The earliest antique German beer steins date to the fourteenth century, a time when earthenware was being improved, Germany was making new and improved brews, and Europe was ravaged with the bubonic plague. Replica and aged beer steins are still manufactured today, so you need to understand the history of these vessels to learn German beer stein values.
History of German Beer Steins
Beer steins evolved as a result of the laws passed in several German principalities stating that covers had to be on all beverage and food containers. The laws, and others related to sanitary conditions, were in reaction to the fear that a recurrence of the bubonic plague, also called the Black Death, would be caused by several invasions of flies throughout Central Europe in the mid to late fifteenth century. Up until that time, most common folk drank beer from mugs made of porous earthenware or wood. The well-to-do and upper class drank from glass, pewter or silver vessels, called beakers or tankards.Related Articles
Mugs With Hinged Lids
The first steins were simply mugs with a hinged lid that had an attached thumb lift. As progress continued in the refinement of earthenware, a new material developed called stoneware. Chip and crack resistant, the new non-porous material was a perfect choice for holding beer.
Relatively expensive, the stoneware lidded drinking vessels soon became the subjects of Renaissance artists that added designs to make them even more appealing. Early German beer steins from the fifteenth to the seventeenth centuries often had:
- Carved or applied decorations and decorative detailing
- Carved or applied scenes including figurative, historical and Biblical
- Carved or applied shields
- A clear salt glaze
- A chocolate salt glaze
- A cobalt oxide blue glaze
- A manganese oxide purple glaze
The Introduction of Faience
By the mid-seventeenth century, German beer and stoneware beer steins were in high demand. The elite members of the German society wanted elaborately decorated steins made of silver, pewter or glass which were made in Bavaria, Koblenz and Koln. However, there was also great attention paid to the beautiful porcelain Ming mugs of China. Although at the time European potters did not know how to produce porcelain, German potters produced a substitute for porcelain, called faience.
Beer steins made of faience, a type of earthenware that uses tin oxide to create a white porcelain looking glaze, quickly became popular in Germany. The German faience steins were:
- Less expensive than the Chinese porcelain pieces
- Adorned with beautiful decorative designs and motifs in late Renaissance and early Baroque styles rather than Chinese designs
- Beautifully glazed since the German blue glaze was purer than the Chinese blue glaze, giving the steins stunning coloring and crisp lines
Porcelain Antique German Beer Steins
Many German beer stein makers continued making faience steins throughout the eighteenth century. At the same time, European porcelain had been perfected and the costly German porcelain beer steins were in demand by Germany's wealthiest families.
Besides porcelain, several other materials were used in the making of beer steins during this time period. Like the porcelain steins, beer steins made of the following materials were also very costly:
- Enameled glass
- Engraved glass
Steins of the Mid Nineteenth to Early Twentieth Century
The German beer steins produced from the mid nineteenth to early twentieth century saw a resurgence in the popularity of stoneware steins decorated with Renaissance designs and motifs. These steins were:
- Made using clay from the Koln area, which has a distinctive white color
- Decorated in the Renaissance style, often having relief decorations
- Colored using a gray salt glaze
- Topped with lids of inlaid porcelain
This era is also the beginning of molded German beer steins. The first molded steins were made in the region of Westerwald by Reinhold Hanke. Once molds were used and beer steins were being mass produced, the beautiful highly detailed carved relief work of the early steins was no longer unique. It appears on hundreds, if not thousands, of molded steins.
German Stein Values
Antique German beer stein values range from $50 to $5,000. Knowing everything you can about your stein and the current market for them with collectors can mean the difference of thousands of dollars.
- Auctioneer Ron Fox shared that he once sold a 17th century American tankard, a type of stein, for $140,00 dollars. It had been passed down through generations of a single family.
- In 2018, a 1900 German regimental stein sold for a little over $6,000.
- An 1850s Marzi & Remy pewter lid stein sold in 2020 for $150.
