Tom Blest, general valuer and auctioneer at Catherine Southon’s auction house, first saw the late-16th century south German rosewood and bone gaming board at a valuation day in Tunbridge Wells.
The vendor had little idea of its date or rarity but recalled finding it in a scrapheap in an area of bombed-out London in the 1960s. Her mother had sent her out to look for firewood.
Remarkably, it is a full set complete with its 30 counters or tablemen, each engraved with a portrait roundel of classical and biblical figures (one probably a later replacement). The board, inlaid for chess, backgammon and Nine Men’s Morris, has similar rosettes (three now absent) that are probably based on the work of the influential Nuremberg printmaker Virgil Solis (1514-62). It was probably made in Augsburg c.1590.
A similar games board without tablemen is in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum. The similarity of the corner roundels suggests a close relationship between the two boards and perhaps even the same workshop.
“It was a pleasure to tell the astonished vendor that her old board game, stored under the sofa, was worth a five-figure sum and that a similar example exists in a museum,” said Blest.
This board has been given an estimate of £10,000-20,000 and will be offered in Catherine Southon’s February 26 sale at the Farleigh Court Golf Club in Surrey.