Checkmate! German chess set brings £11k

Bonhams held an auction of chess sets, cards and games, yesterday (October 29), with great success for the best lots.

The lot which caused the most interest outside the world of collecting was Pank-a-Squith, named after the suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst and the Prime Minister of the time Herbert Asquith. Play is comparable to snakes and ladders.

Although it's questionable how much fun the game was really supposed to be. One square requires you to send a penny to the suffragette movement, and some squares show prisons, even force-feeding. But as a piece of history it quintupled its lower estimate of £800, selling for £4,080.

Pank-a-Squith suffragette game
Pank-a-Squith, named after the suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst (£4,080)

An 18th-19th century French tortoiseshell and brass games box sold for £1,680. An impressive price, though more intricate games boxes can sell for even more, as we've reported.

Amongst the chess sets, there was particular success for some antique ivory pieces which easily outperformed their estimates:

A 19th century Calvert carved set quadrupled its £800-1,200 estimate to sell for £4,080; a northern upright nearly doubled its lower £5,000 estimate to sell for £9,600; and two Staunton sets barely expected to scrape to £1,000 sold for £4,320 and a stunning £10,200.

£115k Travelling chess set 18th century
An 18th century German travelling chess set (£11,500)

The topseller for the whole auction however was an 18th century German boxwood-carved travelling chess set with leather case. The set is beautifully carved with faces on the bishops, teardrops topping the rooks and three 'galleries' on the kings.

The set, estimated at just £1,000-1,500 sparked a bidding war and only left the auction hall at the price of £11,500.

A porcelain set is also worthy of comment, if only for its theme: the Russian Communists vs Capitalists version. The set depicts various figures, with the Communists mostly in red, and capitalists in black and white.

The miserable capitalist pawn appears to be wrapped heavily in chains. The set was snapped up - presumably by a capitalist - for £1,680.


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