One of the most tenuous tasks of collecting vintage is confirming a piece's authenticity, and the Hummel marks you find on the bottom of Goebel and Hummel's cherubic ceramics are no less nerve-racking to verify. Thankfully, you can better date and evaluate any Hummel in your collection using their unique numbering and marking system. Take a look at how this system has evolved over time.
First Step to Verifying a Hummel Figurine
These cherry-cheeked Hummel children were first produced in 1935 in a partnership with Sister Maria Innocentia (nee Berta Hummel) and Franz Goebel of the German pottery company, Goebel. After a quick inspection of the Hummels in your care, you should find M.I. Hummel's signature inscribed into their ceramic base, along with a stamp or inscription on the bottom of these pieces. Avid collectors use these maker's marks to organize their collections and ensure they're purchasing a real Hummel.
Timeline of the Goebel and Hummel Marks
Thankfully, Goebel and Hummel's marks have been well-documented, and you can track nearly every piece they've ever produced by corroborating a piece's mark to the company's catalog. These are the different visual trademarks (TMKs) that you'll find stamped and inscribed into the bottom of every authentic Hummel figurine.
1. TMK-1 (1935-1949)
Goebel and Hummel's "Crown Marks" display a logo with the initials WG inscribed underneath a stylized crown in honor of William Goebel, Goebel Company's founder. It's during this period that you also see the M.I. Hummel signature appear at the figurines' bases. This feature would continue into the 21st century.
2. TMK-2 (1950-1959)
The 1950s were characterized by Hummel's launch of their bee design marks. These stamps depict various differently styled bees sitting inside a V. The company actually changed the bee's shape and size every year from 1956-1959.
3. TMK-3 (1960-1972)
These "Stylized Bee Marks" that evolved through the 1960s and early 1970s are considered close variations of the original bee marks. Oftentimes, these marks include a written inscription - W. Germany - which denotes which region of the divided country the company operated in.
4. TMK-4 (1964-1972)
Alongside the 'Stylized Bee' variants are the TMK-4 markings. The only differentiating aspect between these markings and their concurrent TMK-3 series is the three-lined inscription written beside the mark stating © by / W. Goebel / W. Germany.
5. TMK-5 (1972-1979)
This 1970s series is referred to by collectors as the "Last Bee Mark" because it was the final series (for many decades) to include the company' infamous bee. The company began to showcase its name during this period and highlighted the Goebel brand by placing an illustrated bee above the last E in the company's title.
6. TMK-6 (1979-1990)
The most simplistic of all of the markings is the TMK-6 series. Here, both the bee and the 'v' were removed, leaving behind only the Goebel's name to take ownership for the figurine.
7. TMK-7 (1990-1999)
Following Germany's unification in the wake of the Berlin Wall's destruction came the company' seventh iteration of their famous markings. This series paid homage to this historic unification and added the original crown underneath the company's logo.
8. TMK-8 (2000-2008)
The last Goebel's official mark was characterized by the bumble bee's return and the crown's retirement. While another company has continued to make Hummel figurines using a trademark that showcases M.I. Hummel's signature and the bumble bee, it is not associated with the Goebel Company. Thus, all Goebel-Hummel figurines are considered to be produced before 2008.
Authentication Using the Hummel Numbering System
Another way to give more accreditation to a vintage Hummel figurine is to cross-reference the HUM numbers that are inscribed, stamped, or hand painted onto each of the figurine's bases. These numbers are either 1-4 digits long and refer to a specific Hummel figurine design that's listed in the company's historic catalog. For example, the rare Hummel collectible "Adventure Bound" has the HUM #347 designation.
Beware of Imitation Marks
Interestingly, there aren't as many imitation attempts made using Hummel figurine designs as there are with other popular ceramic and porcelain lines. However, occasionally you will come across people who have tried to pass an adjacent design manufactured overseas. Oftentimes, these are made out of cheaper material, like plaster of paris, and feel noticeably lighter than authentic ones do. Thus, you'll want to be extra careful to make sure the glaze, materials, and marks all match what authentic Hummels are supposed to have.
Adjacent Hummel Figurines
There are two separate figurine series that are indirectly considered Hummel collectibles. The Dubler Figurines and Beswick Figurines are both accepted by many Hummel collectors and appraisers and are believed to be even more collectible than the originals by some fans because of their unusual stories.
During World War II when Goebel was prohibited from producing Hummel figurines by Nazi enforcement, the New York City based company, Ars Sacra, stepped in to distribute (and starting in 1940 to manufacture) Goebel and Hummel's designs in the United States. About 50 of these figurines exist, each having a marking indicating "Herbert Dubler, Inc." or "Ars Sacra" and the copyright date. This production ceased once Goebel was able to return to business in the post-war period.
Hummel figurines #903-#914 belong to this unique Beswick group; these figurines have a back stamp entitled "Beswick-England," which historians believe refers to the popular porcelain manufacturer of the time. However, once this company was sold, it was revealed that there was no documentation confirming their partnership with the Goebel product. Unfortunately, there are more questions than answers to this odd situation, but this does make them a special collectible.
When in Doubt, Seek an Expert
Ultimately, the best way you can be 100% sure that a Hummel figurine in your collection is authentic is to have it appraised by an expert. Taking this extra step, no matter the markings or HUM numbers that you find on the Hummel, can give you and a potential client the best peace of mind.