Since 1935, there have been several changes in the trademarks on M.I. Hummel figurines. In later years of production, each new trademark design merely replaced the old one, but in the earlier years, frequently the new design trademark would be placed on a figurine that already bore the older style trademark.
In some cases, a change from an incised trademark to a surface stamped version of the same mark would result in both appearing on the figure. The former represents a transition period from older to newer, and the latter resulted in what are called “Double Crown.” Below gives you an illustrated guide to the major trademarks and their evolution to the trademark presently used on M.I. Hummel items.
Many subtle differences will not be covered because they serve no significant purpose in identifying the era in which an item was produced. There are, however, a few that do help to date a piece. These will be discussed and illustrated. The dates of the early trademark changes are approximate in some cases, but probably accurate to within five years or so. Please bear in mind that the dates, although mostly derived from company records, are not necessarily as definite as they appear. There are documented examples where pieces vary from the stated years, both earlier and later. A number of words and phrases associated with various trademarks can, in some cases, help to date a piece.
Note: It is important that you understand that the various trademarks illustrated and discussed here were used by Goebel on all of its products, not just Hummel items, until about mid-1991, when a new mark was developed exclusively for use on M.I. Hummel items.
The Crown Mark (TMK-1): 1934-1950
The Crown Mark (TMK-1 or CM), sometimes referred to as the “Crown-WG,” was used by Goebel on all of its products in 1935, when M.I. Hummel figurines were first made commercially available. Subtle variations have been noted, but the illustration here is all you need to identify the trademark. Those subtle differences are of no important significance to the collector. The letters WG below the crown in the mark are the initials of William Goebel, one of the founders of the company. The crown signifies his loyalty to the imperial family of Germany at the time of the mark’s design, around 1900. The mark is sometimes found in an incised circle.
Another Crown-type mark is sometimes confusing to collectors; some refer to it as the “Narrow Crown” and others the “Wide Ducal Crown.” This mark was introduced by Goebel in 1937 and used on many of its products. Goebel calls it the Wide Ducal Crown mark, so we shall adopt this name as well to alleviate confusion. To date, most dealers and collectors have thought this mark was never found on an M.I. Hummel piece. Goebel, however, in its newsletter Insights (Vol. 14, No. 3, pg. 8) stated that the mark was used “...rarely on figurines,” so we will defer to the company and assume there might be some out there somewhere.
Often, as stated earlier, the Crown Mark will appear twice on the same piece, more often one mark incised and the other stamped. This is, as we know, the “Double Crown.” When World War II ended and the United States Occupation Forces allowed Goebel to begin exporting, the pieces were marked as having been made in the occupied zone. The various forms and phrases to be found in this regard are illustrated below.
These marks were applied to the bases of the figurines, along with the other markings, from 1946 through 1948. They were sometimes applied under the glaze and often over the glaze. The latter were easily lost over the years through wear and cleaning if the owner was not careful. Between 1948 and 1949, the U.S. Zone mark requirement was dropped, and the word “Germany” took its place. With the partitioning of Germany into East and West, “W. Germany,” “West Germany,” or “Western Germany” began to appear most of the time instead.
Until the early 1950s the company occasionally used a WG or a WG to the right of the incised M.I. Hummel signature. When found, the signature is usually placed on the edge of, or the vertical edge of, the base. Some have been known to confuse this with the Crown Mark (TMK-1) when in fact it is not.
The Full Bee Mark (TMK-2): 1940-1959
In 1950, Goebel made a major change in its trademark. The company incorporated a bee in a V. It is thought that the bumblebee part of the mark was derived from a childhood nickname of Sister Maria Innocentia Hummel, meaning bumblebee. The bee flies within a V, which is the first letter of the German word for distributing company, Verkaufsgesellschaft. The mark was to honor M.I. Hummel, who died in 1946.
There are actually 12 variations of the Bee marks to be found on Goebel-produced M.I. Hummel items, but some are grouped together, as the differences between them are not considered particularly significant. They will be detailed as a matter of interest.
The Full Bee mark, also referred to as TMK-2 or abbreviated FB, is the first of the Bee marks to appear. The mark evolved over nearly 20 years until the company began to modernize it. It is sometimes found in an incised circle. The history of the transition and illustrations of each major change follows. Each of them is still considered to be the Full Bee (TMK-2).
The very large bee flying in the V remained until around 1956, when the bee was reduced in size and lowered into the V. It can be found incised, stamped in black, or stamped in blue, in that order, through its evolution.
