In 1876, Franz Goebel started a porcelain firm near the town of Oeslauby, Germany. After several years of porcelain production in the factory, Franz’s son, William expanded the Goebel product line and changed the company name to W. Goebel Porzellanfabrik. Convinced that the American market would assist sales, William developed a U.S. product line and sent his 16-year-old son, Max Louis, to America. By 1911, Max Louis Goebel returned to German to move the factory into the 20th century.
In the 1930s, Franz Goebel thought that in a world of political turmoil, customers would respond to a product that depicted the gentle innocence of childhood. The artwork of a Franciscan Sister and gifted artists trained at the Munich Academy, Maria Innocentia Hummel, was introduced to Mr. Goebel. The nun made drawings of country children that were printed as art cards which gained popularity.
Based on the artwork of Sister Hummel, Goebel wanted to produce a line of figurines. The artist was contacted at the Convent of Siessen and was shown clay models based on her drawings. Sister Hummel and the Convent of Siessen granted sole rights to Goebel to create ceramic figures based on her original artwork. Sister Hummel personally approved the sculpting and painting of each porcelain piece. It was determined that earthenware, pioneered by Goebel in the 1920s, was the proper medium for the new line.
About Sister Hummel Maria Innocentia Hummel was born in Bavaria in 1909. In 1927, she enrolled in Munich’s famed Academy of Applied Arts and befriended two Franciscan Sisters from a teaching order that emphasized the arts. She decided to enter the Convent of Siessen upon graduation from art school in 1931, and by 1934, the young nun took the name Maria Innocentia replacing the name Bertha.
The members of the convent encouraged the Sister to pursue her artwork. Soon, small German publishers began printing her artwork in the form of postcards. These charming cards came to the attention of Franz Goebel, the head of the Goebel porcelain company.
The artist worked personally with Goebel’s Master sculptors and painters to create the figurines. First introduced in 1935, the Hummel figurines were an immediate success. The relationship between Hummel and Goebel continued amicably until Sister Hummel’s untimely death at 37 in 1946. Goebel carried on her artistic legacy with new Hummel pieces.
Hummel signature and markings To determine if a figurine, plate, or bell is a genuine Hummel piece, there are definitive marks of identification that should be evident. The mark of Sister M. I. Hummel is incised on every piece. Sister Hummel requested that her personal stamp of approval would appear on every piece and under the direction of the members of the convent, approvals were made with care. All Hummels have a mold number which is a number that is incised on the bottom of each M. I. Hummel figurine at the factory. Another definitive identifier is the Goebel stamp on the underside of the figurine which is an official Goebel trademark. While the trademark has changed over the years, every authentic M. I. Hummel figurine will have a Goebel stamp on its underside. When any change in the backstamp had occurred, it has been a source of great excitement for M. I. Hummel collectors.
Values and specific figurines Hummel figurines are highly sought after by collectors with several models valued at hundreds, even thousands, of dollars per piece. Pieces such as “For Father”, “Globe Trotter”, “Little Goat Herder”, and “Going to Grandmas” are good examples of valuable collectibles. As with all collectibles, condition and rarity will affect value, but don’t let anyone tell you that your Hummel figurine is not collectible or not valuable. Remember, someone who is interested in buying your Hummels for their collection or for resale in their store will most likely not provide an accurate appraised value. Why? They don’t want to pay top dollar for a valuable Hummel!