Beginner’s buying guide for an Antique Chess Set

February 22, 2020 - Antiques, Art and Collectibles

There are more than 600 million chess players in the world. 

Yet there aren’t a lot of brick and mortar shops for enthusiasts to buy a quality chess set. Many players buy specialty or antique sets online but how can a player be sure they’re buying a quality set?

When looking to buy an antique chess set, there are a few things to look for. Follow the guide below for everything needed to know before getting duped.

Questions to Ask When Buying an Antique Chess Set

The origins of chess date back thousands of years but the game developed into its modern form in the 19th century. Today, online chess sites and mobile apps help its popularity grow.

While most players start with a beginner set, there comes a time when they want a quality set. Because many people buy sets online, determining what’s antique and what’s not is confusing.

Furthering the issue is that antique chess set values vary as much as the antique chess sets themselves. These questions will help determine if the set in question is antique and worth the buy.

Who Made It?

Jaques of London and British Chess Company are two of the most famous chess makers in the world. Each produces antique Staunton sets, a standard going back to the 1840’s.

This is important as the values depend on when they made the set. There are many factors for determining if both are antique or reproductions but the key is to look for machine marks. Antique sets aren’t machined, they’re handcrafted.

These are not the only antique manufacturers in the world but they are often copied. In most cases, antique sets have signatures and special emblems in the set itself.

If there is suspicion to the maker or place of origin, err on the side of caution and continue with the research.

What Are the Pieces Made Out Of?

Materials vary, but one thing for certain is if the set is plastic or rubber, it’s not antique.

Depending on the country of origin, the set could be wood, brass, ivory, jade, onyx, or from precious metals.

How Old Is It?

A set is antique if made pre-World War II. A modern set is post-World War II. Some antique chess sets date back to the 1500’s. The value will vary depending on materials and when it was crafted.

Who Can Help?

Chess connoisseurs and collectors are great resources online. They will answer questions and offer insights if they have enough information to go on.

Pawn shops are another great resource. Reputable pawn shops have people who specialize in antiques or know collectors to help with valuation. If buying an antique set from a pawn shop, they should be able to answer the above questions.

Don’t Waste Time or Money

Driving from shop to shop can be time-consuming and frustrating. With, we do all the work!

Whether you’re looking to buy, pawn, or sell an antique chess set, our process is fast and easy. Submit your request online and will scour local pawn shops in your area for the best price. All you have to do is drive there and collect your money.

We’ve serviced 270,000 satisfied customers with more than $14 million in offers. Try us today or visit our FAQ page or our blog to learn more about how pawning works.

David Stiebel
David Stiebel

David Stiebel is one of the cofounders of PawnGuru. David was educated at MIT, where he studied Math. He subsequently worked at Bain as a data scientist before starting PawnGuru in 2015. He started PawnGuru to build a better tool for pawn shops and consumers to connect.

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