With little else to entertain themselves at home, the Victorians and Edwardians turned to board games to pass the long dark evenings and many new and innovative designs were devised to appeal to children and adults alike. But here’s the main problem for modern day sellers and collectors, because our ancestors made full use of their typically fussy, ornately created games, which often comprised many more pieces than today’s counterparts. Consequently the majority of games which survived the decades are usually well worn and rarely complete. So only occasionally will you find a perfect condition Victorian or Edwardian board game, and any you do find in good and near or definitely unused condition will commend a hefty premium over their used counterparts.
Throughout their existence board games have been made for entertainment and educational purposes, the latter often featuring religious leaders, politicians, ships and historical events. Early board games tied to well-known historical events are quite rare and were produced for a limited period from the event occurring to popular interest declining. A good example is the ‘Centennial Presidential Game’ produced in 1876 by McLoughlin Brothers of New York which included a board with 54 cards, together with a wood board spinner and instructions, which Millers’ Collectables Price Guide say is worth between £800 and £1000.
The most recent record high prices for board games on eBay were for Christmas and specifically Santa Clause related items. Such items, available to buy for a short period before Christmas, and subject to heavy treatment by children and adults, means very few survive today, even in damaged condition. Another reason for often high prices achieved for Santa Claus and other Christmassy board games is their double category collecting interest, board games and Christmas items being independently very popular collectibles.
Many early games were housed together in one big box, called a ‘compendium’ and often home to hundreds of different games each with numerous separate parts. Individual games were often separated from the box, taken elsewhere to be played with and often got mislaid or lost miles away from their original source. Consequently the chance of finding a very early compendium with games intact and in good condition today is a rare event and hence the reason you’ll find the best preserved originals with contents all present and correct fetching several thousand pounds even at local auction. But if you fancy a risk, those items can easily double or further increase the price you paid when resold on eBay.