Unusual favourite/pet English Staunton chess set – c.19th century

I am so fond of this small English Staunton that if offered over 20 times what I paid for this set (which was purchased with a knight missing) it would be a polite but firm refusal.

I believe this is a 19th century set, with no maker information, however the turner Dixon who made some quality 19th century sets advertised turning lessons for gentlemen, so a host of unknown sets might have been made by gentlemen with a taste for something different – he advertised in the Chess Players Chronicle in the mid-19th century, so we never may find out who made what sets back then. Making the horse was none too easy, but getting carving advice from Jack the Ripper was not necessary! With a 6 cms king plus noticeable damage to a black side rook. All because this was a small set it sold for peanuts, but I have never seen another set like this one. The set was placed on a vintage board 11 inches x 11 inches to illustrate the set’s size – get the right size board and these small sets can look great on a board with the correct size squares for the pieces.

Why have ‘favoured/pet sets’ as a category? Perhaps this might explain to sellers that collectors will often have a vision for a collectable which enhances the likely affection for the purchased item:- when I was a kid we as a family had a  Pekingese dog called Mashie, who had the tragic misfortune to have her left eye unceremoniously removed by our next doors neighbour ‘s dog, a vicious bull terrier called Suzie (no lady was she!) Yet Mashie was loved by us all despite this and lived a happy life as a Cyclops dog until she died.

This set needed a horse badly so I risked ridicule to make this collectable whole, but at least a fellow collector who witnessed this carving masterpiece admitted he had seen worse! I have owned this imperfect set for about 12 years, but when one has a go at carving the admiration of the skill of carvers goes up in my estimation big time. A fellow collector said to me that during this lockdown/COVID-19 business he had plenty of spare time and checked out his treasured sets during this period – an excellent idea as it is easy to miss things when purchasing them as muggins here (i.e. me) has committed this crime. The ‘ouch factor’/discovery of anomalies can be a painful business, and it is best to be aware of the condition of the whole collection.


Posted on

June 26, 2020

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