The pottery factory known as Merkelbach & Wick was founded by Friedrich Wilhelm Merkelbach II and Georg Peter Wick in 1872 in the Westerwald town of Grenzhausen (now known as Höhr-Grenzhausen). It was here they produced beer steins and related products under the Merkelbach & Wick name until 1921, when the factory name was changed to Wick-Werke. Operations continued under this name until the company closed in the late 1970s or early 1980s.

We actually do not come across many character steins with Merkelbach & Wick basemarks, but research has indicated that Merkelbach & Wick produced special-order character steins for other companies. These included pewtersmiths, distributors, wholesalers, and retailers. Such well-known companies as J. Reinemann, Martin Pauson, Josef Mayer, and Theodor Wieseler were clients of Merkelbach & Wick. In some cases, Merkelbach & Wick merely manufactured the ceramic bodies. In other cases, the entire stein may have a been special order from the buyer. Even the molds themselves could have been owned by the purchaser. It is impossible to determine the arrangements each purchasing firm had with Merkelbach & Wick.


The character steins actually made by, marked, and marketed by Merkelbach & Wick were made in either blue-grey stoneware or cream stoneware and, in some cases, the same stein was produced in both materials. Though it is likely that some Merkelbach & Wick character steins were made in materials other than those listed, this book lists only those whose existence has been verified.


Most of the character steins marketed by Merkelbach & Wick were made with pewter lid rims. Exceptions include the ones with lids made entirely of pewter, as were the lids of various towers and other special orders. On one Reinemann special order Munich Child character, the ½ liter size was made without a lid rim while the ¼ liter size was made with one.


The majority of the Merkelbach & Wick character steins were made in the ½ liter size only. With the exception of the Monks and Nuns series, none of their other marked characters have been reported in multiple sizes. The majority of their figurals do carry a capacity mark, which was incised near the top of the handle.


Those character steins marketed by Merkelbach & Wick almost always carry an identifiable incised basemark. The mark found most often is the circle mark with a script M and W above Gr which stands for Grenzhausen (see figure __). This mark was always used, but how deeply it was impressed dictates how easily one spots it. After 1921, when the factory changed their name to Wick-Werke, the most common character mark used was a large A with a G beneath the crossbar of the A and two Ws side-by-side under it (see figure__). Only a few character steins with this mark have been found as production was limited after 1921.


Most of the figurals marketed by Merkelbach & Wick did not carry a mold number incised into the stein base. On occasion, however, the mold number will appear on the stein body just below the area where the top of the handle attaches to the stein (see figure__). When Merkelbach & Wick utilized the same stein body with different lids, they used the same mold number, only adding a letter. The Rich Man, for example, is numbered 257a while the matching Rich Lady is mold number 257b. When multiple lids were used, such as with the monks and nuns, they added a Roman numeral after the number to differentiate them.


Merkelbach & Wick is noted for the many variations used on their Monk and Nun character steins. First of all, they utilized two different basic body designs. These are almost identical except for the placement of the hands. On one body, the hands are resting on the top of the rope belt. On the other body version, the hands rest slightly above the belt (see figure__). Each body is available with six different stoneware heads which form the lids. Five of the heads are monks and one is a nun. This creates twelve different variations in the ½ liter size alone. The mold number for all of them is #270 (except for the one liter, which is #259), plus the appropriate Roman numeral which designates the inlay lid. Some of them were made in various sizes ranging from ¼ liter, 4/10 liter, ½ liter, and one liter. Many of these are also available in either blue-grey stoneware or in cream stone-ware. To further complicate things, lids made of copper, pewter, bronze, and even silver were made for the #270 III Monk and the #270 IIII Nun. Even the #239 Monk is available with various metal lids. These metal lids were also available on character steins made by other factories in Höhr-Grenzhausen, as well as by porcelain stein makers elsewhere.


Similar handles are found on many marked Merkelbach & Wick character steins. Many carry what can be called the stepladder or split stepladder style. This handle has horizontal rungs between two vertical uprights. Sometimes there is another vertical central upright splitting the handle design (see figure__). In some instances, the handle also splits at the base where it attaches to the body. While this handle can also be found on other character steins not made by this factory, it was often used by Merkelbach & Wick.