The Hartland name is synonymous with sports figurines, and for good reason. Despite many ups and downs, Hartland figures remain a fixture of the vintage sports collectible market.
Since the 1940s, the nostalgic figure series has earned a legion of fans. With a special emphasis on baseball, the company has issued many figurines across its storied existence.
Ultimate Guide to Hartland Sports Figures
Founded in 1941 and originally based out of Wisconsin, Hartland was the first company to manufacture licensed sports figures. The first series, designated as the 900 Series, was originally produced in 1958 using mold-injected acetate plastic resin. The figures were then hand-painted using acetate-based paint.
The results were true-to-life likenesses that set the bar for all manufactured sports figures. The miniature statues were originally issued with a circular cardboard tag that was attached to the figures with a string. The survival and presence of this tag is imperative to the value of the figures today.
The eight-and-a-half-inch tall figures were sold at stadiums and in specialty stores around the country. This series included some of the top players in the game including Eddie Mathews, Hank Aaron, Warren Spahn, Mickey Mantle and Babe Ruth.
In 1960, ten additional Major League Baseball players were added to the company's lineup. They also added figures of a generic minor league baseball player and a batboy. The 900 Series was manufactured until 1963 and included such players as Willie Mays, Roger Maris, Luis Aparicio, and Ernie Banks, to name a few. Sold at a suggested retail price of $1.98, the figures were originally marketed as toys and not as keepsakes or collectibles.
Expanding the Hartland Figurines Product Line
In 1959, the company manufactured two NFL figures that included the extremely popular, Johnny Unitas as well as star running back Jon Arnett. Arnett was an All-American out of USC that played for both the Los Angeles Rams and Chicago Bears. A total of 5,000 figures of each were produced.
They sold well enough that the company decided to produce a generic running back and a lineman figure for each of the 14 NFL teams in existence at that time. A total of 5,000 of each figure was manufactured between 1959 and 1963. Each figure stands on a green base that displays the NFL logo and team name embossed in gold on the front.
The figures were sold in a plain white cardboard box with blue and red ink. The front panel of the box could be torn away to reveal a cellophane panel so you could see the figure without having to remove it from the packaging. The existence of the original packaging also adds considerable value to these figures today. Also manufactured during this period was a specially ordered piece that was made to commemorate the LSU Tigers NCAA Championship of 1959.
Hartland Statues Variations and Oddities
The"Bat Boy" figure, as it is known today, was originally called "Little Leaguer." However, a complaint regarding trademark infringement by the Little League Baseball Association of America forced the company to destroy what is estimated to be 40,000 of the original figures. This left 10,000 in the market, twice that of any other single figure. So despite suffering from this destruction, these five-inch figures are still much easier to find than others from the era.
As is the case with vintage trading cards from the same era, the original Hartland statues have several different variations.
- The four-inch "Minor Leaguer" figure can be found in five different versions: full-color as intended, gold that was sold as trophy tops, black bases and white bases, sold as cake toppers, and some that were never painted at all and are all white.
- Nellie Fox and Eddie Mathews can be found with and without red trim painted around the logo on the front of their jerseys as well as around the number on the back.
- Luis Aparicio, Rocky Colavito and Don Drysdale have either a white or purple toe plate.
- Ted Williams' jersey has versions with "RED" and "RED S" on the front in the team name 'Red Sox" and is only found with a white toe plate.
- Hammerin' Hank Aaron was manufactured with both a high-step and a flat-footed stance to keep the figure from falling over.
- Willie Mays has two different trim and piping colors and can be found in either yellow or orange versions.
- Mickey Mantle had a gold version painted that was used to make an experimental children's lamp. The lamps are considered to be extremely rare.
Additionally, 11 of the figurines (Aaron, Banks, Berra, Fox, Mantle, Mathews, Mays, Minor Leaguer with white base, Musial, Ruth and Spahn) were made with magnets attached to the bottom of each foot which were then accompanied by a small black metal plate that would serve as the base for which the magnets would adhere. The presence of a small hole was intended to allow a nail or screw to be used to fasten the plate to another surface then.
There appear to have been three different bats manufactured to provide some additional individuality to the figures. While not variations, as they were consistent to each player, it helps to know which player came with which bat.
- Long Fat Bat: Babe Ruth
- Short Bat: Ernie Banks, Dick Groat, Roger Maris and Stan Musial
- Regular Bat: Hank Aaron, Rocky Colavito, Harmon Killebrew, Mickey Mantle, Duke Snider and Ted Williams
The existence of packaging variations has also been found through the years. The first is a cardboard box that shows a baseball action scene. It had the player's name and facsimile autograph or photograph on all six sides. It appears that some boxes were used to ship other players and may appear with no name, photograph, autograph or decal where the printed autograph and name should be.
The second type of box was a plain white box with dark blue and red lettering and a drawing of a baseball player on the front. The front panel had perforations and could be detached to "display" the player inside behind a cellophane shield. As a result, this packaging is appropriately referred to as a display box.
