By Tom Carrier
Cribbage is a game that is more than four centuries old. It’s a card game, but most recognize it by the board used to keep score, known as the cribbage board. Thom Pattie, vice president and Chief Worthologist for WorthPoint.com, recognizes the cribbage board and card set as more than just a fun pastime, it also is an antique and collectible.
There are cribbage boards, and there are cribbage boards. As an example, Pattie demonstrates the difference in value between a plain cribbage board and one that is mahogany inset with a brass panel he has in his collection.
“It’s just a simple cribbage board,” Pattie says. “But when it’s turned over there is a door and some fittings and beneath the door there is storage for two decks of cards and the pins for marking the cribbage. In storing the decks, there are presses built in to keep the cards flat to keep them straight. It’s like having an upgraded system in your house,” Pattie continues. “It also has a book of rules which was published in 1891. It’s always nice to have these extra add-ons.”
In pursuing WorthPoint’s Worthopedia of past auction values, there are any number of cribbage boards made of the most unlikely materials such as scrimshaw, walrus tusk, soap stone, ivory, leather, even one made from an antler. There are also boards made of wood, plastic, inlay, brass, ones with feet and others with colorful decoration. Apparently, there is no material than cannot be made into a simple cribbage board.
Because cribbage boards do come in all sizes, shapes and materials, the values received at auction vary as well. From $5 for a simple board with no add-ons, to complete sets of boards, rules, pegs and other add-ons auctioned for more than $100. The carved ivory and scrimshaw models can sell for about $100 and higher.
Pattie concludes that, “Everything that you add to an item increases its value. Just as you purchase a car and add on upgrades such as a sound system, antiques that have upgrades are worth more than one’s that don’t.”
Just so you know, while the game of cribbage is essentially a card game, you score the points on a board with 120 holes, called streets, usually set in a horseshoe pattern. You move your peg, also known as a spilikin, along the holes, called pegging, based on the points of your cards. Each player “discards” a card calling out the cumulative value of all previous cards played, until the cumulative total reaches 31. Play continues until all cards are played. The player with the first to accumulate a total value of 61 or 121 for their particular discard pile wins.
It is a game that is played rather fast as intended by English poet Sir John Suckling, who is credited for the invention of cribbage in the early 17th century. Curiously enough, cribbage is a favorite game of Navy submariners. There is a tradition in the Navy that the oldest submarine still in service is presented with the personal cribbage board of famed Medal of Honor winner, Rear Admiral Richard O’Kane. Who knew!
Walrus tusk cribbage board: http://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/scrimshaw-walrus-tusk-cribbage-game-signed
Antler cribbage board: http://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/antler-cribbage-board-branching-antler
Set of cribbage boards/cards: http://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/collection-cribbage-boards-and-playing-cards
To watch a video of Thom Pattie discussing cribbage, click here.
Tom Carrier is a general Worthologist, with an expertise in a wide variety of subjects, including vexillology, or the study of flags.
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