Identification and Price guides for Antiques & Collectibles

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REINHOLD-MERKELBACH GERMAN STONEWARE BEER STEIN, in reliefBeer Steins or Mugs are usually associated with Germany's October Fest or similar venues and are very collectible. Unfortunately, the majority of beer steins found nowadays in the antique market are newer specimens, mostly souvenirs or mementos. A vast number of recent examples are made in China and at times only decorated or finished in Germany, only so that they can affix the "Germany" label on the final product and make them more marketable. These are often whimsical or pretty, but basically are regarded as reproductions and have limited value for most collectors.

Nevertheless, genuinely older German beer steins are often properly marked by a well-documented maker and are recognizable as authentic by the correct attribution as to their origin and age. Porcelain & Stoneware or Pewter are by far the most common materials used to make beer steins or mugs. Porcelain steins are usually salt-glazed or otherwise layered with a glaze that renders them waterproof. To identify makers' marks on Porcelain or Pottery steins, please see our Ceramics marks guide. To research marks & hallmarks on Pewter or Silver, please visit our Silver & Pewter marks database

Other materials such as Glass, Silver, or even Wood, are used to make steins & mugs, which are actually called Krugs in German. However, the most characteristic element is their basically cylindrical shape and having a handle. A hinged lid is another typical component. Liquid capacities obviously vary, but the most common size is 1 liter.

Simple or smooth surfaced steins & mugs are quite ordinary, although most pewter or glass are by necessity such and very rarely have any extra embellishments. However, those made of porcelain or stoneware, feature ornate surfaces, mostly with relief imagery depicting everything from a local scene to a humorous story. Few are very detailed and their beauty rests on the overall composition as chunky implements to drink, yet reasonably attractive for display after the fun. Coloring schemes are fairly limited to natural pastel hues with cobalt blue highlights & shadows.

Steins & mugs are not necessarily pieces of art in the strict sense of the term and their collectability is an acquired taste, which however is shared by many. Older or vintage examples are the most desirable and fetch the highest prices at auction. Because originally most were made for utilitarian purposes, not all antique steins are properly marked, and even those that are marked can be deceiving using forged logos. Therefore, caution is of the essence to avoid paying for reproductions. Steins made around the 1960s and afterward, have relatively less value than older pieces since they were usually mass-produced to accommodate the growing appetite for souvenir mugs at various ever-popular festivals & BBQ venues. These later examples also tend to be a bit more decorative and are great as display pieces, but are not worth much, other than for sentimental reasons.

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