These post-World War Two Japanese creations were based on the popular Goebel Hummel figures. They were produced by Arnart Creations and most often sell for $5 apiece or less.
The seventh item in this series of “Unloved Antiques” are Hummel knockoffs, like the three above. These post-World War Two Japanese creations were based on the popular Goebel Hummel figures made from the late 1930s onward. The original designs for these innocent views of children being the creation of Berta Hummel (German, 1909-1946).
Berta is better known today as Sister Maria Innocentia Hummel, becoming a Franciscan Nun after graduating from the Academy of Applied Arts in Munich, Germany in 1931. Berta’s original designs were in the form of postcards, published by the Swiss publishing firm of Ars Sacra. These post cards were quite popular in Germany, also the home of W. Goebel Porzellanfabrik, owned by Franz Goebel. Goebel was quick to seize on the idea of producing figurines based on these popular post cards and arranged for the rights to Hummel’s designs and began production based on Berta Hummel’s whimsical children in 1935. The rest, as they say, is history.
Like most popular items, be it art or technology, manufacturers are very quick to latch onto a new product and try and claim a piece of the market share. In the case of the original Hummels, their popularity in North America really took off when troops occupying Germany after World War Two began bringing them home or sent them as gifts. Importers were quick to pick up on this demand, the one that profited the most was Arnart Creations, whicih began operations circa 1953, beginning its importation of these Japanese-made figures sometime in the mid 1950s.
The fake Hummel lookalikes were said to be the work of a German designer named “Erich Stauffer.” Unfortunately, unlike Berta Hummel’s, Stauffer’s biography appears to be unknown, or possibly just another brand name creation by Arnart. The Arnart figurines are well-marked, some still retain their original Arnart Creations foil label along with the “Crossed Arrow” and “Designed by Erich Stauffer” marks in blue as can be seen below.
Even though there are no markings on these Arnart Hummel knockoffs that remotely resemble the well-known Hummel Crown or Bee marks, we regularly receive inquiries regarding them. The examples that generate the most questions being the ones that have lost the foil label. Many hopeful auction-goers and yard-salers tell us they think they have found “a rare, undocumented Hummel from the 1930s,” perhaps “a prototype that must have been designed by a Eric Stauffer when he worked for Goebel ( There’s no record of it)” or my favorite: “it was special edition piece given to retiring Hummel workers.” Sadly, none of these are true, though I sometimes wish they were, as I hate to dash such enthusiasm for the thrill of the hunt. Still, these Erich Stauffer pieces often list retail for less than $15, but often fail to even get $5 bids at auction.
Previous “Unloved Antiques” articles:
• Unloved Antiques: ‘Limited Edition’ Collectors Plates
• Unloved Antiques: Singer Sewing Machines
• Unloved Antiques: Decorator Prints
• Unloved Antiques: Commemorative Whiskey Decanters
• Unloved Antiques: ‘Bronze’ Flatware
• Unloved Antiques: 1847 Rogers Brothers Flatware
Mike Wilcox, of Wilcox & Hall Appraisers, is a Worthologist who specializes in Art Nouveau and the Arts and Craft movement.
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