|A Real Regimental Stein|
How did I get here? Re-roll the tape to 1957, when a little kid from California is uprooted and transplanted to Germany with her family. My dad was in the Air Force, a code breaker during the cold war. I had no idea what he did for a living until 20 years after he retired. I just knew it was top secret and all very hush hush. Seriously, what 8 year old in the known universe cares about what the parental units do when they are out of sight?
|Details of the intricate homey camp scenes on the beer rmug|
My mother was a culture vulture and we did not live in military housing on post if she could ever help it. Nope, we lived on the economy as the saying went, in this amazing old house at Number 3 Prieger Promenade in Bad Kreuznach, Germany. Our friends were German, we dressed like German kids and we learned to speak German pretty well over the course of four years.
|That list on the back is a list of all the members of the unit at the time this group served.|
This was a good thing, and we never missed the snotty army brats we went to school with who were mostly quintessential ugly Americans who wouldn't leave the base and lived to go 'home'. They hated Germany; German food, German customs and German people. We, on the other hand, immersed ourselves totally (thanks for that Mutti) which included jumping in the car every week and going exploring somewhere new.
We camped everywhere we went. I literally never stayed in a hotel until I was 18 years old. Okay, I stayed in a hotel in Paris when I was 10, but I have the dubious distinction of camping with my family at the Brussels World's Fair in 1958 where I discovered Flemish Mayonnaise on Frites (French Fries) and marveled at the Atomium and Sputnik. In our travels we met everyone from cosmetics magnates to gypsies, from college kids backpacking around the country to restaurant owners lolling in the Black Forest and so many more. In short, we landed in enough magic to last for a lifetime. I developed an itchy foot and a lust for travel that has never stopped.
|A lithopane is a porcelain picture in the bottom of a beer stein and in some teacups. You can't see them until you hold them up to the light.|
And oh yes, the steins! My dad went bonkers for bier steins. Heidelberg student steins with engraved glass sides and painted porcelain lids, pewter steins with castles on them, steins with lithopanes in the bottom, which are pictures you can see when you hold the stein up to the light, old steins and new steins, big ones and little ones. Our house was filled with his collections of steins and meerschaum pipes.
After he died a few years ago we couldn't find any of the steins except the metal ones that fell off their rack and got smashed in an earthquake in California, dented Pewter. But after my mother died at the age of 95 last year, my brother found the collection where she had hidden it and they are slowly emerging into the light of day. Which brings me to THIS stein. It was either kismet or good karma, I'll take either one.
A few weeks ago a woman brought a box of her father-in-law's things to the antique mall, Finder's Keepers, where I occasionally work and asked if we would be interested in buying the pieces she had. She just wanted them gone from her life. A lot of it was non-thrilling old plate silver, a no go in this era, but then I unpacked a fat German stein with a music box in the bottom, a nice music box too. Unfortunately it plays "How Dry I Am"when you pick it up and that wretched tune has now been stuck in my head for days. It had the words to the song lettered on it and was painted with a Fraulein in net stockings sitting at a table. A guy in a 40's suit is giving her the eye, real hubba hubba stuff. I looked at the beer mug and asked her if anyone in her family had lived in Germany in the 1950s? Turned out most of the box of stuff was brought home from Germany in the mid-50's by her father-in-law who was stationed there.
|The best steins have the details picked out in white enamel that is hand applied, like the shield and the guy's buttons.|
Sadly, in the 1950s right after the war there were a lot of Frauleins in net stockings and not a lot of jobs for them. I remember my dad joking with our beloved housekeeper, Ushi, about the price for a lady's favors, "Zwei markt funfsiche," and they would laugh uproariously at the idea. It didn't dawn on me until many years later what the conversation was about. So, this stein was a soldier's souvenir from his rollicking 1950s and indicated the provenance of the other piece hiding in there. A regimental stein from 1906.
I pulled it out of the box and it was beyond beautiful, the colors still sparkling bright. I also saw the finial, that pointy thing on top, was damaged and I knew it would drastically affect the value. Still, it was so beautiful I offered to buy it for what I thought was a fair price, not knowing then what the heck it was, just that it was gorgeous,
|The stein took a tumble at some point. His rifle is bent like spaghetti|
I got it home and started my research, discovering then what a ginormous field stein collecting is--and what a mysterious one too! So many records of manufacturers and potters were completely destroyed during World War II. A lot of history about these magnificent pieces simply doesn't exist anymore. I did find there are excellent articles on them everywhere on the interwebs.
http://www.realorrepro.com/article/Regimental-beer-steins This is a link to an excellent article on identifying real or fake pieces. I highly recommend it if you find one of these and wonder about it too.
|Lids were to keep out bugs--and the interior should be brighter than the exterior pewter because it wasn't exposed to light|
This stein is especially interesting because Gardist Geier served Prince Ernst Louis, the last grand duke of Hesse (1868-1918). He was the brother in law of Tsar Nicholas of Russia and the grandson of Queen Victoria of England. This stein represents an amazing piece of European history that really demonstrates how interconnected royalty is and was and how very odd it must have been to fight in a war against your family. These pieces are very collectible and a lot of military collectors love them. Beware though, lots of fakes to trip up the unwary collector. Happy Hunting and Cheers! (picture me lifting a beer filled stein.)
|Side view, here you can see the lion of Hesse.|