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How to Identify Vintage Beer Steins

Imitation beer steins are designed to look almost identical to the genuine article, but small differences help collectors determine which are authentic.
Steve Wisbauer/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Original beer steins have become collector items. These hand-painted mugs originated in Germany and have since been replicated by manufacturers because of their overall appeal. Collectors should look for a number of elements on a beer stein to ensure it is genuine and not a mass-produced replica. An authentic vintage beer stein can be worth a great deal of money and finding one among the imitators can be rewarding for a collector.

Turn the mug upside-down and look for a “Made in Germany” or “Gemadnt in Deutschland” stamp on the bottom. All original beer steins will be stamped in this manner. Any beer stein that is blank or stamped as manufactured in any other country is fake. The bottom may also have the name of an artist or a manufacturing company such as Mettlach.

Examine the lid. Vintage beer steins have a metal lid that features ornate details that are similar to the painting on the mug. The outside of the lid should appear darker from years of oxidation, while the inside is a medium-tone metal color. Some replica pieces use a cheap metal substitute that will not carry the weight and appearance of a genuine stein.

Hold the mug up to the light and look inside. You should see the hand-painted lithopone pigment on the interior of the mug if it is an authentic vintage beer stein. Variances in brushstrokes indicate a hand-painted stein. The paint on commercially made replicas will appear virtually flawless in the sunlight, and perfection is the sign of an imposter.

Examine the outside artwork. Vintage beer steins were never painted with lewd paintings that are often see on replicas. Many of the mugs feature historical or war-related scenes from the place where they were created. The paintings are clearly hand-painted with extensive detail, and the edges are raised around the mug. One other detail to look for is a name on a soldier’s uniform: Vintage beer steins will only display the rank on a uniform in a painting, never a name.

Feel the handle. Imposters will have a bump on the handle; whereas, authentic vintage beer steins often do not, a factor in 80 percent of commercially manufactured steins.

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