Thursday, March 26, 2009

Checkers and Poker Chips

From time to time I may repeat myself here - mostly due to a lack of time. This is a rewrite of an article I did in my MGR Sampler a few years ago. It’s now updated with better pictures - and in color!

On slower, less profitable days at the flea market, I like to rummage through junk boxes. Sometimes I do find a little buried treasure: H-R minis, a nice bit of jewelry, an intriguing bit of ephemera, a Hartland Tinymite. That’s why anybody plows through a box like that: the hope of finding some wonderful little gem others did not immediate recognize. And when you do - oh, such a nice feeling!

One thing that used to drive me crazy would be the loose poker chips and checkers that seem to be a regular feature of those junk boxes. Were any of these stray pieces actually Breyer Poker Chips or Checkers? Oh, the agony of not knowing!

That’s the crux of the problem, really: how do you look for something if you don’t know what it looks like? It didn’t matter if I found a rare, mint Monrovia H-R, or a beautiful, vintage sterling cocktail ring: if there had been some old poker chips or checkers at the bottom of that box, that’s what would haunt me. What if, for lack of knowledge, I left the "best" things behind?

Thanks to eBay, I now know. And as a public service to those of you hoping to someday score these obscurities for your own collection or collector’s class entry, here they are:

Note the wavy ribbon motif that was prevalent in a lot of early Breyer promotional materials. And it does say Breyer on the box, so there’s no doubt to their authenticity.

The checkers and poker chips use the same design: the only two differences between them are the thickness and the color. The poker chips come in red, white and blue; the checkers are in a dark red/maroon and black. The checker is about three times the thickness of the chip. I have no idea what kind of plastic was used on them - I’m not brave enough, or expert enough to attempt a pin test on them. They are heavy and substantial, though: they don’t feel cheap.

The checker box says that they are an "Arabian Coin Design." It seems to be taken from an actual coin or other design: it doesn’t look like something someone just doodled off by the die maker in a day or two. There even appears to be a date (1100, or 1700?) But I’m neither a numismatist nor an Arabic linguist, so I could be wrong there.

I’d be interested in knowing what coin or artistic inspiration the design came from. How’s that for a really, really obscure topic? It’s not one that necessarily keeps me up late at night; I have other concerns that fill that job, unfortunately.


Anonymous said...

Great stuff, Andrea! Keep it comin'!

Deb Corbin

Becky Turner said...

I love this blog! I never collected breyers and still dont actually collect..I have a few but thats it.. but I love t read about the history of them and the rare and obscure stuff is great!
Rebecca Turner

Morgen said...

Andrea I need to second Becky here - I love this blog! I've always felt bad when reading folks discussing the rare fleamarket find, I wouldn't know a test from a run of the mill horse.

Please please plllleeeease put the email subscriber feature in so I can make sure I don't miss your updates? I don't remember to check folk's blogs too often. I have no idea what "following" means either but I doubt that would clue me in to your new posts. ;) Thank you!

Kelly Weimer said...

Here's the coin, minted during the 1300's in Constantinople. The image is the one on the right. I can't figure out how to link it; you'll have to cut and paste.

ANDREA said...

Close, but not quite on the coin Kelly - for one thing, the date is wrong. Calligraphic motifs in Islamic art are far from unusual either: calligraphy is held in very high esteem as an art form, as representational art is somewhat discouraged as idolatrous.

I'm thinking that if we do find the precise coin, it'll be either in an early (pre-1950) coin book or art catalog. (Maybe at the Chicago Art Institute?)

Kelly Weimer said...

The image on the left in the is a "Tughra", the seal/signature sultans used on the coins minted during their reign. The checker image is the stamp of the Constantinople mint. The dates on arabic coins reflect the date the sultan was in power and their dates don't match up with Westernized dates. I think the Breyer checker says "1300" (which was 1800something for us). I do believe the center part of the checker does match the coin, but the stars and banner design might have been a Breyer addition.

Kelly Weimer said...

After ten more minutes of searching, I find "Dye's coin encyclopaedia" from 1883.
Go to:
Search for the title: "Dye's coin encyclopedia"
Click on the first link.
Type "1051" in the page field.
Start reading "Silver Coins of Turkey", the bottom paragraph.
Turn the page...Huzzah! Breyer Checker!

For those that don't want to see the actual image, the text referring to the coin image reads, "Struck in Kostantinie, meaning Constantinople. Exergue in Turkish numerals 1255 of the Hegira, and which corresponds with A.D. 1839."

A quick search of "Turkish numerals" confirms the image refers to the 1839 coin, not the 1861 coin discussed afterward.

ANDREA said...

Now that's the level of precision I'm looking for! More proof that everything we need to know can - or will be, eventually - found on the Internet.

Hmm. Maybe I should throw out another research topic to the masses here. I can think of a few requiring some extra sets of eyes...

Kelly Weimer said...

Please do! Collective research can be fruitful!