Collectors Dream Of Creating National Bobblehead Museum


By Joel Waldinger | October 15, 2015

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Phil Sklar and Brad Novak have known each other since middle school.  They are both sports fanatics and now they will also be business partners.  The two UW-Milwaukee grads are set to open the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum in Milwaukee in the summer of 2016.

The first bobblehead in the collection is the Rockford River Hawks mascot.  It’s a doll Brad first collected when he worked in the marketing department for the minor league baseball team.  That “one” spring loaded doll sent heads bobbing and tails wagging for more.  Sklar said, “We were sports fans anyways so you’d go to the game, you’d get a bobblehead too so it’s a win, win. And the collection just really grew from 1 to 10 to 100.”  In Milwaukee the Brewers, the Admirals, and the Bucks were all giving away bobbleheads and you were certain to find Sklar and Novak in line.  They traveled the state seeking out bobbleheads with a Wisconsin flair. The collection includes Maynard from the Madison Mallards, where he’s a Jedi on one side and Darth Vader on the other side.

The duo have been to 25 of the 30 major league baseball stadiums and the collection quickly outgrew their condo. Sklar said, we have sort of a man cave loft area and that’s really where the bobbleheads started. Then the bobbleheads took over every square inch of counter space in the kitchen. That’s when the two started to brainstorm about what they could do with this collection.

Both gave up their day jobs in a leap of faith.  Sklar says, it was a measured leap of faith with a well thought out business plan. For six months they have worked in the corner of an empty store at The Shops of Grand Avenue Mall in downtown Milwaukee bouncing around ideas for a website and museum. Once they announced the hall of fame and museum they were inundated with bobbleheads.  Sklar said, “we’re getting calls from people across the country who wanna donate bobbleheads. Just a couple of weeks ago we got a hundred some odd bobbleheads from somebody on the east coast.”

In their quest to create the world’s largest collection of those nodding noggins, they outgrew their condo, office and a storage locker.  When the hall of fame and museum opens in 20-16 they expect to have 10,000 bouncing bobbleheads on display.

Those bobbleheads they collected during their own adventures around the Badger state will have their own showcase. You can expect to see a bobblehead of Madison’s own Chris Farley. It’s a bobblehead of him in his Saturday Night Live Matt Foley pose.  Sklar shared a funny story about how he acquired the Chris Farley doll.  He said, the person they bought it from on eBay didn’t have a clue that it was for the hall of fame and museum but she included a note and it said, P.S. I hope you’re not living in a van down by the river.

The museum will also have a history of bobbleheads section. Each bobblehead has a unique history, some dating back more than 100 years.  Sklar says, “There’s not many left from the original bobbleheads.” There were some bobbleheads made in early nineteen hundreds of animals. A lot were made in Germany and in Japan in the fifties and sixties. At that time in the United States there was just the standard bobbleboys. They all had the same face and the same body just with a different team name.  The ratio was astoundingly white.  A lot more white players versus black players.  As a result, Sklar says the black bobbleheads are extremely rare and can sell for several thousand dollars.

In the business of bobbleheads these two long-time friends and sports fans saw potential beyond the tourist attraction. Even their business cards are caricatures of bobblehead Brad and bobblehead Phil.  Sklar says, If somebody wants to have one bobblehead made of themselves we can do that or if a team wants to have thirty thousand bobbleheads made we can accommodate that as well.  They have sports teams from coast-to-coast interested in having them make bobbleheads.  First, they make a computer generated rendering. From there they ship it off to China where a mold is made and once approved mass production begins. Sklar and Novak have been working on a bobblehead for The Brew City Bruisers in the Milwaukee Roller Derby League.  It would be the first Roller Derby Bobblehead giveaway.

Sklar and Novak even invented a National Bobblehead Day. Sklar said, “We always hear there is a national bacon day, a national this day, a national that day. We looked and there was no National Bobblehead Day. There’s a place that handles all the national days so we just submitted and application and got the National Bobblehead Day on January 7th.

So in a town already known for beer, bucks and baseball… Phil and Brad are banking on bobbleheads. As Sklar would say, “There’s a lot of great museums here in Milwaukee.

You know come see the art museum, the beautiful Calatrava and you can see the world’s largest collection of bobbleheads at the same time.  That’s just a sign of good things to come.”

Middleton Company Has Fun With Bobbleheads

Fred Foster, CEO of Electronic Theater Controls in Middleton, explains how his company became obsessed with bobbleheads.

Joel Waldinger

Joel Waldinger is a reporter for the “Wisconsin Life” project and considers a sunset over the “big island” on Manson Lake to be a perfect ending to a day of fishing and fun in the Northwoods. 
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National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum

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