Timeless chess sets always collectible
September 11, 2008

By ANNE GILBERT Contributor

The fascination for the game of chess and its chess figures is centuries old and transcends virtually every culture. The game had its beginnings in India around the 6th century. Those early chess pieces stood for the four branches of the Indian army and consisted of cavalry, infantry, elephants and chariots. Soon the game had not only entered the Arab world but Europe, where the pieces morphed into their ethnic counterparts. The various names for the pieces were changed as well. For instance, the rook, adapted from the Arabic, rukhkh, or chariot, became a medieval tower.

Chess pieces were dressed in period costumes of the time and their country of origin. By the 18th century in Europe, an elaborately made chess set was a status symbol. Silver artisans were commissioned by the German nobility to create chess sets with a military theme. The silver was often finished with parcel-gilt.

Decorative game

Possibly the 18th century could be called the golden age of chess sets. Many of the more unique sets were displayed, not played. As seen now in museums the chess pieces, intricately carved, are miniature works of art.

Many materials were used for the figures and boards. In the 18th century town of Dieppe, France, chess pieces were carved of bone, painted and decorated with leather.

In 1849, a major change in chess design and materials occurred when the Staunton Pattern was produced by the company of John Jacques of London. It was named after world-champion chess champion Howard Staunton. The design of the chess pieces was simplified, but with the king wearing a crown and the queen with a coronet. The pieces of wood were inexpensive to make. This meant that for the first time just about anybody could afford a chess set, thus popularizing the game. It also separated ornamental sets from strictly playing sets.

High-priced sets

Since decorative chess sets have always been cherished, many 19th and early 20th century games can still turn up intact in unlikely places. However, in shops and at auction, prices go from $500 to thousands of dollars. The more interesting the set, the higher the price.
Very collectible would be sets made during World War II depicting enemies and world leaders.

Many Staunton-Jacques sets can be found on Internet sites, such as The House of Staunton. If you have done your research take a chance on the offerings on eBay.

There are also sets made by players of everything from foil to primitive wood. These can also turn up in the folk art category.
To start a youngster’s interest in chess, there are a myriad of Disney characters chess sets. By the time they grow up, these can be pricey collectibles.

Source: http://www.pioneerlocal.com/

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