Welcome to my collection.
But first a few words on how it came about…
In the mid-1970s, a couple in our Baby-Sitting Circle taught me and my wife to play Mahjong with a set inherited from the husbands father. It was a Chinese small bone & bamboo set in a traditional box in pale wood, with double doors revealing 5 drawers – I was immediately hooked! We searched for something similar with no success, so my wife bought a Jaques Urea Formaldehyde set for my 30th birthday – we still use this set for all our games.
We moved to Kuwait with my job and were kicked out by Saddam, but I went back after the Gulf War and recovered some of our possessions including the Mahjong set – missing 2 tiles.
With my retirement and access to eBay, I found a set reminiscent of the one we learned on – in France. It arrived, much the worse for wear after its journey, so I decided to remove the chipped and flaking gesso covering and restore it back to the original wood, but keeping the coloured panels. The result was so satisfying, I decided to replace the 2 missing tiles in the Jaques set, by carving 2 of the spares.
This proved to be a lightbulb moment; I’d seen many sets on eBay with missing tiles, either not being sold or going for a song, so I embarked on a buying spree, knowing that I could fix them. I should say here that I am entirely self-taught, admittedly with a lot of research in books and the internet.
Strangely, I was more attracted to the cheaper wood, bamboo, plastic and cardboard sets, their fragility and cheapness makes them very vulnerable to being discarded as worthless, rather than being treasured. The inventiveness of designs, and the clever use of the plastics available between the Wars, I found fascinating.
Casein has a hold on me; the look, the feel and the ivory-like texture is like no other plastic – it is instantly recognisable once one is familiar with it. Some of the German sets from Pehafra, Richter or Golconda are works of art.
And that is how I met Bill Price – I bought a set from him, we conversed and started a ‘partnership’; he seeks out sets and I restore them to something approaching their former beauty. Without Bill, I could never afford to buy most of the sets that he sends my way, but I have the pleasure of working on many different boxes and materials, honing my restoration skills at the same time.
And now to the collection: I have over 400 sets, many badly in need of repair, but virtually no duplicates. I concentrate on European sets, attracted more to the French, German and especially Austrian sets, so I will categorise them accordingly.
The early Chinese sets feature quite prominently, and I’m attracted to the unusual, but I love homemade sets – the distress or deprivation which drove the maker to hand-craft a unique set just grabs my heartstrings.
Just click on the links below to visit the Gallery.