How to Tell if Your German Beer Stein Is Valuable
To determine whether your stein is a valuable antique or just a cool collectible, you need to look for clues about how old the stein is, where it was made, and how it was made. The best way to find the value of your stein is to seek a professional appraisal from a stein expert.
Tips for Authenticating Your German Beer Stein
To start, you'll want to be fairly certain your beer stein is an authentic German antique, not a mass-produced promotional piece.
- If the inside of the pewter lid is lighter than the outside, that indicates authenticity.
- Hand-painted steins will have minor imperfections and feel raised. These are more valuable.
- Hand-carved designs indicate authenticity, and those with a German patriotic scheme can be more valuable.
- Scenes on the stein should tell a story. A design of Biblical nature or a historical event can be more valuable.
- The design on the lid should correspond with the design on the stein to show that the entire piece is intact.
Tips for Dating Your German Beer Stein
Finding the period when your stein was made is important because older pieces will typically be more valuable.
- Look for markings that indicate it was made in Germany. This was a requirement of exports after 1887. Phrases like "Gemacht in Deutschland" or "Made in Germany" are common.
- Beer stein handles didn't get bumps on them until the 1920s, so the lack of a bump can help date your piece.
- A number on the stein that starts with "17," "18" or "19 is not necessarily a manufacture date. If the number is behind the handle or imprinted in the base, it's probably just a form or mold number.
- Pewter lids made before WWII used a three or four part mold, while more recent pewter lids are made in a single mold.
- A stein marked as made in Western Germany indicates it was made between 1949 and 1990.
Stein Condition Impacts Value
Beer steins were made to be used, so finding faded colors, minor chips, and other small imperfections is expected with antiques. But the condition of your stein will affect its value. If your piece has many or all of these conditions, it will be more valuable.
- All original pieces are intact
- Very few chips, dents or cracks
- No obvious repair work
- Original decorations are clear
- No unattractive discolorations
- Little to no damage to the front
- Working hinge on lid
Popular German Beer Stein Manufacturers
Stein makers often mark their work with easily identifiable maker's marks. You can search online databases such as Stein Marks to identify yours. Well-known manufacturer pieces can be more valuable. The following are some makers of German beer steins.
- Albert Jacob Thewal
- Dumler and Breiden
- Eckhardt and Engler
- Hauber and Reuther
- J. W. Remy
- Marzi and Remy
- Merkelbach and Wick
- Rastal Werk
- Reinhold Hanke
- Reinhold Merkelbach
- Smion Peter Gertz
- Villeroy and Boch
German Beer Stein Resources
From books to websites, you can find plenty of resources from experts and avid collectors to help you identify a piece or start your own collection.
Collecting German Beer Steins
Although you will not find antique German beer steins made of early stoneware or faience in local antique stores or online auctions, there are many beautiful beer steins made in centuries past available to collectors.
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They line the walls of basement bars and pubs, but do you ever wonder how to tell if a beer stein is valuable? We’re not talking about the ones adorned with your college football team logo—though they are a valuable reminder of your university days.
We’re talking about the big, lid-wearing beer steins seen at Oktoberfest celebrations.
“Stein” is a German word literally meaning stone but comes from the phrase, “Stein Krug” (stone mug). Steins come in a variety of materials, including ceramic, glass, wood, metal and crystal. And much like storage units, beer steins range in size—from 1 oz to over 8 gallons.
Nearly every stein seller markets their mugs as “vintage” or “authentic.” So how can you tell if your precious pint is worth more than pennies? Whether you’re a stein-collecting connoisseur or you picked up a pint at a thrift shop, here’s how to tell if a beer stein is valuable:
If it’s made in Germany, odds are your stein is special. Investigate the bottom of the glass. Look for “Made in Germany” or “Gemacht in Deutschland.” Obviously if it has a “Made in” mark but the country isn’t Germany, you don’t have an authentic German beer stein.
The lid is lighter on the inside.
