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About Cincinnati Reds Bobbleheads




Bobbleheads originated at some point in the 50ís or 60ís. They were not given out at the stadium like they are today. They were sold at toy stores or perhaps sold at the souvenir stand at the stadium. They were packaged in white boxes with generic labels on them, with a picture of a bobblehead and a caption that read something like ďMy Favorite Team.Ē As a general rule, they consisted of a generic player in the uniform of a specific team. There were also ones of team mascots like Mr. Red. Most desirable of the team bobbles are those where the generic player is black. These were made in much smaller quantities than their white counterparts and are therefore extremely rare. Collectors also differentiate by the different type of bases on the bottoms of the statues, as well as variations on the captions on the bases.


Below is an example of a Reds generic player with a red base. A couple of flaws are visible, notable tiny chips on the bill of the hat and base. Also, the white parts arenít quite as bright as at the time of issue. The box it came in is long-gone. But overall, itís in good shape, all things considered. Itís original, and it isnít unheard of for these to get restored. Like many cheap objects of the era, it was made in Japan.


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Below is another example of an old Reds bobble, the team mascot, Mr. Red. As you probably know, the old-style Mr. Red has been resurrected by the team as the Mr. Redleg mascot. He even got an SGA bobblehead in 2014, and heís being used as a motif in the All-Star Game decorations in 2015. As long as the team is using him so much, any item featuring him from the old days is going to be a pretty big conversation piece, and will therefore be a lot more in-demand than a generic boy in a uniform.


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This Mr. Red one, although it looks good in the first picture, is in worse shape than the boy one. He has a chip out of his nose, and there is some amateur restoration. Specifically, the paint has been touched up. Again, the paint work looks OK in the above picture, but in person, you can see that itís a little sloppier than what a toy company would have put out. You can see the original paint in the stripes of the hat, and itís faded compared to the sleeves of the shirt. This piece was well-loved, but at some point the red got a little too pink for the ownerís taste. Still, Iíve seen worse. Iíve seen them where the Reds sticker on the front gets yellow. I can only guess that the yellowing happens due to smoking in the house. This one set me back $125 in early 2015. Expect to pay dearly for one of these in any condition where itís still in one piece.




Above is the bottom of the Mr. Red bobble. As you can see at the bottom of the label, it was made in Japan, where a lot of toys and cheap consumer goods of the fifties and sixties were made. In the seventies and eighties, Taiwan was where such things were made. Now itís China. So with a product like this, thereís no need to mourn the lost American jobs because they arenít made here anymore. The mass-market sports bobblehead never was.


A handful of bobbles were made of some of the biggest stars of the 60ís, such as Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays. As you might guess, they are extremely valuable.


Through the 70ís, 80ís and 90ís, bobbles continued to be made for sale as team representatives or of individuals. For the most part, they had little collector interest, since there was no definite time where the manufacturer felt compelled to stop making them. As a general rule, ceramic was the primary medium for the statues, but there were also some cheap plastic ones.


Bobbleheads moved into the collector limelight when in 1999, the San Francisco Giants decided to give away a Willie Mays bobblehead on Motherís Day. The first 10,000 fans got them, and they were quite popular. The emergence of Ebay meant that a market for any collectible could be made worldwide, and that anyone could figure out about how much people were paying for it. The Mays bobble was popular in part because there were a finite number of them.


Below is the Mays one. Heís right between the old ones and the ones that are issued today. His body has the chunky build of the Reds one above, in other words, nothing like the real Mays. But the head, while far from being in proportion to the body, is somewhat smaller than the ridiculously big melon on the Reds one above. The sponsor logo is on the back of the body itself. Most sponsors probably wouldnít accept being relegated to the back of the doll today.


