Been trading all day? Take time to play. But you don’t need to stare at any more screens. Just as ebooks haven’t replaced paper books, classic physical board games continue to draw enthusiasts.
Whether it’s the tactical feel of holding a chess piece, the beauty of a hand-carved cribbage board, or the collectibility of an antique gaming table, the appeal remains strong for physical board games.
There’s also the social factor and the chance to unplug from our many electronic devices.
“I think it’s lovely to sit down with a friend and play a board game, have a drink maybe, versus playing on a phone or a tablet. It’s very sociable. It’s important to not lose sight of the physical world and your friends,” said Simon Purkis, founder and director of Purling London, which makes chess sets for the luxury market. Their sets are found in Harrods, Selfridges, and art galleries, from $795 (£495).
Purling London hand-carves their chess pieces from traditional boxwood. They create the clean lines that avid chess players seek, but they’ve also updated the traditional Staunton pieces by bringing in accomplished artists to create contemporary designs. Artist-designed chess follows the tradition of work done by Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray years ago.
Games for Generations
“The majority of our customers play chess occasionally, and they buy [sets] most often as an interior design piece, as a centerpiece, or a gift,” Purkis said.
Hand-crafted, American-made game pieces can also be found in boutiques, such as those created by Heartwood Creations, which makes several vintage-style board games.
Mike Fisher, founder of Heartwood Creations, said retailers who sell his games say many customers buy them for vacation homes.
“These sell really well in places where people go to their cabin in the woods and spend time with their family. It’s a heritage, a generational thing. You play with your kids like you played with your grandparents,” he said.
Antique games also draw collectors. Those who want antique versions of games should mind a few factors, said Benjamin Fisher, a specialist in furniture and decorative art for Leslie Hindman Auctioneers.
Look for games that are in their original condition, and check to see if all the game pieces are original to the set. Keep an eye out for pieces made of ivory or bone.
“Objects made of bone are not as desirable as those made of ivory. Another important issue will be what species of ivory the objects are made of. If it is elephant ivory, Asian or African, there are a lot of new regulations at both the state and federal level that limit the transfer of this material. Marine ivory is often less of an issue, but again, state and federal laws vary,” Fisher said.
Chess pieces are most likely to be made of elephant ivory, while cribbage sets are often made from marine animals, which puts them into the category of scrimshaw, too, he said.
Whether you want the challenge and beauty of chess, or the fun of mah jongg, classic board games never go out of style.
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