Hold onto your head, Dwight K. Schrute. There’s a new bobblehead boss in town, and his name is Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Since the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases started appearing on TV screens in March 2020 he’s become a symbol of comfort, truth, knowledge, and hope during the coronavirus pandemic.
It’s no secret that Fauci — with his accomplished career, calming demeanor, commitment to helping others, and remarkable levels of competence — has developed somewhat of a cult-like fanbase, but love for the infectious disease expert goes well beyond their television screens.
There are Dr. Fauci fan accounts on Twitter and Instagram; prayer candles and cookies with his image on them; and a countless number of Fauci-inspired masks, shirts, mugs, for sale online. The coronavirus expert has also earned one of the highest merch honors a person can receive. He’s been turned into a bobblehead by the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and his miniature likenesses are record-breaking bestsellers.
From TV screens to collector displays
The first Fauci bobblehead, which was released on April 1, 2020, captured the suit-clad expert making his famous “flatten the curve pose” from press conferences.
“[Back in March,] like everybody else, we were paying extremely close attention to the news, trying to figure out what was going on, how this was impacting our personal lives and our business,” Phil Sklar, co-founder and CEO of the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum, told Mashable. With opening days getting postponed, Sklar and fellow co-founder Brad Novak decided to stray from their planned lineup of new sports-related bobbleheads and honor “the key face of the coronavirus pandemic” in a way that would also help essential workers.
“When we read up about Fauci’s background and how he had gotten so involved in other infectious diseases and the fight against AIDS, and he was already really well respected and honored, we decided to move forward with it,” Sklar explained.
The National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum listed the bobblehead in the online store for $25 and announced that $5 from every sale would be donated to the American Hospital Association’s Protect the Heroes Campaign to support the 100 Million Mask Challenge.
“It went crazy from the from the minute we put it on the site,” Sklar said. So they made more — a lot more.
The Fauci frenzy
The first Fauci bobblehead, which featured a blue tie, had a limited production of 42,020 figurines, Sklar explained.
“At the time we decided numbering I think we had sold about 30,000. So we thought, ‘Hey this is going to die off, and nobody’s going to be talking about Dr. Fauci, and there’s no way we’re going to sell 10,000 more,” he continued. “Unfortunately for everybody the coronavirus continues to rage on and Fauci continues to be in the news, so the momentum continued. Within a month after that, we had sold the remaining bobbleheads and released one with a red tie.”
The team decided to switch things up a little and released 2,020 Fauci facepalm bobbleheads to commemorate the viral moment where the infectious disease expert had a visible “WTF” reaction at a Trump press conference in March. When those sold out, they released a red tie version which continues to sell today. But the demand for Fauci collectibles didn’t die down.
“Then people suggested a Fauci for President bobblehead, so we added him to the line of Presidential bobbleheads. And then somebody from the organization where we’re donating to suggested a Fauci bobblehead Christmas ornament, so we did that,” Sklar said.
As we approach the one-year mark of Fauci becoming a household name, he remains a favorite figure in the bobblehead community. Recently the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum released a seventh Fauci bobblehead that features him wearing his lab coat.
“We sent an email newsletter to people who had bought the other versions, and I believe sold 1,000 within a few hours after letting people know,” Sklar shared. “So yeah, people are still interested.”
When asked how Fauci’s popularity compared to other bestselling bobbleheads, Sklar explained that Fauci has nearly tripled his previous bestseller, a bobblehead of Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt (the viral nun from Loyola University Chicago) which was released in 2018.
“Usually selling 500 or 1,000 for a bobblehead is good. [Fauci] broke that record within about a week, and it just continued to climb,” he explained.
The future of Fauci and how his bobbleheads give back to healthcare heroes
In addition to the Fauci bobblehead series, the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum also released a line of governor bobbleheads, a Dr. Birx bobblehead, and a group of 35 different essential hero bobbleheads — all of which also benefit the American Hospital Association’s Protect the Heroes Campaign.
“Today we’ve raised over just over $300,000,” Sklar said, noting the bulk of the donated money came from Fauci bobbleheads. That money will help hospitals and healthcare centers get PPE that medical professional and staffers need to continue safely serving on the front lines of the pandemic.
As for the future of Dr. Fauci bobbleheads, since the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases will be playing a noteworthy role in the Biden administration’s fight against COVID-19 he’s sure to remain in the spotlight in 2021.
Sklar explained that his team decides which bobbleheads to make next by keeping on top of current events and listening to requests, so there’s always a chance for future Fauci models. As for now, his biggest — and possibly only — competition seems to be the new Bernie Sanders Inauguration Day bobblehead.