Who doesn’t love a bobble head? Even if it’s not your thing to buy one for your desk, you see one on someone else's desk and you smile. They’re just…fun.

These dolls have actually been around for over 150 years. In his short story, “The Overcoat,” Nikolai Gogol describes a character having a neck "like the neck of plaster cats which wag their heads.” It was Germany that began to produce toys known as “nodders” or “bobbers.” These were fairly large ceramic figures of animals about 6-8 inches in size.

The bobble head in North America didn’t make its debut until the 1920s when the New York Knicks produced a bobble head basketball player. But this generated only modest public interest and through the 1950s very limited numbers of bobble heads were produced. In 1960 Major League Baseball made papier-mâché bobble heads for each of its teams, distinguishable only by the difference in uniform. Even the player-specific dolls of Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, and Roberto Clemente shared the same face. Because of their flimsy construction these dolls were easily damaged and fell out of circulation. The few that have survived are severely damaged.

By 1970, however, bobble head makers took a page from German manufacturers and began using ceramic materials. The Beatles were the most well known and popular of these newer, more detailed toys. But, again, by the mid to late 1970’s the bobble head fell out of popularity and very few were produced. The Beatles are still perhaps the most rare of this time period and are prized among collectors to this day.

It wasn’t until somewhere in the 1990s, when plastic made bobble heads easier and less expensive to make, that they began to regenerate public interest. In 1999 the San Francisco baseball team handed out thousands of Willie Mays dolls, much to the delight of its fans.

Shortly after the turn of the century, bobble heads began to expand way beyond the sports arena. You can find just about any political, celebrity, television, historical, or animal figure in the form of a bobble head. There are mini-bobble heads, air-freshener bobble heads, and bank bobble heads. There is now a huge market for custom bobble heads. You can have a bobble head made of yourself, like Dwight on “The Office.”

You might not like bobble heads but they are everywhere these days. If they have no real use other than making you smile, isn’t that good enough?