Moveable Figurines Span The Centuries

By Anne Gilbert

A single touch and they move, almost by magic. Call then nodders, bubble-heads or bobbin-heads, these fanciful figures have been fascinating collectors for centuries.

When they were first made by Johann Joachim Kandler for the Meissen porcelain factory around 1730 they were known as “Pagoda figurines” or “Chinese nodding figurines.” The figurines had moving heads, hands and tongues.  They came in a variety of sizes beginning 4” high and were male and female. Their moving parts were attached to wires.

They were also made in France in the 18th century as well as other German manufacturers. The French versions were bisque as well as china.

By the 19th century they were at the height of their popularity. New techniques allowed for ears and tails of animals to move as well.

The subjects changed over the centuries. During the 1930s Santa Claus and even a pair of Hitler youth versions were made. The German firm of Hertwig & J. Foulke used elastic strung bisque for their nodders.

During the Art Deco 1920s, 1930s, stylized Art Deco figures began to be made of plastic and papier-mâché.  Those that have survived are rarities selling for hundreds of dollars.

In the 1950s, 1960s plastic nodders were made. However their names were changed to “bobble heads” or “bobbin heads.” At that point they became popular as affordable collectibles created in the image of sports stars, Mickey Mouse cartoon characters, and TV characters. However, one of the most sought after bobbin heads depicted the Beatles. One version had moveable instruments with the group playing them.

Highest prices these days are for the 18th century Meissen Pagoda figures. When they make a rare auction appearance they can sell for over $7,000. Beatle “bobbin heads” set of four can sell for over $200.

CLUES: Reproductions of Meissen pagoda figures are everywhere. Those made and identifiable by 19th century porcelain factories are often reasonably priced and fun to collect. This is a good time to start a collection of plastic 1950’s, 1960’s, 1970’s bobble heads.

PHOTO CAPTION: (1) Meissen Pagoda nodder, 19th century


PHOTO CAPTION: BEATLES bobble head set.



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