Antique Chess Set Market

There are many sources including EBAY online and traditional auction houses for acquiring sets – in June 2004 the Duran Auction House in Madrid held a specialist sale of chess sets and related items.

In my opinion there has been a significant upward movement in the value of antique chess sets in recent years. This is due to the increase in the number of chess collectors, as evidenced by the huge amount of chess items being sold on EBAY (over 5000 at any one time). The internet has allowed collectors to source sets from all over the world from both antique stores and auction houses. This in general means good sets make good money no matter where they are sold.

Sets are usually valued by collectors according to age/rarity, quality, size and material (wood, bone, ivory, silver, amber etc)

It is very difficult to find and purchase any complete sets made before 1750. Up to the introduction of the Staunton pattern in the mid 19th century there was a huge number of different designs for playing sets and figural decorative sets.

The original and most famous Staunton playing sets were made by Jaques of London in ebony, boxwood and ivory starting in 1849. Collectors are interested original signed Jaques Staunton sets and good examples of these sets can command prices of between 1000 and 10,000 +. Image 1 below is large wooden weighted signed Jaques set in original box and valued around 2700 (11cms king). The vast majority of chess sets used today are based off the Staunton design.

There are numerous playing set patterns prior to the Staunton design, which are of interest to collectors. An example of a good quality playing set from circa 1800 is shown in image 2 below. This is a fine turned a carved ‘Early English’ ivory set (9cms king) and valued around €1300.

Another non Staunton pattern playing set popular in France and continental Europe was the ‘Regence’ pattern set. Image 3 below shows an example of a good quality Regence set from circa 1840 made of ivory and ebony (king 9cms). Valued at €2500.

Throughout the late 18th amd 19th century large qualities of sets were produced in China and India for the European market. Many of the earlier examples are of very fine quality and highly prized by collectors.

Image 4 below shows a fine ivory playing set made in Dehli India around 1800 (king 11.5cms). Values at €5000.


Image 5 below is a later example of an above average Chinese ivory ‘octagonal’ base set (king 12cms) made around 1875. This highly carved set was designed more for decoration than use. Value €1800


Image 6 below shows a very early and rare carved wood figural chess set (king 7.8cms) made in Ceylon around 1700. This set would be valued at 3000

Most collectors seek to covering all types of good antique sets and try to acquire the best example possible of each known pattern and as many unique antique sets as possible - an example of a rare 17 th /18th Century Spanish set (king 9cms) is shown in image 7 below. This would be valued at 3000.


In general the most highly prized sets are European carved figural sets from the 17 th /18 th /19 th Centuries. These were always expensive and are now also very rare. Image 8 below is an example of a very attractive and possibly unique walrus ivory polychrome bust set (king 10cms). Made in central/northern Europe circa 1750 and carved from walrus ivory. It would be valued at 10,000+.

Another European 18th century carved wooden figural set (king 9.5cms) of exceptional quality is on the theme of the Ottoman Turks vs an African Sultan and his court, see image 9 below. This set was probably made in Germany around 1750 and is valued at 10000+.


Overall the market is very strong at the moment and antique sets of quality and rarity command increasingly high prices.

I believe trend is likely to continue given the increased number of collectors and the limited supply of quality sets available.

Quality antique box boards (with chess/backgammon) and chess clocks are also in demand.


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