Hummel figurines (also known as M.I. Hummel figurines or simply Hummels) are a series of porcelain figurines based on the drawings of Sister Maria Innocentia Hummel, O.S.F.
The sketch art of Sister Maria Innocentia Hummel began to appear in the 1930's in Germany and Switzerland, mostly pastoral drawings of children. The German art publisher Ars Sacra was involved in the early popularization of the art on postcards. Hummel's "art cards" became popular throughout Germany, catching the eye of Franz Goebel, porcelain maker and head of W. Goebel Porzellanfabrik. Goebel acquired rights to turn Hummel's drawing into figurines, producing the first line in 1935. The figurines were introduced at the Leipzig Trade Fair, a major European show for the industry. Goebel was known for presenting new and novel products that attracted American distributors. By the end of the year, 46 M.I. Hummel motifs were on the market, sold in America at Marshall Field & Co. of Chicago and other American retailers.
After the end of World War II, the popularity of Hummel figurines grew as American soldiers stationed in West Germany began sending the figurines home as gifts. Nostalgia associated with the figurines and the U.S. soldiers buying them led to Hummel figurines becoming a popular collector's item. Popularity increased even more when the figurines were sold by the Army PX system. As travel to Europe became more commonplace, the figurines, with their folkloric appearance, were often purchased as souvenirs. A vibrant speculator market in Hummel figurines developed in the 1970's, and Hummel figurines skyrocketed in price. M.I. Hummel collector plates made by Goebel and sold by the Goebel Collectors Club, were a prominent item in the Bradford Exchange, a supplier of collectible plates. Today, figurine offerings include traditional M.I. Hummel figurines, special limited editions, a figurine series featuring Swarovski crystal elements, the Hope Series that donates a portion of the proceeds to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Annual Angels, and more. Retail prices for authentic M.I. Hummel figurines range from just over $100 for simple figurines to well over $1,000 for larger and more intricate pieces. There is also an active second-hand market for the figurines.
Production of Hummel figurines by Goebel was taken over in early 2009 by Manufaktur Rödental GmbH under the direction of Jörg Köster. Following the 2013 bankruptcy of Manufaktur Rödental, a new international management team took over the M.I. Hummel figurine business in 2014. Figurine production continued in Germany under Hummel Manufaktur GmbH, with North American distribution handled by Newboden Brands. M.I. Hummel figurines continue to be produced in the original factory in Rödental, Germany, where they have been made since 1935. They are still created with the strict oversight of the Convent of Siessen, where Sister M.I. Hummel lived and worked.