Most of us take the humble beer coaster for granted. I know I do, even though I have a casual collection of them that probably numbers in the thousands. I say casual because they’re in some boxex in the garage and I’ve never tried to organize them at all. Their formal name is the beermat, and “the first beermats made of cardboard were introduced in 1880 by the German printing company, Friedrich Horn.” Today, there are believed to be something on the order of 5.5 billion coasters worldwide. One company, The Katz Group, absolutely dominates the industry, with an estimated 75% market share.
But the economic crisis has reached the beer coaster now, too, as The Katz Group recently filed for bankruptcy relief in their native Germany. Spiegel reported that no one is sure what will happen to the market if the
Katz Group cannot successfully reorganize through the courts. Though they don’t say so, this has to be one of the worst potential side effects of consolidations and mergers that has been taking place worldwide for decades, with many, if not most, industries becoming increasing concentrated in just a few large corporations.
The BBC also has their take on the story and the ramifications, especially for collectors. The sheer ubiquity of them seems to all but guarantee their survival, but as priorities go, I also can’t see them rising to the top of anybody’s key businesses needing saving, like Wall Street or the auto industry. So if you have a lot of coasters lying around, best hang onto them for now.