So, where did the souvenir helmet originate? If one should go looking for the answer to this question then the logical choice would be to first start with the real batting helmets. The very first batting helmets originated in the 1950's. Branch Rickey, who owned the American Baseball Cap Company, pushed for the design of a protective helmet that could meet the needs of ball players. Once that was established, then the first helmets came into regular use in Major League Baseball. The first team to wear helmets was the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1952, and of course this was a team that Branch Rickey had previously been in charge of. It took awhile for the players to adjust to the helmets because it was something new and seemed awkward to wear on the diamond. It wasn't until 1971 that MLB made it mandatory for all new players to wear helmets, but of course, some older players were allowed through a grandfather clause to not have to wear helmets. Just like everything else that can be marketed in a sport, someone came up with the idea to marker souvenir batting helmets.
(Please keep in mind that I am still researching this information and the earliest info that deals with Bobbie Enterprises and Sports Product Corp. is made by logical assumptions by myself after looking inside my earliest helmets, determining the first year of logos and clubs, and then drawing conclusions.) As for who came up with the idea of souvenir helmets, I'm not for sure. I do know, however, that the first company that I can find note of that made helmets was a company called Bobbie Enterprises Inc. Bobbie Enterprises Inc. was based out of Buffalo, New York, and was a distributor of souvenir items in the 1960's and possibly 1950's? By looking at my Kansas City Athletics helmet, I assumed that 1963 may have been the earliest that these helmets were made because that was the first year they used the kelly green color, but after searching the insides of my helmets and referencing dates with Marc Okkonen's book, Baseball Uniforms of the 20th Century, I now believe that date may be earlier. I have dated the logo on one of my Cleveland Indians helmets back to the years of 1954-57 (see helmet left). Inside it is stamped Bobbie Enterprises, N.Y., so could one of those years be the earliest on record for souvenir helmets? If so, it would make more sense considering how I pointed out earlier that the Pirates team started to wear them in '52. The strange thing, however, is that I keep running across baseball cards with Cleveland players wearing this type of cap in the mid-60's.
If you take the time to look at the paper that I found in a helmet still inside a bag, you would see that there is a copyright date of 1961 and the bottom of the paper says Sports Product Corp. There is no mention of Bobbie Enterprises Inc., but what is strange is how would a kid be able to build a Kansas City Athletics helmet when there is no offering of a solid kelly green helmet? The only logical answer to that in 1961 would be that the kid would have slapped the sticker on either a navy or black helmet which would make sense for 1961, so I'm guessing there is one of those out there somewhere that still eludes me. It would also be pretty hard to make the Los Angeles Angels helmet considering there is no black helmet with a red bill. All of the other sticker/helmet combinations of that time would be possible to design. So, the question is if the 1961 copyright date is right and the Los Angeles Angels were brought into MLB in 1961, is this then the start date for souvenir helmets? Now, the only thing that would throw a huge wrinkle into my thinking here would be if the 1961 copyright date is for the bobble head dolls. I only say that because that could be the case after reading this website that contains hockey bobble heads.