Last orders for the beer mat?

Collectors mourn as 300-year-old German-based company collapses

Tegestologists were in mourning this weekend at the news that the world's biggest beer coaster company has gone bankrupt. For that is the technical name for the slightly unusual group of people whose greatest pleasure is the collection of beer mats.

The Katz Group, master manufacturers of coasters since 1716, has filed for protection from its creditors in the courts. Despite cornering two-thirds of the European market with clients such as Kronenbourg and Stella Artois, the German-based company said it had been hit by reduced orders in line with falling beer sales.

To many, the beer mat may be little more than a memento. But to scores of serious collectors, the news of Katz's difficulties is devastating.

Andrew Norbury from the British Beermat Collectors Society said: "There aren't as many people collecting as collect stamps, but there is still a fair following. You can't collect them all, there are so many – I collect ones made in Britain, but the society as a whole tries to get as many as possible."

The pastime's origins date back to Saxon times, when beer mats were placed over drinks to prevent insects or debris falling in.

A spokesman for Katz said filing for protection would "help bring our business back to a very strong position". He said the firm's US operation, controlling 97 per cent of the coaster market, was unaffected. "We face some very difficult challenges," he said.