In 1942 Muriel Joseph, of Arcadia, California, had been making and selling Lucite jewelry under the name of "Muriel of California". World War II caused the price of Lucite to be un-affordable, even to Muriel. Muriel then converted her skills to making ceramic figurines. In 1945, working out of their basement and garage, Muriel her and fiance Tom began their own pottery business. Their printer had misspelled the name from Joseph to Josef on their label. Since they had no time to fix the error, the name Josef Originals became the name of the new company.
Muriel enjoyed sculpting children and people the most, and did many little girls, pixie children, and animals of all kinds. In the early 50's Muriel discovered that cheap reproductions of her earlier pieces were being made in Japan. Many people took the Japan copies as Josef Originals, and Muriel fought back by making some very beautiful detailed pieces. Her hope was that the new pieces would not be so easy to copy. However the newer, more expensive pieces, along with the Japan reproductions really hurt their business.
In 1954 Muriel & Tom met Mr. Good, a man who convinced them that if they made their figurines in Japan, it would greatly reduce their expenses. They continued to make Josef Originals in California, until 1960 when they opened a factory in Japan, and began operations by the name of "George Good Corporation". The name of their new partner & Muriel's new married name (Muriel Joseph George). For six weeks Muriel was in Japan, teaching workers how she wanted things done. After that she would create the designs at home, drawings and instructions were sent to the factory, and pieces were sent back for her approval. With the factory producing the finished product, this left Muriel free to create to her hearts content, and she put her heart into every piece she created.
In 1981 Muriel retired, though she continued to create new Josef Original designs until 1985. George Good bought the company in 1982, and sold it in 1985 to Southland Corporation. (Brown eyes from 1982 to 1985). The Josef Original name now belongs to Applause, Inc. Applause has been making copies of earlier pieces and are signed “Josef Originals by Applause or by Dakin”. Applause produced many pieces with red-brown eyes, matte finishes, marked with paper labels, and the animals have a flocked coat. Muriel passed away in 1992, but lives on through her many creations.
The most collectible pieces are those that were made during the ownership of Muriel. Most are signed, have a high gloss finish, black eyes, they are usually marked on the bottom with incising "Josef Originals" or black pallet type stamp. Also look for the "C" in a circle on under glazed bottoms. The earlier figurines have a black oval stickers - with gold or silver letters stating "Josef Originals, California. Later (1960 - 1980) California was substituted with a "curly cue" (see photo) and an additional small black sticker reading "Japan" in script. The earliest pieces bear the name "M.J. George." Staring in the 1970’s most of the pieces had a bisque finish. The animals were almost always made with a matte finish, and only paper labels, the glass eyes and fuzzy flocked coats were introduced in the 70’s.
Most collectors do not want the brown eyed pieces, the red-brown eyes, pieces that were produced in Taiwan, Korea and Mexico (1970 until an unknown time), or the reproductions from Japan. Most pieces are worth around $30.00 to $50.00, with a few worth $125 - $150.00. Because these pieces break easily, and glue together without much trace of the break, one should view the piece under a black light before buying or selling. The black light will reveal the cracks.
This article was originally published and is a copyright of Mister Find IT ® from our newsletter of June 2003, and was modified February 2009.
See our latest newsletter.