How to Tell German Steins From Marks

Written by theresa kwiatkowski
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How to Tell German Steins From Marks
A beer stein with a metal lid and elaborate decoration. (beer mug image by Aleksandr Ugorenkov from

Lids on drinking cups became common as a sanitary practice after bubonic plague swept Europe in the 1600s. The earliest examples of German steins, made of clay by Kreussen in the 17th century, are museum pieces now. In the 18th century, Villeroy and Boch, still a maker of fine china, started producing beautifully decorated steins with the mark Mettlach. The fanciful scenes on beer steins include fairies, animals and woodland scenes.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Printout of marks
  • Magnifying glass

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  1. 1

    The mark on the bottom of a stein can be pressed into the clay during manufacturing or painted on as a label. Not all German steins, especially antiques, will bear a "Made in Germany" designation. German words, such as Musterschutz and Gengen Nachbildung Geschützt, mean trademark and patent protection and does not represent a specific manufacturer.

  2. 2

    Beer stein manufacturers starting in the 1900s used geometric shapes, a picture or a monogram to identify their brand. Examples are: an X with the letters D, B on the ends (Dumler and Breiden); triangle shapes with a T inside (Albert Jacob Thewalt); and a circle with R, M (Reinhold Merkelbach). Beer steins are made by scores of companies, and each will have its own symbol. A stein with no mark suggests it is a cheap reproduction.

    Villeroy and Boch, the maker of fine Dresden china, has a variety of elaborate medallion shapes on its steins with V, B and sometimes the word Mettlach, the town where the factory is located.

  3. 3

    An elaborate, twisted ,wood-like or vine-shaped handle is common to the Matthias Girmscheid brand but is seen in other manufacturers. These handles are decorated with berries and leaves.

  4. 4

    A heavy pewter lid is common to authentic German steins. The lid might contain an inlay of porcelain. Less desirable is a thin pewter lid with a cone shape that could contain lead. An authentic stein can be found without a lid because it was manufactured that way or it has been lost.

    How to Tell German Steins From Marks
    A colourful scene on a lidless stein. (beer mug image by Lucy Cherniak from

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