PKT: Germany’s Newest Steinmaker*

by Frank Loevi

Figure 1
Regular readers of Prosit may recall the unique double-sided Millennium character stein discussed in the September 1999 issue. (Figure 1) The stein was made in Germany by a new company called “PKT” (for Porzellanmanufactur und Krugwerkstätte Thüringen) and its appearance in Prosit kept my e-mail system busy for days answering inquiries about its availability for purchase. That being the case, I thought there might be some interest in learning more about the company and about some of the other steins that are coming off the PKT production line.

In an era where it’s far more common for German steinmakers to be cutting back on production in response to reduced demand and to competitive pressure from Latin America and the Far East, the opening of a new German stein factory is a rare event indeed. So why do the owners of PKT feel that they can succeed where others are struggling? The answer to that question can be found in a unique relationship with one of their neighbors in the town of Rudolstadt.

The PKT-Stahl Connection

One of the few recent bright spots for German steinmakers, particularly as it relates to steins being exported to North America, has been the enthusiastic reception given to the porcelain character steins produced by Albert Stahl & Co. The highly regarded Corona beer series (Prosit, September 1996), as well as the Budweiser Frog and the Bud Light Penguin (Prosit, March and June 1997), are just a few among many recent standout products.

That’s the silver lining. The cloud is the fact that Stahl has been producing only 14,000 to 18,000 beer steins per year (in addition to porcelain figurines and other products), and has not been able to increase stein production to meet growing demand. During the mid to late 1990s, this capacity limitation led to some serious failures to meet delivery requirements and even raised the prospect of potential legal action by U.S. distributors. In the middle of the conflict stood Tradex GmbH, the contractor/exporter that was ultimately responsible for product delivery.

Rather than accept the status quo and its possible unpleasant consequences, a decision was made by Stefan Schultheis, one of the principals in Tradex, to open and operate an additional plant which could take up the slack. What followed was an unusual cooperative effort between Stahl and the start-up company, PKT, to meet the rising demand by working together and sharing resources. PKT now operates in a building leased from the owners of Stahl, situated no more than 100 yards away from the Stahl factory. Purchasing of raw materials is currently done jointly and there is considerable exchange of information and resources between the two companies.

Figure 2
I’m told that the new plant has a production capacity of some 40,000 steins per year and is already operating near those levels. The running start can, in large part, be credited to the efforts of Jürgen Körner, Stahl’s General Manager, whose hand was at the wheel during the entire start-up process and whose daughter Jana shares the ownership of PKT with Stefan Schultheis.

My guess is that this mutually supportive effort between potential competitors might be better understood and appreciated by those raised under the rule of the old East German DDR, where Kombinate (cooperatives) were the rule of the day. In any case, it appears to be working. Production resources (including even employees) are regularly shifted back and forth as requirements dictate. Recently, Stahl has begun to concentrate its efforts more and more on a popular line of bird figurines, with the natural consequence that PKT is often the producer of beer steins that were formerly manufactured by Stahl. As if to confirm the interdependent nature of its relationship with Stahl, PKT has even chosen to adopt a similar logo (see Figure 2).

PKT Character Steins

While stein production is regularly shifted between factories (more often from Stahl to PKT than vice versa), both companies retain their individual identities and proprietary rights to certain products. However, it would appear that PKT has now become the “official” maker of a number of steins that initially carried the Stahl logo. I’ve noted, for instance, that the three (yellow, chocolate and black) Labrador Retriever steins that together constituted the second edition in the popular “Man’s Best Friend” series, all of which were issued by Stahl before the new company came into being, are now being made at PKT and labeled as such.

Figure 3
PKT began shipping in April of 1999 and, along with several “Stahl” products issuing from the factory, were the first two PKT-originated steins, Max and Rosie, a Bavarian Boar and “Boaress”. (Figure 3) Max is depicted dancing the German Schuhplattler and dressed for Oktoberfest in his lederhosen and Bavarian hat. A weiswurst handle adds the finishing touch. His mate Rosie wears a traditional German dirndl and is depicted in the role of a Munich Bier Liesl, complete with three masskrüge of beer and a plate of Oktoberfest food. A pretzel handle completes the image. Both are being produced in limited editions of 5,000. For my money, it would be difficult to come up with a stein that brings to mind Munich and the Oktoberfest better than these two and, as has always been true with Stahl, the quality of the PKT steins is top line. Speaking of money, the suggested retail price is $199.00 each.

