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Antique Chess Sets – A primer on identification and value

Antique Chess Sets

There are not a whole lot of brick and mortar chess stores out there, so I realize we fill a very particular niche in the chess world. Because of that, we get a lot of requests for things we do not normally handle. Probably the most common? Questions about antique chess sets. How much are they worth? What are they made of? Sometimes just a search to find out a little more about a chess piece set that has been passed down in the family.

While answers are often extremely hard to come by, I thought it would be a service to write a quick explanation on why it is so difficult as well as give some suggestions for finding out more.

The problems with valuation and Antique Chess Sets

So you have antique chessmen, and you want to know what they are worth. There is good reason to want to find out – chess sets vary in value from worthless to tens of thousands of dollars in some rare instances. It is important to realize they are as much an art form as an sculpture or painting, so some of them, by the right manufacturers, can hold a great deal of value. Likewise, there are tons that are from other manufacturers with less brand recognition. The vast majority are made overseas where it is difficult, if not impossible – to track down the original artist, so a lot of guess work is involved.

I have come up with a few questions you should ask yourself when looking to value or identify antique chessmen.

Question 1: Who is the Manufacturer and Where was it made?

Unfortunately, there are literally thousands of different artisans and manufacturers that have made chess piece sets over the years. They have been made from all manner of materials; exotic woods, stone, brass, ceramic, unusual other materials. Some brands, such as Jaques of London or Drueke have some value due to the history of the company itself. More often than not, however, a chess set is a limited edition item, or even a hand-crafted item by an unknown artist. These may have skill in manufacture, and may be valuable in their own right – but certainly not to the level of those special ‘name brand’ options.

Look to see if there is a signature or brand emblem on the chess piece set. A good place to check would be under the chessboard or beneath the chess pieces. It could range from a symbol to an actual signature. If you find something, you can reach out to the company – even if the set is decades old – to see what additional information you can find out. If you are lucky, there might be a collectors market – for example for Franklin Mint chess items, or the before-mentioned Jacques of London Staunton chess pieces.

More often then not, you will not find anything without the original box the antique chess set came in or any sort of certificate the chessmen might have come with. This does not make it worthless, but without being able to track down the original manufacturer you can’t know how much it ever sold for as new. This is hugely problematic as art, and the costs of art, can be hugely subjective.

What you might think is an awesome, intricate, exclusive piece may be a copy of many produced as souvenirs overseas and sold for only tens of dollars. Sometimes it is hard to determine if an item is actually hand made or done by machine or assembly line. It’s a real problem! Unfortunately, if you can’t find the answers you might have to assume the worst.

Question 2: What are the chess pieces made out of?

Material can go a long way in determining value, especially if you do not know the manufacturer. Brass, Ivory, Jade, precious metals and exotic woods – obviously these can increase the value significantly.

Beyond that, the material can sometimes give clues to where it was manufactured. Onyx and Malachite sets are almost always from Mexico. Alabaster and Brass are from Italy. Wood chessmen are often from India.

Feel free to reach out to manufacturers of similar items – they might not be able to tell you about the specific set, but might be able to at least give you an idea about how much a set of a certain size and certain detail may cost for materials alone.

Question 3: How old is the chess set?

This is what really puts the “antique” in antique chess sets. There are chess sets many hundreds of years old. Most antique chess sets brought to us are from the past 75 years or so. If you have something that old or older, there is considerably more value.

Who do I ask these questions to?

This is the biggest issue. Most of the time you cannot answer these questions and you’re looking for an expert. Sadly, this is hard to come by – chess sets are made everywhere by every one, and no retailer can know everything. It’s often hard for us to know the differences from antique chess sets and currently produced ones!

An antique dealer is really a good place to get started – especially if it is an older set. Once you can narrow down some of the questions – where it was made, how old it is – maybe a retailer can give you some sort of range or help.

