PERSONALIZED BOBBLEHEAD BUYING GUIDE
Even though the bobble head industry as such is relatively small compared to say.regular toys, there is still a large difference in quality and types that you can get when looking for a modern (as in, not vintage) bobblehead. Here's some tip on what to look out for when you're shopping for a modern custom made bobble head.
Bobblehead Buying Tip 1: The body must be molded, not just carved
The first time you hear this you wonder what on earth it means, yet it's the most important rule of bobblehead shopping.
Here's what this is. A custom made bobblehead is made of a head and a body. The head is carved in poly clay then painted and finished with a process we will describe later.
The bobblehead's BODY on the other hand is much more complex. Those of poor quality, give the body of the figurine the same process as the head, it is just molded in poly clay, and then painted.
This causes 2 issues with the bobblehead :
First, the body suffers from a lack of detail in the more delicate features like fingers, clothing creases, buckles, etc. The material is simply not right, so these tend to be too chunky, kind of like the characters in Popeye cartoons.
If you like this style of bobblehead, it's still not a good way to go, because of the second issue, which is durability. While poly clay is fantastic for the head due to its silky finish, it proves way too soft for the rest of the figurine, resulting in bobbleheads that last too little, they often don't even survive the shipping and handling to your delivery address.
The best process so far is one where the body is molded like the head and then used to create a mass production quality mold. The mold is filled with resin 2 to 3 times until the molded body that comes out is flawless.
Needless to say, there's only a couple of bobble head manufacturers that go through all this trouble. And of course not everyone is willing to pay for this quality.
"I just received the two bobble heads and they look great. Thank you! I will definately let people know how good 3d mini me are, and definately use you again!" Melissa Russel, Australia
Bobblehead Buying Tip 2: Is Your Bobblehead Baked?
A second, but nearly as important production step, is whether the bobblehead is baked for finishing.
The fact is, even if the right combination of materials and molding is used, unless the bobblehead is baked for finishing, the colors will not settle in correctly and the parts made of poly clay will be likely to break off easily.
Once again this is a step that's simply too much hassle for the majority of producers to follow due to time and cost, so proceed at your own discretion.
Bobblehead Buying Tip 3: Who are you buying from?
Have a good look at the bobblehead seller's website and ask yourself if it looks like a company that does professional business or like a 'talented' guy working from his garage after work.
The bobbleheads from the garage guy are likely not to comply with tips 1 and 2, which can only be done by a real handicrafts factory.
Secondly, take a good look at the bobblehead examples that they post on their site. Bobblehead sellers are clever, and like to place photos of their best samples online. Yet, for some reason some sites still manage to show very poor quality bobble heads and the site and photos themselves are amateur.
If even their best samples are poor, you're almost guaranteed to receive something that is not worth your money, and since bobbleheads only have commercial value to the person they look like, a refund from such sites is highly unlikely.
Check response times when asking a question. Bobblehead sellers that take too long to respond when you haven't purchased are likely to only become slower once your money is in their pockets.
"Thank you. I just have to say....working with your company has been a real pleasure. You have excellent customer service. Thanks so much", Jennifer McShane, Austin, Texas
"I just received my cake topper I had ordered through xxx and I am very very far from impressed. They look nothing like my partner and I, our hair colour is wrong, my dress is wrong and we are absolutely shattered to the point of crying." Kimberly Hansen, Australia
Bobblehead Buying Tip 4: Try to Approve Before Shipping
When making a bobble head after someone's face it is simply impossible to guarantee resemblance and any seller who does is not being honest. The reasons are simple and quite logical:
First, the artist does not know and has never seen the client in person. All he or she has is photo(s) of the person and has to take it from there. It's no surprise that the bobblehead 'misses' resemblance to someone who knows the person, since it is made to look like the photo.
Second, the artist's job is far more complex than making a drawing of the person's face. Instead the bobble head needs to be sculpted. Just how much more difficult that is, is anyone's guess.
Third, the bobble head artist is dealing with a miniature model. Once again the level of difficulty goes up, since it would be far easier to give shape and nuance to something large.
Fourth, the bobble head is not meant to be a life-like representation of the person, but rather a cartoon character of the person, so some nuance will be lost and some features will become greater.
Finally there's the human element. The artists who make bobbleheads do so by hand, there will always be a margin for error. Also the person giving or receiving the bobblehead will have different opinions about the resemblance.
So where does this leave you when ordering? Well, to make a bobblehead is quite similar to having your cartoon made by someone at a park, you pay for the work and hopefully like the outcome.
However there's a way to take the risk out of your bobblehead purchase. Several suppliers offer what is called photo check. For a small fee, the maker sends you photos of the finished bobblehead and allows you to make amendments if you're not completely satisfied.
So if you're worried about the outcome or like to be totally in control, its advisable to find a bobblehead maker that gives you the photo check option.
Bobblehead Buying Tip 5: Send the Right Photos
They say the eyes are the mirror of the soul. The same applies for bobbleheads, and you may want to have a check at these before buying.
You can check the bobblehead's eyes on the website and don't be afraid to ask the vendor how they're made. The professionals will ensure the eyeballs are hard plastic pre-made eyeballs with a realistic looking iris in blue, green, amber, etc which give the bobblehead a lot of personality and depth in their look.
Others will simply make a little bump of poly clay and paint it carefully, which makes the bobblehead look more like an object with a dead stare.
Bobblehead Buying Tip 6: There is No Bargain Bobble Head
When you're shopping around, take a good look at seller prices. A good quality, fully customized bobblehead cannot be found for less than 100 US Dollars, around 85 Euro or 70 British Pounds. The production process alone will not allow for less than that. Therefore, any fully customized bobblehead under 100 USD is almost certainly a bad buy.
Ask yourself if you'd rather pay a 20 extra for something well made, or loose 100 looking for a bargain.
Bobblehead Buying Tip 7: Send the Right Photos
In the previous tips we saw some simple reasons of why bobblehead resemblance is tough to guarantee, the first of which is the fact that the artists must make a bobble head based only on photos they receive from the client.
We have also seen that personalized bobbleheads are not by any means cheap. They are a personal collectible item and as such refund is unlikely in many cases.
However there is one major contribution that the person getting a bobblehead can make in the process and that is photo quality, with the face photos being the most important aspect here. The customer should take the time to provide very high quality photos, with good light, good focus and showing the face from different angles.
Body photos should show the artist what the bobblehead's body must be like including all details. You should avoid describing the bobblehead with text and do it with images and photos as much as possible, and leave no room for interpretation.
Remember, bobbleheads offer the ultimate design freedom, but with this comes the chance for misinterpretation, mistakes and errors. You can avoid all this by being thorough with your photos and instructions.
Believe it or not, there is still people who make entire wedding entourages of 8 or 10 bobbleheads costing more than 1,000 USD and do it all on fuzzy, poor quality photos, which make the outcome also fuzzy. Remember the principle, garbage goes in, garbage comes out.
Bobblehead Buying Tip 6: Check for Different Styles
As with cartoonists in a park, bobblehead artists will have different styles and they're quite easy to spot. Nothing wrong with this, they're just a mater of personal artistry and taste.
When buying a bobblehead, make sure to check out a few sites, get acquainted with their style and go for one that gives you a good feeling and that has a style you like. If you see a site with bobbleheads that look like they're mostly meant for a different culture, or are made with features that you don't find pleasing, shop around.
The bobblehead industry may not be huge, but there's enough choice to go around and in the end you want to have something you can proudly show or give.