Stein Collectors International
Featured Stein ~ October 2003

~ 100 Years of Oktoberfest ~

By Ron Gray

The citizens of Munich were invited to the fields in front of the city gates on October 10, 1810, to celebrate the royal wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig (later becoming King Ludwig I) to Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. The festivities concluded with a horse race. The following year Munich decided to have another horse race, thus beginning the tradition of the annual Oktoberfest. The fields are now called Theresienwiese, Theresa’s fields, in honor of the princess. The Germans, being smarter than us, decided to begin the two-week event in late September, when the weather is more conducive to beer drinking. (Will the baseball commissioner please note that an earlier start to the World Series would also be better, not just for beer drinking, but also for watching our National pastime.) This year’s Oktoberfest began on Saturday, September 20, 2003 and ends on Sunday, October 5, 2003. Visit the Library section of this site for a link to an article on the history of the Oktoberfest.

This month’s stein of the month celebrates the 100th anniversary of the Oktoberfest. The design features the two dates, 1810 and 1910, on each side of the symbol of the city, the famous Munich Child, with the small coat of arms of Bavaria (designed for everyday use) appearing above the symbol. This stein is ½ L, but it also was made in the 1 L size. The stein was designed by Franz Ringer (two articles about this Munich artist and architect may be found in the Library area). Ringer's initials appear below and to the left of the wreath containing the year 1910. While my stein does not have a manufacturer’s mark (Ringer did design steins for several different manufacturers), it is stamped "Offizieller Festkrug Oktoberfest 1910" or "Official Festival Stein Octoberfest 1910." The lid is stamped on the inside "Brüder Thannhauser München."

These official steins began to appear for each Oktoberfest every 25 years thereafter (1935, 1960 and 1985). While initially there was no official annual Oktoberfest stein, the Maße (one liter containers) in which the golden brew were served seemed to be disappearing with increasing regularity as prized souvenirs of the revelers. Some customs are the same throughout the world. Prior to the 1978 Oktoberfest, officials of Rastal and the Oktoberfest met to address this problem. As a result, Rastal was licensed to produce an official Oktoberfestkrug. Each year’s design would reflect the poster designed by an artist for that year’s Oktoberfest. A copy of the artist’s signature appears on the bottom of each stein. Not realizing the popularity these steins would enjoy, the initial Oktoberfestkrüge were subcontracted to Franz Stuber. The 1978 through 1984 Oktoberfestkrüge have his initials, "FS," inside a diamond placed below the capacity mark. Thereafter, the Rastal name appears in this position. These initial Oktoberfestkrüge also were designed like the Maße they were replacing, with no lid. You can find some from the early 1980s with lids, but the official pewter lids did not begin appearing until 1987. In accordance with the requirements of Oktoberfest officials, Rastal will not publish the annual production figures for the official Oktoberfestkrüge.

The Oktoberfestkrüge are quite popular collectibles, particularly in Bavaria. There is even one site devoted to these steins, see Der Oktoberfestkrug in the Library area of this site. Although it is in German, it is easy to navigate and understand. The early Oktoberfestkrüge are hard to find and expensive. The more recent ones can be obtained from The Bavaria Shop or Sam’s Steins, among other retail outlets. And of course, these steins can be found on both the American and German eBay sites. The accompanying picture shows the design for this year’s Oktoberfest stein. If you are not attending this year’s party, click here to visit the Oktoberfest at leisure on your computer! Just be sure to pop a can of your favorite lager.

Happy Oktoberfest!

From the left, the pewter lid of the Official 2003 Oktoberfest stein with the relief portrait of King Ludwig III; the signature of artist Christian Weiss; and the certificate of authenticity.

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