What is a Character Stein

Hundreds of stein collectors have been asked to define a character stein, and only rarely was the same response received. Many items labeled character steins can be found in books and articles. One definition of a perfect character stein could be a stein whose body, lid, handle, and mountings combine to form a figure, person, or object. However, a stein rarely meets all these criteria, and they are not required for inclusion in this book.

This chapter outlines the criteria for the pieces chosen to be included in this book. What is required, first of all, is that the items were originally made to be beer steins. Over the years collectors have made tobacco jars, mugs, and Toby Jugs into character steins. Some of these have even been included in other publications or articles, but they will not be included in this book. Therefore, a bit of explanation is in order.

Tobacco Jars: The tobacco jar was one of the most popular objects used to create character steins in the 1970s. Clever artisans obtained inexpensive and well-made tobacco jars, adding handles and mountings to create fine-looking character steins. Collectors often did not know the difference at that time, and these creations made their way into many stein collections (see figure ___ ).

Toby Jugs: Basically, a Toby Jug is a lidless character stein. It is extremely easy to mount a lid on a Toby Jug. One collector purchased a General MacArthur character stein, which, upon inspection, turned out to be a Toby Jug with a pewter lid added. There are collectors today who routinely purchase Toby Jugs and add pewter lids, thus simulating character steins for their own collections.

Mugs: Another practice popular in the 1970s was to have a lid, such as a football, made and mounted on a character mug. This was frequently done with football mugs made by Thomas Maddocks Sons of Trenton, New Jersey (see figure ___ ). Some character stein collectors will not include in their collections any steins with set-on lids. However, this view is not universal, and this book includes steins with unmounted lids.

PEWTER LIDS Many character steins depicted in early stein catalogs show a character stein body with a plain or steeple pewter lid. A purist might argue against their inclusion in this book. However, entries in this book fitted with pewter lids are only those that were originally designed that way. The replaced pewter lid or pewter lid added to a mug or Toby Jug does not qualify.

STEINS WITH FLAT BODIES Many of the WEBCO (West End Brewing Company) character steins, starting with Schultz & Dooley, are nothing more than plain bodies with figural lids. Many of the more recent Gerz character steins are basically plain bodies with a design decorated on them and a different character lid. Strictly speaking, these do not meet the definition of character steins. They are included, however, because of their popularity and their acceptance by most character collectors. What is too far outside the limits of the definition is a stein with a flat body with only a face decorated onto it and a plain pewter lid.

TOWERS The most difficult steins to categorize are the tower steins. There are so many semi-character steins with tower lids or relief castle walls that a separate book could be written on those alone. For the most part, they have been excluded from this book. Readers may disagree with respect to some of the newer character tower steins, due to the clever ways their makers incorporate the relief bodies and lids.

BARRELS Many of the barrel or keg-shaped steins have been included, but some have not. Barrel-shaped beer steins alone could also comprise an entire book. There are so many wooden barrels that including all of them would only be confusing and repetitious. The ones shown are meant to be a good representation of this category without being overwhelming.

OTHER QUESTIONABLE INCLUSIONS It is obvious that many of the steins included in this book are not truly beer steins. Many of the smaller pieces contain pouring spouts and are clearly not made for drinking beer but to be used as pitchers for other liquids. Even though these are referred to as Beer Steins, some were obviously made for the consumption of wine. Perhaps those should be called wine steins. Some collectors consider the smaller figural steins to be glorified charms. Each and every proposed entry has been carefully considered. All are working character steins, even though they might be no more than one-inch tall. There are many character decanters with mounted lids, but including all of them would not properly serve the reader. However, there are representations, some of which are often in the shape of glass birds. There are many borderline cases; this book excludes many items that appeared in previous character books and catalogs. Since the Lawn Tennis stein and the Barbell stein are merely relief stein bodies with character lids they have been omitted. Surely not every collector will agree with the selections included in this book, but the choices made were based solely on the authorís judgment, and both the responsibility and the credit are his.

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