I know this question comes up frequently and is one of those issues that causes much discussion. Well, leave it to the Grand Master of American-style Mah Jongg, the wonderful Gladys Grad, to provide us with a definitive answer!
A few days ago I published a posting about the history of Jokers found in our Mah Jongg sets. I noted that I did not know who had originally written the article but asked the readers of this blog to let me know if they had any idea. Well, two of the mavens of the game, Tony and Annelise, both contacted me and told me that the article had come from none other than our dear friend, Tom Sloper. You can see the original article From Tom’s Sloper on Mah-Jongg, written on February 26th, 2012, column #509. Yet another mystery solved thanks to two really wonderful friends in our fabulous Mah Jongg community.
I was just looking through my files and found this very interesting (at least it is to me!) article about the history of Jokers in Mah Jongg. People are always asking if I can tell how old their set might be. When asked this question the first thing I want to know is if your set has “natural Jokers.” Of course, that is not the only determiner of the age of a set – and, as you will read in this article, it is not always accurate – but it is a good place to start.
Unfortunately, I have no idea who wrote the following article or where it was published. If anyone knows, please email me so that I can give it the appropriate credit. In the meantime, enjoy this article on the history of Jokers.
“Before 1961, there were no Jokers. Flowers were wild, and the number of Flowers fluctuated between 8 and 24. Joker tiles were introduced into the American game in 1961. The number of Flowers and Jokers fluctuated for several years, finally stabilizing at 8F/8J ten years later, in the 1971-72 card.
The NMJL varied the number of Flowers and Jokers for several decades early in the league’s history. People had to cobble together sets to make the number of Flowers required.
In the 1920’s, the standard Mah Jongg set came with 8 Flowers and 0 Jokers (8F/0J). From the founding of the National Mah Jongg League in 1937, the NMJL treated Flowers as Jokers (wild Flowers). Beginning with the 1943 card, more Flowers were added to increase the luck ratio and to allow for more challenging hands.
Some, but certainly not all, American Mah Jongg sets came with Jokers before the NMJL first started requiring them in 1960-61. The number of Flowers and Jokers in a set isn’t necessarily a reliable indicator of the exact date of manufacture of an American set, but an understanding of the NMJL’s fluctuating use of Flowers and Jokers does give some clues.
If you have a set with only 2 natural jokers but 14 Flowers, it was probably made in America in the early 1960’s. Domestic set manufacturing began in the1920s and continued into the 1960s. At some point, though, cheaper Chinese imports caused all the American manufacturers to go out of business. Those Chinese companies aren’t always sure what the NMJL requires, so Chinese sets made today often come with extra Flowers and jokers (more than 8F/8J).”
WISHING ALL OF YOU A HAPPY, HEALTHY AND WONDERFUL NEW YEAR, FILLED WITH LOTS AND LOTS OF JOKERS!
And now, believe it or not, it is time to order your 2018 National Mah Jongg League cards, which will be mailed out to you in late March/early April. Just go to the League’s website here and follow the instructions. The earlier you order, the sooner you will receive your new NMJL cards!
If so, you are about to see some really funny stocking stuffers/Chanukah gifts at a really great price.
Well, you too can own these Jokers…remember our dear friend Alex who brought us the terrific Holiday Mahjong Christmas Edition last year? This year Alex – and his friend Nana, the artist & designer – have brought us very funny Joker stickers which come 8 to a set (each sticker measures 1.2″ H x 1″ W (3 x 2.5 centimeters) …you can buy them at his Etsy store …see for yourself –