Antique chess sets are elegant, old, and a collector item. They are sturdy and durable much like their modern replicas. Reproduction antique sets can be just as desirable, having the look, feel, and quality of their older counterparts at a more affordable price.
If you are looking for an antique Staunton chess set for sale, our team at Official Staunton can help you. Our range of antique chess sets includes fine Staunton sets by Jaques as well as modern antique sets from Europe & India. Browse our range to find the best antique chess set for you.
The History Of Standard Chess Sets
Reproduction antique chess sets have been growing in popularity with the increased interest in the history of chess. Chess sets weren’t standardised until the mid-1850s with the Staunton style, which is the most popular style of all antique chess sets.
Jaques of London Antique Chess
The early chess sets were made by John Jaques of London pre World War Two. His chess pieces were unique and based on the very early Edinburgh Upright Chessmen. The early wooden chess sets usually came in baize-lined mahogany hinge-top boxes, and in carton-Pierre caskets, which had mechanically numbered labels.
Later, around 1849, John Jaques introduced the Staunton pattern. His chess sets adopted this pattern. They came within options: a library size that was unweighted, and a standard size that came in both weighted and unweighted forms after 1855. There were various other sizes such as the small club and full club weighted sizes and ivory chess pieces that were unweighted. Their chess boxes were labelled on top and replaced by slide top boxes. As the ivory sets were unique and delicate, these came in carton Pierre caskets, mahogany hinge-top boxes and leather boxes with Spanish mahogany coffers. The latter sets had facsimile signatures on them, while the earliest 1000 sets had Howard Staunton hand-signed signatures on them with ‘Jaques London’ impressed on the labels.
It is these later, 1849, John Jaques Chess Pieces are among the most wanted antique chess sets. They are a holy grail for chess collectors.
The Staunton Style
The later Staunton Pattern was designed by John Jaques in 1849. Jaques obtained the copyright for the design and began manufacturing the design in September 1849 under Jaques of London. These chess pieces rose to prominence when they were endorsed by their namesake and world-renowned chess player Howard Staunton. Staunton, a top player of the 1840s and a writer and promoter of chess. He was known to use these chess sets rigorously during chess championships and events.
The Staunton chess set has 32 pieces, with 16 pieces for two sets. Each set there are eight pawns, two rooks, two knights, two bishops, one queen, and one king. Staunton chess pieces or Staunton Chessmen were known for their distinguishable motifs for each chess piece that was intricately and meticulously handcrafted. These pieces did not entirely supersede the early ornate designs but were known for their simplicity and elegance, combining lightness with the right weight, and predefined dimensions and proportions allowing all pieces to stand out distinctively.
The tallest among all chess pieces was the king, known to have a crown and cross as its motif, followed by the queen, which was slightly smaller with a coronate and a monde as its motif. The rook’s motif was shaped like a castle, the bishop’s like a mitre and the pawn’s with a small ball. All pieces changed considerably from the previous version and formed these standards after the pattern was introduced. Similarly, the Staunton chess board is made of 64 alternating dark and light squares, with eight rows and columns. The vertical columns are known as files while the rows were known as ranks and denoted by algebraic numbers.
The Staunton chess sets have transformed over the years to depict modernism and to improve robustness and proportions while taking into consideration factors such as cost, durability, level of experience, material, and purpose of play. The materials play a large factor into costs, such as the wood being used in making chess sets, from golden rosewood, boxwood, to maple, walnut and bud rosewood. Other raw materials included ivory, glass, clay, pewter, stone, Bakelite, Catalin, lead, plastic and expensive metals. As much as appearance was a factor, so much so was functionality and durability. Various other materials have been introduced into modern sets such as metal and plastic chess pieces, made out of highly polished moulds. These pieces were painted and finished with immaculate polishing and coloured using iron oxide to produce colours such as yellow, red, black, brown and tan in pieces.
How To Identify Antique Chess Set
If you have a chess set at home or in your collection already but are wondering how do I know if my chess set is antique, there are a few features that you can check yourself.
- Check for a manufacturer badge or signature on the base of your pieces or board
- Check what material your set is made from. Antique sets are often made out of precious materials like jade
- Does it look older than 80 years? 80 years of being played will leave wear and tear marks on the board and pieces
You can be sure whether you have a genuine antique chess set by getting your piece valued by an expert.
How Much Are Antique Chess Sets?
However popular antique chess sets are, they are not for everyone as they can cost
Their value is based on the fact that so few entire chess set have survived from 1850 onwards. So with a limited amount of antique sets to purchase, the value of each one is extremely high. That’s where the rise in reproduction antique chess sets have come from. Reproduction sets are hand-carved and made to the same quality standards but are more affordable. They mimic the style and antiquity of the older sets without carrying large price tags.
Should I Buy An Antique or Reproduction Chess Set?
The answer really depends on how much money you are willing to spend. Reproduction antique chess sets can be the better option for many chess players as they cost less and require less maintenance. You may also feel more comfortable using the set to play with since it has a lower value. However, reproductions are not a good option for every buyer.
Collectors may be better to opt for a genuine antique chess set. These will cost more but also be worth more in your collection. It's true that if a reproduction has a better design than the original piece the original may become more valuable. However, many collectors just don't care. This is why many, if not most, collectables including the Reproduction Jaques Chess Set are reproductions.
Some collectors do and will be happy to invest in a reproduction of their favourite antique chess style, but you should be aware that there is no guarantee that they will get the best quality pieces from certain retailers who ship directly from India. The better, and more detailed the reproduction, the more valuable the piece will be. This is the exact reason why collectors and buyers like the Jaques Chess Set reproduced by the Official Staunton Chess Company so much. It's not only a beautiful design but it is also a nice piece and always competitively priced. That is not to say that a quality reproduction is necessarily better than a quality original. A replica is a really nice piece if the reproductions have the correct materials, the correct finish, and the correct design. This is the primary reason why these kinds of Collecting items always seem to sell out. If you are in the market for quality products or collectables you should be careful. Collectors like the Collecting item because of the design and the beauty of the item, not because of the price. Although a reproduction design may be more desirable, that doesn't mean that you should pay much more for it.
Where To Buy Modern And Antique Chess Sets?
There is a range of modern Staunton and antique Jaques chess sets in our shop Official Staunton Chess Company. Our range has the latest Staunton sets, antique chess sets, and luxury sets, at the best prices.
Our antique pieces are finely handcrafted and carved in diverse woods such as Acacia, Sheesham, Ebony and Rosewood.
Our luxury pieces are known for the high-end wood, and aesthetics that are naturally elegant and charming. The modern magnetic travel sets are portable with slotted compartments in storage boards and travel pouches for older players and magnetic folding chess sets for children.
The Official Staunton Chess Company also replicates some of the antiques after doing a thorough research and ensures the accuracy of antique chess sets is unsurpassed. World-renowned artists and chess collectors’ work on creating these pieces based on the wealth of knowledge they have absorbed over the number of years to create these masterpieces.
Why Buy Antique Chess Sets From Official Staunton
We engage in the research of antique chess sets from manufacturers such as Jaques of London to the British Company and more recently, Russian antique chess pieces have seen a resurgence.
The quality and accuracy of our antique chess sets are unsurpassed. We are fast emerging as the number one chess company in the World and are considered specialists in our field. We liaise with renown artists and chess set collectors and absorb a wealth of informative knowledge which aids us in the deciding factor on what chess set to reproduce. Having close contacts with the chess collectors is such a major boost in our endeavour to maintain the very high standards in which our customers have become accustomed to.