The best bet would be to contact a chess museum. They exist! For example, the long island chess museum:


Collectors in many cases know better than retailers, and they are the best resource to find. There may be other chess museums, or similar organizations, more local to you. If not, Chess Collectors International is a group of collectors – the closest thing to experts out there and the a wealth of knowledge about antique chess sets. You can find more about them through the long island chess museum or the world chess hall of fame.


Finally, there are a lot of knowledgable chess collectors out there in web forums. Search around for chess forums and you’ll find many with chess enthusiasts happy to help identify or value your antique chess set. Talkchess is just one example:

Talk Chess Forum for Chess Lovers

I hope you found this post informative.


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94 comments to Antique Chess Sets – A primer on identification and value

  • Jim

    I have a hand carved alabaster chest set. The pieces are the animals from the English fable “Reynard The Fox”. The king (a lion) stands 7 3/4″ high. the rock is a bear with a monkey on his back; the bishop is Reynard the fox; the pawns are goats and rabbits; the Queen (nearly the same height as the king) is a lioness. the set is hand carved in alabaster.
    I’m looking for a value of this set.

    Thank you.

  • Hello, if I sent you pictures of my chess pieces can you tell me the value? Thank you,Pamela

  • Drew

    There is a chess set floating around made by the Franklin Mint around 1985 called the Imperial Faberge Set.
    The description says it was made in a limited edition (of course), has a marble playing surface, with playing pieces made
    of Silver plated with gold, precious stones and jade, etc.

    Would you have any idea of its value, history, etc.?

    I really like Faberge items (the real thing from pre-revolution Russia) and realize this is not that. But, I do think it would be a nice set
    to have.

  • regina

    After a tag sale, I found a garbage bag with chess pieces, complete set, made in Italy, brass (at least , half the set is brass colored, the other half is silver colored). Major characters are painted. Bottoms are felt covered but say “Made in Italy”. I tried to research vintage chess pieces made in Italy but I didn’t find any that matched the colors of the main players. What’s your best guess about value?

    • Hi and thank you for the comment!

      I’d actually email over a photo of the set to the main store email. There are a few companies over in Italy, and it might even still be produced. Are the bottoms red? Does it have a logo? It might be a company like Italfama. They’ve been around for a long time and make pieces similar to what you’re describing.

      Feel free to email us at the store with some photos if you’d like!

  • Michael

    I have a chess set made of cast medal of some sort, very beautiful. the pieces have three hallmark symbols on the bottom of each piece. Left to right they are:
    a circle with a C in the middle, a square with a symbol in the center of it, not sure what the symbol is, and a square with the number 77 in the center. Can anyone identify what these mean?

  • Cyndil Roe

    I have a Japanese chess set and I was wondering how much it was worth and how much I could sell it for I know I’ve never seen one like it before but someone else might have seen it or own one so all i’m asking is how to tell if its worth anything

  • timothy

    I have a chess set by Peter ganine. The box says classic by ganine made in usa Pacific game company North Hollywood California 1961 no. 1494. the pieces and the board and the manual and the certificate of return is in near mint condition except for the box I tried researching it but I couldn’t find anything about it or its price could you help me out?

  • Sean

    Timothy – if you have a “Classic” by Ganine, it is worth some money. The set was featured on the original Star Trek series in the 1960s and Star Trek fans actively seek it out.

  • Alex

    I have a hand carved chess set that I got as a gift and it’s collecting dust and I have no idea what it’s worth and I would like to sell the as but don’t know where to look to sell it or even the value of it.

    • Hi Alex,

      I would definitely recommend going to an antique dealer to check it out. If you want to send a photo our way, you can do so – but if it’s not something we’ve seen before it’s going to be hard to give you much information!

  • Regina

    I have a antique ivory chess set with the initials O.T.F or T.T.F. could you tell me if its worth anything.


