Published: January 26, 2021
Review by W.A. Demers, Photos Courtesy Blackwell Auctions
CLEARWATER, FLA. – Rarity remains a differentiator – even in the rarified world of Hummel collectors. That was clearly evident in Blackwell Auctions’ January 16 sale, which was totally devoted to the estate Hummel collection of Donald Deeks of Venice, Fla. Purported to be one of the most important of its kind, the 2,000-plus-piece accumulation included many of the rarest Hummel figurines ever produced, including the four so-called “Mamas and the Papas,” more than two dozen of the 1940s international figures, many prototypes and one-of-a-kind pieces and original artwork by Sister Hummel. The sale realized $270,000, thanks to the voracious appetites of some 300-400 bidders who were active during the entirety of the auction.
“If you’d told me six months ago that we’d be putting together a Hummel auction, I’d have suggested you seek professional help,” said Edwin Bailey of Blackwell prior to the sale. “They’ve long served as a textbook example of collectibles that have, for the most part, lost their luster.”
This was no run-of-the-mill roundup of knickknacks, however, and Bailey accepted the consignment, given the rarity of the collection and with the strategy of attracting serious collectors rather than the odd individual just looking for a particular theme. “I had a lot of people who were serious collectors and at least one who sold a good bit of this to Deeks tell me that in this market you’d be good to get $150,000,” Bailey told Antiques and The Arts Weekly. “And we made more than 50 percent on top of that.”
It was, in fact, “Signs of Spring,” a Hummel with four fence posts on which a girl is leaning, that, because of its rarity, was bid to $6,490 by an online bidder. The normal piece has three fence posts. This one, Hum No. 203, is inscribed by hand with backstamp “(c) W Goebel, RIM (painter) and full bee,” and measured approximately 5¼ inches tall.
Deeks shared some of his collecting chops with author Robert L. Miller, who was widely regarded as the world’s foremost expert on all things Hummel. Miller passed away at the age of 94 in February 2020. His expertise and knowledge of Hummel had earned him international recognition in his collecting field. He authored numerous Hummel books and the very well-known No 1 Price Guide. He and his wife traveled worldwide escorting Hummel Tours for many years. Deeks, a well-known and highly respected collector in his own right, diligently sought out Hummel rarities and researched and cataloged them obsessively. When Miller passed away, his Hummels were all auctioned off in Ohio. Deeks was the high bidder on a great many of Miller’s rarest pieces.
Deeks’ daughter, Donna Boldt, recounted her father’s decades-long passion for Hummels, which was shared by his wife, Patsy.
“My parents bought their first Hummel in Germany – a pair of bookends – in 1952, when they were newlyweds,” said Boldt. “Dad was stationed there, and they really didn’t have much money at the time. For several years after that, they bought them occasionally, but always a boy and a girl, representing my brother and me.”
Once their daughter graduated from college in 1983, the Deekses’ collection got serious, their first major piece being “Ring Around the Rosie.”
“Old Woman Knitting” was taken by 13 bids from an opening $100 to a final price of $4,800. Catalog notes describe this Hummel as “extremely rare,” having been made as a sample only in 1948 by Arthur Moeller. Hummel was not approved by the Siessen convent. It’s not considered typical of Sister Hummel’s work, although it does exactly replicate one of her earlier drawings. The figurine has “MI Hummel” signature. No. 189 is incised by hand on bottom and closed number 18 Feb 1948. One of the four rare “Mamas and Papas” figurines, the Hummel measures approximately 7 inches tall.
Following “Old Woman Knitting” in the sale was “Old Man Walking to Market,” which was bid to $4,500 and was another of the rare four “Mamas and Papas.” It, too, was made as a sample in 1948 by Moeller and was not approved by Siessen Convent. With an MI Hummel signature on back of the base, the figure’s signature and mold number were engraved by hand.
Fetching the same price were “Old Man Reading Newspaper,” also one of the four “Mamas and Papas”; “Sister’s Children,” a limited edition figurine with seven cherubic youngsters that was created to celebrate Sister Hummel’s 100th Anniversary; and “International Hummel Serbian Girl,” molded by Reinhold Unger and standing approximately 5¾ inches tall.
Alas, like the 60s folk-rock, the “Mamas and Papas” are no longer together, having gone separate ways in this sale. “But, you know, they weren’t born together,” pointed out Bailey. “Deeks brought those together. It’s not like they came out of the factory in the same box with serial number 5 and serial number 6.”
Two Hummels reached $4,200. They were “International Swedish Girl With Letter,” with a costumed girl holding up an envelope, modeled by A. Moeller and approximately 5 inches tall, and another of the four “Mamas and Papas,” “Old Woman Walking to Market.”
Rounding out the sale’s top highlights were “International Hummel Bulgarian Girl Dancing” at $3,900 and “International Hummel Swedish Girl with Basket” going out at $3,600.
Notably two of the Deekses’ Hummels were not offered in the sale. Boldt consigned the entire collection to Blackwell Auctions, with the singular exception of the bookends that started it all. For her, those simple pieces adequately represent nearly 70 years of her parents’ hobby.
“I am not a collector – we use all our stuff,” Boldt explained with a laugh. “I want the collection to go to people who will enjoy them as much as my parents did.”
Blackwell’s next sale is set for February 6 and will offer a mix of estate fine art, jewelry, collectibles and more than 80 firearms, including antique, vintage, modern and Class III. Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house. For information, 727-546-0200 or www.blackwellauctions.com.
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