Prior to World War I, Germany was known as “the” ceramic industry. From World War I up to World War II, there were alot of economic and physical influences that changed the production and manufacturing capacity in Germany.
After World War II ended, the beer stein production in Germany was back. Most of the steins that were made after World War II were reproductions of earlier designs using the same molds. But it was also during this time that two new types of steins were born. They were Regimental and souvenir.
From about 1960 into the 1970’s beer stein producers once again decreased. Now, there are only a few companies that make over 50% of the German beer steins.
It used to be that only Germany was making the beer steins, but by the middle 1970’s, Ceramarte of Brazil began making steins and during the 1980’s became the largest producer of beer steins in the world. They specialized in promotional products for companies and organizations.
Today, about 1/3 of the steins made by German companies are being exported. Many tourists from America and other countries buy a large percentage of the steins sold inside Germany.
Most of the steins that are made today are produced using the same techniques that were developed about 100 years ago. In many cases, the same molds are being used. Companies such as “Thewalt”, use a mark to identify designs made from an old original mold.
Villeroy & Boch (Mettlach) became famous for their etched steins. In the 1980’s, this company made many steins that came extremely close to the original c.1900 etched steins. Thewalt and Gerz also made etched-type steins during the 1980’s. Porcelain steins with transfer or handpainted decorations are produced in the same way as c.1900 steins. Glass steins are also made in the same way and in many of the same styles as earlier steins.
Faience steins have been produced and reproduced in recent years, mostly as items for gift stores. Sometimes the quality of these steins is good enough to confuse the novice collector, but the quality is not the same as their 200 year old counterparts.
Pewter relief steins are currently made in the same manner at their c.1900 counterparts. Except for natural aging, it can be hard to tell the new from the old.
Production of limited edition collectible steins grew more popular in the 1980’s. Gerz was the first to come out with these and have become popular along with the growth of beer stein collecting. Limited editions are usually made in quantities of 1,000, 2,500, 4,000 or higher. It is also not unusual to see limited edition steins made in smaller quantities as well.
Steins made over the last 50 years can be harder to appraise and establish than for older steins. Many of the steins are still being made and because of this can be bought new in a retail store. Secondly, increases in production costs have led to much higher retail prices for new steins. For this reason, the limited edition steins have done better than modern steins.
Identification of the new Regimental steins is usually not hard. Here are a few ways to tell if your Regimental stein is an original or not:
- Porcelain steins with a manufacturer’s marks on the bottom are almost always new (1 in 1,000 old Regimentals are marked). A common new mark is a crown in blue or gold.
- A lithophane of a seminude woman indicates a new stein.
- A stamped rather than cast pewter lid would indicate a modern stein.
- Information about the unit (Regiment) that is not correct, such as putting Munich in Prussia, would indicate a new stein.
- A sharply tapered body is frequently an indication of a new stein.
- Trying to determine age using transfer vs. handpainting is unreliable.
A good place on the Internet where you can find some interesting information is always at http://stein-collectors.org.