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Q: Can you give me any information about a “John Bull” chess set made in India? The elaborate carved ivory pieces are British soldiers vs. Indian Raj soldiers. I never see them for sale on the Internet.

A: Sets like yours are usually referred to as “John Company” sets because that was the nickname for the British East India Co. The origins of the game of chess can be traced to India before the sixth century, and the game continues to be very popular there. During the British Raj (British rule) from 1858 to 1947, many sets with ivory pieces—some elaborate and some simple—were made. The value of yours depends on how elaborately it was carved and what condition the pieces are in. Sets that predate 1989 can sell for very high prices. That’s the year a worldwide ban on the sale of ivory was implemented. But you won’t see the sets for sale on eBay. It will not allow the sale of any ivory on its site. If you want to sell, contact a reputable auction house that sells on-land.

 

 


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