I put alot of effort and time into this guide, please take the time to scroll to the bottom and click on "guide was helpful" or "guide was not helpful".
Let me start by saying I have invested many years into researching, buying, selling and collecting these adorable figurines. In the past I have used newspapers, live auctions, yard sales and word of mouth to seek out items for my collection. Ebay has opened a whole new avenue for collectors with thousands of M I Hummel items available everyday. As with any collectable item, the collector needs a buying guide or reference to make informed buying decisions. I have tried to compile a small part of the Hummel history, a brief look into trademarks and a quick lesson on collecting and eBay shopping into this guide. I hope you will print this guide and keep it handy while shopping at eBay.
The History of M I Hummel Figurines
Drawings by Sister Maria Innocentia - Figurine #85 "Serenade"
M I hummel figurines were created by a warm, simple Bavarian girl whose name was Berta Hummel. Berta gained her artistic direction at an early age from the Institute of English Sisters. In 1931 Berta entered the covent of Siessen at Saulgua. Two years later she was ordained Sister Maria Innocentia. In 1933 sketches of her work were sent to a publishing company in Munich. Her first artworks were two dimensional, better known as "postcards". Franz Goebel of the W. Goebel Company became aware of her artwork in 1934 and sought permission to transform the art into three dimensional figures. This is where the relationship between Sister Maria Innocentia, the Convent and W. Goebel began. In 1946 after a long illness, Sister Maria Innocentia passed away at an early age of 37 years.
Sister Maria Innocentia - Berta Hummel
The Goebel Company still produces the work of Berta Hummel today. All prototypes must still have the Convent approval before being produced. Sister Maria's love of children and art has allowed the generations to cherish and adore the pert faces of all M I Hummel figurines.
The first three hummel figurines Puppy Love, Little Fiddler and Bookworm were marked FF15, FF16 and FF17 on an interim basis. This is because when these were sculpted, the figurine series designation or mold numbers had not yet been determined. When the licensing agreement was reached in 1935 with the Convent, these figurines were then marked HUM1, HUM2 and HUM3.
TMK-1 Also in 1935, the "Wide Crown - WG" trademark was added. On the earliest figurines it was incised on the bottom of the base. This mark is known as the "Crown Mark". Between 1935 and 1955 the company occasionally used a C inside a circle (copyright) beside a W within a G mark, this was stamped or incised on the edge of the base. When both of these markings are found together on one figurine, this is called the "Double Crown" mark. From 1946 thru 1948, "Made in the US Zone Germany" was added.
TMK-2 In 1950 Goebel wished to pay tribute to Sister Hummel's death. At this time the trademark was changed to a bee flying high within a V. The name Hummel in German means "bumblebee" and the V stands for "Verkaufsgesellschat" or Distribution Company. This new mark was called the "Full Bee" and was used until 1955.
The next changes are mind boggling and this is where collector's get confused. In 1956 the trademark was modified to a smaller bee with it's wing tips parallel with the top of the V. In 1957 it changed again with the bee slightly raised above the V. In 1958 the bee was smaller yet and it flew deep within the V. With all of these changes to the trademark, they are all still considered to be a tmk-2. The year 1959 saw the beginning of the "Stylized Bee", which has sharp angular wings.
Happy Traveler #82 2/0, Incised Signature, TMk-3 Stylized Bee
TMK-3 In 1960 the "Stylized Bee" was completed. This new trademark was a bee with sharp angular wings, the wing tips are parallel with the top of the V. This form of bumblebee was used one way or another until 1979.
TMK-4 Now to make matters more confusing, a new trademark was introduced and ran concurrent with the tmk-3. This new trademark looks the same as the tmk-3, but now to the right of the V, they added three lines of print which reads, C by Goebel, W. Goebel, W. Germany. This trademark is known as the "Three Line" mark or tmk-4 and was used until 1972.
- TMK-5 In 1972 the Goebel Company decided to experiment with trademarks again. This time they started printing the name Goebel with the Stylized Bee and V above the name and positioned between the letters b and e. This new mark is better known as the "Last Bee Mark" and was used until 1979.
- TMK-6 In 1979 another new trademark was introduced and this one is easy to distinguish. The Goebel name remained, but they removed the Bee and V from above the name and added W. Germany under the name. This trademark is know as "The Missing Bee" or tmk-6 and was used until 1991.
- TMK-7 In 1991 another trademark change was needed. The Goebel name and Germany remained and the W. was deleted. Also the original crown was added under the word Germany. New collector's sometimes confuse this mark as a tmk-1 Crown. This new trademark was used until the year 2000.
- TMK-8 In 2000 the trademark was changed once more. The only item that remains is the name Goebel, but they added a very large Bumblebee. This Bumblebee is to honor the memory of Sister Maria Innocentia Hummel. This trademark is still being used today, but I am sure we will see changes in the near future.