Lids are one of the most important features when determining a beer stein’s value. Because it’s a soft metal, air exposure causes pewter to darken over time. If it’s dipped in a darkening agent and made to look old, the entire lid will be dark. However, if upon opening your stein, the inside of the lid is lighter than the outside, you may have a stein of significant value. Another lid lesson: Pewter, cone-shaped lids are typically the least valuable.
There’s no bump on the handle.
It wasn’t until the 1920s that manufacturers began adding bumps to beer stein handles. If your handle has bumps or grooves for your fingers, it was made recently, meaning it’s probably not worth much.
Examine your mug closely. Many reproduced steins appear to be hand-painted when they’re actually not. Look for imperfections, as well as a raised look on the design.
It tells a story.
Certain illustrations are especially valuable, including scenes featuring:
- Biblical figures
- Historical milestones
It’s made out of an expensive substance.
Though some reproduced steins feature these materials too, the most valuable vintage ones are made of silver, ivory or glass.
Beer steins have changed over time, but those variations are subtle. Look closely when examining yours. And consult a professional appraiser to see if your stein is valuable. Whether real or replica, fill your mug and cheers yourself to your new knowledge of beer steins!
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After we receive your information on the item, we will contact you at the email address that you provided concerning our acceptance to proceed and regarding payment methods.
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We understand that the purpose of this appraisal is to determine the fair market value of the antique, collectible, or artwork. In preparing this Online Appraisal, we will consider various factors based on our expertise including but not limited to the condition of the piece, recent sales of comparable pieces, age, provenance, and basic physical condition.
If we agree to complete the Online Appraisal based on a digital image(s), we will prepare an appraisal report to include the following information: maker name or nationality of artist if available, general description of the piece, approximate date of the item, dimensions of the item, comparable sales record(s) and estimated value. The report will be based on the information ascertained from research and analysis in support of the appraiser’s opinion.
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The word ‘Stein’ literally means ‘stone’ in German. A real authentic German beer stein made of ceramic, crystal, glass, metal, or wood is highly valuable and ranges in size from 1 ounce (29.5 ml) to more than 8 gallons (30 l).
However, it is not easy to recognize the real stuff among numerous cheap copies, and it can be a bit complicated for a layman to make a difference. Unfortunately, many tourists buy the beer stein as a souvenir and find out that they have been cheated once they return home. So, let’s see how to tell if a beer stein is valuable.
What is German Beer Stein
The etymology of the German word ‘stein’ is not entirely clear, but it probably originated from one of two terms:
Stein Krug – It means ‘stone mug’
Steingut – It means ‘stone goods’
The most common pieces were made of:
In most cases, old mugs are hand-painted and beautifully decorated. You can find steins that range from 1 ounce (29.5 ml) to 8.4 gallons (32 l) in volume. However, the typical volume of the most popular pieces is 16.9 ounces (0.5 l).
German Beer Stein History
The oldest saved German earthenware beer steins were dated from the 14th century when the bubonic plague killed millions of people in Europe. The first pieces were made after passing the law in a few German principalities related to sanitary conditions. It required the covers over food and beverage containers to prevent a vicious disease.
Until that time, the upper class drank from beakers or tankards made of silver, glass, and pewter, while common folk used mugs made of wood and earthenware. However, the Black Death changed many established customs.
Once stoneware was created, old manufacturers started making stoneware drinking steins with pewter lids. In the 19th century, the stein officially became a product made in Europe. The most common were stoneware pieces with a permanently attached lid.
Nowadays, you can also find pewter vessels produced in England, but their manufacturers commonly used silver, glass, and porcelain. The best of all was the diversity of stein-decorating styles that reflected the time’s best artisans’ imagination and skill.
The most prominent pottery centers were Siegburg, Cologne, Frechen, and Kreussen. Stein production upswing tremendously in the 1850s, but most stein makers limited it during World War I because of the raw material shortage.
Even though stein making started again after 1918, most people stopped using them daily. Consequently, the production never reached the previous level. Thanks to modern technology and contemporary materials, many companies produce beautiful steins these days, mostly as souvenirs.
