Germany  (Europe)

Germany. In the 19th century there were a lot of foundries that produced iron cast items. Of the ones that made chess sets deserve mentioning: Seebaß & Cie in Offenbach a/M, Albert Anton Meves in Berlin and E.G. Zimmermann in Hanau.

A beloved theme, originally by Royal Ironworks in Berlin, is "Frederick II (the great) vs. Napoleon I". Of course they were not contemporary but the Prussians wished Frederick II back to fight Napoleon. This theme has been copied by many. The royal pieces are based on designs by Carl August Kiss (Frederick II) and A.Kiss perhaps together with Wilhelm August Stilarsky (Napoleon), ca. 1820. Some sets have rooks that are all square, but normally the lower stage is round. The bishops wear Bearskin hats on the French side and the typical long helmets on the Prussian one. The first set, which is painted gold and black (at a later time I think), has bishops and queens switched from side. I guess that has occurred when it was painted. In both sets does Frederick miss his staff. The first set does have much more detail as the second. This could have been caused by the fact that moulds of the second set were used more often before this one was cast or, more likely, the casting sand used was coarser, which was generally so in later reproductions. Remarkable is that the 1st set is smaller and more detailed as the 2nd, while copies from originals are smaller because of the shrinkage of the iron (3/32 to 1/8 of an inch per foot), which also causes a loose of some detail. There must have been more moulds for these sets seen the differences in size and rooks that exist. This theme is also produced in 20st century in pewter or tin.

Another theme, originally by Zimmermann in Hanau, is "the 30 Year War", with Ferdinand II of Habsburg (grey/silver side) battling against Gustavus Adpolphus from Sweden (black side). This theme has been copied by many as well. The differences are mainly in the bases. The first set is not a Zimmermann because it is not marked as such. It could be an early copy from Seebaß, but the black rook is different from the white. Normally rooks of both sides do have the same shape in Zimmermann and Seebaß sets. So we don't know, but it looks like an original from an unknown maker. The second set of the two is probably a later copy seen the round (in stead of octagonal) bases. 20st century copies in pewter or tin exist as well.

The theme of the last set is called "The Franco-Prussian war of 1870/71". The kings are Napoleon III and the German Emperor. The rooks are modelled after the Strassbourg Cathedral. It has been produced by Albert Anton Meves Nachf. (=Nachfolger=Successor) and the king is signed "A.M.Nachf.". The sets appear in unpainted, poly-chromed and, like this one, monochrome (gold/silver and black) painted versions.

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  • Germany, "Napoleon I (Bonaparte) and Frederick II (the Great)"
  • Early 19th century (could be later replica)
  • Iron K 6.5; p 3.8
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  • Germany, "Napoleon I (Bonaparte) and Frederick II (the Great)"
  • Early 19th century (probably a later replica)
  • Iron K 6.7; p 3.9
381 01
  • Germany, by unknown maker, "the 30 year war"
  • Mid 19th century
  • Iron Kg 8.1; pg 4.4; Kz 7.8; pz 4.6
243 01
  • Germany, "Zimmermann", "the 30 year war"
  • Mid 19th century (probably a later replica)
  • Iron K1 8.0; p1 4.5; K2 7.9; p2 4.6
  • This is not an original Zimmermann
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  • Germany, by Albert Anton Meves Nachf., "the Franco-Prussian war in 1870"
  • ca. 1871
  • Iron K1 8.6; p1 4.6; K2 8.2; p2 4.4

The "Silhouette" set is hard to date. Probably early 20th century.

The "folkart" set is from about 1925.

295 01
  • Germany, "Silhouette"
  • Early 20th (late 19th?) century
  • Wood K 6.9; p 4.7
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  • Germany, "folk art"
  • Early 20th century
  • Softwood K 7.2; p 4.3
  • Box/board 28.2×28.8×4.9

Some nice porcelain sets. The "frog" and the "mouse" set from Albert Stahl & Co are searched for by collectors, but are not very rare. That can not be said for the round board, which seems to fit the frog set and has the anchor mark of Bohne & Söhne, like the "frog" set. That board is not seen often, but there exist similar ones, mostly with a porcelain thimbles chess set. See the pictures of the "frog" set. The little more rare "mouse" set has the "N" mark with 5-point crown. Mixtures of one side "frog" and he other "mouse" do exist as well. To me it is unclear what the Bishops and what the Knights are in these sets. Probably I have switched them in my pictures of the "mouse" set.

The Sitzendorfer porcelain set is also beloved by collectors.

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  • Germany, by Albert Stahl & Co
    successor of Ernst Bohne & Söhne, "frog"
  • 2nd half 20th century
  • Porcelain K 6.8; p 3.6
  • Board Ø 32.0
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  • Germany, by Albert Stahl & Co
    successor of Ernst Bohne & Söhne, "mouse"
  • 2nd half 20th century
  • Porcelain K 7.0; p 3.7
  • Cassette 23.9×23.6×3.0
328 01
  • Germany, by Sitzendorfer Porzellanmanufaktur
  • ca. 1980
  • Porcelain K 8.4; p 6.5

Three very nice cut modern wooden sets, which are all unique (I mean: not series produced or only in small quantities). The 1st is very well carved and I like that the bishops of a side are mirrored. There are some subtle differences between bishops at both sides, like helmet, belt and clothing finish. Same is true for pawns. Nice rooks at white side as well.

The 2nd set is coarser cut, but does have a lot of character in the figures. It is one of my favourites.

The large 3rd set is coloured. Note that the pieces on both side do only differ in colour and base. Nice detail is that the pawns are boys and girls, 4 of each at each side.

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  • Germany, Oberammergau
  • ca. 1980
  • Wood Kw 10.0; pw 6.1; Kz 9.6; pz 6.2
  • Board 39.1×39.1×1.8
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  • Germany, Schwarzwald
  • ca. 1980
  • Wood K 12.7; p 7.7
  • Board 54.4×54.4×1.6
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  • Germany, by Herbert Holzheimer
  • ca. 2000
  • Wood K 11.7; p1 9.0; p2 8.2

This set is based on the popular cartoon by Albert Uderzo and sculpted by Stuart Harris. It could be obtained by subscription, obtaining each month a piece or a couple (main piece and pawn I believe). Whether the cassette/board was a bonus or should be ordered separately, I do not know. But I know the total became very expensive. I bought mine second hand for still quite a lot of money. Next to the Extec edition there is a Mayfair edition, which to my knowledge is exactly the same. Maybe there are more editions. That way problems with stating "limited edition" could be avoided!

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  • Germany, Extec Edition GmbH, "Astérix, Schach den Römern"
  • 1993
  • Tin K 6.6+7.1; p 4.6
  • Cassette/board 35.0×35.0×5.1