For beer stein collectors, the 1990s may well be remembered as the decade that saw two of the oldest and most venerable steinmakers close their doors forever. The first was Marzi and Remy, founded in 1879 and surviving until 1994, at which point much of what remained of the company fell into the hands of the firm of S.P. Gerz, then Germany’s largest beer stein producer. Not long thereafter, Gerz too succumbed to the pressures of an increasingly competitive marketplace, ceasing operations in 1999 and ending a steinmaking tradition that had spanned more than a century and a quarter.
With the M&R molds on hand, KING then took a page from the Gerz playbook and began last year to produce an on-going “Limität” reproduction series of antique Westerwald beer steins. Many collectors will recall the Gerz Limität series that ran for twenty-six years from 1974 through 1999, each year introducing another reproduction of a 16th or 17th century hand-thrown Westerwald stein (see Prosit, December 1993 and December 1994). Similarly, the new KING Limität series also presents antique Westerwald steins. However, the KING reference period is the “golden age” of German steinmaking, spanning the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The Series Thus Far
Although the management at KING appears to be intending to produce a series that will eventually explore the efforts of a number of early Westerwald stein manufacturers, the first two steins in the series, as well as a third that has already been announced, are drawn from among the many fine examples found in the Marzi & Remy factory that are now part of the KING archives.
The KING “Limität 2000” is a substantial one-liter relief stein surrounded by five medieval tavern scenes (figure 1). Text lines which also surround the stein above and below the central decoration read:
“Segnet Gott dir Trunk und Bissen, haltst du sauber dein Gewissen,
wirst du auf dem Ruhekissen sanften Schlafes Trost nicht missen.”
(If God blesses your drink and food, if you keep your conscience clean,
you will not be without the comfort of gentle sleep on your pillow.)
Here again, KING claims in the accompanying literature that the stein was originally modeled by Gustav Thinwibel in the late 19th century. However, it is interesting to note that Thinwibel’s characteristic “GT” signature, found on many early Marzi & Remy originals, is nowhere to be seen on these reproductions. When I raised this issue with the company, I was told that the attributions were made by Edwin Breiden, a recognized expert and former Head Modeler at M&R, based on stylistic considerations. It will be interesting to see if any challenges to that claim arise as the series becomes more well-known.
The coloring on the pictured version of the second edition is similar to the first in the series, with the addition of some historically accurate dark green background around the bottom portion. However, I am told that there will actually be two groups of 2,500 pieces each, with the second group being produced in full color. The only sample I have seen is the three-color version, and it would appear that the principal U.S. distributor (M. Cornell Importers) will be limiting imports to the three-color version based on pricing considerations.
The suggested retail price for the second in the series (three-color version) has been pegged at $199.00, but as this is being written in March, only a few samples have reached the U.S., so it may still be a while following publication before they start appearing on dealer shelves.
With respect to the pewter fittings, KING has done its typical high quality job, providing heavy steeple pewter lids on both pieces, as well as sturdy hinges and thumblifts. In fact, the pewter on the KING steins is of a higher quality than will normally be found on the original Marzi & Remy steins from the late 1800s. That being said, it should also be noted that there has been no attempt by KING to find and recreate original M&R lids. However, since the lids on steins of that period often varied considerably depending on the wishes of the customer, this doesn’t present a serious problem. The KING lids are well matched to their respective steins and help to create an aesthetically pleasing overall appearance.
Having been conceived in the image of the Gerz Limität series, the current intention at KING-Werk is that a new KING Limität beer stein will be created each year for the foreseeable future with no predetermined limit. For the present, KING seems to be satisfied drawing from their own archives, which contain mainly the M&R molds, but also some from a few other defunct Höhr-Grenzhausen firms. In the long run, of course, if the series is to become truly representative of Westerwald steinmaking during the “golden age” it will become necessary to somehow expand the range of available models.
In any event, the next stein in the series will be another Thinwibel design from Marzi and Remy, this time depicting medieval professions. Given what we’ve already seen of the series, there can be little doubt that the finished product will be well worth waiting for and that new editions to the series can be expected each year for a long time to come.
Thanks to Hans Günster of KING-Werk for providing the samples pictured above as well as “inside information” about the new series.
*Reprinted by permission from Prosit, the Journal of Stein Collectors International, Vol 2, No. 38, June 2001