Milwaukee museum features thousands of bobbleheads

MILWAUKEE — A new museum in Milwaukee may well hold the largest collection of bobbleheads anyone has ever seen, displaying more than 6,500 figures of athletes, mascots, celebrities, animals, cartoon characters, politicians and more.

The National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum recently opened and was the brainchild of friends Phil Sklar and Brad Novak, who started collecting the figures 16 years ago.

"We've put everything into this," Sklar said.

They decided on a museum and bobblehead-creating business about four years ago, after quitting their corporate finance (Sklar) and retail sales (Novak) jobs. Since then, they have been making bobbleheads to earn money, collecting bobbleheads from thrift stores and private donors, finding a location and all the other things that go with creating a museum.

They have collected more than 10,000 bobbleheads, including a life-size bobblehead; a Pat Hughes bobblehead calling the World Series title for the Cubs; bobbleheads of characters from "The Wizard of Oz" and the "Star Wars" franchise; and the first football and baseball bobbleheads from the early 1960s. They even have one of Donald Trump from "The Apprentice" that says "You're fired" upon the push of a button. Some of the figures will be on rotation or part of special exhibits — like, say, if a certain sports team is in town.

The museum also includes information about the making of bobbleheads and the people they represent. Admission is $5.

"I think that passion comes from the fun aspect and seeing the reaction people get when they see the bobbleheads," Sklar said.

Sklar and Novak are in the process of having the collection certified as the world's largest by the Guinness Book of World Records. The current record is 2,396 bobbleheads, held by Phil Darling, a 40-year-old hardware engineer from Richmond, Ontario. He's acquired an additional 500 since the certification in 2015.

Darling said that while he will be disappointed not to hold the record anymore, he does hope to one day make it to Milwaukee to see the collection and meet Sklar and Novak.

"It's on my bucket list" he said.

A smaller bobblehead museum exists at Marlins Park in Miami, but its more than 600 figurines are all baseball players, mascots and broadcasters.

Sklar said he hopes the museum will attract bobblehead fans as well as "people looking for something fun to do."

"There are so many negative things going on ... we need more places to escape and have a good time and also educate at the same time so hopefully we will be an asset to the community," said Sklar.

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