I vaguely remember the first time I saw a Hartland Statue, probably around 1960 or so at a small variety store in northern Wisconsin where my family would spend a week every summer.
The store had creaky wooden floorboards and elaborate, glass-encased display cases for much of the inventory, and there they were, safely tucked away in those boxes that nowadays can be even more valuable than some of the statues.
But they were $2 apiece, and that was enough to scare me away, since it represented two months’ allowance. Even though I was mildly intrigued, it was not to be, since the very same store had 1960 Topps Seventh Series. I was a card kid before I was a card guy.
Our hobby has always had a kind of uneasy relationship with all things of a non-cardboard nature. By the time the hobby took off in the 1980s, the Hartlands were already highly valued by collectors – and they still are today – but the business of making and marketing statues to the hobby has taken curious turns over that span.
Gartlan Statues made a serious hobby splash in the early 1980s with attractive cereamic statues that also included autographs; the Hartlands were “reprinted,” for lack of a better term; something called Starting Lineups came along – and since went away; and the most significant development of all took place when McFarlane (Nomar statue shown here) arrived and turned the whole business on its ear.
Those statues aren’t $2 at retail locations, but they might as well be. Selling for anywhere from $6 to $15 or so – more for some of the cleverly contrived variations – the highly realistic and detailed statues represent a bigger bargain than $2 ever did in 1960.
They may not be as handy to store as a set of 700 cards that can fit into one binder, but it’s hard to think of too many modern “collectibles” that have come along in recent years that measure up to these remarkable pieces.
The best thing about them may be that the amazingly low prices allows youngsters to treat them as playthings while at the same time get an affordable introduction to the collecting bug. That ought to be applauded by anybody who supports our hobby.