Vintage plastic chess set

This set was a nice surprise present from my lovely wife, and it puzzles me greatly. Inclusive of the king’s cross knop, the king is just over 4inches in height, base width 5cms. The (unknown) plastic feels great to handle, and is nicely finished with faint but visible seam joins, and it certainly feels like a quality set the chessmen being made of solid plastic, not hollow. The Ebay seller offered a very honest description of the set and made no so-called ‘Bakelite’ claim and his starting bid was more than fair in my humble opinion. Where the set becomes very puzzling indeed is that I have four identical looking cast knights in the following materials:- lead pewter, brass, mottled Bakelite…. and now this unknown plastic.  As a collector I reckon it is unusual to have identical knights in four different materials, but have no idea who on earth made these sets since the knights have a late 19th century /early 20th Jaques look about them?? The seller suggested that the box might not be original, but it has no maker’s markings, and when my wife asked for some background information/provenance around the set the seller stated that he was 60 years of age and believes the set may have originally belonged to his grandfather’s brother but he could not be certain.

Every so often the collector will have a research puzzle to solve, but this may take some time, and even the most common of this pattern is the pewter set – made in two differing methods, with cast hollowed pieces similar to Britains’ but not by this maker – the second type are pieces with a substantial lead content, thus making the pieces rather heavy (0.4kg for the king!!). In the four sets there is minimal variation between the pieces. I am trying to date this unknown plastic and it is murder without using the MIU (Making It Up Method)! Despite all the frustration this puzzle brings me, this is a delightful set to own, and I have yet to see another one.


Posted on

March 24, 2021

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