Even though the steins started centuries before the Greeks, the character steins didn't come into existence until the mid 1500's because that is when the hinged lids came into production. However the predominance of character steins didn't find their way into society until the late 1800's. Some of the companies producing character steins were Merkelbach & Wick, Dumler & Breiden, Reinhold Merkelbach, Simon Peter Gerz and Marzi Remy. If you didn't recognize any of those companies, Mettlach started the characters in 1892.
Some of the steins are lithophanes, meaning that wax was placed over a glass pane and carved to show a view of something. Then the wax was used to make a plaster mold for the bottom of the stein. When light is passed through the bottom of the stein, it looks like a cameo in the bottom.
The great thing about the early character steins is that they all carry a hefty price when sold to the collector. The company isn't as important as the rarity in most cases. Be on guard as there have been many fakes and reproductions made. It is hard to find one of these early steins that will bring less than $400 and from there they go into the thousands. My favorites are, I guess, the animals and one really catches my eye, the Gentleman Rabbit by Musterschutz [Schierholz]. If you run across him, please call me immediately.
Here is someone that can help you with information on steins: Les Paul, Steinologist from
There is no doubt in my mind that the book by Gary Kirsner and Jim Gruhl is the best book on steins that there is. The title of the book is The Beer Stein Book, a 400 year History.
In my retirement years it may be a great hobby to collect steins and just sit and laugh at all the expression they bear.
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