Jumpin’ Josef

In my last post I told you all that I had found a “Josef Originals” ceramic girl at one of my favorite haunts. I am not really into many figurines as they are just one more thing to dust (not my favorite past-time!), but I happen to love these little figurines named after the months. They have different series, there was an angel series and they have this series, birthstones, as well as a career series, and more.

August Birthstone Girl by Josef Originals (photo courtesy of Vintage Eve’s)

The one above is for the month of August. She still has her original sticker and her peridot, the birthstone for August. I think she’s just adorable. I wanted to see if I could find out more about this company and I was surprised by what I found! Let me know if you knew any of this history, because I didn’t!

Josef Originals 5th Birthday Blue Angel (photo courtesy of That Vintage Girl 95)

According to Collectors Weekly, the designer of these adorable ceramic figurines was an artist from California named Muriel Joseph. She originally worked making Lucite costume jewelry. But when the war started, Lucite was needed for the windshields on airplanes.

Josef Originals Lady in Pink (photo courtesy of RMP Enterprises 802)

As a result, Muriel needed a new medium to work with. She turned to making ceramic jewelry.  Collectors Weekly states that it dawned on her a couple of years into the ceramic jewelry making business that she could make ceramic figurines.

Josef Originals Towel Holder (photo courtesy of Do You Remember When)

Her fiancée, Tom George had just returned from the war and he couldn’t find work, like many men who returned after WWII. After they married, they both focused on her business! It was not typical for women to run businesses back then. I think it’s awesome that they both threw themselves into her business!

Josef Originals Careers (photo courtesy of Snick Knacks)

In 1946 their business launched. It launched as Josef Originals due to a printing error of Muriel’s maiden name, Joseph. They made animals, angels, and children early on. The company was a cottage industry, based in their home in California, and they valued quality over quantity.

Town and Country Series by Josef Originals (photo courtesy of Squirrel Trove)

So why do so many bear the “made in Japan” or “Japan” sticker? This I find interesting in its daring. As Collectors Weekly tells it, fakes started showing up from Japan in the mid-1950s. If you’ve read my posts over these last 8 months, you know that this was usually the death-knell for many pottery companies. There was no way to compete with these cheap imported knock-offs.

Girl with Dog by Josef Originals (photo courtesy of Vintage By Tiffinie)

Well, a businessman named George Good convinced them to manufacture their figurines in Japan themselves. So in 1959, they went to Katayama, Japan, opened a factory and “personally train the workers there to ensure that the quality of Josef Originals remained high” (Collectors Weekly). As much as I like to see the “made in U.S.A.” label, I think it showed some ingenuity on their part to take the bull by the horns and stay in business.

June Birthstone by Josef Originals (photo courtesy of JC Novelty)

It’s hard enough for a large company to stay in business, let alone a cottage industry like Josef Originals was. This was their livelihood! And the bid worked. The quality remained and the company made it through the 1960’s and 1970’s with Muriel’s husband George retiring in 1981.

Sweden Girl by Josef Originals (photo courtesy of Hunter’s Great Finds)

So what does that mean for your collectibles? It means that if you have a Josef Originals made in Japan it could be a knockoff so check the quality. The George’s maintained excellent quality. See if you can find an additional sticker that will identify the piece. The painting of the faces was delicate and well-executed. A high gloss finish is important to look for, as well.

Scottish Girl by Josef Originals (photo courtesy of Vintage Quality Finds)

Another informative blog on this matter, Vintage Virtue, goes further to explain what to look for. Black eyes; all the original Josef Originals were painted with black eyes. Apparently, the birthday dolls, birthstone dolls and some special occasion dolls are being manufactured still by Dakin, although these are made in Hong Kong. The eyes on the newer pieces are reddish brown. Below are two pictures from Kizzy’s Korner shop showing a lipstick holder and what the incised name on the bottom should look like. If there is no incised name, there should be a backstamp.


Backstamp for Josef Originals (photo courtesy of Vintage Eve’s)

So were you surprised to find out who was behind Josef Originals? I was. I didn’t realize it was a woman and I didn’t think they had originally started in the States. Like I said, interesting!

Have a great week! Leave me a comment if you get a chance. I always love hearing from all of you. Share with me your favorite collectible!

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2 thoughts on “Jumpin’ Josef

  1. Hi Rheta! I’ve read about Josef Originals, but have never owned one. I’ve bought and sold many ceramic angels (esp. birthday ones) over the years, most of them by Lefton. Very interesting history–thanks for sharing it with us at Vintage Charm!


    1. Hi Diana! I have sold the Lefton’s, too, but I tend to see the Josef’s in this area more. It’s funny that in both the Josef’s history and the Florence Ceramics history I wrote about awhile back, they both were somehow connected to the war. Florence lost a son and Muriel’s husband luckily came back from the war but couldn’t find a job. As I write, I am seeing so many connections!

      And a shout out to Vintage Charm and your awesome blog! I’ve read so many neat blogs because of your link up!


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