Bobbleheads are only encountered within the Capital Wasteland, the Commonwealth and Appalachia, and not, for example, in any of the other vaults of the West Coast. This may suggest that the Vault-Tec bobblehead range was an exclusive item to the East Coast and not a line of permanent Vault-Tec merchandise. The idea of the bobbleheads being a piece of exclusive Vault-Tec merchandise is supported by a computer terminal found within the Vault-Tec HQ. The computer provides a list of 'orderable' merchandise such as clothing and lunchboxes, but when a bobblehead is requested the terminal reports that they are only available to executive staff. However, a letter from Vault-Tec (addressed to the Gomez family, who also appear within Vault 101) can be found in a mailbox in Springvale that says "Be sure to present this letter to your Vault-Tec representative to receive your special, commemorative Vault Boy bobble-head toy!"
Twenty bobbleheads can be found in the Capital Wasteland. Once found, the bobbleheads can be stored on a Bobblehead collector's stand in the Megaton house or in the Tenpenny Tower suite. Typically, bobbleheads acquired through console commands cannot be put on the bobblehead stand, and do not count towards any of the bobblehead-related achievements. However, bobbleheads created via player.placeatme console command could be picked with a related achievement and could be put on a bobblehead stand. Bobbleheads from TestQAItems cannot be put on a bobblehead stand.
Each of the Vault-Tec bobbleheads in Fallout 3 permanently increases one of the 7 S.P.E.C.I.A.L.statistics by 1 point, or one of the 13 skills of the player character by 10 points. The bobbleheads will not increase a statistic beyond the maximum of 10 (S.P.E.C.I.A.L.) or 100 (skills). Keep that in mind when planning a character, or their bonuses may be wasted. It is inadvisable to max out any S.P.E.C.I.A.L.s before collecting the bobbleheads, as any that are collected afterwards will have the bonuses wasted.
Dunwich Building: Go through the Dunwich Building, go through the Forsaken Dunwich Ruins and go to the virulent underchambers (where one can also destroy the Krivbeknih, at the Ug-Qualtoth.) Upon exiting the virulent underchambers to the Dunwich Building, it will be in the center of a room, right next to the exit to Dunwich Building mixed in with some cans and bottles (metallic room).
Vault 106: After entering the vault, move downstairs and enter the living quarters. Once in the living quarters take a left, cross the small bridge in the atrium, then take a right and enter the second door on the left. Follow this hall all the way to the end, kill the insane survivor and cross the room to where the bobblehead is located.
National Guard depot: National Guard armory, sitting on a shelf in the sealed storage room in the basement. The switch for the utility door to access the armory is found on the 3rd floor that can only be reached by going through the depot training wing and depot offices.
With the addition of the new Almost Perfect perk that becomes available when level 30 is reached, (Broken Steel add-on required) it is tempting for advanced players to wait until they can use this perk, then collect all S.P.E.C.I.A.L. bobbleheads. This is because Almost Perfect raises all of the Lone Wanderer's stats to 9, so collecting all bobbleheads after taking the perk makes all stats raise to 10. This requires waiting until level 30, however, which could handicap one for most of the game. One should weigh the benefits of higher stats now (more skill points from high Intelligence, access to various perks) against having a "perfect score" later on.
In the Point Lookout add-on, several "fake" bobbleheads appear (called Schmault-Tec bubbleheads) during a hallucination sequence as part of the main questline (after getting sprayed with the Mother Punga fumes). These are identical in appearance to normal bobbleheads but are larger in size. They cannot be added to inventory but give taunting, sarcastic messages. For instance, when finding the Luck bubblehead, it says "Dead mother, life in a post-nuclear Wasteland and not a friend in it. Yeah, you aren't exactly blessed." When finding the Charisma bubblehead, there are birthday balloons and a skeleton on an operating table labeled "Mom." There is a Schmault-Tec bubblehead for every S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stat, but none for skills. See the gallery for all seven images and their messages.
As in Fallout 3, each bobblehead increases a corresponding S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stat permanently by one, and can be stored on a Bobblehead stand crafted at any settlement, or on the one in a room in Vault 81. Bobbleheads that previously increased a skill now grant a permanent unique perk. Refer to the respective articles for more detailed information.
Taking a S.P.E.C.I.A.L. bobblehead while the player character's stat is at 10 allows that stat to increase to 11. As the Bobblehead counts as a stat gain, if one was below 10 before picking it up, they can't level that stat to above ten via normal methods.
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As in Fallout 4, combat-related bobbleheads permanently add damage multipliers to the player character. Unique to Fallout 76, however, are usable bobbleheads that provide temporary effects lasting one real-world hour.
In Fallout 3, regardless of where the bobbleheads are found, they all wear Vault 101 jumpsuits. In Fallout 4, they wear Vault 111 jumpsuits. In Fallout 76, they wear Vault 76 jumpsuits.
Although bobbleheads do not appear in Fallout: New Vegas, the snow globes serve as the game's collectibles, just as the bobbleheads do in Fallout 3 and Fallout 4, though the snow globes give no bonuses or affect the game in any way like the bobbleheads do. However, Mr. House is extremely interested in the collectable snow globes found in the game, and he will pay handsomely for each. They can be given to Jane in exchange for 2000 caps each.
In Fallout 3, at the Vault-Tec headquarters, there is a terminal at which employees before the war could get bobbleheads for a deduction from their paycheck. However, by 2277, the bobbleheads have run out of stock. Furthermore, the terminal also says that bobbleheads can only be bought by executives.
The bobbleheads were also used as a Fallout 3 promotional item by Bethesda Softworks and are included in the Collector's Edition of the game. They are similar to the ones in-game, but are shorter and in a generic standing-with-arms-folded pose.
Bobbleheads are also used as a promotional item for pre-orders of Fallout 4, this time all the different poses are available, although only one, random bobblehead is issued per pre-order.