A pair of Milwaukee collectors have amassed a hoard of more than 5,000 bobbleheads ranging in likeness from former Milwaukee Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez to the cast of “Duck Dynasty,” and Friday morning, a portion of their collection will be on display for the public.
Phil Sklar and Brad Novak plan to eventually open a permanent museum near downtown Milwaukee called the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum, but while they search for a suitable location, they’ve decided to give Brew City bobblehead lovers a taste of their collection with a temporary exhibit at RedLine Milwaukee, a nonprofit art gallery and workshop at 1422 N. Fourth St.
The exhibit will run from Jan. 22 to April 30.
The two are searching for a permanent location with the help of local entrepreneur Jim Lindenberg, one-time owner of the Milwaukee Wave. Lindenberg currently owns of Master Z’s, a sports supply shop in Waukesha, and Legends of the Field, a sports memorabilia shop in Delafield.
Lindenberg, who said he has been consulting Sklar and Novak, said the three of them are looking at locations near Milwaukee’s Haymarket and Brewer’s Hill neighborhoods, the former Pabst Brewery complex and Grand Avenue mall.
“What we’re going to do is give the exhibit about a month to see how it goes and then get into more serious negotiations,” Lindenberg said.
Sklar and Novak began collecting bobbleheads more than 13 years ago when Novak got his hands on a bobblehead while working for an independent league baseball team in Rockford, Illinois called the Rockford RiverHawks.
“The collection started to grow a little bit at a time,” Sklar said. “Then we moved to Milwaukee and started going to games around here. About a year-and-a-half ago or so we sort of brainstormed what we could do with our collection, which was approaching 3,000 bobbleheads, and we came up with the hall of fame and museum to be the go-to-source for everything bobblehead-related.”
The pair imagines their planned permanent museum as a national attraction for bobblehead fans that will sustain itself through ticket sales and museum membership fees. They’re hoping it will draw attention to their custom bobblehead business, which they want to expand.
“Last year, we produced about 50,000 units for different teams and organizations around the country,” Sklar said. “Our projections are the hall of fame and museum aspect will be sort of self-sustaining. Hopefully we can make enough money off that to sustain the building as an attraction and then make some money out of the custom bobblehead business.”
They use a designer to make mock-ups of custom orders and send the designs to a factory in China for production.
Sklar and Novak have produced bobbleheads for minor league baseball teams and high school auctions. They also produced a custom bobblehead for controversial former Major League Baseball star Pete Rose, who was banned from the league in 1989 after a gambling scandal and has been denied entry into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
When asked about why he and Novak included “hall of fame” in the title of their museum, Sklar said they plan on having museum members vote each year to induct a new “class” of unique or historic bobbleheads into a special display section called the hall of fame.
“We’ve had some fun with Pete Rose’s bobblehead about whether or not he should be inducted,” Sklar said. “We’re getting the details finalized about how we’re going to do the voting, but it will be a fun, unique sort of thing.”
Lindenberg said he, Sklar and Novak are seeking investors. Last year, Sklar started a Kickstarter campaign for the project, but failed to achieve his fundraising goal of $250,000.
Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing online crowdsourcing website. If a campaign reaches its fundraising goal, the accounts of people who pledged money to it are charged. If the goal isn’t reach no accounts are charged.
“We may do the kickstarter again,” Lindenberg said. “They were a little ambitious with that goal there.”