Here I have this small plastic set purchased way back in2007. There is a similar looking set on the chess antiques site hosted by Frank Camarrata described as ‘Gutta Purcha’, however as an exercise I took six pieces and showed them to a couple of local auction houses in Glasgow, plus a well known seller of vintage and antique collectables. Yet none of these could confirm the material the chess men were made of . So as a collector I was reduced to checking out on the net how to test for this antique material, but confirming this was far from easy.
This neat little set- which I believe is quite scarce- is displayed on a small leather travel board, and the pictured box has little to do with the set, as does the board, with the past owner’s name written on the lid. I got this set for peanuts on eBay UK, the king size being 2cms tall. A rather nice little thing, which begs the question -just how many of us collectors have chessmen made of a material, but we are often far from sure exactly what it is, with wood and plastics being tricky areas to navigate with success? I noted researching the Crumllier chess catalogues that a number of auction houses described BCC xylonite knight heads as a composite material. By this description the firms were honestly admitting that they simply did not know which was much to their credit by doing so.
I recall at the Cambridge 2010 CCI meeting having a most enjoyable conversation with the author and chess researcher Gareth Williams who said to me in earnest ” we don’t know everything ” – he is dead right, as it is asking the impossible in many cases, where old records of makers were lost in WW2.