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On August 30, 2015, Jake Arrieta threw his first career no-hitter against the Los Angeles Dodgers. On September 1, 2015, liking Arrieta quite a bit, and bobbleheads more, I set up an eBay email alert for “Jake Arrieta Bobblehead.”

Arrieta does not yet have a major-league bobblehead stadium promotion as either a Cub or an Oriole. His likeness was committed to tiny, plastic form with the Bowie Baysox, the Orioles Double A affiliate. The National Bobblehead Hall of Fame (!!) commissioned one in honor of his first no hitter, but is only available in limited quantities on the NBHF’s (??) website.

Arrieta bobbleheads are, then, like gold or rare gems or a warm coat on a cool winter’s night: precious. What started as an idle curiosity became a study in a previously unconsidered market. This isn’t what is normally referred to as science, or even economics. It isn’t even terribly precise. It just sort of… bobbles.

  • In all, I received 55 email alerts for 35 discrete bobbleheads. 18 sold.

Price at Alert

Average

$64.00

Median

$55.00

Min

$20.88

Max

$169.99

  • The first alert I received came on September 5, 2015. It provided a complete history of Arrieta’s career, but stops short of mentioning the no-hitter. If you needed a reminder that Arrieta was optioned to Iowa for two starts after his Cubs debut, and was subsequently recalled on August 14, 2013, this listing has you covered. Despite the listing’s title, “RARE JAKE ARRIETA – ORIOLES now Chicago CUBS – 2012 Bobblehead Bowie Baysox Edt,” it went unsold. In An Essay on the Nature and Significance of Economic Science, Lionel Robbins tells us that, “Economics is the science which studies human behaviour as a relationship between ends and scarce means which have alternative uses.” And an economist would likely offer the lesson that rare-but-poorly-marketed things sell less well than less-rare-better-marketed things.

  • The market high for bobbleheads sold was $119, but that’s a bit of a cheat. The listing was for two tickets in section 429 on Arrieta’s bobblehead giveaway night on July 20th. The current low price on Stubhub for two tickets in section 429 that night is $170, indicating the seller could have gotten more. The seller may have panicked on May 1 after a 3-4 loss to the Braves, and sold low.

  • The average sell price was $54.75, 41 cents higher than the average alert price of $54.34. If we exclude a $169.99 ticket package that went unsold, the peak of the market, the bobble bubble if you will, came on October 9, 2015, two days after Arrieta pitched the Cubs into the playoffs with a complete game shutout against the Pirates. The bobblehead they listed (modestly titled “Jake Arrieta Bobblehead – Bowie Baysox SGA 2011 – Chicago Cubs – New”) was one of the 250 minor league giveaways from Arrieta’s days with the Bowie Baysox. They had scarcity and recency bias on their side. They probably thought their $129 initial listing price was reasonable, even conservative. What wouldn’t the hungry Cub fan pay for such a treasure? Sadly, it was not to last. Like tulip bulbs in the Dutch Golden Age, or subprime mortgages in 2008, the bottom was bound to fall out. No doubt sensing the pressure of the bobblehead market through the din, the rest of Arrieta’s postseason was a letdown. His start against the Cardinals was fine but uninspired compared to his previous highs, and he and the Cubs would go quietly against the Mets in the NLCS. This particular bobblehead was relisted on October 12 and again in January, but went unsold. Sometimes you make a killing in the market, and sometimes, well, you just get killed.

  • The fastest selling bobblehead was a Bowie Baysox bobblehead, which was listed on October 12 and lasted a mere eight hours. The minimum bid was $49.99, but was scooped up for the “Buy It Now” price of $64.99. Can’t take any chances.

  • Arrieta’s Cy Young Award did little to stir the market; indeed, there was no new alert activity between 10/20/2015 and 12/19/2015, unless there was and I accidentally deleted the emails.

  • One seller listed a joint Jake Arrieta/Kris Bryant bobblehead duo for $100. The same seller had a separate, solo listing for Arrieta for $70, allowing us to determine the market price of a Kris Bryant to be $30, before tax, shipping, and service time.

  • Seller Bobblesandmore123 listed one of the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame bobbles at $59.99, $19.99 above their list price on the NBHF (!!) website. He or she was rewarded for his or her business acumen with a sale four days later. The listing exclaims enthusiastically, “VERY RARE!! ONLY 360 BOBBLEHEADS MADE!!,” only for Bobblesandmore123 to relist a similar bobblehead a day later. That bobblehead went unsold as the market corrected for fair value in light of previously exaggerated scarcity.

  • The most aesthetically pleasing bobblehead of the bunch is also the most creative. No doubt frustrated by the paucity of Cubs Arrieta bobbleheads, one intrepid seller appears to have taken a Bowie Baysox Arriate bobblehead, painted its body in Cubbie blue, removed the head of a different Cubs bobblehead, painted its beard black (but not its eyebrows), and reassembled the lot in some sort of Arrieta Frankenbobble. Which I suppose is industrious? The opening bid was for $23.50, received 14 bids over four days, and sold for $67.

Arrieta Bobble.png

So what have we learned? Bobblehead markets are inconsistent in their pricing efficiency and transparency, for one thing. I almost certainly need other, better hobbies, for another. And perhaps most importantly, get you a Jake Arrieta while you can. He almost certainly won’t come at a discount.

Thank you for reading

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paulcl
5/20
I think we need full disclosure here: how many of the 18 Arrieta bobbleheads sold were bought by you?
megrowler
5/20
None, actually, although it is a fair question. I was tempted but found it distracting that the picture they used on the box for his minor league bobblehead makes him kind of look like Trevor Bauer.
jnossal
5/20
Are bobbleheads uniquely known for their discretion? True, I've never known one to blab indiscriminately, they mostly just give you a subtle nod now and then.
megrowler
5/20
Blargh. Thank you. That's fixed now. Although they aren't chatty, so maybe it's both?