Nothing is better than an ice cold drink. Scratch that – nothing’s better than an ice cold drink when it’s on a coaster. These little mats have been saving our coffee tables for over a century!

Pour yourself a drink and read on! The full story on drink coasters may just surprise you.

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Who Invented the Drink Coaster?

The history of drink coasters starts in Germany. The true inventor is a bit difficult to trace, but credit is often given to a print shop named Friedrich Horn. They made the first “beermats” from cardboard in 1880.

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From that point on, new coaster designs were taking off all across Germany, most notably in an artsy town called Dresden. It was here that Robert Sputh patented beermats called bierdeckels in 1892.. These coasters were made from wood pulp, cut in round or square shapes, and were described to have looked like “crackers made of sawdust.”

Whether they were made from cardboard or cork, the German people couldn’t get enough of coasters. They were found in every alehouse, bar, pub, and restaurant in the country in the late 19th century.

When Did the Drink Coaster Industry Boom?

The coaster industry really took off when it fell into the hands of the Katz Group, a manufacturing center in Germany. It was 1892, twelve years after the first cardboard beermats made their debut, and this firm started to find even more ways to improve the design of coasters.

For starters, they replaced the cardboard or cork with ceramic, which was a much more durable material. They also printed logos on the top of the coasters, which was great advertising for the pubs, bars, and eateries in Germany. At their prime, the Katz Group produced about 5 to 7 billion of these coasters every single day.

https://www.thekatzgroup.com/en/home.html

A man named Leo Pisker has the Guinness World Record for the most drink coasters with 152,860.

https://picclick.com/Vintage-Beer-Coaster-Watney-Combe-and-Reid-352441051283.html

When Were Drink Coasters Invented in the United States?

Drink coasters became popular in the United States in 1979. The Katz Group opened two factories – one in New York and the other in Tennessee. During their time in business, the manufacturer created coasters for big beverage brands like Coors, Dos Equis, and Heineken, and even to help promote the first Captain America movie.

https://picclick.com/Vintage-Beer-Coaster-Watney-Combe-and-Reid-352441051283.html

Of course, it wasn’t just the United States that enjoyed using coasters. In the United Kingdom, Watney Brewery used custom coasters to advertise their pale ale. Australia also loved coasters, using theirs as business cards in the 60s and 70s. The country even had the Coast to Coaster exhibit at the Kyneton Museum, featuring over 1,000 branded coasters from old pubs, stores, and companies!

Now coasters are found all over the world, from Germany to Australia to everywhere in between. And just to think… we used to set our drinks down on tables and counters without one!

Why Are Drink Coasters Called Coasters?

The word coaster comes from the phrase “bottle-coaster,” which are round wheeled trays that were originally used to hold decanters. These trays “coasted” around the perimeter of a table to each guest during dinner, serving them their drink.

Beermats were first referred to as “coasters” in 1913. It was a word that rolled off the tongue, but more important, it didn’t have a specific drink in its name. This was huge as the soda industry was taking off at the speed of light at this time, and the coasters could be used for more than just beer. As a result, “coasters” became a more universal word than “beermats.”

The hobby of collecting coasters has a scientific name. It’s called tegestology!

Why Are Coasters Great Advertising Items?

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Drink coasters have been used as a promotional item for over 100 years. Bars, restaurants, and drink companies love printing their logo on these mats as they’re going to be seen every time someone picks up or sets down their glass. Not to mention, some coasters are even cool collectibles, with people taking home the ones that are particularly unique.

https://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2014/03/some-policy-with-that-pint

The power of drink coasters also goes beyond collectibles. Take the New York Library Association (NYLA) for example. In 2014, this organization printed 2,500 custom coasters for 33 cents each and placed them in bars throughout Albany. State legislators that frequented these bars saw these coasters, and since they were relaxed with a drink, became much more willing to heed the message and provide the organization with funds.

This guerilla marketing approach seemed to have paid off for NYLA. It not only garnered press coverage from the capital, but also resulted in New York’s legislature restoring the $4 million that had been cut from the library’s budget. All of this came from one coaster that sat under the right drink!

The coaster project was a one-time guerilla marketing ‘stunt’ that was effective in getting our message out. It was certainly worth the effort.

– Jeremy Johannesen, Executive Director for the New York Library Association

The Bottom Line

Whether it’s sitting on your coffee table or on the counter at your favorite bar, the coaster has been a drink’s best friend for years. It started in Germany and made its way to the United States. Now we can’t imagine a good pint without a coaster!

References

Spiegel Online. (2018 December). Tough Times for the Humble Beer Mat. Retrieved October 7, 2019, from
https://www.spiegel.de/international/zeitgeist/last-orders-tough-times-for-the-humble-beer-mat-a-620780.html

Weiss, E. (2015, September 3). Support Your Drink: A Brief History of the Coaster.

Blickenstaff, B. (2016, December 9). Your Beverage Coaster Probably Came from This Small Town in Germany. Retrieved October 7, 2019, from
https://www.eater.com/beer/2016/12/9/13885546/coaster-beverage-beer-cardboard

Etymology Dictionary. Coaster (n.) Retrieved October 8, 2019 from,
https://www.etymonline.com/

Romensky, L. (2016, March 30). The Humble Beer Coaster Exhibited as Art. Retrieved October 8, 2019 from,
https://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-03-31/humble-beer-coaster-to-be-exhibited-as-art/7288086

Gausepohl, D. (2002, March 1). Rolling with Coaters, or Just Coasting Along. Retrieved October 9, 2019 from,
http://allaboutbeer.com/article/rolling-with-coasters-or-just-coasting-along/

Guinness World Records. Largest Collection of Beer Mats. Retrieved October 9, 2019 from,
https://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/68613-largest-collection-of-beer-mats/

Adamson, M., Segan, F. (2008). Entertaining from Ancient Rome to the Super Bowl. An Encyclopedia. Retrieved October 9, 2019 from, Google Books.

Nelson, M. (2008). The History of the Wood-Pulp Beer Coaster. Retrieved October 9, 2019 from, American Brewe- riana Journal: Reading, PA.

Musselman, C. (2015, July 16). A Toast for These American-Made Coasters. Retrieved October 9, 2019 from,
https://www.americanmanufacturing.org/blog/entry/a-toast-for-these-american-made-coasters

Hamilton, M. (2016, May 26). Bar Boosters Brand Coasters in Push for Boozy Brunch. Retrieved October 9, 2019 from,
https://www.timesunion.com/tuplus-local/article/Bar-boosters-brand-coasters-in-push-for-boozy-7948613.php

Schwartz, M. (2014, May 21). Coaster Speak Louder Than Words | One Cool Thing. Retrieved October 9, 2019 from,
https://www.libraryjournal.com/?detailStory=coasters-speak-louder-than-words-one-cool-thing

About the author

Alyssa Mertes

Alyssa is a promo expert with over three years of experience in the industry. Her passion for writing has led to a BA in English & Communications from Aurora University and work published for the Advertising Specialty Institute and The Bolingbrook Sun Times.