Victorian chess, made of vulcanised rubber.

Box with embossed lid reading. India rubber chessmen, made only by New York rubber company, Goodyear’s patents for 1848 and 1849.

Kings 80 mm, but the rooks are taller at 90 mm. Kings and queens as royal figures, bishops as bishops, knights on rearing chargers, pawns as foot soldiers wearing morions. Interestingly, the rooks appear to be a representation of Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy, France. Condition: Some paint flaking to pieces, glue repairs to the ankles of several pawns, damage to box lid. Ex: Harbeson collection, purchased on January 25, 1952 from Frederick Gutelius. 

An extremely rare and ephemeral set, virtually unknown in the literature. An internet search turned up no comparables. Yet, in the search for an ancestor for all modern plastic and synthetic chess sets, this set – in a then-new and experimental material – must be given priority. The patenting of rubber in Britain and the United States was the beginning of the modern plastics industry as we know it. 

Sold for US$ 750.

From Chess Collectors International auction; September 5, 2020, in St. Louis, MO, USA

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