Stein Collectors International, Inc.

~ How to Detect Stein Repairs ~
by Master Steinologist Ron Fox
(Prosit, March 1989)

The one thing I am asked about most often as I travel and meet stein collectors across the country is how to detect stein repairs. This subject is one that should be addressed in Prosit so that the majority of collectors can learn how to spend their money more confidently.

Being an avid collector since 1973, I learned how to detect and repair all types of steins, and have gone so far as to design and make a completely new character stein from start to finish. I therefore feel competent to address this subject with authority.

Most stein repairs are hidden beneath a coat of paint. Therefore you must first learn how to tell a painted area. When inspecting a stein for paint repairs there are certain areas that are more vulnerable and most likely to contain repairs and painting. These would include the base, the top rim, the inlay lid, the handle and any protruding parts. You should also inspect all areas where the lid and body meet. In general usage, these are the areas most susceptible to damage and repairs.

Years ago, stein repairs were painted with a lead-based paint. These areas were easily detected with an ultraviolet or "black" light. However, since about 1970 most ceramic repairs have been done with lead-free paints which are undetectable under a black light. Aging lead-based paint repairs often turn yellow over the years, making them easy to spot. Even the newer 2-part epoxy repairs used to achieve a glossy surface generally turn color and their pinkish hue is a dead giveaway. But when these telltale discolorations are not evident, how can you detect the newer types of painted areas? Well, there are numerous methods of detection you can employ. You must learn how to use your senses more keenly. You must not only rely on your sense of sight, but your sense of feel and smell as well.

First, good lighting is a must, with natural sunlight being the best. A poor color match will be obvious to most people in this light. Detecting a quality repair will take a much more serious study of the stein. First, examine the stein for any suspicious areas. Use your fingers to feel any texture differences: Glazed repaired areas will have a slightly tacky feel to them, whereas original glazed areas will have a smooth, glass-like feel. Also, a repaired area will have a warm feel when held up against your lip (which is very sensitive). Original decorated areas will have a cool feel. If a suspicious area is found, then the "pin test" will surely answer all doubts. Take a pin and lightly press it against the suspicious area. If it starts to dig in and leave an impression, your suspicions are correct. It is important to remember that the original decoration was fired onto the stein, whereas the repair is merely paint on top of the original surface used to camouflage the repaired area. A drastic method of detection would be the use of a paint remover that would remove any unfired painted areas. Though I know some collectors that have used this method for years, I cannot recommend it as you can also remove gold, silver and low-fired enamels. Another reason not to use paint or nail polish remover is that an acceptable repair is usually preferable to one which has been "undone".

When a repair is completed, the paint will dry and any exterior odor will disappear. If the interior was repaired and the lid has been closed for a long period of time, a paint odor will still be noticeable long after the paint repair has been completed.

There is no substitute for knowledge. If you know what the colors should look like and feel like on a particular type of stein, you will less likely be fooled by repairs.

In addition to the above detection methods, I feel it is wise to deal with reputable dealers who know steins and stein repairs. A written receipt describing the stein’s condition is another safeguard, along with return privileges, if un-noted repairs or damages are discovered. While even the most experienced expert, who handles thousands of steins, can miss a repair, an honest, reputable dealer will honor his commitments.