This article is drawn from a series which appeared
in Prosit between 1996 and 1998. The articles were written as the steins they
discuss were at various stages in the process of coming to market, and that
perspective has been maintained. An update on the later steins in this series is
included at the end.
Part 1 (from Prosit of September 1996)
Even the most demanding of stein collectors will
be interested in the new character steins created by the firm of Albert Stahl
& Co. for the makers of Corona beer. The three steins, in what will be a
continuing series, were produced in individually numbered limited editions of
5,000 and rank with some of the nicest I've seen, antique or otherwise.
In addition to their quality, what makes these steins unique (and very
collectible) is the fact that Stahl is the successor to Ernst Bohne Söhne, a
well-known and respected character stein manufacturer with a history dating back
almost 150 years. Before getting any deeper into the Bohne-Stahl connection,
however, let's take a look at the Corona character steins.
1 - The Corona Parrot
2 - The Corona Iguana
You Get What You Pay For All three steins are created in deep relief and entirely hand-painted, with
porcelain tops mounted on pewter lids. The first in the series (figure 1) is
made in the shape of a very "hip" parrot, complete with sunglasses and
a towel draped over one wing, which also holds a bottle of Corona Extra. The
Latin American motif is continued right through to the stein's palm tree
The second in the series, and my personal favorite, is the Iguana Stein
(figure 2), which combines a very realistic-looking head with a body decked out
in a Corona tank top, shorts and a serape. The sombrero it's holding provides a
final humorous touch to this striking and unusual piece.
3 - The Corona Toucan
The Toucan Stein (figure 3) completes the current series. It's dressed in a
grass skirt and a red pepper necklace, and has a four-inch beak held high in the
air. Add the Latin drum under its wing (a drumstick?) and it's not hard to
imagine this Toucan on a beach in Mexico leading the band.
A fourth Corona stein is in development and that, in keeping with the
animals-indigenous-to-Mexico theme, the character will be a Jaguar.
At the risk of sounding overly enthusiastic, these steins leave little room
for comparison with most other contemporary character steins - particularly
those aimed at American consumers. While "Budman" has clearly found an
audience, from a quality standpoint he's not even in the same league with the
Corona steins. Much the same can be said about virtually any of the character
steins from Brazilian manufacturer Ceramarte, as well as the steins in the Gerz
"Schultz and Dooley" series, all of which, like the Corona steins,
were created specifically for sale in North America.
As might be expected, however, all that quality doesn't come cheap. Any one
of the Corona steins will set you back about $170.00 and, because they are
quickly becoming favorites among beer-drinking Tex-Mex and Jimmy Buffet fans,
there appears to be very little discounting at the retail level. If you can only
afford one, my advice would be to start with the parrot stein. Because it was
the first in the series, it's likely to be the first to disappear from dealer
shelves and also the one with the highest appreciation potential.
Some Bohne-Stahl History
Figure 4 - Skull on a Book
by E. Bohne Söhne
As already noted, the quality of the Corona character steins can, at least in
part, be attributed to the fact that the manufacturer is the successor to Ernst
Bohne Söhne, a stein-maker with a long history of producing quality character
steins. Perhaps the most popular and recognizable of those today are the several
variations of the familiar skull on book stein (figure 4), which was a Bohne
"best seller" and a prized souvenir among German university students
around the turn of the century.
In 1937, the company was sold to Albert Stahl and was incorporated as
"Albert Stahl & Co. vormals (formerly) Ernst Bohne Söhne."
Unfortunately for Stahl, the factory was located in the town of Rudolstadt, in
the formerly East German state of Thüringen (Thuringia) and, following World
War II, the production facilities were nationalized and eventually converted to
the production of technical porcelain. While the company managed to retain many
of the original molds and, after reunification, was able to reclaim others that
had been confiscated, stein production both during the war years and thereafter
under the socialist regime was virtually non-existent.
Re-privatized in 1990, the
company again began regular production of character steins using the E. Bohne Söhne
molds, creating pieces which are quite similar (although intentionally not
identical) to the Bohne originals. Anyone familiar with Bohne characters should
be able to distinguish the reproductions on sight. For those with less
experience, look for Stahl's crown and shield logo on the bottom.
Since returning its facilities to beer stein manufacturing, the company has
also produced a number of new designs, in addition to the Corona series,
deserving of serious attention. I hope to take a look at some or all of them in
a future issue of Prosit.
Given their history and continuing attention to quality, there can be little
doubt that today's Albert Stahl & Co. steins, including both Bohne
reproductions and the company's new creations, will be actively sought-after by
future generations of character stein collectors.
Part 2 (from Prosit of December 1997)
5 - The Corona Jaguar
And Then There Were Four The latest addition to the Stahl line-up, this time via Tradex, is the
fourth stein in the Corona beer series. The new Corona Jaguar stein (figure 5)
features this South-American jungle cat fashionably decked out in a khaki jacket
and slacks with a matching sun helmet. He also sports a hunting rifle slung over
his shoulder while he sits on a case of Corona with his overhanging tail curled
up to serve as a handle.
As this is written, no decision has been made as to whether or not there
will be a fifth in the series. Regardless of what is decided, however, the
innovative Corona steins deserve lasting recognition for modern beer stein
pioneering. They are the first contemporary equivalents of old world, high
quality porcelain character steins based on new world concepts. More recent
characters like the Budweiser frog and penguin, not to mention [the Bulldog
stein by Albert Stahl & Co. and the Disney "Looney Tunes"
characters developed by Cornell Importers for Walt Disney], all took their cue
from the early Corona editions to produce a category of steins that will surely
be among the most sought-after by future collectors.
Part 3 (from Prosit of September 1998)
6 - Artwork for the
Corona Sea Turtle
Two New Steins Announced in the Corona Beer Series When the Corona Jaguar, last of the currently available Corona character
steins, was pictured in Prosit last September, it was unclear as to
whether there would be any future additions to this very popular series.
Apparently the good guys have prevailed, and I can now report with certainty
that two new Corona steins are in the pipeline.
Shortly after reading about it you should begin to see the fifth stein in
this series, a sea turtle decked out in pirate garb, holding a Corona beer in
one hand and a shovel in the other as he gets ready to bury his trunk full of
ill-gotten gains. Jim Brooks, of Tradex GmbH, sent me the accompanying
photograph of the model for this stein in its pre-production stage (figure 6).
As for number six, I'm told they've decided on a Mexican bull.
Look for the Sea Turtle stein later this year (hopefully, in time for
Christmas), and the Mexican Bull in late 1999.
Subsequent Events (provided by Frank Loevi)
The Sea Turtle (figure 7) has now been on
the market for some time, followed by an Octopus (figure 8) and an Armadillo (figure 9), bringing us to a current total of seven of
these "critters". The popular series is expected to continue, with
possible future additions of a Horned Toad, a Chihuahua and the long-awaited
7 - The Corona Sea Turtle
8 - The Corona Octopus
9 - The Armadillo
...and one more
The eighth stein in this series, a 10 1/2" high Macaw lounging in a
chair at the beach,
is now available.