This year, Santa brought a box full of board games as one of his gifts to my five-year-old daughter and her brother. From time to time, clients will dig old board games out of their attics and ask if they’re worth anything. Here are a few examples of collectible games and their origins.
Board games have existed for several millennium. The oldest game, Senet, dates back to 3500 B.C. and was referenced in an ancient fresco in an Egyptian tomb. In fact, four examples were found in King Tutankhamun’s tomb, as he must have really enjoyed the game!
Vaikuntapaali was originally a sixteenth century Indian game that taught morality and spirituality. It was later adapted as Chutes and Ladders by Milton Bradley in 1943. First editions of the game are worth up to $100.
Monopoly, a game first published by Parker Brothers in 1935, was based a game that was created over three decades earlier called The Landlord’s Game. The concept of The Landlord’s Game was to showcase the social injustice created by land ownership and encouraged players to put rental fees into a communal pot to share with others. Ironically, this concept was completely disregarded in Monopoly, which emphasizes bankrupting your competition (and also became the most popular board game of all time with over a billion players). First editions of the game typically sell anywhere from fifty to several hundred dollars, depending on condition.
Chess is another popular board game with ancient origins. It was derived from the Indian game of Chaturanga, which dates back to the 6th century. Chaturanga means four parts and refers to the four divisions of an army – elephants, chariots, cavalry, and infantry (the chess equivalents being bishops, rooks, knights, and pawns). Rules for modern chess were developed in the late 15th century, but it’s popularity really began to take off in the 19th century when books, clubs, and chess journals appeared.
As the game has been popular for several centuries, examples vary widely from simple plastic and cardboard sets to extremely elaborate and expensive sets made from semi-precious stones and silver or gold. Sets can cost anywhere from a few dollars to many thousands of dollars, depending on their age, condition, and quality.