  • john

    hi i have a chess set by peter ganine its the sculptor of merit, the box says copyright 1947, 1957. it is a salon edition, any idea of the value, i think the pieces are made of plastic

  • Lisa Bova

    I have a chess set not sure if it is marble or limestone. It’s in Mint condition and the board is lined in gold. I’m tryin to find out how much it is worth… Can you please help me ?

    • Hmm, it’s really hard to value sets honestly, but if you’d like, you can send us a photo via email and we’ll see if it is something we recognize. Otherwise, an antique dealer might be your best bet.

  • jamie ohara

    Hi I have a chess set was wonder if I sent in pictures u could tell me how much it’s worth as it’s only collecting dust

  • Vincent Fisher

    Hi a quick question. I don’t want to sell my chess set, but would like to have the wood cleaned up and the ivory (I believe) pieces cleaned. My Dad bought it in Japan in 1966. Are there places that do that? I’m in California. Thanks, Vincent

  • Chasity Longross

    I have a chess set that I bought while stationed in Afghanistan
    very unique set. I was wanting to sell it. Any idea where I could sell it in California? ? And what price I qould get. All hand crafted.
    Thank you

  • Dan

    I have an old looking chess set that I was told might be made of ivory, it’s passed the tests I could find online including the red needle test and when touched smelled like teth at the dentist, was hoping maybe someone knew something about this set, it’s carved and appears to be Asian.

  • Dan

    I have an old looking chess set that I was told might be made of ivory, it’s passed the tests I could find online including the red needle test and when touched smelled like teeth at the dentist, was hoping maybe someone knew something about this set, it’s carved and appears to be Asian.

  • colin ockwell

    I have a Reynard the Fox themed chess set the pawns are rabbits and rooks are in the shape of castle towers would this be of any value they were found wrapped in 1985 newspaper

  • Marco

    Hello I have a cheeseboard that I bough out a flee market about 8 or 9 years ago and never played with it . Recently y was cleaning it out and found an aluminum tag on the chess board that reads peter ludwig il appreciated if I can get some information the pieces are made out of clay and stand almost 3 in in hight it’s a folding wood board

  • Hello
    I have what appears to be a custom made Chinese or Japanese chess set. It has a folding board and each square is engraved with Chinese or Japanese pictures and letters. The wood it is on is engraved with Dragons. The chess pieces are green and red. Any idea what I have?
    Thank you


  • Dante

    I found a box of chess piece with a piece of newpaper artical about Robert James Fisher vs Boris Spassky and it seems like it’s the original from 1972

  • angie reiskis

    I have a miniature Spart chess and checker set No.111 Wm. F .Drueke & Sons,Inc. Grand Rapids 4,MI.It’s miniature size chessmen and checkers with hardwood board and rules.
    How much is it worth? Thanks

  • tnsimonson

    I have a vintage, pre-ban, hand-carved ivory chess set, of either Chinese or Indian origin, in excellent condition purchased at an estate auction in the 90s that I would like to have appraised. I suspect it was purchased overseas by an American soldier sometime during the 40s or 50s. I have detailed photographs of the pieces and box/carrying case. The kings are roughly 4″ in height and the pawns are 1.75″ in height.

    Any estimate of value or where I might go to get an accurate appraisal would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

    Here are links to a couple of pictures:



  • Hi, i have looked at so many sites looking for any information and prices of saint louis chess set. on the box i have written cristalerries de saint louis 1586. i know this set is rare and only have 2000 copies.

  • Cindy Bachicha

    I have two chess sets that I would like to find the value of. One has small hand carved ivory pieces. The other is from the Philippines. The pieces are about 5 inches tall and very intricate. I think the wood is camphor. Not sure.

  • Hi,I have a Chess set I was wondering if you could help me with.It’s very heavy,maybe marble,TAGS SAYS:CARRAS,MADE IN GREECE,A FAX NUMBER THEN “ATHENS”.please Help.