As mentioned previously, the figures came with a circular red tag. The tags had white lettering with the player's facsimile autograph and nickname. The tags were only included with figures packaged in the first type of box detailed above. The tags have a string that would have been used to hang around the neck of the statue. The strings themselves came in either a bright red or tan color. Figures of Roger Maris are suspected to have never been packaged in a display box as tags of the player that broke Babe Ruth's single-season home run record have never been found.
Changes in Ownership
In 1963, the start of many changes in ownership began to take place including those with horrific endings. That year, production came to an abrupt end when Revlon Cosmetics purchased the company. Scheduled for release that year were figures of Casey Stengal and Jim Gentile. However, the change in ownership forever doomed those figures to be "the ones that never were."
Manufacturing of Hartland figures ceased for several years until hundreds of the original molds were purchased by the Stevens Manufacturing Company of Missouri in 1976. In an ironic twist, it had been assumed that the molds of the sports figures had been destroyed. Fortunately for collectors, they were eventually discovered to be part of the original inventory purchased. However, by that point in time, it was too late. The Hartland Plastics company officially ceased operations forever in 1978.
In 1987, after attending a local sports card show, attorney William Alley of Dallas secured the rights to produce a commemorative set of the original 18 figures in celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the original release. Collectors rejoiced at the return of the Hartland brand and the figures quickly sold out. Production was authorized for 10,000 of each figure but it is believed that the actual number that made it through production is closer to 9,700.
In 1990, Hartland released seven new figurines with the following production numbers:
- Roberto Clemente (10,000)
- Lou Gehrig (500)
- Dizzy Dean (500)
- Whitey Ford (10,000)
- Bob Feller (25)
- Ty Cobb (45)
The new figures were packaged in what is referred to today as the green box. They were made of a thick cardboard stock and included a stunning painting of the player. The seventh figure is called "The Confrontation" and features an umpire and manager arguing over a call. Only 20 of these are thought to have been produced. The company also reissued the classic "Bat Boy" and "Minor Leaguer" each with a release of 2,500 figures. The reissued Bat Boy was used as an incentive to be given away with the purchase of a complete 25th Anniversary Commemorative set.
After the odd disappearance of William Alley, the company ceased operations. His heir and wife, sold the company the following year, to a gentleman by the name of Bill Dunlap. A longtime aficionado of the Hartland figurines line, Dunlap rechristened the company Hartland USA in 1992. The company would produce some great ideas and make a couple of classic figures until another bizarre twist in the history of the company leads to devastating results.
Hartland USA developed plans for a Nolan Ryan figure and pre-sale estimates looked very promising. The company was sold back to one-time owner Stevens Manufacturing in Missouri where production of the new Ryan figure commenced. Two new figures are also planned, legendary Hall of Famers Cy Young and Honus Wagner. While production figures aren't available for those two, it is known that the Ryan figure was released with two different uniforms, home white and road gray uniform. The "road" Ryan was sold exclusively through Target stores in a traditional display box in a handful of states. Production is believed to have been 5,500 gray road uniforms and 4,500 home uniforms.
Hartland USA discovered in the molds that were acquired as part of the company's assets, the mold of a previously unreleased figure called "Safe at Second." As one might imagine, it features a second baseman, a sliding runner and an umpire all converged at the keystone. A total of 15,000 of these figures were produced and came in what is known by collectors simply as "the grey box." The base of the figure is well designed and includes the base path which is framed by both the edges of the infield and outfield grass.
During this period of ownership, the company acquired an NFL license and the rights to reissue a Johnny Unitas commemorative piece. On July 8th, 1993, the company was well into production of a figure for Boston Red Sox fan favorite, Carl Yastrzemski. Unfortunately, the timing couldn't have been worse as it coincided with what many remember as the Great Missouri Flood. The Steven Manufacturing factory that was located on the banks of the river was completely destroyed. As a result it is estimated that only 400 of the figures managed to make it into distribution.
Three months later, Hartland sent a letter to its customer database explaining the consequences of the flood and the hope of a return to production in November. The optimistic company went so far as to say that new players were being developed for 1994. Unfortunately, Hartland closed its doors shortly after the letter was sent out.
Rebirth of a Classic
The company remained dark for several years, eventually re-emerging in 2001 as Hartland Collectibles. At that time the company re-released the original 18 figures, the third time they had been produced. These third-generation figures were once again very popular with a new collecting base, most of whom hadn't even been born at the time of their original debut. Between 2003 and 2006, the company manufactured several additional figures. The majority of these were used for promotional giveaways at stadiums and events.
The company is currently operating as Hartland of Ohio LLC and has returned to its roots as it pertains to the production of collectible figurines. Specializing in a wide variety of sports-related collectibles, the company is currently producing figures of Negro League ballplayers, limited commemorative pieces, legendary Hall of Fame players and more. 2008 seems to mark the official year of the company's re-emergence in the market and is led by a management team that is committed to carrying on the tradition of the Hartland name.
