Cribbage was invented in the first half of the 17th Century but its heyday in Britain was probably from around the 1850s until the 1940s when parlour games were the main source of domestic entertainment. The game is still played in the UK in pubs and there are (apparently) local leagues playing both the five and six card version of the game. It is even more thriving in the States, being initially the game of choice in the US Navy, particularly in submarines for obvious reasons, and there is a National Association concerned with both play and board collection. I have a wide variety of cribbage boards in my collection of varying ages and interest. Some have significant age and specifications, a few are quite rare. Most of the boards date from the heyday of crib in Britain, although there are some earlier, some later. Most are commercially made; a few are shed work of varying qualities and interest.
However, the bulk of the collection is Victorian/Edwardian. Many of the single box and double box boards date from the 1880s to the 1920s. For example, the two and three-player single box boards (shown below). Both are commercially made from multiple woods and veneers, with bone or plastic inlays. Each has space for one pack of cards and a separate compartment for four or six bone or ivory pegs.
In later years (in the 30s and 40s), many boards were produced for advertising drink or cigarettes.
It is not unusual to find a single box in the shape of a horseshoe, although most also have a brass fan of four Ace cards in the centre (missing from this example). But my most exotic single box is made by Gulum Hussan, Kashmere, India and was probably used by the Brits during the Raj and found its way later to England (see below).
Most double boxes are commercially made to cater for two players, with two packs of cards and a central compartment for pegs and counters. They vary in quality from the highly polished veneered Victorian examples to more basic versions from the same period.
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I started my interest in card games about 70 years ago, playing cribbage with my grandfather. Collecting card game materials started 50 years or so later, when time permitted. One cribbage board was a memory; two became the start of a collection currently exceeding 150!
Once interest in the social history of card games was sparked, I bought a wooden whist marker from the 1880s which was ingenious in design and unbelievably tactile. One lead to two and there was no stopping.
What happened thereafter is reflected in my articles and downloads on this site, for which I will be eternally grateful.
Also by Tony Hall
Publicity items for a group of entertainers, Southend-on-Sea, Essex, UK, 1911.
Cards made by John Waddington Ltd. for the Madras Club, Chennai (formerly Madras), India, c.1930.
54 different personalities from the city of Inverness published by the Highland Hospice.
Edinburgh Festival Fringe programme covers from 1956 to 2016 published by Winning Moves UK Ltd.
Images from the Ministry of Defence Cape Wrath Training Centre, Sutherland, Scotland. Published 2010.
Celebrating the work of Andreas Vesalius in the quincentenary year of his birth.
Great Britains’s Olympic gold medallists from 1964 to 2004 published by the British Olympic Association.
Celebration of the work of David Kindersley, stone letter-carver and typeface designer. Published by the Cardozo Kindersley Workshop, Cambridge, UK, 2015.
Pack celebrating the rugby world champions of 2003. Produced by MMcardz.
Fifty-five rare stamps of the world in full colour, published jointly by David Feldman SA of Switzerland and Tower Philatelic, USA, 2001.
Luxury packs of cards have been produced since the 15th century, a trend that is very popular among collectors today.
“Royal Cards Reign of Queen Anne” cover historical events, both honourable and treacherous, during the period 1702 to 1704.
Hall & Son
Comic Fortune-Telling Cards published by Reynolds & Sons, c.1850.
Comic Question & Answer cards by Josh. Reynolds & Sons, circa 1850.
Myriorama of Italian scenery, 1824.
Hand-drawn Transformation cards, c.1870.
PLAYING CARDS: A Secret History
This deck was inherited from ancestors, it has has a family history surrounding it. Details of the lives of previous owners make it all so fascinating.
Sergeant-Major card game devised by W.G.Smith
We are deeply saddened by news of the passing of Anthony Rex Pitts (1940-2021).
The Story of Pepys Games by Rex Pitts
Jacob Wolfe Spear founded his company manufacturing fancy goods in 1879 near Nuremberg in Bavaria, Germany
Chad Valley Co. Ltd (incorporating Johnson Brothers (Harborne) Ltd, the long-established UK brand bought by Woolworths in 1988 and now sold at Argos.
Multum in Parvo published a range of indoor games during the period from 1884-1927.
The founder of Ariel Productions, Philip Marx, was a prolific publisher of children’s books and comics towards the end of and just after the Second World War.
Kum-Bak Sports, Toys & Games MFG Co., Ltd, London S.E.11
Crazy People children’s card game illustrated by caricaturist and graphic artist Walter Trier, c.1950.
Panko (Votes for Women) suffragette card game published by Peter Gurney Ltd, c.1912.
Anonymous Snap game, 1930s.
Panto People published by E. S. & A. Robinson, c.1930s.
Hats-Off! miniature card game published by E. S. & A. Robinson, c.1930s.
Zoo-Boots published by E. S. & A. Robinson, c.1930s.
The XIXth Century published by John Jaques & Son, c.1875.
The ‘Rinker’ highly amusing snap game, c.1910.
Round the World Happy Families by Chiefton Products Ltd of Bristol, c.1950s.
Abbatt Toys Animal Families, c.1970.
French for Fun instructive card game published by John Jaques & Son Ltd., c.1930s
Counties of Britain by John Jaques & Son Ltd. c.1930.
Radio Banker by John Waddington Ltd for Marconiphone Co Ltd.