If you were hoping to score a Pope Francis bobblehead this week, you’d better move fast. Mitch Boersma, chief operating officer at the Catholic Information Center, said his store originally purchased 60 papal bobbleheads. Those sold out quickly, so the store ordered another 170, which went in about a week. CIC now expects a 300-unit shipment to arrive tomorrow, and many of those have been preordered.
“I’m surprised we got that many,” Boersma says. “I suspect that’s as many as we could get.”
The Catholic Information Center gets the souvenir from Royal Bobbles—which makes historic figurines for anyone from King Tut to Winston Churchill. According to its founder, Warren Royal, Pope Francis is Royal Bobbles’ best-selling rendition to date–more popular than Barack Obama and Albert Einstein.
Royal started selling Francis bobbleheads in February of 2014. While it sold well at first, demand exploded after the pope announced his trip to the US. In the past six months, Royal estimates moving close to 25,000 units.
“It’s about all we can do to keep up,” he said. “In fact we’ve run out a couple times. It’s been almost impossible to get these things because people really love them.”
Royal thinks the Pope Francis bobblehead has sold so well in part because of its meticulous design. He consulted with Catholic scholars to get the color shades of the wardrobe right, and even shrank the figure’s head (by about a third of the proportion he normally uses) to make it look less like a caricature.
“We wanted to make sure everybody understood that this was our way of showing respect to this historic figure,” he said. “It doesn’t bob as well as it would have otherwise, but we’re happy with the decision we made and how it came out.”
Boersma plans to keep the bobblehead in stock for as long as he can. It’s currently on sale at his store for $24.95—$5 more than its original price.
“It’s great for experiencing the joy of Francis and for capturing the excitement people are feeling about his visit,” he said.