Stein of the Month: December 2004
~ The Schierholz Stags ~
by Ronald E. Gray

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Two porcelain character steins in the form of Stag's heads produced by the Schierholz firm of Plaue, Thuringia, Germany. To the right we see an original version of the Stag (c. 1890-99, photo credit to Frank Loevi), while to the left we see the Stag with Monocle, a modern production employing original molds (photo credit to Ronald E. Gray).

Perhaps our featured Schierholz stags were inspired by A Visit from St. Nicholas. After all, Clement Clarke Moore penned it on Christmas Eve in 1822 (see reference 1), so it does predate these stags. But which ones might they represent. Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet or Cupid? Some of you realize that I only named six when actually there were eight tiny reindeer. Now come on, dash off those last two names if you can. In spite of the music playing in the background, one of them was not the most famous reindeer of them all as these stags predate him by quite a few years. Robert L. May created Rudolph as a promotion for Montgomery Ward in 1939. May’s brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, immortalized it in song and words in 1949 and Gene Autry had an instant hit on his hands (see reference 2). Several others had turned down the song as they did not want to alter Santa’s traditional eight reindeer. You might say, however, that these two reindeer are the most controversial of them all. Was it Donder and Blixem or Donner and Blixen? Or perhaps it was Dunder! You can look up the answer by clicking on references 3 or 4 below, but do not open the link before Christmas as you might spoil your holidays. But that is not the only controversy surrounding this Christmas classic. We know the author as Clement Clarke Moore, but some presume it was written by Major Henry Livingston, Jr. For further information see reference 5, but again you might want to hold off until after Christmas so as not to spoil your holiday traditions. All you spouses that dread those boring office Christmas parties now have something new and topical to carry you through the night.

There were two stags that appeared in the old Schierholz catalog, one of which has a monocle. David Harr, our newest Master Steinologist, furnished the black and white photos from that catalog, numbers 106 and 107. The Stag with Monocle was reproduced by Schierholz in the late twentieth century. For more information on the Schierholz firm, see the August Stein of the Month in the archives section (see the link at the top of this page) or visit The Beer Stein Library (see the link in reference 6). These stags look ready for a clash with those horns. Perhaps that is what happened to most of them as they are hard to find. Two noted collectors of character steins have stated there is no known example of the Stag with Monocle other than that shown in the old catalog. David Harr has theorized that the number of molds required to make this stein may have made it too costly and difficult to produce in any quantity. David telephoned that information to me when another character stein collector informed him that I was featuring these steins this month, just another example of the intangible benefits of an SCI membership. I am trying to contact Herr Schierholz at the Plaue factory to see if he can shed any light on the difficulty of making the old Stag with Monocle versus the new version. If we receive an answer, we will update this article, so check back. (Update: Constantin von Schierholz was unable to provide any information on the original Stag with Monocle, other than that it also was designed by Edmund Hasse. Herr Schierholz confirmed that the new Stag with Monocle was difficult to manufacture. Only 15 were made, truly making it a limited edition. The production was limited not because of difficulty in producing, but rather their only customer during the GDR period was Werner Sahm of Rastal, and he only ordered 15 of them. Herr Schierholz is still with the Schierholz firm, which is now owned by Seltmann-Weiden.)

The reproduction Stag with Monocle is nicely done as Schierholz took steps to duplicate the original as close as possible. They even duplicated the old blue crosshatch mark and the green "Musterschutz" appearing on the bottom, used similar capacity marks inside the stein and aged the pewter artificially. An outcry of "foul" by collectors was apparently heard as Schierholz began marking the bottoms with its current company logo in 1990 (a crown over an "M" with the date "1817"). Unfortunately, we do not have an original stein to compare the two Stags with Monocle. Some of the other reproduced characters compare quite favorably with the originals. This makes it difficult to distinguish the new from the old and it will be even more difficult as the years pass.

