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Oktoberfest Collectibles Help To Make Your Personal Biergarten Authentic

by Rebekah Kaufman (09/25/12).

The official Munich Oktoberfest poster from 1959.

The onset of fall brings with it brightly colored leaves, pumpkins, apples, and… biergartens.

Yes, the popularity of Germany’s Oktoberfest celebration is spreading across the globe, with more and more communities throwing outdoor parties in the Bavarian style during the autumn months.

Interestingly, the original Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany, actually takes place in mostly in September now. This is because by mid to late October, Munich evenings can be quite chilly and not conducive to outdoor celebrations. The 2012 Oktoberfest dates are from Saturday, Sept. 22 through Sunday, Oct. 7. The very first Oktoberfest was held on Oct. 12, 1810, on the fields in front of Munich’s city gates to celebrate a royal wedding. The outdoor festivities have been held almost every year since then and continue to grow annually in attendance. Today, close to six million people partake in the annual celebration and about seven million liters of beer are poured and served over the course of the event. Locals refer to Oktoberfest as “die Wiesn”—the actual name of the fairgrounds where the festivities take place.

Tradition is a big part of Oktoberfest, and many people like to collect Oktoberfest-themed items as souvenirs of their once-in-a-lifetime trip to Germany, to create a festive mood in their homes or to use as decorations for their autumn parties. Even if you have never been in a beer tent with 10,000 other “locals” singing a rousing version of “Ein Prosit der Gemütlichkeit,” you can still appreciate the fun and humor this event generates. So let’s take a look at a few Oktoberfest related collectibles that just might help you get in the mood for this seasonal celebration.

You can’t help but notice—whether watching coverage of Oktoberfest in the media or viewing it live in person—that many men, women and children are wearing traditional German clothing on die Wisen and all around Munich. Men don lederhosen—German for “leather breeches”—which are short or knee-long grey, black or brown leather pants, sometimes with elaborate embroidery or other detailing. Women wear dirndls, which are lovely dresses consisting of a blouse, laced up bodice, full skirt and apron. Both lederhosen and dirndls originated in the 1800s and were designed for their practical comfort for those involved in physical labor. Later, the wealthier classes started to adopt this style of dress, however in richer fabrics and more elaborate details. For example, a working class man may have had lederhosen made from goat or sheepskin (which can be stiff), while a nobleman may have had deerskin lederhosen (which would have been much softer and luxurious). A working-class woman may have had a cotton calico dirndl, while a wealthier woman may have had one made from silk or satin, embellished with elaborate embroidery and bead work.

Oktoberfest poster from 1961.

Oktoberfest poster from 1964.

Oktoberfest poster from 1986.

The current Oktoberfest poster.

A vintage Lowenbrau Oktoberfest poster.

Another Lowenbrau Oktoberfest poster.

These days, lederhosen are considered more leisurewear than anything else; they are culturally associated with virility and brawn. It is not uncommon to see Bavarian men wearing them while gardening, hiking, working outdoors or attending folk festivals or beer gardens. And, women wear their dirndls to cultural events or formal occasions, such as a wedding or to show their regional pride. Today, a nice pair of vintage lederhosen or a well-designed dirndl may value in the $100-to-$300-range.

Posters are a great way to capture the spirit of Oktoberfest. They also make for colorful and interesting artwork that can be enjoyed all year round. An “official” Munich Oktoberfest poster is designed and produced each year. Since 1952, the design has been selected by a jury that invites artists to submit their best work for this highly visible and prestigious award. The winner’s work is also featured on the event’s official stonewear or glass steins. The Munich Oktoberfest poster usually features symbols of the event, including beer, pretzels, lebkuchen (highly decorated gingerbread hearts that hang from ribbons and are worn as necklaces) and happy, playful people in lederhosen and dirndls. In addition, several of the beer companies with a permanent presence on the fairgrounds—including Lowenbrau (“Lion’s Brew”)—have created annual poster editions. Even Lufthansa, one of Germany’s main airlines, has gotten into the act in the past with a series of charming Oktoberfest-themed travel banners. Today, unframed vintage Oktoberfest themed posters in excellent condition can value upwards of $300.

A 1983 Rastal beer stein. Current estimated value is $31.

