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DALTON, Ga. - When Ken Ellinger speaks, 880 loyal subjects listen - and usually nod in agreement.

Ellinger, a political science professor at Dalton State College, has crammed nearly 900 bobbleheads - from Larry Bird to Louie the Lookout to Saddam Hussein - into his 90-square-foot office.

"It's like Manhattan real estate," Ellinger said. "There's no more space at street level; I've had to go vertical."

Most of his bobbleheads are either political figures, mascots or sports stars: baseball, football, basketball, soccer, hockey and Nascar. When Ellinger wobbles a shelf in his office, Republicans and Democrats, Red Sox and Yankees, and Smokey and Uga all nod together in unison.

He's got them from A to at least Y: Al the Alabama Elephant to Houston Rockets center Yao Ming. He's got the old - Abraham Lincoln - and the young - one with a photo of his 12-year-old son Evan. His favorite is a Mickey Mantle bobbler, where Mantle is posed in his Commerce (Okla.) High School uniform.

The collection was born about six years ago, when Ellinger logged on to Major League Baseball's home page and saw they were having a clearance on the top-heavy figurines. Many of the characters were marked down to only a dollar or two. On an impulse, he had 120 shipped to his office because his wife, Vanessa, made it clear they wouldn't match the decor at home.

Around campus, he's known as the "bobblehead guy." New students and faculty always do a double-take when they pass by his open door.

"I just enjoy the way students react when they see it for the first time," Ellinger said.

He travels to a few games each summer in search of give-away bobblers, but 90 percent of his spring-necked congregation has been ordered online, and most of them at a discount. The most expensive one in his office is a $20 Barack Obama and Joe Biden combination bobblehead, commemorating their victory in the 2008 elections.

"I'm very conscious about spending or else this could get out of control," said Ellinger, who uses money he makes from teaching tennis lessons to fund the habit.

His wife tolerates his hobby, but keeps an eye on the shelf in their storage room where he keeps duplicates to make sure they don't spread to the rest of the house.

"There will be no colonization," she said. "Ken had a happy childhood and he's still enjoying it."

Kathy Payne, administrative assistant for the department of social sciences at Dalton State, said the collection and Ellinger's willingness to give away duplicate characters to children or other visitors is well known around the school.

"It's quite something on the campus," she said. "Every time they bring new students on campus they bring them to see the bobbleheads."

For the future, Ellinger has set his goals high. He once read an article about former Atlanta Braves and Texas Rangers player Julio Franco that said the slugger had a collection of 1,100 bobbleheads.

"I'd like to get to 1,101 because I know there's at least one person that has more," Ellinger said.

Contact Andy Johns at ajohns@timesfreepress.com or call 423-757-6324.

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