ValueMyStuff sat down with our playing cards and games specialist, Luke Honey, for a Q & A. Learn more about why Luke continues to love games and get insight into a specialist's valuation.
How did you become an expert in Chess, Playing Card and Board Games?
Like so many others in the antiques business, I started off as a porter in the early 90’s- first at Bonhams, and then running the furniture saleroom at the old Phillips auction house in New Bond Street. After two years slog, I was promoted to junior specialist in the European Works of Art Department, and given my first chess collection to catalogue. And that’s how it all started.
What do you love about this collecting category?
As a games specialist you need to be a bit of a ‘Jack of All Trades’. The category covers so many specialist areas: European Works of Art, Chinese & Indian art, antiquities, furniture, ceramics, treen, ephemera and antiquarian books.
Can you explain this category a bit? Why do you think people enjoy collecting playing cards and board games?
There are two types of buyer for antique chess sets: people who just want a stylish chess set, backgammon board or set of gambling chips to play with and serious collectors with an academic interest in games. The playing card collectors tend to fall into the antiquarian book camp.
As a specialist you never stop learning.
What are the most sought after pieces on the market today?
Chess sets and boards made before the 18th century. Very scarce indeed.
Do you see any particular item being highly sought after in the future?
Antique Staunton chess sets by Jaques of London. Made from boxwood and ebony and of a lovely quality. I think there is still somewhere to go with the values, especially as the sale of ivory becomes more restricted.
How important is age in terms of an items value? In other words is older better or are their more modern pieces that have high value and are collectable?
Age is obviously important. 17th century chess sets are highly desirable. But then so is quality. A 1930’s Jaques chess set in tip-top condition is going to be more valuable than a damaged 1850’s Jaques set with a missing piece. Chess sets by fashionable contemporary artists can be enormously valuable- but we’re then looking at the world of contemporary art, and that’s a different ball game.
What are the biggest mistakes you see collectors make? And do you have any advice?
Always focus on quality over quantity. I can’t repeat this enough. It’s far better to have a small collection focusing on rarity and quality than a sprawling collection of mass-produced chess sets made for the tourist market. If funds are limited, trade up.