Check Out These Rare Vintage Chess Sets

vintage chess sets unsplash
vintage chess sets unsplash

Chess is one of the most popular board games that has been around since the end of the 15th century, first emerging in Europe. The game is made for two players, each controlling their own army of chess pieces in a specific color. The objective is to checkmate the opponent’s king.

The game is considered an abstract strategy game that involves no elements of chance, meaning you must outwit and plan ahead to properly take down your opponent. Due to such a high popularity of this game, it only makes sense that there are several valuable vintage chess sets around that players might want to grab.

RELATED: 10 Most Expensive Chess Sets: From $27k To $9.8-Million

What is a Vintage Chess Set?

vintage chess sets unsplash

Like the name suggests, vintage chess sets are chess sets that are old, rare or have historical significance. They can be made from a variety of materials and have several different designs.

Chess has only grown in popularity over the years, as it’s proven to show the capabilities of each player due to its test of skill and planning. And since chess has been around for centuries, it only makes sense that there are several vintage chess sets that are around today for purchase.

What to Look Out for When Buying a Vintage Chess Set

For collectors that are wanting to start taking a serious look at vintage chess sets but are not sure where to start, there are some key factors that you can consider when checking out your next purchase.

Check for a Signature

When selecting a vintage chess set, the first few things you want to look for are the manufacturer badge or signature on the base of the boards. Looking at these can determine which manufacturer you’re dealing with, which will tell you when it was created.

Some examples of 19th century manufacturers include Calvert, Lund, Fisher, Merrifield, BCC and Jaques. While some sets can be obvious just by their look, as each manufacturer has their own unique style, beginners might have a hard time figuring it out.

What’s the Material?

Another big give away when seeing if a product is vintage or not is just by the material itself. There are several different materials that can be used like exotic woods, precious metals, glass, clay, ceramic and marble. A lot of material can be considered more in the 18th or 19th century, such as ivory or fine wood like ebony or rosewood.

And this is also where you can look at the size and color of these items. Larger sets are usually more desirable and valuable than smaller or regular sets. Older, more weighted sets are also worth more. And then chessmen made from one piece of material rather than assembled are more expensive, as it’s harder to produce.

For color, you’ll want to find a more natural, or black, stain that were really common in the 18th century. Red stain was more popular in the 19th century, however.


Like any collection, finding something in a good condition can be tricky, and be worth quite a bit more than usual. Some material, like ivory, can oftentimes have a yellow tinge, or even split in the direction of growth. These cracks can also blacken when aged.

Making sure there’s not a lot of warping or damage is crucial when purchasing your vintage chess sets, as the more wear and tear, the less valuable these items are.

CHECK OUT: 30 Most Expensive Funko Pops

Why Buy a Vintage Chess Set?

vintage chess sets unsplash

Like any vintage item, there are several reasons why you might want to buy a vintage chess set. Not only are they absolutely gorgeous with their interesting and unique designs, but they might also have an interesting story along with them.

Whether you’re a collector or have a strong love for the game in general, purchasing a vintage chess set can spruce up your living space and be an excellent conversation piece, while also allowing you to enjoy a fun game of chess on a brilliant set.

Are Vintage Chess Sets Valuable?

Like a lot of collectible items, vintage sets are valuable! They are a great investment for those looking for other options as some chess sets, more on the luxurious side made of ebony, sandalwood, and rosewood are becoming rarer. On top of this, the craftsmanship is also becoming much rarer, so it’s definitely a note-worthy way to invest.

By why is this? mostly because the game has been beloved by many for years. This game of wits and strategy is not going to disappear anytime soon, as it’s shown its resilience already.

Most Expensive Vintage Chess Sets in 2023?

There are a lot of expensive chess sets that you can find. From the 1,200-year-old Jewel Royale Chess Set that is valued at $9.8 million, to the Pearl Royale set that was made in 2008 with a value of $4 million.

But what about vintage only? The chess sets that are expensive but are between 20-80 years old? Let’s take a look at some examples.