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Other teams got wind of the Giantsí idea. Most significantly, the Minnesota Twins scheduled four dates where a bobble of a different Twins hero would be given away in a quantity of 5,000 each. For the first time, the items could be considered part of a complete set, adding to their collectible appeal. With the skyrocketing cost of new baseball cards driving many collectors away, a new collectible was born in the form of the Stadium Giveaway bobblehead. Unfortunately, the Twins allotted far too few bobbles for each player, and the things were gone before most anyone got to the ballpark. Near-riots ensued, and the bobbles achieved triple-digit prices on Ebay, prompting an even madder rush for the next one. The level of bad feeling was similar to when tickets to a hot concert seem unavailable, and derision is heaped upon ďscalpers.Ē


With the dawn of the 2001 season, the Reds caught onto the SGA bobble craze, and began planning giveaways of their own.


The Mays doll cost me around $80 on Ebay in early 2013. Itís kind of surprising that with the SGA ones being fairly widely collected, that the ďAdamĒ of the group doesnít command a higher price. After all, the issuance of more and more of them might dilute the price of some of the older ones, but thereís only one that can claim to be first. And compared to what they give out today, the run was pretty small. Perhaps the run was a little bigger than stated, and perhaps collectors donít like dated look of the very early ones.




The biggest problem with bobbleheads is the fact that they are fragile. When buying them through the mail, many will be poorly packed and arrive broken. Sometimes, they might be well-packed and still arrive broken. Do not assume the seller is bad just because you get a broken one in the mail. Do, however, ask for a refund or replacement in this situation. If that isnít worth the trouble, you can glue parts back on with ordinary glue and they will look OK, but their value will be diminished somewhat. If you get them by going to the stadium, be alert when you go through the gate. Some of them get abused in transit. Look for a mashed box and give the box a little shake. Excessive rattling could indicate a broken bobble. If you suspect you have a broken one, ask for a new one. If a surly attendant tries to brush you off, insist on getting a new one. You deserve it. You bought the ticket. The team will sometimes exchange broken ones for new ones after the fact, but this is no sure thing.


If you plan on getting more than one, they will force you to get them one at a time, then leave via a designated exit. This is a pain, but the rules are the rules.


Many people will keep the ticket stub from the game with the bobble. At the very least, you should keep the box and all the packing materials. The boxes are decorated and are considered part of the product. The packing materials will help if you ever need to move or pack up the bobbles for safekeeping.


Beware of ďretailĒ versions of SGAís. Especially, with the early, rarer SGAís, a similar bobble might have been produced for sale at the teamís gift shop or website. There are usually differences between the two versions. Typically, an SGA will have a sponsor logo on it somewhere. For the Reds, thatís usually Pepsi or Great American Insurance. The retail versions arenít made in limited quantities and are therefore less desirable.


Remember that they are not toys. If you want your son to have a collection of bobbleheads, it is probably best to put them up until he is in his mid-teens. If the bobbles are played with, they will eventually break. You will also have shards of ceramic that could cause bigger problems than a destroyed collectible. Thereís the reason porcelain dolls go up on shelves and little girls get plastic Barbie dolls to play with.


Where do they come from?


A quick look at the typical SGA will show that a lot of work goes into these things. They are hand-painted and more than likely are packed by hand as well. Why would a team give something like that away for a ticket that might be as cheap as $5? First of all, the team doesnít pay for them. There is a sponsor for each one, who will give these away in exchange for getting their logo on it.


Also, making all of these things by hand isnít quite as expensive as you might think. They are an example of a product that takes advantage of the global economy. The dolls are designed in the USA, a few patterns are made and shipped to China, and the bobbles are painted over there based on the patterns and instructions. The items are then packed over there, boxed up, put on pallets and shipped to the ballpark.

There are a few drawbacks to making them this way. First of all, you need to know what you need months in advance, and plans are hard to change. Felipe Lopez was traded shortly after his bobble was passed out. Sooner or later, a guy will be traded before his bobblehead game. Who knows what will happen then? Also, Chinese manufacturing is not quite up to the standards of Western countries. Sometimes, the paint colors are off a bit or the details just arenít very good. Finally, when you farm out your manufacturing, you have the chance that the factory will run a few extra for its own benefit. If one firm controls the firing of ceramics, the painting and the printing of the boxes, they can make all the extras they want. But bobble lovers should not complain. Were it not for cheap, third-world labor, the bobblehead hobby as we know it would not exist.





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