A Very Rare Mettlach Character Stein
This article about a stein in the collection of James DeMars was contributed by Ron Gray
With summer coming to a close, there is just enough time for one more barbeque. And what goes better with that steak or hamburger you are grilling than corn on the cob? Not many have seen this ear of corn stein and you will not find it in any of the Mettlach books or catalogs. It is, however, listed in the Mettlach catalog on The Beer Stein Library. Corn or maize is a plant that was domesticated in the Americas (see http://www.nativetech.org/cornhusk/cornhusk.html for a discussion on corn). Eating corn on the cob, particularly at barbeques, is quite common on this side of the Atlantic. It was introduced in Europe where it is more common to use corn as feed for animals. Therefore, it is possible that this particular character stein was developed specifically for the North American market.
While the Villeroy & Boch plant at Mettlach is known for its high-quality steins, it is not known for making many character steins. Although several steins appear to qualify as character steins, the purists only accept three as true character steins (listed in order of increasing value): the owl (form number 2036), the dog (form number 2018) and the monkey (form number 2069). The stein that appears to be made of stacked pretzels with a pretzel handle (form number 2388) and the stein that appears to be a barrel (form number 675), as well as a few other steins with tower lids, are generally rejected as not meeting all the requirements to be considered true character steins.
When SCI member Jim DeMars got a call about this stein from one of the many antique dealers he knows in Florida, his immediate reaction was that there was no way this stein could be a Mettlach. But being the adventurer he is, he had to go see it for himself. And sure enough, it was a newly found Mettlach (form number 78) to go along with the other three known Mettlach character steins. This stein will appear in Gary Kirsnerís new edition of The Mettlach Book. My guess is that its value will easily surpass the value of the monkey stein, which was valued at $2,400 in the last edition of The Mettlach Book.
Now who doesnít believe in leaving their name, number and area of interest with those antique dealers? Once again, the old adage of "its not what you know, but who you know" is proven to be correct. Is there another such stein out there in someoneís collection or have they all been eaten up? Thanks for sharing this outstanding find with us, Jim.
[The following update to this article is provided by SCI member Frank Loevi.
The Mettlach Book, 1994 edition, does list form 78 at $700, but does not show a picture of the stein. It is my understanding that a picture of the stein will be included in the new edition when it is published. The Beer Stein Library had a similar price range, but recently upgraded it to $2,600 to $3,400 based on its rarity. It will be interesting to see if anyone else has another form 78. Frank Loevi also called my attention to form 3388, which is not listed in any of the Mettlach books, which is a character of a blast furnace. The Beer Stein Library has a black and white photo of the stein and values it in a range of $4,000 to $5,000 due to its rarity. The only known example resides in the Milwaukee Art Museum. Thanks for the updates, Frank.]