Both coveted and cute, Hummel figurines were one of the hottest collectibles of the 20th century. Their appeal continues today, as the rarity of some styles has driven prices to record heights.
While modestly priced Hummels are available, exceptional examples can sell between several hundred to several thousand dollars. Some, such as the "Adventure Bound" figure group, have reached prices over $4,000, and a 2013 auction at Kramer & Kramer Auctioneers of Ohio registered the sale of a Hummel Czechoslovakian International Figure for $5,000.
Stoking such prices is the fascinating history of Hummel figurines that begins with Bavarian nun Berta Hummel in the early 20th century. Hummel assumed the name of Sister Maria Innocentia in 1931 when she joined a Franciscan convent in southern Germany. Having just previously completed art school, Hummel dabbled in art during her days as a novitiate, painting jolly likenesses of rosy-cheeked children. Her fellow sisters encouraged her and even suggested she sell her work. It was through such sales that Hummels eventually arrived on the desk of Franz Goebel, the director of a German pottery company. Inspired by Hummel's endearing designs, Goebel negotiated a collaboration with the Bavarian nun to transform her paintings into ceramic pieces.
Goebel debuted the fruits of this collaboration at the 1935 Trade Fair in Leipzig, Germany, and the success was immediate. Within months, Goebel's company had begun work on more than forty additional figures. This rapid ascent to acclaim was cut short, though, in subsequent years with the rise of Nazi control of Europe. Nazi forces soon limited and then ceased Hummel production and also shuttered the convent that Hummel called home in 1940.
Berta Hummel died following the conclusion of the war in 1946, succumbing to tuberculosis at the young age of 37. The legacy she had begun, however, would live on. Goebel restarted production of Hummel figurines that same year, and soon after the delightful collectibles were highly coveted once more. They became particularly popular among American troops stationed in Europe, whose export of Hummels back to the United States as souvenirs for family members fueled early American demand. Goebel worked with immensely talented artists over the years to ensure that the quality and artisanry of each Hummel figurine was exceptional and of the same standards as Hummel herself would have expected.
Today's Market for Hummel
In recent decades the Hummel market has experienced fluctuations and dips in price, but current market trends suggest that the outstanding examples of Hummel figurines can still draw impressive prices at auction. Hummel production by the Goebel company ceased in 2008 when a subsidiary company assumed production, so it seem sure the ever-increasing rarity of antique and vintage Hummels over time will support the longevity of the market.
Below is a list of estimated or realized prices for Hummel figurines from the Invaluable price database that highlights some of the quintessential examples on the market today.
"Adventure Bound" and Other Multiple Figure Hummel Groups
Consistently popular among collectors are Hummels that feature multiple figures, perhaps because such designs are more complex and thus require additional skill to render each narrative effectively. "Adventure Bound" is one of the most craved in this category. Designed by artist Theo Menzenbach around 1955, the "Adventure Bound" figurine, mold number #347 in Hummel archives, debuted in American markets in the early 1970s. Since this design was produced over several decades, the value of these figurines depends on the date of their creation, which is indicated by the style of the trademark bee found on the bottom of the figurine. "Adventure Bound" figurines that feature the "Full Bee" trademark (shorthanded as TMK-2), for instance, were created before 1959. Hummel expert Heidi Ann Von Recklinghausen suggests that these rare versions, a few of which are documented in current collections, should be valued between $6,000-$9,000.
The Stein Auction Company (October 2013)
Estimated Price: $900-1,300
Wellers Auctioneers (April 2007)
Estimated Price: £120-180
"Apple Tree Boy" and "Apple Tree Girl"
Also among the highest-priced Hummels are the early designs of the "Apple Tree Boy" and "Apple Tree Girl." Sometimes sold as a matched set, these feature a boy and girl respectively nestled in an apple tree. They are also recorded as Hummel mold number #142 and #141. Pricing for these figurines varies due to condition, edition (dating), and scale, as both versions were created in three sizes. Accordingly, the smaller scale versions, measuring 3.5 and 6 inches, typically sell for several hundred dollars. The colossal versions, marked “142/X,” should be valued, according to expert Carl F. Lucky, at $26,500 or more.
The Stein Auction Company (June 2011)
Estimated Price: $10,000-15,000
Apple Tree Auction Center (February 2014)
Realized Price: $3,500
Berner's Auction Gallery (January 2012)
Estimated Price: $8,000-12,000
Realized Price: $4,000
Another favorite in the field of Hummel collecting is the International series of figurines that debuted in the 1940s. These styles, scattered among the #800 and #900 molds, feature the iconic Hummel figure dressed in the traditional garb of various nationalities, including Serbia, Hungary, and the former Czechoslovakia. Though more generic in their nomenclature than other Hummels with catchy or cute titles, these International figures nevertheless can rank among the most expensive.
The Stein Auction Company (February 2003)
Realized Price: $3,335
The Stein Auction Company (February 2003)
Realized Price: $3,105
Other High-Priced Hummels
With hundreds of variations of Hummel figurines created since the 1930s, there is a wide variety of other exceptional examples. Across these varied figures, though, there are several characteristics that unite them. First, as a test of authenticity, these Hummels bear the inscription "M.I. Hummel," as an homage to Sister Maria Innocentia. Second, they will bear the mold number, which can fall anywhere between #100 and #2000. Third, these figurines should bear a trademark in the form of a bee, a crown, or the Goebel company name. These trademarks are essential in determining the age of the figurine, and determining the age is crucial to assessing its value.
The Stein Auction Company (February 2009)
Estimated Price: $2,500-3,500
Realized Price: $2,904
Stein Auction Company (November 2011)
Estimated Price: $1,100-1,500
Realized Price: $2,070
Leslie Hindman Auctioneers (September 2008)
Estimated Price: $2,000-4,000
Realized Price: $1,952