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The quirky and remarkable world of the Bobblehead Museum and Hall of Fame

18 February 12:17pm

Nicholas Pipitone • Milwaukee

This Sparty bobblehead won't fit on your shelf.

It was a typically warm summer night in St. Louis, and Phil Sklar and Brad Novak pulled up to Busch Stadium to take in a ballgame. They love baseball, and taking in a game wasn’t out of character for them. They went to games all the time.

But while the game was important, this just happened to be Bobblehead Night. Their search for rare and elusive bobbleheads was darn near pathological. They had traveled to nearly 30 different ballparks to obtain bobbleheads over the past few years, and tonight was just another stop on a planned itinerary.

A rare 1960s football bobblehead.

They each received one bobblehead upon entering the park, and then, because collecting bobbleheads was their game, they decided to obtain a few extras. During the course of the first few innings, they started obtaining more bobbleheads, offering fans cash for their bobbling statue. They acquired so many bobbles that at some point decided one of them should leave the park, put the extra bobbles in the car, and buy another ticket to reenter the stadium.

This, my friends, is dedication.

It seems insane, a bit crazy and admittedly a little weird to be so committed to collecting bobbleheads But don’t tell Phil and Brad that. They’re not two random geeks who like quirky collectibles. They’re entrepreneurs. This is their passion. This is what they were meant to do. As Phil commuted to Menomonee Falls for his job in corporate finance and Brad was working at a cell phone company, a big idea started to percolate. What if we started a bobblehead museum and hall of fame?

Heck, their kitchen was overrun with bobbleheads. They had to find a place for them all.

There is no definitive collection of bobbleheads in the world, and in their mind, Wisconsin was the perfect place for it. And now, if you visit the museum on South 1st Street in Milwaukee, you might run into a representative from the Guinness Book of World Records who is likely visiting Milwaukee to verify that Phil and Brad’s collection is the largest collection of bobbleheads in the world. They have every reason to believe they do; I’ve seen it, and it’s immense.

It could be one of the most Instagram-worthy sites in all of Milwaukee.

Hawaiian Obama.

Phil and I walked through the collection a few weeks ago and it’s a pop culture cornucopia; athletes and politicians and rock stars and celebrities, bobbling away. It may be the only place on earth where Donald Trump and Barack Obama can live in harmony. The collection ranges from the modern to the vintage; a Giannis Antetokounmpo bobble just a few steps away from a 1960s vintage ceramic football bobblehead that’s worth upwards of $1,000 dollars. An entire section is dedicated to the first entrant into the Bobblehead Hall of Fame, Pete Rose (his headfirst slide bobblehead is a classic).

One of my personal favorites is their bobblehead of TV personality/Actor/Cult hero Ghoulardi (real name: Ernie Anderson), who hosted Shock Theater in Cleveland in the 60s and was the voice of ABC TV in the 80s. He’s also known for being the father of brilliant film director P.T. Anderson. The Ghoulardi bobblehead came as part of a larger collection that was donated by a man who was diagnosed with terminal cancer and wanted to find a good home for his collection of nearly 1500 bobbleheads. It's safe to say that his collection is safe in Phil and Brad's capable hands.

The Legendary Ghoulardi.

What’s also immense, beyond their collection, is Phil and Brad’s ambition. They know that displaying a massive collection of bobbleheads is a cool foray into strange America, and they’re proud of what they’ve created. But their focus is also squarely on creating their own bobbleheads to add to the lore of the spring loaded collectible.

They’ve created bobbleheads of Cubs announcer Pat Hughes (which includes a button that plays his classic final call of the 2016 World Series), Cubs Super Fan Ronnie Woo Woo, Milwaukee Super fan Michael Poll (who was their first bobblehead), and the characters from the film Home Alone. Their largest selling bobblehead is of Sister Jean from Loyola University Chicago, created during their Cinderella run through the 2018 NCAA basketball tournament.

Bobblehead-ness is next to Godliness, I guess.

Sister Jean.

I’ll admit it feels like the niche inside of a niche inside of a niche, but it’s ridiculously fascinating. And to hear Phil and Brad talk about bobbles, their passion is very real. These days there seems to be an authority on just about everything, why not a couple of bobblehead experts?

Phil and Brad will continue to add to the collection and make custom bobbleheads. And there’s a solid chance you might run into them at a random bobblehead night. You'll recognize them; they’re the guys carrying arms full of bobbleheads to their car.

Learn more about the Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum here.

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