  • Larry Roberts

    i have and ivory chess set with certification of origin purchase from Hong Kong with the date on it 1967
    the kings are 4″ tall and the dark pieces tea stain. it is in excellent condition being that it was never used and stay in
    the containing chess box

    i thinking of selling it

  • Derek

    I have a minnie wooden chess set that i cant find any were it was sinded in 1961 and has to set of pecies with it one is france pices that are value is $225.00 the outhet is made by cardinal and has chess pices and paper chips and dice with it cant find it or the bord can you help


    Hello friends,
    I’m starting to sell luxury chess sets on ebay. I’ve been a chess enthusiast for decades and thought this would be a lot of fun to do. I have always preferred high end sets and wanted to share what I’m passionate about with folks who are like me. The links to the ebay listings are:
    Would greatly appreciate any feedback you may have. Right now the quantities of chess sets are very limited, however based on your feeback, I will get more sets made.

  • Lucky

    Hi I’ve had these chess pieces now for a very long time and I have found absolutely nothing about them, they are wooden
    Hand carved could u help me identify them or point me in the right the direction? Also if they have any value to them..thanks!

    Here’s a link to some photos – https://goo.gl/photos/JritBvC7RzKsgrSN8

  • Debbie

    I purchased a chess set in 1971 while we were stationed in Rota, Spain. It’s wooden men and it came in a leather case that holds the pieces. Each piece is about 4 inches high. No name of where is was made or by whom. Any idea if its worth anything.

  • I have a very old wooden board, very intricate carvings. It may have been handmade. Is there any market for these?

  • Luis Zaldivar

    I have hand carved chess maybe chinnesse all pieces are diferent, more 100 year…

  • Spencer Powers

    I have a chess set that I bought in 1982. It is the Lord of the Rings set made by Rawcliffe Pewter. It is number 90/100. No board. I have only played it maybe three times. I can find Rawcliffe Pewter, but nothing at all on this set nor any other set. I have been trying to sell it for around what I paid back then as we need to raise money to find another home with no success. Is this set now worthless? Thanks, Spencer

  • Mark

    I have found a chess nade of achatit the pieces are really. Detail they stand about 3 to 4 in in height and has a metalic tag sshowin an inscription. Reading peter ludwig werkstatten kolhn germany do you have any info

  • I have a mini wooden carved chess set. It came in a small wooden box. The label on the front has FRE’MONT est’d 1885 with a pic of an elephant and the number 102. Do you know if it’s valuable?

  • Johnathan

    I bought a chess set recently and I have no idea what it is actually made of. I know what I was told it was made of but I would like know for certain as I am uncertain how trustworthy the folks I bought the set from are. Any Idea how I might go about finding out what type of stone the set is made from?

  • Trent

    I’ve got a chess set made an stamped by G.Berti from Italy any idea who it is,?

  • Dorothy

    My daughter and I have been helping my parents clean out their garage and closets. We came across a couple of old chess sets from my childhood. One is a four player team set I’m thinking from mid to late 60’s in mint condition. They are downsizing so they are looking to sell. I am having trouble finding info on team sets. They also have a marble board from the same era but we have not located the pieces yet.
    Any ideas of value?

  • I recently purchased a beautiful chess set,that appears to be made of cherry wood with Oriental carvings, dragons,etc.the playing area is what appears to be black and white marble with Oriental figures and words which appears to be hand painted. The pieces are I think carved soap stone in shades of light green and dark wine ccolors. How can I find out value and where it made and what the value may be?

  • Stacy Tanner

    Hi. I have a traveling chess set, circa WWI, pieces made of onyx and crystal. It’s in almost-excellent condition. According to the note inside the box, it came over from France. No make or manufacturer to be found. If I sent a picture or two, would you perhaps be able to help evaluate its value? Thanks.

  • Christina Whitney

    How old does a chess set have to be before it is concidered an antique? Are they like books that after 25 years they are antiques?

    • I don’t really think it’s that simple. For some sets it’s simple a matter of when they are no longer available. Because so many chess sets are limited edition, you can’t get them anymore (or replacements) and thus fall in the antique category.

