The Corona Characters:
Steins With a Pedigree*

by Frank Loevi

Even the most demanding of stein collectors can’t help but be impressed with the character steins created by the firm of Albert Stahl & Co. for the makers of Corona beer. The eleven steins in the series were produced in individually numbered limited editions of 5,000 and rank with the some of nicest I’ve seen, antique or otherwise.

In addition to their quality, what makes these steins unique (and very collectible) is the fact that Stahl is the successor to Ernst Bohne Söhne, a well-known and respected character stein manufacturer with a history dating back almost 150 years. Before getting any deeper into the Bohne-Stahl connection, however, let’s take a look at the invividual members of the Corona character stein series.

You Get What You Pay For

All eleven steins, representing animals indigenous to Mexico, have been created in deep relief and entirely hand-painted, with figural porcelain heads mounted on pewter lids. The first in the series (Figure 1) is made in the shape of a very “hip” parrot, complete with sunglasses and a towel draped over one wing, which also holds a bottle of Corona Extra. The tropical motif is continued right through to the stein’s palm tree thumblift.

Figure 1
Figure 2
Figure 3

The second in the series, and my personal favorite, is the Iguana Stein (Figure 2), which combines a very realistic-looking head with a body decked out in a Corona tank top, shorts and a serape. The sombrero it’s holding provides a final humorous touch to this striking and unusual piece. This stein won the “Best New Stein Award” at the 1996 Convention of Stein Collectors International (SCI).

A Toucan Stein (Figure 3) was introduced next, dressed in a grass skirt and a red pepper necklace with its four-inch beak held high in the air. Add the Latin drum under its wing (a drumstick?) and it’s not hard to imagine this Toucan on a beach in Mexico leading the band.

The fourth Corona character is a Jaguar (Figure 4). Sitting on a case of Corona beer in his fashionable South American jungle attire, he compliments perfectly the other characters in the series. A nice touch is added by the use of his tail for the handle.

Figure 4
Figure 5
Figure 6

Fifth in the series is a Pirate Sea Turtle (Figure 5), all decked out in buccaneer gear, complete with eye patch, sword and a treasure chest. The handle is in the shape of a broken mast from a mysterious vessel named “Santa ....” A pewter hatching turtle thumblift completes the picture.

The sixth Corona character is also a creature of the sea (Figure 6). Dressed in sailor garb, the Corona Octopus is depicted on the seashore, clutching a Corona beer and an old weathered pier piling as the waves crash around him. A parrot sits on the piling and another serves as the thumblift.

Getting back to land-based creatures, the seventh stein in the series is a guitar-playing Armadillo, complete with armor reproduced in finely sculpted detail (Figure 7). Some cactus plants, a Corona beer barrel and a curious lizard help to complete the image. As with several previous editions in the series, the Armadillo sports a parrot thumblift.

Figure 7
Figure 8
Figure 9

Another tropical bird was used as the model for the eighth Corona character, in this case a beach-loving Macaw, lounging on a sun chair with his flowered beach towel wrapped around his shoulders (Figure 8). Keeping in tune with the world around him as he works his way through a bucket of beer, he balances his bottle of Corona Extra in one hand with a cell phone in the other.

Number nine in the series is a two-beer toting Horned Toad, sitting comfortably on a rock in a Corona tank top, with a parrot perched on his arm (Figure 9). The impish smile on his face leads one to believe that the beers he’s holding probably won’t be his last.

Figure 10
Figure 11

What goes around comes around. To close out the series the modelers returned to the bird that started it all and created two different parrot characters. The first, dubbed the “Palmtree Parrot” (Figure 10) lounges casually against a Coconut Palm, which also serves as the stein’s handle. The other, and final edition in the series, is a Pirate Parrot (Figure 11) who looks like he might make and excellent first mate to the earlier Pirate Sea Turtle. Here too, a sea chest of booty and Corona Extra helps to round out the image, as does a broken ship’s mast handle.

At the risk of sounding overly enthusiastic, these steins leave little room for comparison with most contemporary character steins produced elsewhere — particularly those aimed at American consumers. While “Budman” has clearly found an audience, from a quality standpoint, he’s not even in the same league with the Corona steins. Much the same can be said about virtually any of the character steins from Brazilian manufacturer Ceramarte, as well as the steins in the Gerz/King/etc. “Schultz and Dooley” series, all of which, like the Corona steins, were created specifically for sale in North America.

Some Bohne-Stahl History

Figure 12
As already noted, the quality of the Corona character steins can at least in part be attributed to the fact that the series creator and original manufacturer is the successor to Ernst Bohne Söhne, a steinmaker with a long history of producing quality character steins. Perhaps the most popular and recognizable of these today are the several variations of the familiar skull on book stein (Figure 12), which was a Bohne “best seller” and a prized souvenir among German university students around the turn of the century.

In 1937, the company was sold to Albert Stahl and was incorporated as “Albert Stahl & Co. vormals (formerly) Ernst Bohne Söhne.” Unfortunately for Stahl, the factory was located in the town of Rudolstadt, in the formerly East German state of Thüringen (Thuringia) and, following World War II, the production facilities were nationalized and eventually converted to the production of technical porcelain. While the company managed to retain many of the original molds and, after reunification, was able to reclaim others that had been confiscated, stein production both during the war years and thereafter under the socialist regime was virtually non-existent.

Reprivatized in 1990, the company again began regular production of character steins based on the E. Bohne Söhne molds, creating pieces which are quite similar (although intentionally not identical) to the Bohne originals. Anyone familiar with Bohne characters should be able to distinguish the reproductions on sight. For those with less experience, look for Stahl’s crown and shield logo (Figure 13-left) or anchor logo (Figure 13-center) on the bottom.

Figure 13
Since returning its facilities to beer stein manufacturing, the company has also produced a number of other new designs deserving of serious attention, in addition to the Corona series. In fact, by the late 1990s, Stahl steins had become so popular that they were no longer able to keep up with demand. To resolve that problem, Stahl began working closely with a newly-formed porcelain manufacturing company called PKT (see “PKT: Germany’s Newest Steinmaker”). After 2000, PKT began handling a large part of Stahl’s character stein orders, including the production of steins in the Corona series. The steins that were made by PKT are identical to those made in the Stahl factory, and are distinguishable only by the bottom mark (Figure 13-right) which, as can be seen, was designed to look very much like the Stahl crown and shield. Where a particular stein was produced was based primarily on workflow considerations, and examples of most of the steins in the Corona series can be found bearing a PKT mark.

Given their history and attention to quality, there can be little doubt that today’s Albert Stahl & Co. steins, and more recently those made by Stahl’s sister company PKT, will be actively sought-after by future generations of character stein collectors.


*This is a revised and updated version of an article that originally appeared in Prosit, the Journal of Stein Collectors International, in September 1996.

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