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Hidden inside this innocuous box is my newest Mah Jongg acquisition – with thanks to X for alerting me to its sale on the Internet – a Mah Jongg set manufactured by the Portland Billiard Ball Company of Portland, Maine. The tiles are thin pieces of colorful plastic/celluloid glued or somehow affixed to a hard and slightly curved black base made of…well, I really don’t know what the base of the tile is – perhaps some kind of very rigid plastic or is it wood? If you know, please contact me!

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The box front slides up and off to reveal three drawers which hold the treasures inside. Included with this box was an instruction book on the Chinese Sparrow Game of Mah Jongg manufactured by the Chinese Mah Jongg Company of Boston, MA. The booklet threw me off at first but this set is definitely a Portland  Billiard  Ball Company set; the booklet must have belonged to a past owner and somehow was placed into this box either accidentally or intentionally. Whatever the case, it is an old book and fun to see.

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Although the tiles are extremely dirty and need a very good cleaning, one can still see their beauty.


The One Bam is a peacock standing on one foot with nine dots on its tail. The One Dot is unusual and unique to this company. Although it is very hard for me to interpret the symbols on the One Dot, they do seem to resemble bats, which are classical Chinese feng shui symbols for prosperity and/or happiness. The Flowers on this set, as you can see, are lovely and depict women at various tasks.

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The counters are interesting as they exhibit small and delicate holes punched in to the counter itself instead of the colored dots we usually see. Note the Wind circles mixed in with the counters.


Here you might be able to discern the slight curve on the top of each tile.


I love the primitive look of these tiles and can’t wait to clean them off and play a few games with them. Certainly this set is a great and unusual addition to my collection of Mah Jongg games.


  1. Josephine Beall

    I,too, just purchased a mahjongg set like the one you featured( from Portland Billiard Ball Co.) I would like to find 8 tiles to sticker as jokers. Have you ever seen ” orphan tiles” for these sets?


  2. bonytony1946

    Right! Johni Levene sent me some tiles to play with, and as I expected they are Ebonite – that is, very hard rubber with about 60% sulphur. Ebonite was used as a Jet substitute in Victorian times for jewellery, in engineering for seals, for dominoes and Mah jong tiles, especially by Imperial in France.
    If I could post a pic, you could see the melted tile after sanding, but unfortunately ( 🙂 ) not the burning rubber smell!


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