Maybe you recently inherited a collection of porcelain figurines and are wondering if they are worth anything, or perhaps you are a long-time collector and want to pare down your collection. Today we are going to help you sort through the many brands of porcelain figurines and determine which could potentially fetch high prices at auction.
Check for markings
Most porcelain figurines bear the company’s mark on the underside of the base. Online porcelain mark databases like this one may be useful in identifying brands. Be aware however that for many brands, the markings have changed over time, or there are different versions of the same marking. This can be very useful in determining the date of a piece.
Hummel markings, for example, have evolved over time. The original trademark was a crown with the word “Goebel” inscribed beneath. In later permutations the word was replaced by the letters C and W. Some Hummel figurines have two crowns and others just one. Hummels produced during the postwar period of 1946-1948 are stamped “Made in the US Zone Germany”. In the 1950s, the trademark was changed to an image of a bumblebee and the letter V. (V stood for “Verkaufsgesellschat” or “distribution company”) while “hummel” is German for “bumblebee”.
In the 1970s, the Hummel trademark included a copyright symbol along with three lines of print naming the company and location. In the same decade, the company enlarged the font of the Goebel name. Additionally, the date of some figurines can be determined by whether the mark is over or underneath the glaze. In the 1980s, the bumblebee and V were removed and the name Goebel became the central motif. In the 1990s, the trademark changed again with the renewed addition of the crown motif from the company’s early days. Since 2000, the Hummel trademark has featured a large bee and the words “Goebel” and “Germany” with a copyright symbol to the left.
- Condition – Condition is very important in valuing porcelain figurines. Chips and cracks take away from the value of a piece.
Should you repair your porcelain figurines before selling?
Repairing the piece yourself usually lowers the value of the piece significantly. There are companies that specialize in this. If you have a valuable piece with chips or cracks, it may be worth getting an estimate.
Checking for past repairs
One trick to check a piece for past repairs or modern paint touch-ups is using a black light (UV lamp) in a dark room. Glue used in repairs and modern paints used to touch up the piece will often fluoresce.
- Rarity – Rarity usually equals value. Older pieces are often more rare and some brands have limited edition runs that may also be more valuable.
- Size – Larger pieces usually sell for more than smaller ones, with dioramic pieces and multi-figure works often among the most expensive.
A Mearto online appraisal can tell you more about your porcelain figurine and its current market value. We also offer bulk pricing and special one-on-one service to customers with large collections. Email us at [email protected] to learn more!
LIST OF WELL-KNOWN MAKERS OF PORCELAIN FIGURINES
Hummel history began in the 1930s when a Bavarian nun, Sister Maria Innocentia Hummel, began to sketch pictures of children with rosy cheeks. Her sketches were popularized as printed postcards. A German pottery company, W. Goebel Porzellanfabrik, soon collaborated with her to transform the images into ceramic pieces. Hummel figurines were prized for their craftsmanship and collectors also enjoyed the variety of figurines offered as new additions each year.
During the postwar American occupation of Germany, Hummel figurines were a popular souvenir for US soldiers to send home to loved ones. In fact, they were even sold at army base stores. They were also sold throughout the US in department stores. Around the 1970s, antique Hummel prices began to rise as the secondary market expanded. There are groups dedicated to Hummel Collection as well as international conventions. There are also museums in Germany and Illinois.
The identifying marks on Hummels record the Model Number (HUM), the size (Arabic and Roman Numerals), the year of release, and sometimes the paint and/or painters code numbers. They also are incised or painted with the original signature of Sister Hummel, a condition of her collaboration with the Goebel company.
The majority of Hummel figurines depict small children and sell for low prices, usually between $10 and $50. One of the most collectible Hummel figurines is “Adventure Bound”. The piece is a combination of 7 figures on a single base. Made in 1971, it depicts characters from a German legend and sells for high prices, sometimes in the thousands.
Hummel plates, which began to be produced in 1971 can fetch up to $200. If you have the original box, the value may be more. Hummel international figurines wearing traditional garb from various countries may fetch up to $3700.
The production of porcelain in the royal factory at Meissen, near Dresden, started in 1710 and attracted artists and artisans to establish what many deem the most famous porcelain manufacturer known throughout the world.
Meissen has produced porcelain figurines, dishes, vases, clocks, and even ornate chandeliers, (one of which sold for over $40,000). Prices for Meissen pieces, as with most porcelain figurine brands, depend upon condition, rarity, and size. Antique Meissen figurines of all sizes usually sell for high prices, with many going for over $1000.
Some examples of hammer prices of highly valuable antique Meissen porcelain pieces include a set of two white porcelain herons made in 1732, which went for $6,211,052 in 2005, an 1880 Meissen porcelain framed mirror that went for $36,000 at Christie’s in 2016, and a whimsical porcelain gaming set from the 18th century. Meissen and the sportswear company Adidas paired up to make these elaborate porcelain embellished sneakers in 2020, which sold for $126,000.
Many Meissen porcelain pieces feature two blue crossed swords on the underside. It can, however, be difficult to authenticate based on these marks since other factories have similar marks and the Meissen mark itself has changed over time.
Raynaud is a French company founded in the city of Limoges in 1849. In fact, Limoges is home to several French porcelain brands and is known for being a center of porcelain manufacturing in Europe since the 1700s, when the composition of the soil was found to contain kaolin, used in porcelain production.
Antique Raynaud porcelain pieces in good condition can fetch anywhere from several hundred to several thousand dollars at auction, depending on rarity, condition and size.
Raynaud markings vary. Some bear the name of the company set in a roundel, and often the name “Limoges” is included. Sometimes the initial “R” is used.
Rosenthal is a German porcelain manufacturer founded in 1879. It is known for high quality figurines and dishware. Many Rosenthal figurines evoke historical design trends, such as art nouveau and the Victorian era. Figurines of people and animals, especially deer and birds, are some of the most common antique Rosenthal pieces on the market.
Prices for antique Rosenthal figurines start at around $50-$100 for small animal figurines, while medium size figurines and figural scenes usually sell in the hundreds. Larger pieces can go for prices in the thousands.
Rosenthal’s mark features a pair of crossed scepters (or rose branches) and a crown above the company’s name. Some versions of the marking bear the letters R and C instead of, or in addition to, the company name.
Lladro is a more recently founded company based in Spain. Founded in 1953, they are known for graceful figurines with muted colors. Lladro porcelain figurines range in price, with smaller pieces starting around $50 and larger pieces, especially multi figure diorama pieces, easily reaching into the thousands.
Lladro’s trademark has changed slightly over time, but generally features a stylized tulip over the brand’s name.
Founded in Hungary in 1826, Herend produces colorful figurines, often embellished with gold leaf and repetitive patterns. Small pieces usually start in the $100s, while prices for large and rare Herend figurines can easily reach the thousands. Herend pieces are still being produced and new pieces, especially large scale, can be expensive, soaring past the $10,000 mark.
Herend’s trademark is usually a coat of arms with two crossed scepters and the name of the company curved on top, sometimes including “Hungary”. Remember that there are numerous variations of the marking over time, so it’s wise to check a porcelain marking compendium.