THE BEER MAY BE DEAR BUT THE STEIN IS KING
7 liter Mettlach stein etched #1161 by C. Warth. Sold for $4,851. Photo courtesy of Stein Auction Company
Soldiers dressed in starched white shirts lean over the tavern table. Their voices seem to echo in the room as their arms raise and their steins clang in the air. Beer splashes everywhere.
It’s a familiar scene from a 19th century German beer stein. With a change of costume, it could easily be 20th century America.
Beer steins as we know them have been around since the 13th century. The earliest were made of earthenware. Earthenware in German means Steingut, thus stein.
The dictionary defines stein as a mug for beer, usually holding a pint. Some steins you’ll see have hinged lids. Some don’t. As time passed and production evolved, steins made of porcelain, glass and pewter lined the back wall of local taverns.
Germany always dominated the field in quality stein production. The fascination for collecting steins in America really took off when American troops returned home from Germany after World War II with their drinking containers stashed away in duffel bags. Usually a story came with the stein, and was told and retold over the dinner table throughout the years.
Nowadays collectors focus on two areas. They look for antique steins made by Mettlach or perhaps regimental steins, or maybe glass and porcelain examples. Other collectors want brand new steins made by companies like Anheuser Busch.
In 1836, Nicholas Villeroy and Eugene Boch established a stoneware factory in Mettlach, Germany. They specialized in decorating steins. One process called chromolith produced in the late-19th and early-20th century involved inlaying colorful mosaic designs into the body of the stein. Collectors treasure these high quality chromoliths today.
The German regimental steins manufactured in the early-1890s were personalized souvenirs of a tour of active service in the military and might display a naval or cavalry motif. German made, hand-painted, glass and porcelain steins from the 19th century are also highly collectible.
Anheuser Busch started producing a line of new steins 20-years-ago using their own logo and other topical subject areas like endangered species, and the Olympics.
“The company has a collector’s club with a mailing list of 50,000 people,” says Andre Ammelounx, owner of The Stein Auction Company, Palatine, Ill. “They led the market in new stein sales.”
The Stein Auction Company holds five catalogued stein auctions a year and sells both new and antique steins. “You can buy a good quality new stein for $30-$100,” he says. “A good quality antique stein will cost you about $200-$500.”
The Stein Auction Company’s May 29, 1998, auction featured 1245 lots and totaled $269,500. A mint-condition, five-liter, Mettlach stein, by artist H. Schlitt, featuring a dwarf sitting in a nest, realized $2,090. A five-liter, transfer and enameled occupational stein showing a coach driver, in fair condition with scratches, sold for $577.50.
An 18th century, one-liter, faience (tin glazed earthenware) stein with floral design and pewter lid featuring a portrait in the center, with minor flaking along top edge brought $1,270.50. “The Brew House Clock Tower,” a 1995 Anheuser Bush, five-liter stein, by Ceramarte, mint-condition, $517. “Budweiser 100 Years,” a newer, one-liter stein, also by Ceramarte, in mint-condition, $345.40.
For more information on stein collecting contact, “Stein Collectors International,” 3939 Country Club Drive, Bakersfield, Calif. 93305.
Q. Can you please tell me what leather post cards from the early-1900s are worth? Robert Beers, Pittsburgh.
A. In 1913, Americans purchased 968 million post cards. By the start of World War I, post card buying had dropped significantly due to the war and the arrival of greeting cards on the market. In the 1960s, the market started up all over again and remains solid today.
Post cards serve as snapshots of history. Collectors appreciate the costumes, lifestyles, machines, streets and buildings of a bygone era.
The leather post cards you mention were popular in the early-1900s. They were actually designed to be sewn together to make clothing or pillows.
In terms of value, they are considered common. Most sell for $1-$3. However, some leather post cards featuring a special topic like golf or Judaica can be worth as much as $10-$20 a piece.
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