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It’s all in the Marks: Understanding Mettlach Date Marks

by Mike Wilcox (09/10/12).

The “Mercury Mark,” used by Mettlach pottery from 1874-1909. It is usually stamped in green but also known to have used blue and black ink.

The Mettlach pressed mark used from 1882-1931. Notice the line drawing of the Benedictine abbey where the Mettlack pottery was located.

Collectors of pottery and porcelain really have it easier than collectors of other antiques, such as furniture, glassware or lamps, where determining a maker or even a date of production can involve a great deal of research. Even then, at times, much is speculation based on third-party attributions. Many potteries, on the other hand, make it very easy to determine what you are looking at with a great deal of certainty by the markings they use.

One of the easier potteries to identify and date is Mettlach from the general period 1874-1910. The company used variations of both the marks above for this period of production and a easy to identify date mark.

Mettlach was founded in 1809 by Jean-François Nikolaus Boch III (1782 -1858) in Mettlach, Saarland, Germany. The pottery itself was located in a 10th-century Benedictine abbey that still exists to this day.

The company became part of “Villeroy & Boch” as a result of a merger between Boch and Nicolas Villeroy in 1836. Their goal was to consolidate the market share against competitors. Mettlach, as an separate entity within the Villeroy and Boch enterprise, has produced a wide variety of household items in its history, such as tobacco jars, plaques, wine pitcher and plates. Mettlach is best known, though, for the beer steins it produced during its heyday, from 1885- to 1910.

The Mettlach products collectors are most familiar today were first exhibited at the 1885 World Exhibition held in Antwerp, Belgium, in 1885. During these peak years, from 1885 on, some references claim that Mettlach employed more than 1,250 factory workers. The number of types and sizes of just the steins produced alone numbers in the 1,500-2,000 range. This was not to last however, as the economic climate had begun to worsen and production dropped leading up to the First World War. To make matters worse, in 1921, a fire broke out in the pottery, destroying all the molds and much of the company reference material for glaze and colored slip formulas.

Like many, Mettlach did periodically change its company marks and used a variety of markings to identify its goods, such as a date code, mold type/numbers marks and, in the case of its steins, their liquid capacity. Along with the changes of pottery company markings, we sometimes also have other marks that are general indicators of age, like “Country of Origin” marks, such as “Germany” or “Made in Germany” that can be found stamped or printed on the bottom. Marks like these were used to comply with trade and tariff laws like the English Merchandise Marks Act in 1887 and the American McKinley Act of 1890, which required pieces imported to the United States be marked with their country of origin.

Here’s an example with the Villeroy & Boch “Green Mercury” mark used from 1874 to 1909 with a date code for 1891 (91) and a country of origin marking applied to comply with the British Parliamentary Merchandise Marks Act of 1887 (see below).

an example with the Villeroy & Boch “Green Mercury” mark used from 1874 to 1909

Date codes used from 1883-1887 are among the easiest to identify, as they appear with a stamped box, as can be seen in the “87” for 1897.

 

Typical markings on a Mettlach stein.

Here’s an example (right) to show typical markings on a Mettlach stein from top to bottom.

• At the top we have the impressed Abbey marking used 1882-1931;
• The marking “GEGEN NACHBILDUNG GESCHÜTZT” roughly translates to “Protected by Copyright,” indicating the design rights are protected by law;
• The number “1819,” which many confuse with the date the piece was made is actually the Form/Mold number;
• The date code number is actually the easiest to find; the number “90” on the bottom right stands for the last two digits of the year, in this case “90” stands for “1890”;
• The green numeral “1” and the number “17” are what’s often called a “mystery mark” by collectors of Mettlach, but might indicate the line in the factory where it was produced;
• Also note the lack of a Country of Origin marking. This means the piece was made before the McKinley Act came into effect and was not needed for export purposes.

Ok, now let’s have a look at this mark using the using the information above and see if you can determine the date range from any or all of the marks on the bottom of this stein:

Can you date this piece, based on what you learned above?

The answer: Well, with Mettlach, as long as there is a stamped date code number, none of the other markings are as accurate as the date code. If you determined the “02” represents the year “1902,” you are correct.

Mike Wilcox, of Wilcox & Hall Appraisers, is a Worthologist who specializes in Art Nouveau and the Arts and Craft movement.

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12 Responses to “It’s all in the Marks: Understanding Mettlach Date Marks”

  1. Mike: Thank you for your article on Mettlach steins. I do have a question regarding your statement: “Date codes used from 1883-1887 are among the easiest to identify, as they appear with a stamped box, as can be seen in the “87” for 1897.” Is there a photo missing from your article? I don’t see anything with a date code that matches, and is it 1887, or 1897? I’m slightly confused.
    I have a stein with a date code for 1894 (94), impressed mold mark “1530″, a fancy scrolled box with “Dec. 582″ inside, NO Mettlach mark, but signed “R. Buch ’86″ at the bottom of the artwork. It depicts a seated man with a letter in his left hand and a very long smoking pipe in the other. I’ve seen other steins in this series, but not this particular one, though I’ve seen a description listed on an auction site. I gather the artist designed it in 86, but the stein wasn’t fabricated until 94. I just wanted to confirm with you that the company could have missed marking this one with their back stamp. Any help would be appreciated. Best regards, Robin of Inglenook

  2. I have a piece of china but I dont know what it is or the number on the bottom there is also a 9013 stamp on the bottomin yellow and also a deep inpression of something, not sure waht this is any help would be great thank you

  3. Lisa McNutt says:

    Hello,

    I ran across your page today and Im pretty sure I am looking at the wrong thing. I was at an estate sale today and picked up an item that I cannot find the similar? markings on anyone else’s. It is a mancioli italy pea pod? bowl. Honestly I don’t know what it is, but it looked like something familiar that I have read in books. Under the name it has A.159/B

    Thank you for any assistance you may give me.

    Lisa

    • Mike Wilcox says:

      Hi Lisa,

      We’d really need to see images of the piece and the marking. To do this your best bet would be to use our “Ask a Worthologist” option under the “Research your items” link at the top of the page

  4. Russell says:

    I HAVE THIS PIECE OF POTTER ON THE BOTTON IS STAMPED:
    IETTLACH CARMELITY ALSO THERE IS A #1 STAMPED IN A HIGH GLOSS CIRCLE

  5. Caren says:

    I have a Villeroy & Boch, Mettlach #3162 “2 Cavalier’s Toasting” 17 1/2″ plaque and would like some information on it. Can you advise as how I can get information on this?

    • Mike Wilcox Mike Wilcox says:

      Your best bet would be to use our “Ask a Worthologist” option under the “Research your items” link at the top of the page. Our experts can examine images of your piece and provide information about its vintage and value.

  6. Kasey says:

    I have a stein that my grandfather gave me that I thought was just a replica or something. I’m still not sure but based on your article it might be real. It has the Mettlach Abby stamp with “Gegen Nachbildung” and “Geschutzt” but no Made in Germany stamp. Below that it has 1644. and II. It has a box on the bottom right with 87 in the middle and a 6 on the bottom left. Based on that it sounds like it might be from 1887 or is a replica. What are your thoughts?

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