Determining the year a beer stein was produced is a difficult task that must take into account a variety of information about the stein's shape, decorations, materials and markings. A beginning collector can sometimes find certain clues that help place the stein in history. But for definitive dating and appraising, it is best to consult an expert. Even steins that match the characteristics of an older style can turn out to be modern reproductions.
Examine the style of the beer stein, including both shape and decorations. Use your collector's guide to determine what the stein's characteristics tell about the period it was manufactured. Some characteristics to look for include whether the decorations are raised or flat, the style and content of any painted decorations, and the shape of the stein and its handle.
Examine the shape and material of the stein's pewter lid, if any, and compare it to the information in your collector's guide to see whether the period matches that suggested by the stein's shape and decorations. Bear in mind that it is possible to remove a lid from an older stein and attach it to a modern stein to make it seem older than it is.
Look for a manufacturer's mark engraved or painted on the stein. Some stein manufacturers used specific markings during certain periods, and finding one of these can help ascertain its date of manufacture. However, the four-digit numbers engraved behind the handle or on the base of some steins are manufacturer's mold numbers and have nothing to do with when it was made.
Ask an antiques expert or an experienced stein collector to determine or verify the date and value of your stein. There are many factors that must be taken into account when dating a beer stein, including the intentional removal of markings that would show that it was manufactured more recently.