Mathias (sometimes spelled Matthias) Girmscheid founded his company in the Westerwald town of Höhr in 1870. Since he was a merchant by trade, no manufacturing began until 1893, and production of beer steins probably did not begin until the turn of the century. In 1920, Girmscheid merged with the stein-making factory of Gilles & Sohn. This collaboration lasted until about 1931. After Mathias's death in 1928, his son Karl took over operations. Some character steins attributed to Girmscheid were introduced in the 1970s. Very little production was taking place by the late 1980s.
M. Girmscheid produced an imaginative array of character steins. While many of them were introduced prior to World War I, Girmscheid also found a new market after World War II. The 1960s and 1970s found the company reissuing popular older Girmscheid figurals as well as older J.W. Remy character steins. In the late 1970s, Rastal Werk took advantage of extensive marketing contacts and began selling Girmscheid steins as their own. Rastal even applied their own base stamp, giving many collectors the impression that these steins were produced by Rastal.
Girmscheid also produced special-order character steins. The Hot Air Balloon carries an intertwined T.W. mark, which implies it was probably produced for the glass manufacturer Theodor Wieseler of Nürnberg for their souvenir market. This T.W. mark also appears on other non-character beer steins produced by Girmscheid. As special orders for souvenir outlets, Girmscheid also manufactured numerous Nürnberg Tower figurals with side crests.
One interesting observation regarding character steins by Girmscheid is that the majority seem to be made of cream stoneware. Only a small percentage are found in blue-grey stoneware. There are two versions among some of their earlier figures. One color version is cream with either blue or green accents, while the other version of the same piece is made in full color. The older versions differ from the reissues in that the older ones are not as shiny and the base generally carries no glaze. Both the body and base of the post-War versions were highly glazed.
One interesting feature of many early Girmscheid character steins is the absence of capacity marks. It is possible that no liter marks were necessary because many were made for export purposes. The word GERMANY is usually found impressed into the figural stein base.
PEWTER LID RIMS
The majority of character steins made by Girmscheid, both old and modern, do not carry any lid rims. This is not unusual as some factories did not want the design flow between lid and body broken up. A few early figurals were mounted with lid rims. The earliest Owl had a lid rim, as did one of their bowling steins. Many of their souvenir Munich Child figurals were mounted with lid rims and many were special-order pieces.
Like other character stein manufacturers, the majority of Girmscheid figurals were made in the ½ liter size. None larger than one liter have yet been found. Also, they rarely made a figural in more than one size, except for special orders.
In most instances, Girmscheid did use mold numbers to identify their character steins. These numbers are generally incised into the stein base. They are often three-digit numbers in the 700, 800, or 900 range. Some four-digit numbers were also used.
M. Girmscheid rarely marked their character steins, whether old or new. Occasionally, the intertwined MG mark was incised into their earlier stein bases, but this was rare.