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Rose Mary
By Rosemary McKittrick
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Comp. Matr. Artl. Abtl., Kiautschou in Tsingtau, u. b. Schutz-Detachment in Hankau, China; porcelain; Res. Obermatr. Artl. Hild; two-sided scenes; 1911-1914; 13.7 inches high; sold for $4,531. Photo courtesy of Stein Auction Company.
“We old folks have to find our cushions and pillows in our tankards. Strong beer is the milk of the old," said Protestant leader Martin Luther.

Touché Luther. A cold pint of beer seems to solve most problems -- at least in the moment. It’s no accident beer steins evolved to house the sweet nectar.

Some vintage German beer steins are simple relics of good times and good cheer. Others are nostalgic souvenirs of military service.

As you might guess the early German steins made from the 13th through the 17th century are rare. And the designs in steins made from the early-1800s lack imagination.

It’s the colorful steins with raised or relief designs made from around 1870 onward collectors want. These beauties depict belly up to the bar drinking scenes, horses, wedding parties, hunting pictures, historic buildings and soldiers.

In fact, most of the steins collected today were made in the late-19th and early-20th century.

Some steins display hobbies like bicycling and golf. Others sing the praises of their owner’s occupation such as barber and chimney sweeper.

And then there are character steins. How can you not appreciate an irreverent monk or a sad radish?

In the 16th century the Germans decided all steins should be covered with a lid to protect them from flies. They drank lots of beer and probably figured it out early on.

Particularly desirable today are regimental steins. These steins are personal souvenirs of a soldier’s tour in the military.

Sometimes soldiers purchased steins themselves. Other steins were presented to them at the end of their tour of duty. The cavalry and naval steins are of particular interest to collectors.

How do you identify a regimental stein?

The steins have a lid, handle and thumblift. They have a military motif, the original owner’s name, unit, and battalion town on them. They also display the years served in the military.

Collectors of military steins are often more historian than stein collector.

Most of these military steins look like traditional beer steins and are made of pewter, glass, salt glaze pottery, stoneware or porcelain.

Before World War 1 men in the German and Bavarian armies often purchased a souvenir to remind them of their military service. Souvenirs included group photos, canes, pipes, flasks and beer steins. Of these, steins were the most expensive item they could purchase.

Interest in steins in America really began in the late-1940s when guys coming home from the service brought these turn-of-the-century collectibles with them. As time went on more and more information surfaced about the drinking vessels, their history and purpose. The hobby grew.

"I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts, and beer,” Abraham Lincoln said.

Even Lincoln got it about beer. No surprise beer steins evolved to the high art they’ve become.

On July 10, The Stein Auction Company in Palatine, Il., featured a selection of regimental steins in its Beer Steins & related Items auction. Here are some current values.

Regimental Steins

Haub. Battr. Feld Artl. Regt. Nr. 67, Bischweiler; four-sided scene; Reservist Eckstein; 1912-1914; 14.1 inches high; $1,035.

S.M.S. Moltke; two-sided scene; pottery; Res. Witt; 1912-1915; 12.4 inches high; $1,121.

Esk., Kurasier regt. Nr. 8, Coln, two-sided scene; Res. Eisenacher; 1910-1913; 13.7 inches high; $1,553.

Regt, Nr. 55; four-sided scene; pottery; Detmold Maschinengewehr Co.; Res. Gnade; 1912-1914; 12 inches high; $3,105.

Comp. Matr. Artl. Abtl., Kiautschou in Tsingtau, u. b. Schutz-Detachment in Hankau, China; porcelain; Res. Obermatr. Artl. Hild; two-sided scenes; 1911-1914; 13.7 inches high; $4,531.

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