Sunday, February 6, 2011

Staunton Chess Set with Wooden Handmade Box

I need to share with you readers that there are so many things I love about thrifting. First there is the thrill of the hunt, then the victorious feeling of a great discovery, and finally the research I can do to learn about a piece's history. Isn't it the gift that keeps on giving?

I was roaming around one of my regular local thrift stores one day with no success. This is a clutterred old thrift store with two resident cats that you can smell once you walk in the door. I was about to give up and head home when I noticed a beautifully made oak box. The corners had fine finger joints, and a carved indent for its slide top.

I have always admired great woodworking and was surprised to see ten finger joint pairs along a corner of a box that is less than 3" tall. I imagine that these joints were all chiselled by hand! I didn't know what to expect inside, and slid it open eagerly.

Inside was a partition separating black and white chess pieces. The chessmen were all wood, finely made, and had felted green pads on their underside. I tempered my excitement because often these sorts of finds are accompanied by the disappointment of missing or broken pieces.

Luckily, all the pieces were intact and both teams had all of their chessmen present! In doing research to find out more about the box and the era of these pieces, I found that these are Staunton style chess pieces. I understand that Staunton chess pieces have been the standard shape, weight and overall design required for all chess tournament play since 1924. This is because the pieces are universally recognized and I suppose, comfortable to play with.

There are wide ranges in eras and makers for vintage and antique chess pieces, so it was difficult for me to narrow down any further information. Originally, when I bought this set, I was thinking that Mr. SixBalloons could refinish the wood box. Since this set may actually have some value, this might not be a good idea. It's all part of the fun of thrifting, so I will keep doing research to find out more. In the meantime, I probably don't have to feel too guilty about the money I spent on it!

Linking to Apron Thrift Girl's Thrift Share Monday!


  1. What a great discovery and I would say a terrific bargain.
    Enjoy your research.

  2. Beautiful chess set, and that box will be lovely with a bit of TLC - probably just needs a little sanding and waxing. Definitely a good find.

    (We are Le Crueset twins - I am so in love with my new casserole and your $10 bargain is fantastic. The volcanic orange is my favourite.)

    I love all this pyrex you guys in North America keep blogging about too - that butterprint is adorable, I've never seen it here.


  3. Those are gorgeous! I'm a complete sucker for anything with hand-carved joints, too.

  4. We {inadvertently} collect chess sets. That one's gorgeous!

  5. Gorgeous find! I love old vintage games, I found a vintage tabletop croquet set a few weeks ago, sadly the box on mine is pretty wrecked.

  6. We have some old boxes and game pieces (parcheezi) that my great grandfather hand carved. Isn't it amazing what sorts beautiful things workmen used to make?

  7. Gorgeous!! I never have been one to notice joints on boxes, but now that you point it out I can really appreciate the craftsmanship!! Probably a silly question, but does it come with a chess board?
    Great find!! You have a really good eye for hidden gems!!

  8. Great pic of the chess set & pieces!

  9. I am definitely sad that dovetailed joints and such are rare to find these days, or ridiculously expensive. I should mention that the pieces are "turned" on a machine, I believe only the box was done by hand.

    Paula, I looked high and low, but no chess board! I'm sure the one used with this set was awesome and well loved.

    Lakota, isn't it fun that you are on the other side of the world, and yet we're admiring the same classic Le Creuset pieces? I'm sure Thrifted Treasure can attest to the same from down under!


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