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Rare style of armorials




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Most sets of counters conform to standard patterns, the commonest being round, 'square' and long-oblong; there were variations to this from the date of the earliest sets of gaming counters, with fishes sometimes involved, double-fishes or shuttle-shaped counters at different times. There are quite a few examples of these variations. However, the set in question here is one of very few known in this style - perhaps five or six sets. What is different about them is the most unusual intricate shapes, with small appendages. This set is armorial though non-armorial sets are known. All the counters have the full arms with impalement to one side, possibly made for Shepherd; the crest of a stag trippant is to the other side. The arms and crest are extremely well drawn. The mother-of-pearl is of very high quality with a silver-like appearance. Part of a similar set was recorded by Derek Cowan in his section of the  larger volume 'Antique Gambling Chips' by Dale Seymour; but only two shapes are recorded there. This is the first time that I have found all three shapes of this rare type. It is not hard to surmise why this style was not more widely used: the shape was undoubtedly impractical because it is hard to imagine how these counters could be used and stored without damage. The style of engraving of the flowers is quite typical of around 1780 and Derek Cowan ascribes a date of 1775 to the counters he illustrates. So it was a great delight for me to be able to purchase these counters from Australia, following a contact via my website. I would be delighted to hear from any readers who have more examples of this style.

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