The Stylized Bee (TMK-3): 1958-1972
A major change in the way the bee is rendered in the trademark made its appearance in 1960. The Stylized Bee (TMK-3), sometimes abbreviated as Sty-Bee when written, as the major component of the trademark appeared in three basic forms through 1972. The first two are both classified as the Stylized Bee (TMK-3), but the third is considered a fourth step in the evolution, the Three Line Mark (TMK-4). It might interest you to know that Goebel reused the Crown-WG backstamp from 1969 until 1972. It is not always there, but when it shows, it is a small blue decal application. This was done to protect Goebel’s copyright of the mark. It otherwise would have run out.
The Large Stylized Bee: This trademark was used primarily from 1960 through 1963. Notice in the illustration that the “W. Germany” is placed to the right of the bottom of the V. The color of the mark will be black or blue. It is sometimes found inside an incised circle. When you find the Large Stylized Bee mark, you will normally find a stamped “West” or “Western Germany” in black elsewhere on the base, but not always.
The Small Stylized Bee: This mark is also considered to be TMK-3. It was used concurrently with the Large Stylized Bee from about 1960 and continued in this use until about 1972. Note in the illustration that the “W. Germany” appears centered beneath the V and bee. The mark is usually rendered in blue, and it too is often accompanied by a stamped black “West” or “Western Germany.” Collectors and dealers sometimes refer to the mark as the One Line Mark.
The Three Line Mark (TMK-4): 1964-1972
This trademark is sometimes abbreviated 3-line or 3LM in print. The trademark used the same stylized V and bee as the others, but also included three lines of wording beside it, as you can see. This major change appeared in blue.
The Last Bee Mark (TMK-5): 1972-1979
Actually developed and occasionally used as early as 1970, this major change was known by some collectors as the Last Bee Mark because the next change in the trademark no longer incorporated any form of the V and the bee. However, with the reinstatement of a bee in TMK-8 with the turn of the century, TMK-5 is not technically the “Last Bee” any longer. The mark was used until about mid-1979, when Goebel began to phase it out, completing the transition to the new trademark in 1980. There are three minor variations in the mark shown in the illustration. Generally, the mark was placed under the glaze from 1972 through 1976 and is found placed over the glaze from 1976 through 1979.
The Missing Bee Mark (TMK 6): 1979-1991
The transition to this trademark began in 1979 and was complete by mid-1980. As you can see, Goebel removed the V and bee from the mark altogether. Many dealers and collectors lamented the passing of the traditional stylized V and bee, and for a while called the mark the Missing Bee. In conjunction with this change, the company instituted the practice of adding to the traditional artist’s mark the date the artist finished painting the piece. Because the white overglaze pieces are not usually painted, it would be reasonable to assume that the date is omitted on them.
The Hummel Mark (TMK-7): 1991-1999
In 1991, Goebel made a move of historical importance. The company changed the trademark once again. This time, the change was not only symbolic of the reunification of the two Germanys by removal of the “West” from the mark, but also very significant in another way. Until then, Goebel used the same trademark on virtually all of its products. The mark illustrated here was for exclusive use on Goebel products made from the paintings and drawings of M.I. Hummel.
The Millennium Bee (TMK-8): 2000-2008
Goebel decided to celebrate the beginning of a new century with a revival in a bee-adorned trademark. Seeking once again to honor the memory of Sister Maria Innocentia Hummel, a bumblebee, this time flying solo without the V, was reinstated into the mark in 2000 and ended in 2008. Goebel stopped production of the M.I. Hummel figurines on Sept. 30, 2008.
The Manufaktur Rödental Mark (TKM-9): 2009-Present
Manufaktur Rödental purchased the rights to produce M.I. Hummel figurines from Goebel in 2009. This trademark signifies a new era for Hummel figurines while maintaining the same quality and workmanship from the master sculptors and master painters at the Rödental factory. This trademark has a full bee using yellow and black for the bumblebee, which circles around the words “Original M.I. Hummel Germany” with the registration symbol next to M.I. Hummel. Manufaktur Rödental is underneath the circle with a copyright sign.
First Issue, Final Issue, and 125th Anniversary Backstamps
Starting in 1990, Goebel began stamping any newly issued piece with the words “First Issue,” during the first year of production only. In 1991, the company began doing the same thing during the last year before retiring a piece, by marking each with the words “Final Issue.” The words are also accompanied by the appropriate year date. The stamps are illustrated for you here. The first piece to bear the Final Issue backstamp was Hum 203, Signs of Spring, in both sizes. The Final Issue pieces will also be sold with a commemorative retirement medallion hung around them.
Goebel’s 125th anniversary was in 1996, and all figures produced in that year bear the special backstamp.
RELATED CONTENT: THE HISTORY OF HUMMEL FIGURINES
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