Figure 4
Both German Shepherd lovers and police officers should be attracted to a pair of PKT steins that together make up the third edition in the on-going Man’s Best Friend series. (Figure 4) As can be seen, the two Shepherds are dressed as police officers (American and German), complete with hats, badges and ties. Each is posed in possession of several books with titles such as “The Art of Sniffing” and “Obedience School”. A total edition of 5,000 will include 3,000 of the American version and only 2,000 of the German version. Here again, the suggested retail price is $199.00.

Collectors of that series may also be interested to learn that the fourth and fifth Man’s Best Friend editions have already been announced. The fourth is another cigar smoking bulldog, this time dressed in a tux and holding a saxophone (big band bulldog?), which should be reaching dealer shelves in early summer. Fifth is a trio of Scottish terriers (black, white and grey), each dressed in a plaid kilt and playing the bagpipes. Look for the Scotties later this year.

Figure 5
Another PKT stein that should attract some attention, particularly in this era of 401K plans and on-line stock trading, is the recently announced “Bull and Bear” stein. (Figure 5) Whether you’re a market professional or, like me, just someone whose quality of life in retirement will be largely determined by the ebb and flow of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, you’re sure to find something to like in this ceramic depiction of a wrestling bull and bear. They’re each dressed in the standard Wall Street uniform, complete with cell phone and brief case, as they engage in their perpetual struggle for control of market direction. This stein is so new that it hadn’t even shown up in catalogs as this was written in late March, but it should reach dealer shelves by mid-summer. I haven’t seen any pricing yet, but it’s reasonable to assume that it will be in the same range as those mentioned above. Here again, the edition limit will be 5,000.

All of these PKT steins, as well several others that were left out due to space constraints, are being distributed by M. Cornell Importers, Inc. You should be able to find them at collectibles dealers nationwide, including both “brick and mortar” locations and on the Internet.

Figure 6
Not to be outdone, the folks at Anheuser-Busch have also recently issued a couple of PKT steins. However, for reasons known only to the powers-that-be in the Promotional Products Group, they don’t appear to want anyone to know where they came from. Consequently, when you turn the steins over, the only indication of origin you’ll see is the intentionally vague “Handcrafted in Germany”.

Announced late last year, just in time for Christmas 1999, A-B’s “Santa Character Stein” (CS394, Figure 6) is a licensed product representative of the famous “Coca-Cola Santa”, created by artist Haddon Sundblom in the early 1930s. Santa is depicted perched on a pile of Christmas goodies, enjoying a short break and an ice cold bottle of Coke. The edition limit on this one is 10,000 copies and the suggested retail price is $270.00. That seems a little on the high side to me, but I would guess the Coca-Cola license didn’t come cheap.

Figure 7
The second PKT stein from Anheuser-Busch salutes “the ever-faithful Dalmatian, an important member of each World Famous Budweiser Clydesdale hitch team”. (CS324, Figure 7) The Dalmatian in this case sits in “parade dress” on a replica of a wooden Budweiser case. The handle of the stein features a depiction of the brass martingale worn by the lead hitch horse. Here again, the edition limit is 10,000 pieces. The suggested retail price is $220.00.


As can be seen, in little more than a year of operation, PKT has gained substantial penetration into the contemporary North American beer stein market place, with its products being offered by both major U.S. distributors. Back on the home front in Germany, it’s probably fair to say that the relationship between PKT and Stahl is still evolving, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to eventually see a further shift away from beer stein production by Stahl. Should that occur, early PKT products already provide ample evidence that the future quality of Rudolstadt porcelain character steins is likely to remain at a very high level, assuring their place as prized collectibles for generations to come.


Thanks to both Stefan Schultheis (Tradex/PKT) and Henry Cornell (Cornell Importers) for their help in providing both information and stein samples.

*This is a revised version of an article that originally appeared in Prosit, the Journal of Stein Collectors International, Vol 2, No. 34, June 2000.

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