When the name Budweiser appeared on that first bottle of beer in 1878, the extent of items carrying the name was limited to just that: beer. Now, Anheuser-Busch, the parent company that produces all brands of Budweiser as well as sister beverages Michelob and Busch, among many others, offers customers a wide range of products including their annual holiday beer steins. They began producing the series in 1980.
The first Budweiser holiday beer stein ("Eight Horse Team and Wagon," or CS19 and CS29) depicted Budweiser's famous Clydesdales on an eight-horse hitch as they traveled over a grassy field. Two styles were released: one with a lid and one without. A third lidded stein features variations in the colors used on the image itself (beer cases on the wagon are green rather than red and the colors of various wording differs). The steins were made in Brazil by Ceramarte, a company that produced them annually until the 2009 series, which was produced by BRAX, Ltd., a company based in China.
The Early Years: Glaze and Image Variations
The very early steins issued in 1980 and 1981 featured many variations in the color of the glaze because each one was hand-painted before being fired. The artist, essentially, was responsible for the end result. All were brown but the hue ranged from light tan to a very dark. The images themselves were also hand-painted in the beginning, which caused the previously noted variation in the colors of specific details. Eventually, the artwork would be applied via a pre-colored decal, which rendered the steins to be virtually identical. This practice continues today. Another change had to do with packaging. For the first 13 years, the steins were sold to consumers on their own but in 1993, Anheuser-Busch made the decision to package each stein in a decorative gift box.
The image on the steins, as well as the shape and features differ every year save for two distinct similarities: Christmas and the Clydesdales are always featured. Beyond that, customers are able to choose steins based on personal taste and the items they collect. Generally more valuable are the steins released in lots of 10,000 and "Signed and Numbered by the Artist." These come with a certificate of authenticity. Commemorative steins, including 1992's "A Century of Tradition," which celebrated Budweiser from 1900 to 1993, have also proven to be popular.
Individuals looking for a certain stein or to find out more information can locate numerous websites with a variety of information and items for sale. Anheuser-Busch has also published two books about the subject. In 1990, they released the "Anheuser-Busch, Inc. Stein Collection" and in 1993, expounded on the subject with "The Official Collector's Guide to Anheuser-Busch Steins."
Cost of Steins
The cost of Budweiser holiday steins depends on the rarity or availability of the desired item. Unusual color variations demand a higher price as do steins with limited quantities available. Some steins can be purchased for as little as $20 or less while higher-priced steins fetch close to $200. Other prices fall somewhere in the middle with new issues premiering at around $70.