A 2002 Oktoberfest Munchen beer stein. Current estimated value is $28.

A Beck’s beer official Oktoberfest Stein from 2003. Current estimated value is $13.

It goes without saying that Oktoberfest wouldn’t be Oktoberfest without beer. So, of course, Oktoberfest enthusiasts naturally gravitate towards all things beer related. On die Wiesn, each major German brewer has its own beer tent. In 2012, 34 beer companies have their own tents. In reality, these are large, football field-sized permanent structures that include full kitchens, gift shops a bandstand, seating for up to 10,000 guests and many, many restrooms. For Oktoberfest, many companies brew a special seasonal beer and produce annual steins to celebrate the occasion. In addition, they also often create unique beer tap pulls and coasters in honor of the event. It is not unusual in Germany, when ordering a beer in an outdoor or informal environment, to have to pay an additional fee that covers the price of the stein or glass. This fee is reimbursed when the vessels are returned to the bar. It is safe to say that for many tourists, the value attached to the steins far outweighs the security deposit, and many of these end up in suitcases and not at the return station.

A Hofbrauhäus Oktoberfest beer tap pull.

A Point Oktoberfest beer tap pull.

A Hacker-Pschorr Oktoberfest beer tap pull.

A Paulaner Wiesen Oktoberfest beer tap pull.

Clearly, beer steins are a great and functional collectible. Pulls can be quite elaborate and good looking; albeit somewhat challenging to exhibit without a proper vitrine or display cabinet. And coasters take up so little room (both in the suitcase and on display) but can be very decorative, as many of them have wonderful designs on both sides. Today, Oktoberfest steins, depending on their rarity and condition, seem to value in the $10 to $400 range; pulls in the $15 to $175 range; and mixed lots of coasters in the $10 to $25 range.

Lebkuchen are highly decorated gingerbread hearts that hang from ribbons and are worn as necklaces.

Coasters take up so little room (both in the suitcase and on display) but can be very decorative, as many of them have wonderful designs on both sides.

Finally, certain German traditions and Oktoberfest just go hand in hand. One of the better-known German brands is Steiff, the company that has been producing high-end “button-in-ear” brand Teddy bears, dolls and stuffed animals since the turn of last century. Starting in the late 1990s, Steiff has produced an annual limited-edition bear that celebrates Oktoberfest. These are usually distributed through major German department stores, like Oberpollinger. Each of these mohair cuties are especially detained with Oktoberfest details.

Steiff, the company that has been producing high-end “button-in-ear” brand Teddy bears, dolls and stuffed animals, began producing an annual limited-edition bear that celebrates Oktoberfest in the late 1990s.

Over time, designs have included bears wearing traditional blue and white diamond patterned Bavarian bandannas, cubs in grey leather lederhosen and Tyrolean felt hats, Teds holding porcelain beer steins and girl bears in dirndls wearing lebkuchen around their necks. The 2012 design features a blonde mohair bear wearing a Paulaner (a well-known brand of German beer) logo’ed leather apron; he is holding a wooden hammer and comes with a wooden beer barrel on a stand. He has the word “Oktoberfest” embroidered on his foot. Today, limited edition Oktoberfest themed Steiff bears seem to value in the $200 to $350 range.

It is interesting that Munich, home of Oktoberfest, has the city motto, “München mag Dich” (“Munich Loves You”). Given all the excitement, memories and energy that will come from this special place over the next few weeks, it’s easy to say, “right back at ya!”

Rebekah Kaufman is a Worthologist who specializes in vintage Steiff and other European plush collectibles.


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2 Responses to “Oktoberfest Collectibles Help To Make Your Personal Biergarten Authentic”

  1. I have an antique stein from a 1966 visit to Germany. It was about 100 years old then. How could I go about valuing it?

    • Steiffgal says:

      Denise, right here on Worthpoint is Ask A Worthologist. Based on details and photos you provide, a WorthPoint™ Worthologist will return a detailed evaluation of your item which includes an estimated range of its fair market value. The cost per evaluation is $29.99. Ask a Worthologist was evaluated in a blind study – August 26th 2010 in The Wall Street Journal – and it was the only service of its kind that evaluated all items accurately. Check it out if you can!

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