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Hartland of Ohio LLC Sports Action Figures

Babe Ruth original Hartland Sports Action FigureThe First Sports Figures

Do you like McFarlane Sports Picks, Upper Deck figures, Starting Lineups or any of the thousands of figures that have been sold over the years? If so - thank Hartland. As far as I know, Hartlands were the first licensed sports figures ever produced, and they have set the standards for sports figures ever since.

That is one way to view Hartland - the other way is, the history of Hartland sports action figures is about as strange as you can get.

The first Hartland sports figures were produced in 1958 by Hartland Plastics of Hartland, Wisconsin, a company that had previously made plastic cowboy figures (Not Dallas Cowboys - the real kind, on horseback). These 8" baseball figures were sold at sports venue concession stands and featured Eddie Mathews, Hank Aaron, Warren Spahn, Mickey Mantle and Babe Ruth. Shortly thereafter Hartland Plastics created NFL figures of Johnny Unitas, Jon Arnett and generic linemen and running backs for each of the 14 teams in the NFL. In 1960 the company expanded their line with ten more MLB players, as well as a generic Bat Boy and Minor League player. The figures were issued with a tag, a circular cardboard piece that attached to the figures with a string. In 1962, Hartland a generic running back and lineman for the LSU Tigers to commemorate their 1959 NCAA Championship. In 1963 the company was bought out by Revlon Cosmetics Company and the sports figures were abruptly discontinued.

A tag from an original Hartland sports action figureIn 1976 Steven Manufacturing Co. of Hermann, Missouri purchased many of the original Hartland molds.

In 1987 William Alley, a Dallas attorney, secured the right to produce a commemorative 25th anniversary series of the original 18 MLB figures. In 1990 Hartland created six new statues; Roberto Clemente, Lou Gehrig, Dizzy Dean, Whitey Ford, Bob Feller and Ty Cobb and a 2 figurine set of a generic manager and umpire, known as The Confrontation. Then, in 1991, William Alley disappeared - that's right, he just disappeared. (I told you the company's history was strange!) The company essentially shut down production at that point.

In 1992 Bill Dunlap breathed new life yet again into the Hartland brand when he bought the company from Bill Alley's wife and created Hartland USA. They accepted advanced orders for three figures (Nolan Ryan, Cy Young and Honus Wagner) but then sold the brand BACK to Steven Manufacturing, who moved the operation to Herman Missouri. These Missouri Hartlands also featured a Safe at Second three-piece set, Whitey Ford and Roberto Clemente. They also release a commemorative Johnny Unitas. Then, a few of the Carl Yastrzemski figures were produced before . . . a flood distroyed the Steven Company's factory in 1993. Are you getting the sense that this brand name is cursed???

New Dick Allen figures from Hartland LLCFrom here . . . I don't know much about the history. In 2001 Hartland Collectibles released the third version of the original figures. In 2003 more Hartland figures were produced. In 2006 a large number of "event" figures were made as give-aways and promotional items at stadiums and trade shows.

The company is now Hartland of Ohio LLC, and it is producing regular and "signature" series figures (hand-signed figures). In addition, Hartland of Ohio LLC is producing the Official US Women's National Soccer Team Player Bobblehead collector series. They have established a collector's club an have several basketball, football and baseball figures lined up for 2008.

The hallmark of Hartland figures is a very retro, nostalgic style that goes back to their very first figures back in 1958. The original figures came with tags and the original tags are considered very valuable now. I've spent a good deal of time going over their website, and I think the new keepers of the Hartland name have done a very good job of maintaining a balance between the advances of modern technology and being competive with other brands vs. maintaining the recognizeable retro look of the Hartland brand. They now offer replacement bats, catcher's masks and tags for collectors at very reasonable prices as well. Hartland of Ohio LLC has restored the use of tags with their figures and provides certificates of authenticity as well.

I have just skimmed the surface on the history of Hartland sports collectibles. Craig Blankenship has assembled a superb time line of the brand on his website at hartlands.com - I encourage you to check that out.

Information on Hartland Collectibles:

Hartland Collectibles News:

10/22/2008 Hartland of Ohio Debuts Negro League Series of Autographed Figures
10/22/2008 Hand-signed Minnie Minoso Negro League Figure Almost Sold Out
10/22/2008 Child Baseball Figures Now Available as Part of Set or Individually From Hartland
10/22/2008 Hartland of Ohio Taking Preorders for Christy Mathewson Figure
10/22/2008 Hartland of Ohio Announces Shotgun Shuba as 2008 Club Figure
7/21/2008 Signed Milt Pappas figure Now Available From Hartland LLC
7/21/2008 Hartland Taking Preorders for Heisman Trophy Winner Figures
7/21/2008 Hartland 50th Anniversary Child Figures Now Available
5/19/2008 Hartland Releases Photo of Milt Pappas Figure; Now Taking Preorders
5/19/2008 Hartland Announces Four Figure Set of Child Baseball Figures
3/20/2008 Hartland Now Accepting Orders for Honus Wagner Figure
3/16/2008 Hartland Shipping Women's US Soccer Figures
3/14/2008 Hartland Opens 2008 Enrollment to Collectors Club
3/12/2008 Hartland Releases Preliminary Information About Upcoming Editions
3/10/2008 Hartland Plans Hand-Signed Figure of Jim Chones


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