M I Hummel Price Guide
First Things First ... Do not even think of starting a collection of Hummels without first purchasing a Value & Price Guide. These guides are full of photos, references, history and values. You will also find photos and history of "Rare Hard to Find" pieces along with Hummel items you may not know exist. Study the guide and know it from front to back and back to front. The guide I use is pictured above, and in my opinion the author is the leading authoritative on M I Hummel. After all these years of collecting, I still tend to wear out at least one guide per year. Keep in mind, prices found in these guides tend to be escalated compared to what the items sell for on eBay. I like to purchase at no more than one quarter of the value guide prices.
Know What You Are looking For ... To start, the correct spelling is M I Hummel. I often see auctions listed as M J Hummel, M T Hummel, M I Hunnel, Gobel instead of Goebel etc. Almost all Hummels will have the M I Hummel Incised Signature located somewhere on the piece. Prototypes and very small figurines are the only pieces that may NOT have the Incised M I Hummel Signature. Some collector's and even seller's assume that if the name Goebel appears on an item, then it has to be a Hummel. This is not true, the Goebel Company is a factory that produces many fine items which include M I Hummels. The rule of thumb when trying to determine a Hummel item is, if it does not have the incised signature, it is not a Hummel. If you have an item that does not have the incised signature, but you truly believe it to be an authentic Hummel, seek out a professional.
A Goebel Company Item - This Is Not A M I Hummel
Rare Unusual Pieces ... There are many rare and unusual pieces to be found. Study your guide to learn about "Doll Face" or "Faience", Terra Cotta, Internationals, White Over Glaze, etc. There are also major differences like dress color, flowers/no flowers, eyes open/eyes shut, 5 buttons/6 buttons, neck tie/no necktie, different lable on a bottle, 3 pickets on a fence/4 pickets on a fence, brown hat/gray hat, etc. Keep your eyes open and pay attention to detail.
Doll Face or Faience and Normal Finish
Internationals - Yes These Are Authentic M I Hummel
Condition Is Everything ... The Hummel pieces that you aquire should be in as "Near Mint" condition as possible. I say near mint because I do not believe anything is perfect. There should NOT be any repairs, chips, cracks, nicks, paint loss or Crazing anywhere on the figurine. You may ask, what in the world is "crazing"? I have been asked this question hundreds of times. Hummel items are finished with a clear glaze or clear coat. Crazing is a crackling or spider web like appearance in this glaze. There may be only one or two lines of crazing or the entire piece may be covered with it. Some say crazing is due to extreme temperature changes, some say age is a factor. I tend to find more tmk-3 thru tmk-5 items with crazing. In my opinion, I feel the crazing is due to a defect in the glaze that was used during this manufacturing period. Some collector's are not worried by crazing, but if I have a choice, I want the non-crazed piece.
Tips For Shopping At eBay
- When searching eBay for a bargain or rare Hummel, try typing in Hunnel instead of Hummel, Gobel instead of Goebel, girl with chickens, boy with horn, etc. Use your imagination, not everyone knows what a Hummel is and I see alot of figurines listed in the wrong category.
- Check "Newly Listed" items for "Buy It Now" bargains. I have came across several hard to find and rare pieces using this method, and have purchased them at really good prices. It doesn't happen everyday, but it does happen.
- Knowing when to shop can save you alot of money. Late night and early morning auction closings tend to bring lower prices. Weekends seem to be a bit higher. If you are a night-owl or an early-riser, there are bargains to be had.
- Quality photos are worth a thousand words. Hummel auctions should contain at leat five, in-focus close-up photos of the front, back, left side, right side and underside or trademark side of the figurine. If the auction does not contain enough quality photos to make a good judgement on condition, email the seller for better ones. Beware of out of focus photos or auctions that contain only one far away photo.
Quality Photo Poor, Out Of Focus Photo
Know your seller's reputation. Take the time to read all of the seller's posted "feedback". By reading this feedback, you will gain a good understanding of how the seller conducts business. Sometimes a simple mis-understanding can get blown way out of proportion. If you receive an item that has issues not stated, reputable seller's will usually refund the auction price, less shipping costs. Most seller's take great pride in their feedback, so if you make a purchase, please take a moment and reward the person with a feedback comment.
- Over paying for shipping and handling can be very costly. Please check these costs before placing a bid. Normally the shipping cost is stated or you may find the shipping calculator towards the bottom of the auction page. If neither can be found, email the seller for the cost. There is nothing worse than getting a good bargain only to find out the shipping charges are escalated. Keep in mind that over paying by a dollar or two is nothing to get excited about, sometimes it is hard for the seller to be exact.
I know this guide contains alot of information to absorb, but this is just at peek at over 70 years of history and information on M I Hummel items. There are still alot of ebay shopping secrets to be learned. I am hoping this guide will answer a few questions, pass on a little bit of my knowledge, and make your Hummel collecting as enjoyable as it should be.