I have included photos of the capacity marks, the cross-hatch marks and the "Musterschutz" marks on both the old and new steins. Can you tell which is the old and which is the new? Look at the photos and then check out the answer below (don’t worry, we won’t put the answer upside down like they do in the newspapers).

While we can not make a direct comparison of the Stag with Monocle, we can hypothesize differences based on the color photo of the Stag Head and the two black-and-white photos from the catalog. First, the antlers seem to be positioned differently on the new Stag with Monocle. Second, the color photo of the Stag Head shows the bottom of the antlers matching the color of the stag while the tips are white. This seems to be the case for both the stags in the catalog. Third, the inside of the ears of the color photo of the Stag Head are white. Again, this seems to be true for both stags in the catalog, while our new stein uses a tan color for the inside of the ears. Fourth, the color photo of the Stag Head is tan with some shadings of white compared to the darker brown for the new Stag with Monocle. Based on the black-and-white catalog photos, it would appear their shadings were probably a pretty close match. If anyone knows of an example of the old Stag with Monocle, we would appreciate color photos so we can make a better comparison.

It is not known if the Stag with Monocle was intended to be part of the gentleman series (there is a boar, dog, fox, rabbit and rooster) or was to be paired with the Stag Head as a pair of reindeer. While antler size does not necessarily indicate sex, the smaller antlers on the Stag Head may be intended as those of a female (the Schierholz pairs include a Dutch Boy and Girl, a Potato Man and Woman and a Mushroom Man and Woman). [There also is a Coffee Woman and Coffee Bag, but we won’t go there.] Yes, female reindeer also can have antlers. As a matter of fact, some claim Santa’s eight tiny reindeer are actually females (see references 7 and 8). While six of the names seem sexless, Vixen is no doubt female and Cupid is considered a male, as is Rudolph, for that matter. The rationale is that male deer lose their antlers in early winter, while female deer retain their antlers until spring. Although male reindeer can retain their antlers past December 25th, it is unlikely that they would do so. The verdict is not in yet, but I am sure it will quickly go in favor of the females once it is proven that the eight tiny reindeer are willing to stop and ask for directions.

While reviewing some old stein auction catalogs for another Stein of the Month article, I decided to check for the Schierholz Stag. I reviewed 294 catalogs, or approximately 115,000 steins. While I did not find the Schierholz Stag with Monocle (other than the new one), I did find nine listings of the plain Stag. Gary Kirsner had six listings, two of which were listed in mint condition. The July 13, 1986 listing (lot 86) sold for $3,850. The July 1, 1998 listing (lot 279) sold for $7,187.50. Wolfgang Schmidt had one listing in 1987 which was not mint. Les Paul had one listing in 1990 which was repaired. Andre Ammelounx featured the other listing in November 2003 which had a replaced lid. It was made from a new lid, which is different from that on the original stag, painted to match the old stein. The antlers are reversed from those shown on my new stag stein. It was listed in the range of $1,400 to $1,800 with a reserve of over 80%. It did not sell and was relisted in February 2004 and July 2004 with the same results. Andre has relisted the stag in his February 2005 catalog with a new range of $1,000 to $1,500. [Updated 1 Feb. 2005]

Here is hoping Santa brings all you collectors a stein or two. As to the identity of the marks, the old marks are on top (Musterschutz sometimes appears on the old steins without the European quote marks), while the new marks appear below the old marks. Happy Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Better watch out, Santa is reading his book!

  1. Information on Moore:
  2. Rudolph’s tale:
  3. Corrections Roll in Like a Clap of Thunder:
  4. More on the reindeer’s mix up in names:
  5. Meet Henry Livingston:
  6. The Beer Stein Library:
  7. Rudolph is not a female:
  8. Santa’s reindeer are probably girls:
Better watch out, Santa is reading his book!

"Brave Jungen und Brave Mädchen", or "Well-behaved Boys and Well-behaved Girls!"

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