Simply saying the name ‘Hummel’ evokes a clear mental image of child-like porcelain figurines that once dominated the North American ornamental goods market.
These lovely artifacts were originally based on the graphic renderings of Sister Maria Innocentia Hummel, a Franciscan nun from Germany in the 1930s. When her artwork came to the attention of Franz Goebel, a noted porcelain maker, he quickly recognized the opportunity to transform the images into ornaments that would appeal to people’s hearts – and wallets.
Originally sold in Europe, Hummels made foray into North American in the mid-1930s. German immigrants brought such treasures with them as they resettled and North American soldiers posted to Germany after the war sent them home as popular gifts. While this limited exposure helped create awareness, the true explosion of Hummel-mania reached its zenith in the 70s through a combination of smart marketing and a strong speculator’s market.
Excited by the increased demand for his products, Goebel ramped up production and flooded the market through retailers such as Woolworths and Hallmark. To satisfy the emerging class of collectors, he then released limited editions that quickly became adopted as speculator’s favourites. The combination of increased demand with quick appreciation forever seared the name Hummel in North American culture.
However, today’s picture is radically different. Demand for Hummels has been in free fall as the volume of original owners ages and divests themselves of their collections. This has resulted in a market saturated with figurines at the very same time as consumer tastes have changed. Today’s collectors have moved onto other items leaving vast numbers of Hummels literally ‘in the dust’.
This presents a pressing question. "What is one to do with a cabinet-full of collectables that few people seem to want?"
Based on our experience, here are a few suggestions:
1. Adjust your expectations. Rather than seeking monetary value for your collectables, reflect on the satisfaction that they have brought you throughout their tenure with you. If they brought joy and colour to your life, then you are already ahead of the game.
2. Offer them up first to friends and family who may appreciate them simply for the place they have played in your family’s history.
3. Research current market values on websites such as eBay and Craigslist. This will give you a quick ‘snap shot’ of current supply, demand and pricing. Based on this, you may decide to offer some of your own items on these websites.
4. Offer the items to local dealers or consignment shops once you have done your basic research. While research can inform you about online pricing and demand, you may need to adjust your expectations to suite your local area.
5. Donate the items to your favourite non-profit. You may receive a tax credit for a collection of suitable size. If not, you will still enjoy the satisfaction of knowing that you have taken a step towards ‘downsizing’ while making a contribution to someone else’s enjoyment.
Regardless of what solution you adopt, remember to appreciate all the years that your Hummels have been part of your life – and the pleasure that they have provided.