A small popular style chess set

For some time now there have been quite a number of misdescribed sets called ‘BCC popular’ on offer via E bay which are unstamped. The stamping of the popular sets is missing on most of the over-priced items, as genuine BCC popular sets were stamped with a starburst on both rook and knight. Yet since our BCC publication, only a few of these sets have surfaced. The Ferscht claim that a simple circle is a complete nonsense (see page 46 in his 2010 book). Even worse is the ridiculous claim that BCC took on Jaques on every front- made up rubbish, as a look on the Jaques website will confirm that the firm made a host of games including croquet. BCC never made Happy families, but according to researcher Richard Ballam on his site the Games Board, Ayres too on Jaques big time, plus copied a variety of popular design patterns – this highly contestable fantasy appears on the HOS antiques website.

Invented in 1869, Xylonite is a celluloid, a class of compounds created from nitrocellulose and camphor (Xylonite is generally considered the first thermoplastic.) Moffatt devised a method of reducing the cost or producing chessmen by moulding the knight heads from Xylonite. Carving the Knight heads can represent almost 50% of the total cost of producing a set of quality chessmen. In this manner, BCC was able to manufacture a set of high quality chessmen at half the cost of its competitors. It is sometimes claimed that BCC stopped producing their own chessmen around 1903, with other chess activities continuing for a few more years. However, that claim has not been substantiated  yet does the creation of reproduction chessmen give the owner the sole right to make such a statement? No mention of the cost of creating the Xylonite master copy, the steel dye moulds , plus the cost of the knight heads from British Xylonite.  With nothing offered to back up this speculative guesswork. since BCC may have lasted only 13 years but with this advantage failed to last in business for a lengthy period. Some of these presumed claims by so-called experts need to be contested.

I believe that this is a delightful little set (which has a 6cm king and is unweighted), and calling it a ‘cheap foreign import’ does it a disservice as I believe it was made by Ayres of London.



Posted on

April 10, 2020

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