Who doesn’t love a good bobblehead? Many of us have a few tucked away on basement shelves and in knick-knack cases—but few will ever have a collection that comes close to that of Milwaukee’s newest museum, the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum.
Located just around the corner from the Harley-Davidson Museum, the brand-new Bobblehead Museum features almost 10,000 bobbleheads of everyone from sports heroes to Hollywood celebrities. While the museum itself has a rotating collection of bobbleheads on display, their Hall of Fame features only the “best of the best,” as decided each year by Bobblehead Museum members.
The end result is one of the most unique collections in America.
While we often associate bobbleheads with sports figures, co-founder and CEO Phil Sklar says the museum celebrates all types of bobbleheads, making it appealing to all ages and interests.
“We’ve had a lot of grandparents bring in their grandkids and they all have a great time because there is truly something for everyone,” he says. “Most people think of baseball or sports when they think of bobbleheads, but about 30 percent of the collection is non-sports—everything from political to ‘The Simpsons,’ ‘Star Wars’ and everything in between.”
The idea for the museum started simply enough. Sklar and co-founder Brad Novak, college buddies at the time, started hitting up sports events doing bobblehead giveaways, and their collection slowly grew. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the two embarked on a road trip to every Major League Baseball stadium—and their bobblehead collection grew even more. The trip also sparked an idea: What if there was a Hall of Fame just for bobbleheads?
In 2013, the two took their dream a step further by actually producing their first bobblehead. Made to honor their friend and Milwaukee Panther “Super Fan” Michael Poll, and to raise money for the Special Olympics, the bobblehead also solidified their dream of displaying and producing bobbleheads for the public.
Today, Michael Poll’s bobblehead is proudly featured in its very own display, an honor to the devoted Panthers fan, Special Olympian, and inspiration for Sklar and Novak’s very first bobblehead.
Even with their extensive personal collection, the Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum wouldn’t have 10,000 bobbleheads without the help of teams, groups, and individuals loaning or donating to the cause. While most fans may drop off a bobblehead or two, their largest donation was nearly 1,500 from Robert Manak, aka “Bobblehead Bob,” after he was diagnosed with a terminal form of cancer. The museum features a tribute to Bob and other donors for their generosity. (And, of course, they’re always looking for more donors!)
Over the course of creating the museum and several of their own bobbleheads, Sklar and Novak have rubbed elbows with numerous celebrities. “We’ve created some really cool bobbleheads including Pete Rose, Penn and Teller, Sister Jean, Dick Vitale, Matt Hamilton, Michael Phelps, LeRoy Butler, and so many others. It’s been great to meet many of them in person and get to know some of them,” says Sklar.
During their first month of operation, the Bobblehead Museum has already proven to be a big hit with not only Milwaukee locals, but people from all over.
“We’ve been thrilled with the reaction from visitors who have been ‘bobbling in’ from across the world already,” says Sklar. “We have a United States and world map where visitors can place a pin, and it is quickly starting to get more filled up. People are really surprised by the volume of bobbleheads as well as the tremendous variety.”
If you’re heading to Milwaukee and want to see the world’s most unique collection of bobbleheads—as well as learn about the real-life people who inspired them—make plans to “bobble” into the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum.