Guide to dating and buying Jaques Staunton sets.
A Jaques Staunton set
should be in the right case for its period and style and with the right
label. The absence of the right case will lower its value by a factor
of 2 or much more, depending on the rarity of the set or whether it is
just to be used for playing. Fortunately, Jaques Staunton sets
can be dated with an accuracy of 1-2 years to 5-10 years, depending on
the period, by using a series of details on the styles of labels,
boxes, and pieces. The dating and the evidence for it
are given in
detail in Jaques and British Chess Company Chess Sets by Alan Fersht,
which can be bought from the author (e-mail). The details
are summarised at the end of this section, and styles are illustrated
by clicking Jaques Staunton Sets 1849-1939.
a. Checklist for buying
1. Uniformity of pieces. The shapes of Jaques turned pieces were guided by metal profiles and so all turned pieces should be close to identical, especially the pawns. You can expect variation where hand carving or cutting comes in: e.g., especially in early knights (which are very variable in the 1850-60s – see Figure 12) and even in later ones; in the precise cut of the mitre on early bishops; and the form of the crosses of early kings (which are also frequently replaced). There is some variation in the collar rings of early kings and queens, especially between ebony and boxwood sides. As discussed above, there are variations in different productions of early sets and it is difficult to find perfect matches for replacing pieces. So, each piece must be carefully inspected. Even so, Jaques clearly were careless in mixing up knights from different carvers all through the 19th Century. Good photos can often help in comparisons, especially of lined-up pawns.
2. Uniformity of patination. Colour and patination are probably the best clues for detecting substituted pieces. All pieces should have the same colour and patination, except the heads of knights, which were separately varnished. Any pieces of different shades of colour are likely to be replacements The author has three 1853-5 sets, each of which has its distinct shade of colour for the boxwood pieces. An ultra-violet lamp is very useful for detecting touching up or later varnishes.
same colour and with the same wear.
Felts do get replaced, however, and I have also seen later Jaques sets that are undoubtedly correct with
probably from the time they were assembled.
4. Weights. Peel back the felts to see if all the weights are identical. Weigh each piece.
5. Boxes, cases and caskets. Jaques wooden boxes and cases changed little in design until about 1890. Check the design is right and the label is of the right period. Although, early wooden sets in Carton Pierre cased sets were generally unweighted, the customers had the choice of having their smaller wooden sets loaded with lead at additional cost in the same Carton Pierre caskets. Slide lid boxes always contained unweighted wooden sets.
Carton Pierre caskets are rather fragile. Most have broken battlements and many have been totally destroyed. Some have been extensively restored with resin. There are also fake boxes made of resin. Check that you can see the joins from the 45 degrees four mitres at each corner top and bottom where the wooden sides have been joined. Resin sets will not have the mitres, and extensive repairs using filler will cover them. The caskets for the small library sized sets (2 7/8" (73 mm) king) have the same external dimensions as for the 3.5” sets but have a raised interior false bottom. The inside depth of ta regular Carton Pierre is 3.5" (88 mm), and that for a library sized set 1.7" (44 mm).
Carton Pierre caskets should be a dull, matte charcoal colour, not shiny black, which indicates either mistaken polishing or, more likely, restoration.
6. Stamping of Jaques kings. Until about 1890, only the white king should be stamped. During and after that time, both kings should be stamped, but not always. There are rare exceptions. The author has an 1853-55 set that has been in the same family for generations. Its king has identical colour to the rest of the pieces and identical aged felts, and is identical to the black king and kings from other 1855 sets in form (Figure 25). Yet, it is not stamped, probably because the retailer, Pearce, had his own trade label stuck over the Jaques name. Leuchars also removed Jaques names from kings, including Entered Nos 77 and 95 (Michael Mark, personal communication). It is likely that many of these sets sold by retailers did not have the Jaques stamps, but these sets have been “improved” by dealers and collectors swapping an unstamped king from a good set in a good box with a stamped king from a similar part set. Such “improvements” are common in other areas of collecting and the practice should be avoided.
7. Likely damage and restoration. The weak points are the knights’ ears, the knops and tops of bishops, the collars of pawns, the coronets of queens, decapitation of pawns and splits in ebony bases on shrinking around the lead weighting or on its expansion. A good restorer can skilfully repair the bishops, pawns and knights. The queens’ coronets are problematic. Ebony can be matched up perfectly, but boxwood is more difficult.
8. Jaques notable dates.
Š White king only: J.JAQUES: 1849-1851 - The "J." at the beginning is crucial.
Š White king only: JAQUES: 1851-1885/90.
Š Both kings stamped: ~1885/90 onwards.
Unweighted 3.5” boxwood and ebony in Carton Pierre Casket: 1849-
(could be loaded for an extra 5s)
Unweighted 3.5” boxwood and ebony in mahogany case: 1850-52
(could be loaded for an extra 5s)
Unweighted 3.5” boxwood and cedar slide lid box: 1853-1930
Weighted 3.5” boxwood and ebony in mahogany case: 1852-
Library size ebony and boxwood: 1853-
Library size ivory: 1856-
Small Club size: 1867-
Š Hand signed 1849-1850.
Š Printed Entered Nos., 1850-1856 for boxwood and ebony, 1850-~60 for ivory.
Š “Jaques London”, 1850-1860 (August 1859) for boxwood and ebony.
Š “Jaques London”, 1850-1890 Red label for Ivory.
Š “Jaques & Son”, 1859-1862.
Š “Two Prize Medals 1862” after 1862.
Š “Two Prize Medals 1862” and “Boxwood and Ebony”, 1862-~1868.
Š “CHESSMEN” and change of border after about 1885.
Š “Jaques & Son Ltd”, after 1900 (Registered as Ltd April 17, 1899).
Š “Genuine” added in the 1920s.
Š “Original” in 1940s.
Boxes cases and caskets:
Š Carton Pierre, 1849-1927 (rarely after 1890).
Š Mahogany with single compartment, 1850 to 1890.
Š Slide lid box 1853-
Š Mahogany with split compartments 1890-
Š Leather caskets 1890- (for ivory, with green labels)