One thing that seems to become more apparent as more antique HB steins appear online are that there are a number of variations, often times very slight ones in HB steins that are of the same style. This poses the dilemma to those of us who collect these steins of whether or not to try and obtain a stein in each of the different styles the Hofbrauhaus produced, or whether or not to collect each different variation. The latter is very daunting task. As you can see from the photos below, the differences in variation are often very subtle. These differences however are also interesting, because they may also enable a more accurate dating for the steins.
In the first picture you see three HB steins from my collection that at quick glance seem to be almost identical. When you look more closely at the pictures of each of the lids individually, you can see that on stein #5643 the circle the HB is found within is sunken inside the outer ring and the HB is embossed outward from it. The hinge on this stein has 5 rings, and on the inside of the lid is an early stein mark from Ludwig Mory. This would make the steins age date from likely between 1889-1895. My guess would be likely 1889 or 1890. The next stein #1163 has a circle where the HB is found that is level with the outer ring that defines it. You can also see there are slight differences in the outer rings. This stein has a 3 ring hinge and is older than the last one. There is no maker's mark and the HB etched into the body of the stein is pretty crudely carved. This stein likely dates from the late 1870s. The third stein #1810 is similar to the last one in that it has a circle where the HB is found that is level with the outer ring that defines it, but the outer ring is wider than in the last stein. This stein has a five ring hinge. This stein is mostly likely from either the late-1870s or the early-1880s. The fourth stein pictured #432, is one that appeared a few months ago on eBay. The differences in this steins lid are more apparent than the previous three steins. Although the style is the same, the centre area where the HB is found is much smaller than on the other ones and the number is larger. It is very similar to #1163 in that has a circle where the HB is found that is level with the outer ring that defines it, and in the style of outer ring. The photos posted did not show the hinge, but I would hazard a guess that it would be a 3 ring hinge. The HB on the stein body was very crudely carved. I would guess without being able to examine the stein more closely that it dates from the 1870s and is perhaps slightly older than #1163.
This is just one of a number of examples found in HB steins of how there can be small variances within the various styles of HB steins.