Hartland Statues
I guess we all have stories of how we started collecting and what drove us to get to our passionate state. My roots started with the Original 18 baseball player statues produced by Hartland Plastics in the late 50’s/early 60’s. Although I never owned one as a youngster, I knew of them through a friend – George – the kid who lived on the corner. His bedroom dresser was filled with these plastic masterpieces and being a sports nut from an early age I admired them every time I entered his room. Fifty years later I can still see his Mickey Mantle & Willie Mays statues begging to come to my room. Although his statues never made it to my dresser, I eventually secured a collection of my own.

How I started.
My father died in 1982 and my mother found my old baseball cards he had kept in boxes in our attic space. I went through them, checked prices in a price guide and determined that I was a rich young man. I proudly brought my cards to a local baseball card store (yes those were the days when card stores flourished), and tossed a number of my prizes on the store owner’s counter. There were cards from the 50’s/early 60’s of Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, Hank Aaron and just about every other Hall of Famer from that time. I was ready to get a duffle bag to carry all the cash I would be taking home, when his offer nearly floored me. His offer was nothing. That’s right – a big “goose egg”. He explained that it looked like my cards had been through a war. Thinking back, I remembered playing games with the cards like scaling them against the wall, flipping them on concrete and of course the traditional cards in the spokes of bikes for special effects. Needless to say, my cards were in terrible condition and were virtually worthless (although they certainly had value to me). Dejectedly, I looked up on a shelf behind the counter and was immediately transported back to my childhood. There stood two Hartland statues- Warren Spahn and Yogi Berra. I asked him the price and he said $80 each or both for $150. Back in 1982, $150 might as well have been a $1,000 – I was thirty years old with a young child and a low paying job. I left the store without them, but spent a sleepless night thinking about them (yes- I’m a sick man). Of course, I went back to the store the next day and purchased both. When my wife asked me how much I paid for them, I said- “Would you be mad if I told you $20 for the pair?” She said “Of course not” - so I went with that story. It was the first of many white lies I’ve told over almost 30 years of collecting, but it sure has kept the peace in my house (Don’t be so quick to judge me- I know you guys do it too). Anyway, I finally owned my first Hartland statues and they would be the catalyst to my collecting addiction.

What is the allurement of the Hartland Baseball series? Hartland Statues Hank Aaron
Anyone who has collected them knows it’s their amazing attention to detail. In a small 8 inch plastic statue, they packed so much artistry that even today’s modern technology cannot match. The muscle tone, batting stances and facial features are nearly perfect. The trademark scowl of Don Drysdale, Willie Mays’s basket catch and even the chaw of tobacco in Nellie Fox’s cheek were not missed by Hartland. For $2 in 1960 you got an incredible statue housed in a box with a wrap-around baseball scene and a hang tag. Most attempts by modern companies to produce player statues have failed miserably because of cost and the lack of accuracy in the detail.

Another reason I believe that Hartlands are still so popular is that the players they picked have lasted the test of time. Of the 18 Original baseball player statues, 17 were still playing at the time of their release (only Babe Ruth was not). Of those 17 players, 14 would eventually make it to the Hall of Fame. The list of HOF’ers include Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Ed Mathews, Warren Spahn, Yogi Berra, Harmon Killebrew, Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Ernie Banks, Don Drysdale, Duke Snider, Luis Aparicio and Nellie Fox. Only Roger Maris, Rocky Colavito and Dick Groat would not enter the Hall of Fame.

Why only 18 players?
I think everyone who has collected Hartland statues asks that question. Why no Sandy Koufax, Lou Brock, Brooks & Frank Robinson, Pete Rose etc…? Unfortunately, Hartland Plastics produced these statues for only a short period of time- from 1958 through 1962. The statues were a Christmas time diversion from their main source of income, making bottles for perfume. The company sold its business in early 1963 and the project was scrapped. What many collectors don’t know is that Hartland had already planned its next two statues – Casey Stengel, the manager of the New York Mets and Baltimore Orioles slugger Jim Gentile. Sadly they were never produced but there is some good news for today’s collectors.

Here’s the good news!
The Stengel & Gentile statues are available through a company that has named itself “Hartland of Ohio”. The company has been producing statues for a number of years - trying to keep the quality and integrity of the original Hartland statues. The company is owned by Fay Halliwell who is passionate about keeping the Hartland tradition alive. The company has produced a number of player statues, but her latest creations are of Casey Stengel and the soon to be released Jim Gentile. The company made prototypes based on pictures of these two statues seen on my Blog (www.insidetheparkcollectibles.com). The Stengel was a huge success with it selling out almost instantly. Collectors are anxious to see the Gentile – posed at first base stretching for a throw. I am honored to have had at least made a small contribution to this venture.

In closing, I have to thank Hartland Plastics for changing my life. Not only did I have the pleasure of collecting them, but they opened my eyes to other sports memorabilia with their own special history. I eventually started a small auction house with my friend John that specializes in figural sports memorabilia (Inside the Park Collectibles). We have been in business over 20 years and it’s been the best time of my life. We’re not getting rich, but we sure do have fun.

A special thanks to Bob & Steve Freedman who asked me to write an article for this wonderful new site. I wish them the best of luck in this new and exciting idea.
Lou Criscione
By Lou Criscione