There may be no better example of this commitment than the decision the company made in 2009 to produce a Casey Stengel figure. As mentioned earlier in this article, Stengel was one of two figures slated to be produced when Revlon Cosmetics shut down production after their acquisition of the company. A metal prototype of the figure was preserved by a former employee and has been in possession of the family ever since. The figure was reverse engineered to create a mold and produced in a limited quantity of 200 figures.
Today, the Hartland of Ohio LLC continues making figures, replacement pieces, and even tags. A special Collector's Club provides the opportunity for collectors to receive exclusive figures, discounts, and more.
The Hartland company's long and storied history is rife with intrigue, tragedy and more than a little bit of a mystery. As a result, the accounts in this article have been assembled from various sources including first-hand accounts. Additional information on the company and its Hartland Statues and Figurines are welcome by contacting the author.
Key Hartland Figures
Harland Figures Checklist
Due to the numerous times the company has changed ownership, this checklist will be a continual work in progress. It has been assembled from numerous sources and will continue to be updated as new information becomes available.
1958-1960 Hartland Baseball Set Checklist
1959 Hartland Football Set Checklist
1959-1963 Hartland Football Set Checklist
1960-1963 Hartland Baseball Set Checklist
Bat Boy PR: 5,000
1962 Hartland Football Checklist
1988 Hartland 25th Anniversary Baseball Checklist
1991 Hartland Baseball Set Checklist
Bob Feller - 25
Dizzy Dean - 500
Lou Gehrig - 500
Ty Cobb - 45
The Confrontation - 20
Bat Boy - 2,500
Minor Leaguer - 2,500
1993 Hartland Baseball Set Checklist
Nolan Ryan (Home) - 4,500
Nolan Ryan (Road) - 5,500
Safe at Second 15,000
1993 Hartland Football Set Checklist
2001 Hartland Baseball Set Checklist
Randy Johnson - Fielding
Randy Johnson - Cy Young Winner
2002 Hartland Baseball Set Checklist
Ozzie Smith - Throwing
2003 Hartland Baseball Set Checklist
Mickey Mantle Rookie Jersey #6
Satchell Paige - 2,500
Ted Williams - 1,000
Warren Spahn Boston Braves
Willie Stargell - 2,006
Yogi Berra Pinstripes
2003 Hartland Football Set Checklist
Paul Hornung Bronze Autographed - 1,000
LSU Running Back
LSU Wide Receiver
2004 Hartland Baseball Set Checklist
Reggie Jackson Yankees
2005 Hartland Baseball Set Checklist
2006 Hartland Baseball Set Checklist
Babe Ruth Pinstripes - 2,500
Bob Feller Bronze - 1,000
Bruce Sutter Bronze - 1,000
Buck O'Neil Autographed
Buck O'Neil Bronze
Cool Papa Bell - 1,000
David Wright - 500
Dick Groat Cardinals
Eddie Mathews Boston Braves
Ernie Banks #14
Joe DiMaggio Batting
Josh Gibson - 1,000
Krash - 500
Larry Doby - 1,000
Lou Boudreau - 1,000
Mickey Mantle Bronze
Pee Wee Reese and Jackie Robinson Bronze
Reggie Jackson A's
Roberto Clemente - 2,006
Ryan Sandberg Bronze - 1,000
Willie McCovey - 1,000
Willie Stargell - 2,006
2007 Hartland Checklist
Al Kaline Bronze
C.C Sabathia Bronze - 1,000
Cal Ripken Jr. - 1,000
Connie Mack Bronze
Dick Allen Autographed - 300
Grady Sizemore Bronze - 1,000
Howie Bedell Collectors Club Autographed - 100
Jimmie Foxx Bronze
Roberto Clemente Bronze - 500
Robin Yount Bronze - 1,000
Victor Martinez Bronze - 1,000
2008 Hartland Checklist
Bill Vessels Heisman Winner - 250
Cecil Kaiser Autographed Negro Leagues - 100
Christy Matthewson - 200
Earl Campbell Heisman Winner - 250
Emilio Millito Navvaro Autographed Negro Leagues - 150
Eric Crouch Heisman Winner - 250
George "Shotgun" Shuba Collector's Club Autographed - 150
Honus Wagner - 200
Jim Chones Autographed - 250
Les Horvath Heisman Winner - 250
Milt Pappas Autographed - 250
Minnie Minoso Autographed Negro Leagues - 150
On the Field 50th Anniversary - 500
Pitcher Boy 50th Anniversary - 500
Ricky Williams Heisman Winner - 250
Ted "Lefty" Toles Negro Leagues
The Catcher 50th Anniversary - 500
2009 Hartland Checklist
Walter Johnson Collectors Club
2010 Hartland Checklist
2011 Hartland Checklist
2012 Hartland Checklist
Johnny Mize Collectors Club
Related Topics: Sports Collectibles: Guides