One That Got Away
by Salvatore Mazzone
A stein in a recent on-line and live Ron Fox auction (Picture 1) piqued my interest. The listing read: "Character stein, ½L, pewter, Mephistopheles and Gretchen. He stands behind her bustle skirt as the stein handle. Mint".
Gretchen and Mephistopheles were characters in Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's tragic 19th century play "Faust." In it, the scholarly and righteous Dr. Heinrich Faust is tricked by Mephistopheles, a minion of Satan, into wagering his soul for the power to seduce Gretchen, a maiden whom he has met and fallen in love with. Can you guess how that worked out?
I queried Ron via email to see if he knew who the stein's maker was and when the stein was made. He responded, "We do not know the maker. It is late 19th century and great quality."
I plunked down what I felt was a reasonable bid.
Although I was the leading bidder when the auction finally went live, the bids flew hot and heavy and the stein ended up selling for nearly twice the upper-end of the pre-auction estimated price range (plus a 25% buyer's premium!), leaving me to quietly exit stage-left. And that seemed to be the norm for this auction, with many steins selling well above the pre-auction estimated price range. The auction-goers were equipped with both determination and deep pockets.
Research performed prior to bidding had turned up another, even more interesting, alternate version of the stein that was in a previous Ron Fox auction held some years earlier (Picture 2).
It is the same pewter stein but with a copper plating. Truth be told, I like its brighter look and I think the details show up much more clearly; on the other hand, my wife prefers the non-plated version. No worries: I'm sure the plated version is much rarer and harder to find than the non-plated version, so I think my chances of coming across another one any time soon are pretty slim.
In any event, I'll be keeping an eye out to see if I can find one version or the other for sale at a price in keeping with what I can accommodate.
I expect I'll be doing a lot more fishing than catching.