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Rose Mary
By Rosemary McKittrick
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Left: Creussen stein, circa 1680, $9,265. Basket-weave stein, circa 1720, $11,825. Photo courtesy of Stein Auction Company
What’s on tap? For the beer drinker, that’s an important question. It also led to the birth of a whole industry around containers that serve beer. The Germans realized early in the 16th century that drinking vessels needed a lid to keep the flies out and nowadays most historians credit the Germans with inventing the stein, as we know it.

The early stoneware and pottery steins of the 17th century were handmade in a variety of shapes and sizes but they were usually plain, a natural brown clay hand-painted in a series of colors. By the 18th century, raised designs appeared with more color. People liked the innovation and production increased throughout Europe.

By the mid-19th century, the production of steins was raised to an art form with the etched Mettlach steins made by the German firm of Villeroy and Boch. Today, collectors focus on the high quality and workmanship of their chromolith process that involved the inlaying of colorful mosaic designs into the body of the ware. Later on, underglaze printing from copper plates was used.

Most examples are marked with an incised castle and the name ‘Mettlach.’ The castle represents a chapel built by the monks in the 10th century A.D. People cherish the expressions of the character steins, the smiling monk, the drunken monkey, the melancholy radish, and the bemused child. Mettlach steins show people doing everything from dancing and singing, to bowling, hunting and drinking.

In today’s market they range in value from a few hundred dollars to many thousands based on type, size, rarity and decoration.

Other names collectors look for at this quality level are Reinhold Merkelbach, Albert Jacob Thewalt, Matthias Girmscheid, and J.W. Remy.

Steins are commonly marked under the base with an engraving. Some steins are simply stamped or engraved ‘Germany.’ You’ll also see ‘Gesetzlich’ which means the stein was patented.

Besides Mettlach, collectors of older steins often focus on Regimental steins. Mostly porcelain, they depict military duty scenes. They also range in the hundreds to thousands of dollars based on the rarity of the units represented, condition and attractiveness.

On July 1, The Stein Auction Company in Palatine, Ill., offered 521 lots of beer steins, German and Swiss woodcarvings and other related items in their Denver, Colo., auction. Mettlach selling prices ranged from $130-$8,140. Regimental steins sold from $400-$2,200.

A 5L Austrian Regimental stein, 59th Infantry, Linz 1901, sold for $1,760.

A 1.5L Mettlach 1593 brought $1,870.

A 1L Creussen Stoneware stein, circa 1680 realized $9,265. A 5L Basket Weave stein circa 1720 sold for $11,825.

A Monkey Character stein by E. Bohne & Sohne finished at $3,520.

Q. Any information on Wallace Nutting and his work? I have two pictures by him that are at least 78-years-old. Katherine Liguori, Coraopolis.

A. Wallace Nutting was an important American photographer between 1900 and 1941. His handcolored pictures were one of the most common sights in early and mid-20th century homes.

His prints were available in department stores from the 1920s through ‘50s. They were popular, affordable and friendly. An Afternoon Tea, A Basket Running Over, Drying Apples, and Seascapes, are a few examples.

It is estimated that 2500 different titles were produced and millions of those prints sold around the country. Like most inexpensive wall art, people grew tired of them and many were thrown out or retired to the attic.

The last 25 years has seen a resurgence of interest in these prints. A good resource is The Price Guide to Wallace Nutting Pictures written by Michael Ivankovich and published by Collector Books. He lists values from $25 to over a $1,000 for Nutting prints.

Nutting’s interior room scenes are usually more desirable than his outside scenes. An average print can fetch $85 at auction. Condition plays an important part in valuing them.

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