As seen in The Antique Shoppe Newspaper, October 2006 

Maine carved and painted decoy. c. 1910, Courtesy: James Julia Auction, Fairfield, ME

Steins have a long history, going back to as early as the fifteenth century. Made in Germany of stoneware they served as drinking vessels. In those days they were often decorated with religious or historical scenes.

By the mid-18th century, birds, animals and men were the subjects. At the end of the century there were factories throughout Germany turning out stoneware steins. During that same period handpainted porcelain steins were made by the Meissen and Nymphenburg factories.

During the 19th century character steins depicting everything from animals to Satan were portrayed in porcelain and pottery. These days they are pricey selling in shops for $500 to over $1,000. While collectors look for fine 19th century steins, new, unusual examples with a “future” can sell for hundreds of dollars. A decade ago, when they were issued, commemorative, Anheuser Bush steins sold at a beer stein auction for between $176 to $660. These days, along with other commemoratives, most can be found for a couple of hundred dollars.

Steins were not only made in Germany, but many other countries, including the United States. Rarities of carved ivory can sell for thousands of dollars. However, pottery, pewter, stoneware glass, porcelain and wood are more commonplace and prices can range for a couple of hundred to a thousand dollars, depending on quality and design interest.

There are so many categories that even a beginner can specialize. Among them, character , regimental and anything marked “Mettlach”. Probably it is “Mettlach” that is the most familiar type, made in Mettlach, Germany. The factory specialized in decorative pieces with in-mold relief scenes depicting peasants, game and merry drinkers, with inscriptions. The factory opened in 1836 by Nicholas Villery and Eugene Francis Boch, developed many other techniques over the years. Their most colorful examples used chromolith and later underglaze printing of scenes and people. Knights, Caveliers and even carnival scenes were among the subjects. The last Mettlach steins were made in 1921 before the factory burned down.

Always popular are porcelain steins with a lithophane base, made in the early 19th century. Lithophanes are porcelain panels with relief designs of different density and thickness. Lighter where the porcelain is thin. When held to the light the design appears.

Regimental steins are fascinating since they have a sense of history that includes the owners rank and name. They came about as a result of the Franco-Prussian War(1840-1871). After the war the newly organized Imperial German Armed Force, and the navy, were divided into six divisions: cavalry, etc. When the reservists completed their duty , they could buy a stein with their name and regiment. The steins had various scenes as well.


Lithophane steins of nude women were faked in the 1950s. After World War II porcelain steins with transfer designs were made in Japan. There are many books on the subject by author Gary Kirsner, in print and  in most bookstores.

If you have any questions, you can Email us at

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