Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Antique JAJ Chemin de Fer Dealing Shoe

JAJ from Paris was a leading European maker of gaming equipment, back in the early 1900s. To this day I do not know what JAJ stands for, but I'm pretty sure that one of the letters J must stand for "jeux," which is the French word for games. The last letter J is usually flipped, so that the abbreviation JAJ becomes symmetrical. This often confuses people into thinking that the last letter is an L. I have often seen JAJ equipment listed as JAL, in several auction catalogs. But since I've seen one of their products labeled "JAJ Paris" where the last J was not flipped, I think it's pretty safe to assume that the last letter was in fact a flipped J, and not a stylized L.

The company made various kinds of gaming equipment, such as dealing shoes, roulette wheels and wheels for the gambling game la boule, one of the lesser known versions of roulette. It also made chess and backgammon sets, lottery equipment and various dice games, as well as some odd games played with figurines of horses and rabbits.

I have several JAJ dealing shoes in my collection. Here is a picture of one shoe that was probably a lower-end model.

Antique JAJ Chemin de Fer Casino Dealing Shoe
This dealing shoe has a wooden shell, a wooden ramp, a wooden faceplate and a bakelite lid. Unfortunately, the shoe is missing the weighted roller, but the shoe is otherwise in great condition. I bought this shoe from an antique dealer in France, who believes the shoe is from the 1930s. I don't know how he knows that, but it sounds about right to me, so I believe it's been, more or less, correctly dated. Since the shoe doesn't really have obvious signs of use, I don't believe it was ever used in a casino.

I don't know what else to say about this shoe, except perhaps that this shoe is made for the game chemin de fer, which is a version of baccarat. Chemin shoes usually have a small plaque, at the side, which displays rules for drawing or standing. Most chemin shoes also have a handle and a lid.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Antique Card Game Counters

It would be an understatement to say, they just don't make them like that any more, cause the fact is, they just don't make them any more, period. And, nowadays, most people wouldn't even know what they are.

The object in question is an antique device that used to be used for keeping scores during a card game. The version made of wood and ivory has no insignia that might give anyone any clues as to what the device should be used for. The metal version has numbers, so at least that's one detail that might lead someone to think that the device is some kind of score keeper. I own a total of three antique scorekeepers, one ebony version with ivory pegs and two sheet metal types, which are mounted on wood.

Card Game Counter

Antique Card Game Counters
I found two web sites that offer some information on these unfamiliar objects: Whist Counters and Makers Collection, by Charles Mathes, who seems to be one of the leading collectors of whist counters and similar devices, and Whist Makers, by his friend Laurent, who is also a collector. Both sites are more about counters for the game of whist, although there is some information about the counters that I am discussing in this article. According to the information on the first site, my counters were used for the French game of piquet. I have no time, and feel no particular urge, to do my own independent research that might confirm or discredit that claim. And since I also have no reason to doubt the information on that site, I will assume it is correct.

My counters came from France, which would further confirm the claim that they are piquet counters. According to the information on those web sites, the wood/ivory counter must be from the late 1800s. The sheet metal counters are probably from the same era, or from the early 1900s, at most. The metal counters bear the insignia, BREVETÉ S.G.D.G., which are French patent marks, according to Charles Mathes. The peg that bears the number 50 is stamped with a miniature version of what could be the maker’s logo. Also, the metal counters are obviously a pair, one counter for each player, color-coded with gold and silver pegs. The pegs are spring-loaded and snap into position when flipped. The pegs on the orphaned wood/ebony counter are also spring-loaded and produce a distinct click sound, when flipped.