Lot #88. Drueke Players Choice Red Chessmen
Drueke Players Choice Red Chessmen.
Offered here is a half-set of Vintage Plastic Drueke Players Choice Red Chessmen, “triple weighted” and felted. This is an Authentic Staunton design. The chessmen are mounted atop green felt base pads. The partial chess set has a 3-3/4″ King with a 1-5/8″ diameter base. These chessmen play best on a chessboard with 2-1/4″ squares. The Drueke Players Choice Red Chessmen are in like-new condition. The Players Choice chessmen were first put into production in the early 1960s. These red sets were produced in the 1980s as an experimental market trial which, apparently, failed as the red sets didn’t appeal to players. Only four of these red half-sets were produced. Times have changed and their rarity now makes them extremely desirable to collectors. When it was learned that Drueke was closing its doors, a request was placed with company management to purchase all their remaining inventory of Players Choice Chessmen. Their response was that all they had remaining were four complete red armies which had been lying around since the 1980s. This half-army is the last of those four half-sets.
A little history about the weighting designation for these and later chessmen. The terms Single, Double and Triple weighted were first coined by Drueke to indicate the number of lead slugs that were glued into the bases of their chessmen for ballast. It had nothing to do with the actual weight of the chessmen. Later, when the Indian manufacturers swarmed into the market en masse with their range of inelegant and knock-off wooden sets, they pirated the use of the weighting designation invented by Drueke. Unfortunately, they did not understand the genesis of the term, so they would advertise their sets as “triple weighted”, regardless of the size or weight of the chessmen. When ordering a set of wooden chessmen, ask for the actual weight in ounces. Don’t be led astray by meaningless claims.
The patented Octagonal “American Design” chessmen are produced by the Drueke Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan. The company was founded by William F. Drueke and in 1916, a company bearing his name first appears. The Drueke Company is America’s oldest manufacturer of traditional board games. It first, he outsourced the supply of chess sets he sold, mostly to companies in Europe. These were wooden products. Is wasn’t until around 1954 that the Drueke Company purchased the first of three plastic injection-molding machines to manufacture plastic game parts for interlocking poker chips, chess pieces and cribbage pegs. Prior to the purchase, the manufacturing of plastic game parts had been contracted out. Interestingly, their Octagonal chessmen were cast in two piece molds, but the Players Choice chessmen had extruded bases and cast two-piece headpieces.
On June , 1941, a patent application was filed for the “American Design” chessmen, Design Patent N0. 128794. It was a unique, octagon-shaped variation, of the classic Staunton design. It was the company’s first step in turning to plastic to produce chess sets rather than wood. It was a unique, octagon-shaped variation, of the classic Staunton design. It was the company’s first step in turning to plastic to produce chess sets rather than wood. Since the company did not obtain its own plastic injection equipment until 1954, it seems safe to assume the production of those first early sets had to have been contracted out. The original American Design only came in one size, a 2-1/4″ King, but in several configurations.
The Players Choice Chessmen appear on the American chess scene around 1963 or there about. Pictures of the set in action can be found on covers and interior pages of both Chess Life and Chess Review. In July and August of 1972, American Bobby Fischer beat the Russian chess champion Boris Spassky in Reykjavik, Iceland. Drueke games received a priceless promotion when photos showed Bobby Fischer practicing with Drueke chessmen. This caused sales of the Drueke Simulated Wood chessmen to soar, and would be found at most tournaments and chess clubs. This set came in three sizes, the Library-size Octgagonal Chessmen with a 2-1/4′ King – which later grew to 2-1/2″; the Tournament-size Players Choice with a 3¾”King, and the Imperial with a 5” King. The latter was also available in a Walnut finish. They also offered a magnetic ‘travel’ set.
In 1987, the Drueke Company was sold to the Low Tech Company. The Drueke name was retained. In 1990, the Low Tech Company sold Drueke to the Carrom Company, which moved manufacturing operations to its home in Ludington, Michigan. The Carrom Company continues to produce games under the Drueke name to this day. An excellent history of the Drueke Company, written by Duncan Pohl, can be found at: http://www.peterspioneers.com/druekepohlarticle.pdf