5. Jacques Adnet Hand-Stitched Black and Cognac Leather Chess Set, $9,500

1st Dibs

1st Dibs has a slew of amazing antique and vintage products for those looking for a rare find. The Jacques Adnet Hand-Stitched Leath Chess set is an amazing find. Designed by French designer from 1950s, this bi-color leather board has thirty-two pieces handstitched together. All the pieces are the original vintage, making for a unique item to display in your home.

4. Abstract Bronze Chess Set on Belgian Marble and Brass Game Table, $15,600

1st Dibs

Another unique piece that is one of the most expensive vintage chess sets is this low chess table, or coffee table, with the most unique chess pieces. All pieces are a bronze polish and dark patina finish. The marble top is a rare Belgian deep black stone, free of veins or patterns. It’s said to be made in Europe in 1965, making it one of the most interesting items on the list today.

3. Cybis Porcelain Chess Set, $49,900

vintage chess sets
Cybis Archive

Another chess set in the 1970s, this porcelain set actually had three versions produced over the course of two decades. The chessboard was created as a one-of-a-kind gift from the US to Russia to mark the historic 1972 Moscow Summit meeting.

READ MORE: Vintage Collectible Radios for a Retro Decorative Touch

2. The Queen’s Silver Jubilee, $195,000

vintage chess sets
Luxury Launches

This set was designed in the 1970s for Her Highness and was formally presented to the British royalty. The pieces are made from solid sterling silver and gold leaf. The board is leatherbound with leather trim, making it a beautiful piece for the Queen.

1. J. Grahl Chess Set, $450,000

vintage chess sets
Custom Made

Designed in 1972 on a commission, Jim Grahl’s original work is now valued at $450,000. The total weight of all the pieces combined is said to be a pound, with each piece being crafted in 14-karat gold and solid silver. The chessboard is from ebony wood and embellished with sterling silver.

Most Expensive Vintage Chess Sets Sold on eBay in 2023

But after all of these expensive chess sets, what about more affordable options? Or ones that you can find today? While each listing is unique, there are ample opportunities around that you can find a vintage chess set.

Whether it’s at auction houses like eBay or even places like Facebook marketplace, there is always a great deal waiting to be found. Here are some of the best examples that have been found on eBay.

3. Vintage Chinese Chess Board, $369

vintage chess sets

Another great purhcase was on September 17th for $369. This chess board is said to be around in the 1940s and was handmade. The detailed pieces are also woodcarved, making it a very beautiful and rare find for collectors. The board is absolutely stunning, as each white space is decorated wonderfully.

There has also been a recent sale on July 6th for wood carved Chinese chess pieces from the 1920 for a large sum of $590, proving that chess, whether board, pieces, or combination of, is definitely sought after.

2. 1960s Brass and Marble Chess Set, $450

vintage chess sets

This brass and marble set is a beautiful vintage chess set. Sold September 4 for $450, this set features handmade intricate brass chess pieces on a beautiful marble board. While not the most expensive piece that we’ve seen today, it still shows that there is a pretty big consumer base for chess sets still.

1. Soviet Russian Wooden Chess Set Folding Board, $600

vintage chess sets

Said to be made in the 1970s, this set is 53 x 53 cm and has all the chess pieces. It’s a stunning board with a shiny finish, and even more beautiful chess pieces. This item sold on eBay on September 16th for $600, making it one of the more expensive vintage chess sets that was sold in 2023.

In Conclusion

Vintage chess sets are a great way to invest your money or to spruce up your home. Whether you’re a die-hard collector of fascinating and rare chess sets, or you just thoroughly enjoy the game, there are several boards that are up for sale now that you can find.

Keeping your eye peeled for amazing deals and hidden finds could be the answer to getting a great value out of your boards, as finding vintage chess sets can be tricky. But with your new knowledge on finding the best vintage chess set, you’ll be sure to find a deal hidden somewhere.

Nikole Stewart is a writer and editor with three years of experience writing keen articles on topics such as... More about Nikole Stewart