Bygone Treasures - The Games We Played - Indoors

By Michael Rice

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Long, long ago, before computers roamed the earth, your family and mine gathered at our kitchen tables after supper and spent quality time playing cards or board games 'til the kids were tucked in for the night.

As the years passed, cards and games have found their way to a closet shelf and now lie buried under your lime green polyester leisure suit and that hot air popcorn popper still in its box with the Woodward's sale sticker on it.

Is there any chance of value here? Slim, but possible!

Decks of cards have been around for centuries. Our family played with a "marked deck" - the four of clubs was wrinkled and some of the design had flaked off the back - which posed a challenge when playing rummy! "Bicycle" brand cards and others with geometric designed backs have no value to collectors. When complete and in their boxes, they can be donated cheerfully to your church bazaar. When incomplete and lacking their boxes, they can be donated cheerfully to the blue bin at the end of your driveway.

Collectable 4-suit decks include those produced by railways and ship lines, where each card has a different photo on the face. Examples are "Kings and Queens of England" and "Views Along The CPR." Such decks, when complete and in nice condition can run up to $50.

Other card games such as "Old Maid," "Pit" and "Rook" are considered common, but very early decks with interesting illustrations are sought after.

Board games have always reflected the age in which they were produced and most heavily played. Company names familiar even today, like Parker Brothers and Milton Bradley, and others long forgotten such as McLoughlin Brothers, saw their start in the 1800s. The skills required to play the games were minimal, and the playing pieces were simple. The attraction of early games lies in the high-quality illustrations on the lids and game boards. Complete games of this era start at $30 and move up to over $500 for gems like Parker Brothers' "The Siege of Havana."

Starting in the 1920s, game manufacturers adapted comic strips and book and movie characters to game boards, and, in 1935, Parker Brothers brought out their perennial money-spinner "Monopoly." You might get rich playing Monopoly, but you won't get rich trying to sell the game. Millions have been produced and they're readily available.

Lurking in the closet, there are likely some games based on TV shows from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Name a TV show from those decades and almost certainly there was a boxed game produced for it. Remember "Leave It To Beaver" and "Dragnet" from the '50s, "F-Troop" and "The Beverley Hillbillies" from the '60s and "Mork and Mindy" and "Bionic Woman" from the '70s? There were board games for all of these and hundreds more.

Game play was elementary. Most layouts required players to throw dice or flip a spinner to move playing pieces along a route, aided or hindered by reward and penalty cards. First at the end was the "winner." Most games of this type have a book value between $15 and $40.

Graphics and wording on game boxes and boards have changed along with social values. Derogatory names for ethnic minorities or those physically challenged were all too commonplace in the early 20th century. Members of these same minority groups actively collect games of these types today, and values continue to rise.

Overall, the games market is quiet with no significant growth in sight. Electronic competition and ease of access to other activities have kept the market flat. A "Beatles Flip Your Wig" game from 1964 was valued at $125 10 years ago, and books at only $150 now, with examples often available online below $100.

If your decision is to hang onto your games for nostalgic reasons, there are some important storage considerations. Game boxes are best stored vertically like books, to avoid crushing the box lids. If you must stack them flat, do not pile them over six boxes high and, ideally, you should insert a piece of poster board between each box. Do not enclose boxes in plastic bags or shrink-wrap, and do not "secure" the boxes with rubber bands or tape. Rubber bands disintegrate and stick to boxes, and tape leaves oil stains. Remember, attics get hot and basements get damp.

If the games "have to go," before loading them in the van, take a moment to look back on happy times at the table or on the living room rug when you were small, and rolling "boxcars" meant you got a second turn!

Next time: "It's Only Rock 'n Roll"

Comments and suggestions for future columns are welcome, and can be sent to Michael Rice at Box 86, Saanichton, B.C. V8M 2C3 or via e-mail to

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