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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Why collect chess sets?

                For every type of interest that exists out there, there is a supplemental collection to go along with it. Sports fans collect cards of their favourite athletes along with other paraphernalia while film buffs proudly boast their collection of favourite movies even if they haven’t seen them in years. It is natural to want to show off what you are passionate about. The act of collecting works is actually a very old traditional custom that can even date back to the Egyptian Ptolemaic dynasty with their global book collection in the Library of Alexandria. The Medici family in Renaissance Florence were among the first to have a private art collection which provided artists with a stream of revenue distinct from the Church and State. Today, many great works of art on display for the public in museums are actually privately owned and donated to the museum by wealthy philanthropists. Although formal collections were initially reserved for the wealthy and noble, collecting became accessible to most people as general income and leisure levels rose. Collectibles were brought into the mainstream as complimentary products such as baseball cards in cigarette packs and comics in bubble gum wrappers.
These days, collectors can amass their collections with little to no cost with items from their everyday life such as postage stamps and bottle caps. While some collectors are generalist, accumulating any type of a certain item, most tend to focus on a narrower selection typically based on age, geographic origin or unique properties like 16th century French paintings of flowers. Some people even practice intangible collecting where they collect experiences or mental images such as bird watching or travelling. An item that is manufactured for the explicit intent of collecting is aptly known as a collectible. Collectibles are generally items of certain significance that are too current or modern to be considered antiques. Many times, an item that is initially intended for functional use and not as a collectible like a toy or car can become a collectible over time and be re-released as one. This is similar to a collector’s item which is not intended to be a collectible but becomes one through a rarity that it has such as a production defect or human error.
                Many collectors enjoy seeing their collections grow and selecting new pieces to add. Often, collectors strive to own an entire set or series of a particular item. This process involves learning expert information, planning a general theme of the collection, and interacting with other similar collectors. Like-minded collectors can meet each other through trade conventions and shows or local interest groups where members are more than happy to share any knowledge they have. Through collecting and meeting other collectors, collectors exhibit and express their passions outwardly such as chess sets for chess enthusiasts.
There is also the prestige associated with owning valuable high quality collections. One is perceived to be of a certain status and income level to be able to own a collection of chess sets or art works whether he or she actually is or not. Furthermore, most collectibles tend to appreciate over time and are highly valuable on the secondary market unless they are part of a speculative bubble. In many ways keeping a collection is like an investment and like all investments you need to do your diligence and make sure you have a good one to begin with.
One of the most well-known manufacturers of chess sets is Natraja. Natraja commissions a select number of limited edition chess sets to renowned artist and craftsman, Avtarjeet Dhanjal. Dhanjal is notable sculptor based in Britain and originating from India. While Dhanjal’s background has mostly been in large sculptures and exhibitions he also provides a line of limited edition hand carved chess sets at Dhanjal, himself the son of wood carver, collaborated with master craftsman Bhupinder Singh and his son, Mandeep Saggu to create a series of five designs, with only 100 numbered sets per design available to collectors. Natraja also devotes two sets per design for museum collections and another two for Natraja’s own collection. Each set is made from boxwood and ebony or boxwood and rosewood in themes such as Sir Lancealot, Marc Anthony and a gallant set. The sets include a special leather bounded box for storage and a signed certificate of authenticity. Of course, in the world of collecting authenticity is the name of the game. The outlets that Natraja’s sets are sold in are limited to protect consumer’s interests and ensure quality. The only place to get Natraja chess sets is at and select outlets. This prevents a major issue with collectibles of counterfeits and knockoffs being sold at non-authorized dealers to unassuming customers. There are several chess dealers that fraudulently advertise limited editions for sale and any chess set collector needs to be wary of these scams. Natraja sells its limited editions through very select outlets that are referred on Natraja’s website. Other dealers claiming limited editions that are not part of Natraja’s outlet network will not be able to issue the artist’s signed certificate. In the United Kingdom, Natraja sets can be found in limited supply at Chess & Bridge in London while House of Staunton has its own exclusive special edition of Natraja sets in the United States. Always check for up-to-date information on the company.
Since so many resources are put into populating a collection, just as much time and effort should be put into security and maintenance. Collectibles like chess sets need to be stored in proper conditions and away from potential hazards and in the case of expensive collectibles, might have to be locked behind a strong security system. In the end, it is all worth it to have a collection that you can be proud of.

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