The other day we posted a need for help in finding matching tiles for a beautiful enrobed Mah Jongg set that was an inheritance from a beloved grandmother.
But what is the value of this special set? Read on…
In her syndicated column, The Smart Collector, and reprinted here from Tucson.com (Arizona Daily Star), Danielle Arnet writes about ash racks, enrobed sets and other Mah Jongg treasures. But do you agree with her estimates? Let me know.
Q: My mahjong set dates from before the early 1940s. There are ashtrays at the ends of each rack. I’ve searched online for sets with ashtrays and found none. I’ve never seen another like it. How do I determine value, and how can I sell this unique set? The case is in sad shape.
A: First, let’s tell readers, especially younger ones who may not be familiar with mahjong, about the game. Commonly played by four players, the game of strategy and skill (it reminds many of the card game rummy) is played with tiles. Mahjong originated in China and arrived in the U.S. in the 1920s, when it became a rage. The first sets here were sold by Abercrombie and Fitch. If our reader has the original A and F case, that’s a plus. If so, lesser condition is allowed, as long as the case is intact.
There are official rules, but regional differences on how the game is scored are common. The 136 tiles refer to Chinese symbols, but there is leeway on the number of tiles. Many players buy or pick up more through the years.
No longer the hot game it once was, mahjong still has a core of dedicated players. (Comments, please! This statement raised my blood pressure!!! – Ann)
Complete original game sets in excellent condition can bring serious money. On www.worthpoint.com, we found a complete set with 162 enrobed (more about that in a bit) Bakelite/red tiles sold on eBay in 2011 for $1,326.75.
Ashtrays are neither common nor rare on sets, and having them or not isn’t a deal breaker. What counts when it comes to value are tiles.
Simple tiles, even those with a design, bow to enrobed tiles, or tiles that incorporate another color. The second, vivid color can be along the edges, or on the tile back, or in any combo. Red with the original plastic, now yellowed by age, is most desirable. Enrobed red tiles that have aesthetic designs are unbeatable.
A red enrobed set of tiles alone brought $695; a complete set with case and 160 red enrobed tiles, $1,050.
A burgundy enrobed complete set sold for $800, as did a 1930s set having Bakelite tiles with green backs.
We found simple, old sets with basic tiles sold on eBay for as little as $55. Most sets sell there because that’s where buyers hunt.
Avoid auction when selling, unless the house has had success with mahjong sets. Standard auctions often do not realize top dollar.