Character Stein, Boar, porcelain, by Schierholz, $2,970. Photo courtesy of Stein Auction Company
The brewmaster was a glorified soul in my Dad’s house. Dad was an Irishman from the old school who believed the sun should sometimes rise, and always fall, with a beer in hand.
He did his best to live true to that philosophy for as long as I knew him. I loved him dearly.
He was a good example of the adage that God loved the Irish, but he didn’t want them to rule the world, so that’s why he created alcohol. Or in Dad’s case, beer. I could always count on the suds to ignite the blarney in him.
In any case, my fascination with beer, or more accurately beer steins, started as a kid when I had a chance to see an exhibit of German steins at the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh. I remember being charmed even then by their color, artwork, and shapes.
I always wondered about the lids. Were they meant to keep flies out, or what?
It seems the Germans passed laws in the early-16th century declaring that all food and beverage containers had to have lids for that very reason. The bubonic plague and other fly invasions had devastated Europe.
Lids added one more level of protection. Fortunately, a thumb-rest, combined with a hinged lid, made it easy to get to your beer.
If old steins could speak, what might they say about the taverns they’ve frequented, the roads they’ve wandered, the chips they’ve endured, and the owners they’ve known?
I appreciate the irreverent humor of some of character steins like “The Maid of Munich.” Picture a roly-poly shaped monk, except the monk has a young maid’s face. She’s holding a bunch of giant radishes on Munich’s coat-of-arms. (Radishes were the beer munchies before pretzels.)
Character steins were produced in the form of people, animals, vegetables, and buildings. You name it you’ll probably be able to find it.
Villeroy & Boch in Mettlach, Germany, is the firm all serious collectors recognize. They are the top of the line in stoneware steins. The company produced a Chromolith line around 1869 that was unlike anything produced before.
Multiple layers of colored clays were used; and artistic scenes and figures were etched deeply into the clay. Several molds were used to produce each stein. The exact technique still remains a mystery today.
Local pewter shops made lids for the steins, and customers could choose what they wanted based on how much they were willing to spend. Each Mettlach stein was also coated on the inside with a wash of pure white ceramic that gave the piece a clean, crisp look.
The company made a few steins between 1920 and 1930 and manufacturing stopped
for good at Mettlach in 1930. They produced thousands of steins over the years.
There are many Mettlach and other antique steins available on the market today at every price range. That’s what makes the field so popular to so many people. Prices for antique steins vary depending on rarity, condition, and aesthetic appeal.
The Stein Auction Company of Palatine, Ill., offered 581 beer steins for sale at their July 5 auction in Houston. The company’s owner, Andre Ammelounx held the sale at this year’s 33rd Annual Stein Collector’s International Convention. Let’s take a look at some highlights.
Regimental Stein, 8th Infantry, Munchen 1906-08, $1,705
Mettlach Student Society Stein, rare double crest, dated 1892, $1,925
Porcelain Stein, Rugby Game, made of Delft, hand painted, $2,145
Mettlach Stein, Dwarf, by Heinrich Schlitt, $2,750
Character Stein, Boar, porcelain, by Schierholz, $2,970
Character Stein, Barmaid, porcelain, by Schierholz, $3,300
Mettlach Stein, Turner design, etched, $3,410
Lignum Vitae Stein, made of South American wood, carved design on body, circa 1670, $9,900
Steinbockhorn Stein, Hunting Scene, carved horn, made in Salzburg, circa 1730, $12,650
Meissen Stein, porcelain, by Johann Bottger, with hand painted gold family crest, circa 1715, $26,400