass promotion of the bobbing head doll was done for Major League Baseball's World Series and these bobble heads were imported from Japan and made of paper mache. Shortly thereafter, the switch was made to ceramic for the bobbing head to become more durable and long lasting. Throughout the 1960's, bobble head dolls became very popular. Sports teams made bobbing heads of their most popular players such as Willie Mays and even baseball team mascots like Mr. Met were enshrined in ceramic.
The first bobble head craze ended in the early 1970's. New collecting crazes began and went full steam ahead into the 1980's including lunchboxes, action figures, and video games.
The bobble head doll seemed to be deemed a 20th century relic by the turn of the century, but Major League Baseball again brought back the bobble head doll from pop culture oblivion. The San Francisco Giants presented the Willie Mays bobble head doll on May 9, 1999 to 20,000 visitors to their ballpark celebrating the 40th anniversary of Candlestick Park, which was the last year of the Giants playing at that stadium by the bay. That ushered in a whole new era of bobble head madness. Baseball teams throughout the United States began to offer the bobble head doll as a promotional item for their fans and bobble head dolls were one of the most popular and eagerly sold items in the early days of eBay along with Pez.