Age of the German Beer Stein
Beer steins are a German favored gift for centuries, and you can find the date that it was given on the lid. However, it can be tricky to rely on this information when it is necessary to determine the item’s age.
Unfortunately, it is not rare that someone attaches an old lid to a new stein. These dates have sense only when the other mug traits are also consistent.
German beer stein
You should also pay attention to a four-digit number on the stein side or base that begins with 17, 18, or 19. It is not a date but a form or mold number.
German Beer Stein Types
You can choose among various German beer steins that are differently painted. The most beautiful include:
This popular, hand-carved, and bold colored collectible pieces contain patriotic scenes or folk tales. They are almost always precious.
It is possible to find pieces with highly realistic and detailed human and animal carvings. They are highly appreciated and valued, but you should have ivory trade restrictions and legalities on your mind before shopping.
These authentic German steins with soldiers’ names and ranks were made to commemorate the successful completion of active duty. The old pieces include the owner’s last name and status, while modern models contain their first and last name and soldier rank.
Hand blown steins are probably the earliest pieces produced. You can find green, red, cobalt, and brown varieties on the market.
The production of these personalized steins began in the 1850s. They were made in the human, animal, or item shape.
The Villeroy and Boch Co. of Mettlach produced undoubtedly the most prestigious stoneware hand-painted pieces you can find nowadays. Most of them were made between 1880 and 1910.
The most popular stoneware beer steins are both stylish and durable, and you can find numerous shape styles, including:
- Traditional stein
- Bavarian stein
- Barrel stein
- Potbelly stein
- Tavern stein
- Lodge stein
- Pint Glass
The Real vs. Fake German Beer Stein
German beer stein
It is hand-painted – Always carefully examine the stein for imperfections and raised design. The older steins interior is never perfect, and you can spot a hand-painted, slightly raised design on the bottom. Also, pictures are modest, often with angels, and you can’t find any nudity, for example.
A mass-produced piece is almost always machine-made and painted parts look flawless. However, the colors are blurred and of lower intensity.
It tells a story – Each old illustration tells some story. The most valuable includes:
- Biblical figures
- Historical event
- Famous battle
Material – Original German beer steins are always heavy and made of expensive materials, such as ivory, silver, and glass. The modern, imported models you can find online are light and made of low-quality clay.
Bump on the handle
Until the 1920s, steins didn’t have bumps on the handle. Pieces with grooves or bumps for fingers are modern and probably not worth much.
The best stein manufactures have easily-recognizable marks, and you can find their list in many available databases. In fact, all steins intended for export and produced after the ‘Merchandise Marks Act’ valid in Germany since 1887 were marked. There were two options, ‘Made in Germany’ or only ‘Germany.’
Keep in mind that the mark absence doesn’t mean the stein you look at is false. Most pieces created for the domestic market didn’t need to be marked. You can also find models marked with ‘Western Germany,’ meaning that they are produced from 1949 to 1990.
Some manufacturers tend to be unique so that you can find different mark types on beer steins, such as:
- Data pressed into the wet clay
- Sticker-like marks laid before baking
- Limited, collector pieces with hand-written marks
The most common mark is ‘Gemacht in Deutschland’ (Made in Germany) when it comes to old glass steins.
According to the lid shape and appearance, you can quickly determine the stein age, quality, and price. The original metal lids are cast from one piece, while copies are poorly created from three or four separate casts.
The next thing to check is the edges and the lid inside. Cheap varieties have a very rough lid look without a stamp. Be careful because you can sometimes face a Chinese stein with an original German lid with a pressed stamp.
Keep in mind that the lid’s soft metal will darken on the air over time. However, its inside is always lighter than the outside. Plus, almost all German steins have a thumb lift, unlike cheap replica.
The most common lid shapes include:
- Ornamental lids – Such pieces are always created of pewter. The handwork ones are trendy nowadays for limited edition steins.
- Inlay lids – They are well-known for an ornament stoneware, porcelain, glass, or wood figurine inlaid in the center and surrounded by a pewter flange and pewter rim.
- Conical or steeple lids – They are the most common and cheapest models you can buy.
