Collecting vintage domino sets is a great hobby. Specially when taking in account that you can also used for an easy going game! Yet collecting them would only makes sense when you know a little more about these interesting dominoes.
Some background history on domino
Domino is an old game and developed outside Europe. Outside Europe the games is often called dominoes, so we use them both in this article. The Domino evolved from dice and were originally white with black dots. In the middle ages it became popular in Italy first before spreading throughout Europe. The word “domino” seems to come from the original look of the tiles. Two black dots (the eyes) on a white background looked like a kind of hood worn by Christian priests The Italian word for it was “domino”. Dominoes is still played all over the world but it is most popular in South-America where it is actually a national game of many countries. When collecting vintage domino sets the first thing to look for is white tiles for these may be older and closer to original sets in stead of the later white on black sets.
Different sizes of Domino tiles and sets
The populairity of the game lies in the fact that the tiles are actually quite simple to make and easy to carry. Yet there is a large variety of games that can be played with them. This way it is great for a pub game with more players and still playable after several drinks. But there are also advanced rules for interesting strategic games for 2 playes.
Dominoes are available in many sizes. There is standardisation that includes the following:
- Mini Dominoes – 1-3/16″ x 9/16″
- Empire Dominoes – 1-3/4″ x 7/8
- Standard Imperial Dominoes – 1-7/8″ x 15/16″
- Professional Dominoes – 2″ x 1″
- Tournament Dominoes – 2-3/16″ x 1-3/32″
When shopping for a set, you best get a set that feels good and fits your games space best! Besides the sizes of the tiles there is the size of the set itself, that is the number of tiles in the set. There are 3 sizes of domino sets. The highest numbering tile (most dots) lends it’s name to the designated size.
- Dubble-six – standard set with 12 dots on the highest tile. Total of 28 tiles in the set.
- Dubble-nine – the medium size set with 18 dots on the highest tile. Total of 55 tiles in the set.
- Dubble-twelve- largest set with 24 dots on the highest tile. There are 91 tiles in this set.
Collecting vintage dominoes sets – check out the box
Different sizes of tiles and sets allow for different packaging. This way there still is a lot of variations on the “simple” domino! The simple domino being the double-6 vintage domino set as shown below.
The packaging can tell you a lot about the age of the set. Cardboard boxes were used mainly for sale in department and game store during the 1940-1980’s. After that if mostly became hard plastic boxes. During the 1960-1980 you could also find them in soft plastic case as shown below on this interesting advertising set (for the Dutch beer brand “Amstel”).
Another nice set is shown below in a case with Art Nouveau / Jugendstil. This design period around 1900 was using elements inspired on both organic and geometric forms. These forms are found on the box as well as on the back of the tiles, making it more easy to determine the period of manufacture.
The tiles are made of soft wood, pressed into shape with the jugendstil / art nouveau pattern on one side and the dimples to be manually filled with white paint on the other side.
Collecting vintage domino sets in different materials
The sets shown above are mostly made of resin or plastic, the go to material from the 1950’s onwards. This includes earlier plastic like Bakelite which was very fragile but made for beautiful tiles, often in brown but bakelite as well as plastic and raisins can be produced in many colors.
This also helps you to date your set when collecting vintage domino sets. In addition they often give more weight to the individual tile. Even though this might me a personal preference during play, one could argue that a nicely weighted tile is of a higher quality. Therefor I like to share one of my personal favorite sets below.
These are made of metal and are indeed very small. They measure little less than an inch or 2,4 cm wide. They com in a small wooden which is handcrafted from a single piece of wood, fitting 4 layers of 7 tiles snugly. It is impossible to date and could be 10 or 100 years old. It was probably made for tourists as a holiday game / souvenir in a country close to the equator. Only the aging on case and tiles gives it a certain amount of age (close to 50 years old I would imagine). When they made this set (the dots not being perfect aligned shows it is hand crafted (not mass produced)) they were smart to choose metal due to it’s weight.
Some other sets use a combination of materials. These are often earlier sets made in a high quality fashion, as shown above. These tiles are made of material like bone (or in some cases ivory) with a black wooden (ebony) base and fixed together with studs. One stud in the middle that makes them slide easier across the table and 2 smaller studs connecting the materials. The white material is not a single color but has black tones in it which indicates it is a natural material instead of manmade. These vintage sets (1880-1940) often have a good weight to them making them great for playing.
Different Domino games
With this intriguing tiles, based on the ancient dice, you can play a lot of different games in your vintage man cave or vintage style bar. I will not sum the types of gameplay up here for you, since there is a great website which took care of that: www.domino-games.com.
Make sure to try several of these games to determine which games suits which situation. Making sure you can impress your friends or win some free drinks by beating them time after time. When the drinks keep coming, make sure to adjust the game to the right gear! Have fun!