Goebel began production of Hummel figurines in Germany in 1935 and later on soldiers returned from World War II with these cute pottery figures of children. The artwork of Sister Berta Hummel was the basis for the designs. Once the figurines became popular, several Japanese companies copied and imported figurines to the United States. Arnart and Wagner and Apel were two of the major importers of imitation Hummel figurines. Goebel Hummel figurines have characteristics and marks not seen on the imitations.
Look for the Goebel mark. All genuine Hummel figurines have a crown mark, a bee in a v-shaped mark or one of the Goebel line marks on the bottom. The earliest figurines had an incised mark stamped into the wet clay. Later figurines had an ink stamp and the incised mark, or just an ink stamp. Copies of authentic marks are available on the Hummel website.
Look for the Hummel signature. Find Hummel figurines signed with an incised M. I. Hummel signature, usually on a vertical surface near the base. A feature article in Collectors News magazine shows a painted Hummel signature and relates that some abbreviated signatures are found on small figurines. "In a few cases, no signature is included," the Woodworths, authors of the book "No. 1 Price Guide to M. I. Hummel Figurines," report in an article in "Collectors News" magazine.
Check for other marks. Arnart was an importer from Japan, and they imported imitation Hummel figurines. NAPCO was another Japanese importer, and their models were marked with a "C" followed by four numbers. Wagner and Apel was a German porcelain manufacturer of figurines of children similar to Hummels. These imports to the United States had a W&A mark. Non-Goebel marks are not authentic Hummels.
Look for confirmation of authenticity. Goebel Hummel figurines are lightweight beige clay with hand-painted clothing and exquisite features. These are action figurines and the artistic shapes depict motion without the awkwardness of some of the copies. Heavy figurines with poorly-painted faces are not authentic Hummel figurines.
Goebel produced many other figurines, so not all Goebel figurines are Hummels. Only the Berta Hummel designs are true Hummels, and this does not include the Friar Tuck series of monks. It includes plates and bells decorated with images of the Hummel children.
Identify the Hummel figurine by name. Each Hummel figurine has a name and the base has a number. The number is the same for all sizes and applications of the figurine, so a design used on a candy box or bowl will have the same number as the figurine. All authentic Hummel figurine shapes are identifiable from price guides or books on Hummels, and many have a numerical list of the Hummel designs and photographs of the figurines with names.