Americans are crazy about Hummel figurines
The National Socialists called them “water-headed gnomes”, but the porcelain children based on drawings by Sister Maria Innocentia Hummel became popular as souvenirs around the world. Today the figures can fetch high prices.
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FFor many Americans there is only one noteworthy souvenir that comes to mind when they think of Germany: Hummel figurines, called “Hamel Fieegors” in broad American. In this country, the proper porcelain children have been forgotten. The American preference for porcelain kitsch began after the Second World War, when the GIs stationed in Germany brought the figures home as souvenirs.
There are still veritable fan communities – like the “MI Hummel Club” with more than 200,000 members. The authors of the “Breaking Bad” universe also have a particular preference for Hummel figurines, which they use as props.
In the episode “Shepherd Boy” of the series “Better Call Saul”, a spin-off from “Breaking Bad”, the lawyer Jimmy McGill takes care of the Hummel figurine collection of his ancient client Mrs. Strauss, which divides her figurative treasures in a will attaches absurd conditions.
Hummel figurines can fetch enormous prices today
The first Hummel figurines were created in the 1930s based on drawings by Sister Maria Innocentia Hummel, born as Berta Hummel from Lower Bavaria. She studied at the State School for Applied Arts in Munich before going to the Sießen Monastery in Bad Saulgau in 1931.
She continued to work as an artist and as a drawing teacher in a school. Her favorite motif were cute, mostly somewhat plump children playing, which were even exhibited – and which the National Socialist art critics referred to as “water-headed gnomes and club-footed bastards”.
Franz Goebel, managing director of the porcelain factory of the same name, was impressed by her drawings. He signed a license agreement with Sister Hummel and the Sießen monastery, which, by the way, is still valid today and gives the monastery a say in the appearance and fidelity of new figures.
However, Sister Hummel did not experience the really great global success of her porcelain children, she died of tuberculosis in 1946 at the age of only 37. You can visit her birthplace in Massing, Lower Bavaria, where a small figure museum has been set up.
Your Hummel figurines can fetch enormous prices today, the year and the stamp on the bottom determine the value. Larger groups of figures in particular can cost several thousand euros. The boy with lamb pictured here is one of the inexpensive collectible figurines that are brought out every year by the German Hummel Club. It’s called “Don’t be afraid” and costs around 20 euros.
As expected, the world’s largest collection of figurines is in the USA, it is in the Donald E. Stephens Museum of Hummels in Rosemont, Illinois.
But the best thing that can ever happen to a souvenir takes place every year at the German-American Festival in the state of Oregon: The “Hummel Look-Alike Contest”, for all children from two to ten years of age. Which souvenir can keep up with that?
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