  • paula

    i have a chess set with wood round pieces and the box is all wood and heavy it has no identification of who made it and each piece is in its on compartment who can i find out who made it and the value

  • Michael Dillemuth

    I have an original Reynard the Fox chess set (only 48 made) and board in what appears to be antiqued red and white marble resin, the squares of the board are the same material, with a walnut frame and back. While there were many later sets produced in a number of variations. This original set was pictured in two movies of the time. I have the original paperwork that goes with it. I bought it new at a little shop in Marlow, Buckinghamshire, England when I was stationed there from 1969-1973. Around 1980 a chess shop in Oklahoma told me there are coded markings on the white king that number the sets from 1 to 48. I have no idea of the current value, but at one time, it was a significant value. Anything you can tell me would be appreciated. I am a collector and a life member of the USCF.

    • Hi,

      Unfortunately we can’t appraise vintage chess sets – your best bet would be to contact an antique dealer or auction house – of course if anyone on the blog recognizes the pieces and has some information, they might reach out to you!

  • Austin Drader

    I have a chess set I acquired 35-40 years ago and I was hoping to find out more information about it. It is some sort of carved stone with a Mayan and Conquistador theme with a storage cabinet board. I was wondering if you might be able to shine a little light by a few photos?


  • Stephanie P

    I was at an auction and purchased a box of things which included a hand made wooden chess set w the original box to hold the chess pieces. All the box says is is Cavalier chess & I’m customs to find out how much it might be worth?

  • Aaron Miller

    I’m looking for information on this chess set I have. It’s based on the Revolutionary War between George Washington and King George III. I have done lots of research but have found no information on this set or another that looks like. The pieces seem to be made of brass and nickel which make them pretty heavy and they range from a couple inches tall to 4-5 inches tall. I’m not for sure if this is a very old set and that’s why I can not find information on it or maybe I’m searching in the wrong areas. So if you can help me get started on the right track to finding he history behind this piece or know anything about it I would be greatly appreciative of it.​

  • Kristie

    Has anyone ever come across an “EEZY-PLAY” Pocket chess set? It was designed and made by CHESS REVIEW (The Picture CHESS Magazine. I believe it is an antique. It has the address of w50 West 574th street , New York 19, N.Y. It is made of very thick CARDBOARD. It could have been a promotional piece with a subscrition?.?( The subscription was $3 for one year, $5.50 for 2 years and $7.50 for 3 years!!!

  • Shellie Ochs

    Hi I have a chess set about 305 ish years old and it was bought in Okinawa Japan.The pieces feel like glass or Jade also the chess tiles are made of a tile or glass.The wood set folds in half.There is a little water damage in one drawer but not bad and can be repaired.

  • Doug

    I have a chess set by NiGil. Anyone know it’s value. I have completed set with board and signature card from Nigil. Handcrafted

  • Smithy

    hi there, I have these old wood chess pieces. They look to be hand carved. The pieces are of people. I cant find any markings on them anywhere. My mothers father brought them back from, I think she said World War 2. Would you be able to provide me with some information or value if I email you some photos. Thanks

  • Al Goodwyn

    I have a pre-civil war chess table (no pieces) along with letters from a long distance chess match during that era. Where would I go to get the table appraised? Do you know if the letters would help with the value of the table?

  • Mike

    I have a hand carved wooden Anri chess set, I was told it was from the 60’s or 70’s I was also told it is the full gold version. Problem is, I cannot seem to tell the difference between full and half gold. Any advice , also would the set be worth more than a new set? It is in mint condition

  • Ignacio combellas

    I have a saint louis 1586 Crystal chess. How i can value?

  • Ron

    I have a Classic Games Collectors’ Series Chess Set with Matching Board Edition II Napoleon Bonaparte (hand painted) in the original box that I received from Classic Games in 1966 as a gift from the owner when I left the company to attend college. The pieces were never removed from the box and are like new. I would like to know where I should go to sell this set.

