Featured Stein: May   2011
~ Old Man with Sack ~
by  Justin Pimentel
I’ve never really considered myself much of a character stein collector. And although I have built a modest collection of tower steins, I had always believed that those pieces would be the limit of my character stein collecting. In the last couple of years however, I have ventured off into adding more of these pieces to my collection.

When I came across this “Santa Claus” stein (or so it was advertised), I knew it should have a home in my collection. Being made by Hanke, another selective off-shoot of my collecting, gave me enough reason to attempt to add it to my assortment of wares. The stein itself has a peculiar conical shape, and interestingly enough, is only about .2L in size. The figure is shallowly etched onto the body of the stein, very similar to the “Roly-Poly” pieces also made by Hanke. It is a unique little piece that doesn’t come up for sale too often.

After receiving my stein in the mail, I became a bit more curious about the “old” man depicted through the stein. He was sold as part of a large Christmas collection, but I was doubtful as to whether or not he was actually the German Santa Claus (der Weihnachtsmann). He is listed in the Beer Stein Library as “Old Man with Sack.” This identification seems to be a more appropriate fit. There really aren’t any overt characteristics to make a clear determination of his identity. And, his mysterious sack holds equally mysterious contents.

I generally collect for aesthetic purposes so I am perfectly happy letting him remain an enigma. Perhaps he wants to remain unknown as he hides himself behind his long beard, encapsulated in his brown robe.
Shortly after my article appeared on the website, a thread was started in Stein Talk as to the actual identity of this particular character stein. From the observations of very astute collectors, I think it is fairly safe to say that a previously unidentified stein now has a name. Ken S. rightly questioned the stein’s attribution to Knecht Ruprecht. This character, according to German folklore, “accompanies St. Nicholas on his yearly rounds in something of an enforcer role, giving lumps of coal to naughty children, and sometimes going as far as punishing them with his cane or even taking them away in his sack to the Black Forest to be cooked and eaten.”(The Beer Stein Library)

Prior to this online discussion, I was still inquisitive about his identity, but could not clearly identify him by myself. I was pleased by the meaningful discussion and camaraderie of fellow collectors to rightly identify this stein. Aside from actually collecting steins, I think this case clearly highlights what SCI is all about…the meaningful exchange of ideas and information in order to better our hobby. Of course, having a few beers with your friends at a chapter meeting isn’t so bad either.
  --- Courtesy of the New England Steiners

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