- Flat lids – These models made of pewter are popular since the manufactures can effortlessly engrave them.
Since this stein part has changed over time, you can use it to determine the stein dating and pricing.
German Stein Value
You can find an antique German beer stein at a price range from $50 to $5,000. The precise information about the particular piece can make a difference of thousands of dollars.
For example, a 17th-century American tankard, which belonged to one family for generations, was sold for $140,000. On the other hand, a Marzi & Remy stein from the 1850s without proof of origin reached only $150.
Another thing is stein’s condition. The most valuable pieces are:
- Intact and without too many dents and cracks, especially damage to the front
- Without evident repair work and unattractive discolorations
- With clear original decorations
- With working hinge on lid
Steins are German mugs created for drinking beer. Over the years, manufacturers have used silver, pewter, crystal, glass, porcelain, ceramics, creamware, ivory, and wood to make gorgeous pieces.
Be careful when deciding to buy one and always check its age, quality, and value since there are too many reproductions available on the market nowadays.
Steins value beer
Our Guide to Beer steins
Our Guide to Beer steins
A Brief Definition and History:
A beer stein or Bierstein (meaning “beer stone” in English) is a traditional ornamental beer mug, usually sold as a souvenir. The term has come to be used to refer to any beer container or tankard that has a hinged lid and handle. It is important to note that some in the collecting field see a difference between a bier stein and a tankard, primarily seeing the tankard to be those made out of silver and pewter.
The development of a the lid is thought to have developed around the time of the Black Plague as an attempt to prevent flies and fleas getting into the beer! The material steins are made out of varies and they can be constructed from stoneware, faience, porcelain, ivory, sliver, wood, glass and pewter.
Type of Beer Steins:
Originally beer steins were thrown on a potter’s wheel in small workshops, and it wasn’t until the 19th and 20th centuries that large-scale manufacturing really began to take shape in Germany. The most highly sought after manufacturers include Mettlach, Royal Vienna, and Capo-di-Monte. While there are countless types of beer steins, below are the most popular and well-known.
Easily one of the most popular types of steins for collectors. They often feature folk tales or German patriotic scenes. Those that are hand carved can be quite valuable and typically feature bold colours and a crisp white interior.
These are often highly detailed featuring realistic human and animal carvings; this type of stein is considered one of the more valuable to collectors. Despite this, a collector should know that there international restrictions and legalities when selling and purchasing ivory, and this should be considered before buying anything ivory.
These are authentic German steins that contain the name and ranks of soldiers. Newer regimental steins include the first name, last name and rank of the soldier, whereas older ones only have the last name and rank.
Believed to be some of the earliest types produced, these are hand blown pieces that come in a variety of colours such as red, green, cobalt and brown. They also often have etched scenes on the body of the stein.
What to Look Out for When Collecting:
Check the base of the beer stein
Since 1887 there has been a law for items such as beer steins to state whether they are made in Germany or abroad. Therefore it’s important to look for a “Made in Germany”, “Gemacht in Deutshland” or “Germany” mark.
Check the lid
Is the lid complementary to the design of the painting or scene depicted on the stein itself? Unless it is very old, this should also have a thumb lift on it. If antique, the inside of the lid should be lighter in colour to the outside as it is closed most of the time and protected away from the elements.
Look at the painting
Remember, if a piece is truly hand painted there may be a small amount of paint missing or overlap over the outlines. Looking for this can help make sure it is not a machine-made mass-produced piece.
Look for makers marks
Many of the best known and most sought after manufactures have easily-recognizable makers marks. There are lots of databases that will help you identify a makers mark. We do suggest showing it to an expert if you are unsure, such as our ValueMyStuff expert.
Where to Buy:
We recommend always buying from a well-versed dealer as there are many fakes on the market. If you are unsure of the value of a beer stein you are interested in purchasing or want to make sure it looks legitimate, our experts are here to help. Simply click below to start you own beer stein valuation.
Simply click start valuations to find out the value of your beer stein or tankard today!
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