  • Skyla Hewoms

    I have four chess sets at least 25 years old one has brass pieces. One chess set is a dragon set with dragon pieces, one is a chess set of pirates and pirate like pieces. And a Indian chess set. With Indian pieces.

  • Eric

    I have a fantasy of the crystal set vintage from the 90s I was wondering how much i could get. Thanks

  • William Romaniw

    Ive inherted a chess set and am tring sell where is,a source to find out what the set worth

  • Crissy

    Have you heard of Ludwick chess sets. I have family who has one that has a label in metal that says 12 of 100. Looks really old and it is large!:)

  • Ricardo

    I inherited an antique chess set that is presumably made from olive wood. My father got this from a friend whom bid on it in an auction some time ago. Now they have both passed away… and no one knows the history… I got it appraised once and the appraiser just eye-balled it at 3k. I understand this is like an art piece and value and beauty can be very subjective to those considering it. My question is this. Should I want to sell this piece and try to maximize exposure/visibility to prospective purchasers.. assuming I have a huge amount to do this what would be the best approach? I would assume that some sort of appraisals (more meaningful ones by subject matter experts), putting it out there… and public auctions? Anyone have some experience here that is willing to share… again I am not looking to sell here or get an assessment of value… but rather looking for a strategy that best works, given a good amount of time that ensures that it is sold fairly.

  • How much this chess pieces worth?

  • Thanks for sharing. Numerous gatherers like chess sets made of pewter, and this material includes an unmistakable kind of style and excellence to the pieces made from it. Pewter is frequently utilized when making themed chess sets and is regularly adorned with precious stones, jewels, and even gold or silver. Pewter is a tough material despite the fact that it requires occasional upkeep and cleaning. Regardless of what material your chess set, you are certain to discover something that is lovely and additionally utilitarian.For more information to visit my website.

  • I have a goth chess set that appears to be very old on the bottom of every piece is the name w.m.sharp carved in them .there is a few famous William sharps in the 1800s one a writer and on engraver.

  • I have. Chess verry old. And I want to sell it no information on it


    I’m looking for information on an antique chess board can you help me

  • Tracy Nelson

    Hello, I have come across a chess set (no board, just the pieces) with some items I inherited. I am not sure what they are made of, they are pretty heavy. Resin perhaps? Some sort of wood? They are all carved monkeys in colonial sort of attire. Kind, queen, etc. One is riding a ram! Another has a violin. Another has a tuba. They are dark brown or cream in color. Felt on the bottom. I see a vague marking on a few that looks like P followed by a symbol and then the letter D. They are from either the 1960s or early 70s judging by the wine box that they were carefully packed in. Happy to send a photo. Thank you!!

  • Lisa

    I have a little wooden chess box set from Italy. It was purchased over 30 years ago by my grandmother, but I have no idea if it was new at that time. If I sent pictures, could you tell me what it is worth?

  • Lisa

    I have a little wooden chess box set. My grandmother brought it home from Italy over thirty years ago. It looks like the board may have some ivory in it. If I sent you some pictures, will you tell me it’s approximate worth?

  • Kyle Weston

    I have a chess set. Leather all together as far as I’ve ever known it to be. Cane from world war 2 n was my grandfather’s. It says Xmas 1943 on it. He was in the army. He has been deceased since 2003. I’m looking to get it appraised n sold if possible. I have other ww2 memorabilia also. Please any info will help to get appraised n sold. Thx u.

  • Leslie

    Hello. I have a chess set made of solid jade. it was purchased brand new by a soldier stationed in Afghanistan but on leave in the United Arab Emirates in 2005. it sits in a box covered with velvet cloth. where do I go to find its value? once I know its value, where do I go to sell it?

    thank you!

  • Reuben Smith

    Ming dynasty chess set still in plastic complete with everything

  • Reuben Smith

    Does anybody know exact year box says no. 5020 and what it would be worth

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