Hartland of Ohio LLC Sports
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
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
1976 Steven Manufacturing Co. of Hermann, Missouri purchased many of the original
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???
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: