In an earlier article, I alluded to the fact that the Cribbage Board Collectors Society has few manufactured cribbage boards which remain unidentified. Over the past several years, many members have, with prodigious and unrelenting energy, pursued every shred of evidence that they have uncovered in order to help with the identification process of their boards. In fact, just two years ago the list of known U.S. and Canadian manufacturers and distributors contained less than 60 names, whereas the list now contains over 120 companies and growing. As you can see, a very solid foundation of productivity has been accomplished for the permanent preservation of the history of cribbage boards.
Part of the fun when active in collecting cribbage boards is being able to reminisce about the discovery of new information. The excitement that I feel each time that we uncover an important piece of evidence cannot be adequately described. I will, however, give you the highlights of one of the more exciting discoveries of recent months.
In a recent CBCS newsletter, I wrote an article about the H. Baron Co., which was located in New York. Although positive identification of several unmarked board models had been completed, information about the company itself was almost non-existent. I decided to do a feature article anyway, knowing fully well that new evidence would surface before the ink was hardly dry. A short time after releasing the newsletter, I happened to place a call to a manufacturer of board games called Crisloid, Inc., located right here in Rhode Island. I have purchased cribbage boards from them for my mail order business for a long time but knew little about the company's history. Early in the conversation, the owner offered to give me a brief summary of the firm's history, and he mentioned that they had purchased the manufacturing rights and equipment of the H. Baron Co. in 1972. I could hardly contain my excitement throughout the remainder of the interview, for he also provided information about two more manufacturers whose history had been considered lost, and could now be moved over to the found column.
The corporate offices of the H. Baron Co. were located in New York City, and their factory was located in Long Island, NY. During their years of manufacture, the company purchased other cribbage board manufacturers including Metro Mfg. Co, the John Samuels Co. (boards identified with J.S. Co.) and Rottgames. Just imagine - when Crisloid purchased Baron, they also purchased the history of these other manufacturers as well. Little by little, the pieces of our puzzles are falling into place!
If all this information seems a little confusing, then focus on a question that I included in the newsletter article: "Why does Baron No. 31-350 have a board pictured on the box which is marked Are-Jay?" The answer? The Are-Jay Game Co. was purchased by Crisloid in 1973. Now the web, which was untangling, is getting tangled up again!
The Baron cribbage boards have no identification marks on them. In order, then, to identify the boards, I had to wait until a collector who had a board in a box, provided me with photos or a written description. Only then, could the photos which were stored under "unidentified manufacturers" and the unmarked boards in my collection be placed in their rightful grouping.
Most Baron boards were manufactured in hardwood, but there are at least two models which are of plastic. Another board, a flat leather travel board, was first manufactured by J. S. Co. and was used extensively by the servicemen during WWII. We list it as being adopted by Baron , but we don't know whether or not the company actively manufactured it.
Several of the Baron board models featured a rectangular checkerboard decal down the center. One board model featured the decal broken into three sections. Some of the decals were brown and others were black. Other manufacturers have used a similar design, but Baron's design is the only one which had two distinctive staggered solid lines at the outer edges of the pattern.
The two dark brown plastic board models were first manufactured by Metro Mfg. Co., and when Baron purchased the company, they continued to manufacture the identical board. The boards were hollow and were available in two player or three player models. Metro marked the boards with a "WPM" on the underside, but the mark was removed after the Baron take-over.
In summary, the history of the H. Baron Co. and the identification of their cribbage boards eluded the members of the Cribbage Board Collectors Society for a long time. There is a great sense of accomplishment to have been able to move them from the lost to the found column.