Lot #421. Golden Castle Craftsman Chessmen Reproduction


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Golden Castle Craftsman Chessmen Reproduction.

Offered here is a Reproduction of the Golden Castle Craftsman Chessmen. The set of Staunton chessmen has a 3-3/4″ King with a 1.8″ diameter base. The chess pieces are crafted from natural and black lacquered Boxwood, as were the originals. The chess pieces are heavily weighted and float atop green baize base pads. Aside from the slightly larger size to accommodate current tournament praxis, the Knight has been redesigned to capture the feel of the original steed, while adding much needed refinement. This set of chessmen includes an extra pair of Queens to assist during Pawn Promotion, a feature pioneered by Frank Camaratta in 1995.

The original Golden Castle Craftsman Chessmen were produced in natural and black lacquer. The reproduction is also available in Boxwood and Ebony and Boxwood and Padauk for $450. One set is also available in Red and White lacquer. The set can be obtained in a House of Staunton red mahogany hinge-top box for an additional $50. The Golden Castle Craftsman Chessmen play and display best on a chessboard with 2-1/4″ or 2-3/8″ squares. The unique Knight design and reproduction were executed by Frank Camaratta.

Craftsman Chessmen Ad
          Craftsman Chess Review Ad

The Golden Castle Craftsman Staunton Chessmen were produced by Golden Castle Limited in Tokyo, Japan at the end of World War II. The Black and natural lacquered Tsuge wood chessmen have a 3-1/2″ King with a 1-3/4″ base. The design is an almost exact reproduction of the famous Jaques Marshall chessmen produced in the early 1900s. The chessmen are housed in a dark-stained storage box, green felt-lined and divided, with a semi-mortise lock and key set. The underside of the box bears a white, signed label marked: “The Craftsman”, Golden Castle Co, Ltd., Made in Japan. MS-302-194-6″. The wooden storage case and chessmen are in like new condition.

Superbly crafted Stanton chessmen were produced by Golden Castle Ltd. from the end of WWII until around 1972. They were extensively advertised in Isaac Kashdan’s and Al Horowitz’ Chess Review as well as in Chess Life. All chessmen were crafted from Japanese Tsuge wood in Natural and either red or Black lacquered finishes, depending on the set design. The production ended when sets started appearing on the market with one or more of the chessmen warped due to the use of wood that was not properly seasoned. Once the U.S. Chess Federation cancelled their remaining orders with the company, they soon closed their doors. An ad for the two largest sets is shown above. It is interesting to note that the smaller chessmen were actually more expensive than the larger ones.  Over the 25 years or so of production, Golden Castle produced Staunton Chessmen in five distinct sizes. The nomenclature used by the company seems to have changed over the years. Names on the labels are not consistent.

  • The “Grandmaster” (also called the “Master”) was the largest with a 4” King. It was Natural and Black lacquered. The set was not very well weighted and lacked the appeal of the smaller “Craftsman” set.
  • The “Craftsman”, shown here, had a 3-1/2” King, was Natural and Black lacquered, had a good weight, and was the most desirable of the Golden Castle designs – which were based quite accurately (except for the Knights) on the 1900s Jaques 3-1/2″ Marshall design.
  • The “Aristocrat” (Name not verified), which had a 3-1/4” King, Natural and Black lacquered, was a smaller version of the “Craftsman.” It was housed in a superb oval wooden dovetailed box with the Knight carved in relief on the lid. These are extremely rare and probably very few were made.
  • The “Artisan” (also named “Master” in some advertisements) had a 3” King (also advertised as having a 2-1/2″ King), Natural and Black lacquered, The  chessmen were very artistically executed. One unique feature was that the Kingside and Queenside Knights were different. One had its head facing down, the other had a more traditional stance.
  • The “Mikado” is a quality travel set with red and natural lacquered Staunton chessmen housed in a blue velvet case.
  • There was an ivory version of the Mikado produced by a company using the name Kita Shoji, which I believe is the same company that makes the Mikado.

Additional information

Weight6 lbs
Dimensions14 × 12 × 10 in

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